Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Free Titles

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Titles come easily to me.

Maybe it has something to do with the way I was introduced to creative writing back in the Fifth Grade, but titles have always been easy for me. Our teacher used to put up titles on the board and we had to write stories that were based on that title. So, I often find myself starting with titles long before I have any real story. Sometimes, I just sit and toss out titles for projects I know I’ll never have the time, energy or motivation to produce, just because the titles can be fun.
Here are a few examples you can steal for your own work:

Carpet Bagger: The Adventures of a Damn Yankee in the Deep South
Flashbacks to a War I Never Fought: A Divorce Memoir
Amber Waves: American History seen through a bottle
Hack: A Writing Life
Hot Wired: Erotic Tales of Cyberspace
Dangerous Curves: A Scholastic Romance
The Wizard in Blue Jeans
The Man with a Limp

So, now you’ve got titles, what’s your excuse for not writing?


Ideas: 10 Cents for a Dozen

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Ideas are easy to come by.

What’s more rare is the ability to shape that idea into an actual story. By way of example and illustration, I regularly come up with interesting settings and characters, sometimes both at the same time, but rarely have a full story to make it all gell.

In fact, to prove to the few readers this blog might still have how cheap ideas like this are, I’ll give one away for free. Here’s a world setting idea that I’ve been bouncing around in my head for the past couple of weeks.
Start with one of my old favorites, magic as an STD. That mixes in all sorts of potential conflicts and uncomfortable conjunctions that result in stories. (In fact, I wrote a story with nothing but this as the premise some time ago, called The Chrome Girl.)
Now, mix in a little artificial biodiversity accomplished by way of genetic engineering. New species of plants and animals and insects just loaded with transgenic material waiting to get loose in the world to recombine in ways we can’t predict. So, this gives us a world with magic, however you care to actually define that, and all sorts of interesting beasties, perhaps including things like dragons and sphynxes and pegasus and … Well, you get the idea. Now, we could stop there and have a pretty decent world with all the fantasy and technology mixed together. There are any number of stories that might come from this and an author could make an entire series of books, not to mention a career, with the landscape I just described in a few short sentences.

But, let’s keep going…
Now, let’s add a lot of time. Enough time, in fact, that people forget the technology but still have the STD-produced magic and the assorted mythical beasties and plants and such. Maybe throw in the collapse of modern civilization, just to make sure technology is dead. This isn’t too different from what Anne McCaffrey did with the Dragon Riders of Pern series. (For a great look at her world, check out The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern, Second Edition. There’s no magic there, but the rest is pretty well dead on.)

But, let’s say everyone’s worst fears about global warming came true and the polar ice caps pretty well melt. That would raise sea levels at least 215 feet, according to some sources. So, that would significantly change coastlines world wide. It would also force a bunch of population to move about to accomodate the changes in climate and habitable land.
Now, you might think that’s enough to do to our mythical future descendants, but I’m not quite done with them. Let’s add a shift of the Earth’s magnetic poles. It’s not as far fetched as you might think and, really, we have no idea what effects it might have on Earth. Frankly, almost anything could happen, much of it not great. With any luck, for our future story setting, it would reduce population and plunge us into a kind of modern dark age. Why is lucky for us? Well, because adversity like that makes for wonderful stories! Now, assuming the human race survives all that, when we come out of our new dark age, all sorts of exploration and rebuilding possibilities exist. All of which, of course, results in more story opportunities!

So, where’d these ideas come from?
Well, the first one came to me while watching a science program in college. The show was about diseases or virii or some such, but mentioned “chicken pox”. Apparently, chicken pox is actually a form or herpes and, as such, actually alters a victim’s genetic code to create the tell-tale spots.
The artificial biodiversity idea came from several science articles I’ve read over the years, both about genetically engineered plants and animals and assorted topics on extinction. It seemed a logical jump, to me, that someone might try to artificially encourage biodiversity via genetic manipulation. And, of course, who wouldn’t want their own, pet dragon?
The melting polar ice-caps is an old theme and right out of current science a political news.
The bit about the shift of the magnetic poles was first suggested to me by my mother as a possible explanation for how magic somehow returned to the world. You just never know what Mom’s going to come up with next!

But, notice, I have all this just floating around in my head, with no actual stories or plots. Amazing, isn’t it? They’re all just “out there” floating around, waiting for someone to write them down.
So, what are you waiting for? Go think up some stuff to write about, then do it!


Hoffman’s Quartet Possible

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Or, putting a little more science into science-fiction.

Way back in the Old Days, before I was so weighed down with bills and obligations to creditors, I dreamed that I’d pay my way writing science-fiction.  As a result of that dream, I commissioned one Sheridan Simon to build a solar system for me.  Specifically, a system with four habitable worlds that might have developed independantly.  The result was far more than I could have hoped for and I made that available via this website some time ago, as Hoffman’s Quartet.

Now, however, it seems that Dr. Simon was  more spot on than I could have imagined, lo, those many years ago.  Just recently, National Geographic ran a news story talking about habitable planets circling so-called “hot Jupiters”, which are more properly “brown dwarfs”.  Back in 1992, when Sheridan Simon crafted this hypothetical world system for me, that’s precisely how he got me my requested four habitable worlds.
It’s been interesting over the years to see the several pseudo predictions he made in creating that extra-solar system for me come true.  Or, more accurately, becore more popular.  I wish he were still around to see it, but, sadly, Sheridan Simon passed away a number of years ago.
Maybe I’ll take up that system again and write a story or two, dedicated to Dr. Simon.  Just because that world system has become timely again, and, somehow, evokes an interesting flavor of nostalgia in me.  Ah, the good old days.  Everything old is new again.



Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Specifically, fantasy fiction writing contests.

No, nothing that this site is sponsoring, but someone with a very similar name: Fantasist Enterprises.  They currently have two contests going.  One has a deadline of October 15, 2006 and is called Fantastical Visions. This is open to authors submitting any previously unpublished work under 10,000 words with fantasy as a primary or central theme.
The other contest is the Sails and Sorcery contest. This contest has a deadline of January 15, 2007 and, as one might guess from the title, has a theme.  That theme is sailing!  More specifically, “nothing with a feel that is later than the early 19th century” and with an emphasis on a Pirates of the Carribean feel to it.  The site lists several examples, and has more details, but, again, fantasy needs to be an essential part of the story.

The nice thing about both of these contests, however, is that there is no entrance fee for a single manuscript.  That’s very unusual, in my experience, and why I’m mentioning it here.  So, if you have any inclination to write at all and, like me, needed a goal to help get started working on something, then check out these contests.
They may just get you out of your slump!


Articles on Writing

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, not too long ago, I brought you a link to an on-line course in writing.

But, by now, I’m betting you’re ready for more stuff on writing science fiction and fantasy. Well, even if you’re not, I found a table of contents on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website that has all kinds of great articles about writing. Now, obviously, many of these are geared toward fantasy and science fiction, but some are just general advice about writing and, in any case, they’re all helpful to writers. At least, all the ones I’ve read so far have been helpfull to me! And, as always, this is a free resource, this time, brought to you by the SFWA.

So, go read some inspirational articles and then, get back to writing!


Characterization Made EZ

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Building characters is as easy as writing their biography.
Okay, so maybe that’s not quite as easy as it sounds at first. The first step to knowing about what your character is going to do is knowing who they are and where they’ve been. What was their start in life? How has that shaped their desires, fears and goals? Get the answer to those questions and you should know your character pretty well. Of course, if you’ve never done this, it can be a challenge. Or, if you just want to flesh out a character in a game, but aren’t sure what questions to ask, it might be hard to get started.
Well, back in the day, when Advanced Dungeons and Dragons ruled the fantasy role-playing game universe, there was a handy, little magazine called Dragon that was put out by TSR, which got bought by Wizards of the Coast, which is now a subsidiary of Hasbro. One particular issue included an article titled “Characterization Made Easy” by Scott Bennie. Below is a list of questions cribbed from that article that, when answered, will help you get to know your character.

  1. Background
    • Where was your character born?
    • Who raised them?
    • What was happening in the region when they was growing up?
    • Do they have any relatives? If so, how did they get along with them? What are they doing now?
  2. Motivation
    • What are your character’s immediate goals (i.e., what would they like to do in the coming year)?
    • What are their long-term goals (i.e., what would they like to be doing 20 years from now)?
    • What type of person would be their ideal mate?
    • Who is their patron deity? Are they a devout worshiper?
    • Are they a devout member of any nonreligious cause (i.e., Are they a loyal servant of a king or baron)?
    • Is there any race, creed, alignment, religion, or the like against which they are strongly prejudiced?
    • What is their greatest fear?
    • What is the one task they absolutely refuses to do?
  3. Idiosyncrasies
    • What is your character’s motto or favorite saying?
    • What is their favorite color?
    • Describe what they would wear if money were no object.
    • What is their favorite food? Their favorite drink?
    • What is their favorite animal?
    • What habits of their friends annoy them most?
  4. Traits
  5. Rate these behaviors for your character on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 means they has no trace of the trait, behaving in a completely opposite manner; 10 means they have great amounts of the trait).

    • Courtesy
    • Valor
    • Self-sacrifice
    • Generosity
    • Sobriety
    • Calm temper
    • Optimism
    • Curiosity
    • Forgiveness
    • Cheerfulness
    • Patience
    • Honesty
    • Helpfulness
    • Loyalty

    Name at least one other trait in which your character possesses a rating of 8 or better.

  6. Miscellaneous
    • What well-known media figure from sports, movies, or politics most closely resembles your character?
    • What would be their theme song?
    • If their friends were to write your character’s epitaph, what would it be?
    • What would their job be in modern society?

And, here are some stereotypes to avoid:

  1. All wizards are old men with long beards and robes.
  2. All evil characters wear black.
  3. All good characters wear white.
  4. All giants are stupid.
  5. All fighters are stupid jocks.
  6. All thieves are small and cowardly.
  7. Evil characters are irredeemably awful.
  8. Elves are flighty and carefree.
  9. Major bridges are guarded by trolls, who ask for a toll.

Obviously, this is geared toward a fantasy setting, but, with some small variation, it can apply to almost any character in almost any fictional setting.
If you’d like to read the whole article, you can still find it in the Dragon Magazine Archive on CD-ROM.


World Question Center

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Better questions.
That’s the answer I give to people who ask why I know things they don’t. I ask better questions than they do. In fact, I think people often find it frustrating that I ask some of the questions I do. Things like, “So, if it doesn’t work, why do you keep doing it?”, or “Yeah, but why have you always done it that way?”. But, there’s always someone who asks better questions than I do. Take for instance the folks at the World Question Center. Now, if you really want to get your mind all bent out of shape, go read some of these questions. Then, think about what they mean. Really. Think about it.
(And, yes, this first appeared on my other blog. It’s Friday and I’m not even in town, so cut me some slack!)

Then go have a drink. It is, after all, Friday!
(And, yes, this originally appeared on my other blog.)


Writer’s Reference Articles

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Specifically, fantasy writer’s reference articles.
So, the other day, while I’m looking for something totally different, I find Fantasy Fiction Factor – Fantasy Writing Articles for Fantasy Writers. WOW! This is an absolute treasure trove of ideas and suggestions and “gotchas” for fantasy writers. They hit everything here from fantasy animals to forms of government to making magic systems to an article on real horses. Some of this, of course, is pretty common stuff, because writers have to deal with it all the time, but some of it I haven’t seen anywhere else but here. So, it’s well worth a look. You never know what might inspire you!

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