Friday, October 1, 2010

Gee, no kidding...

Sometimes you've just gotta state the obvious.

To Kill a Mockingbird, doesn't mention the Ming dynasty isn't relevant. Gee, no kidding. Well, that fact escapes many a fantasist who thinks that in order to create a believable world, you've gotta show all of your cards.

Which leads me to my second point: You can always tell when someone is lying, because they'll give you way too much information.

Why? The simple "truth" doesn't sound convincing to them because they know it's a lie. Therefore, they add detail to make it more believable.

Fantasy authors are without doubt the biggest bunch of liars around. We're not just lying about the story itself--the characters, the plot, the relationships--we're lying to you about EVERYTHING.

The grass. The trees. The water. Everything-freaking-thing.

So, how much is too much?

Good question. I think it's important for the author to know all of the ins and outs. But, pick only what's relevant to the story. Ask yourself if it were any other genre, would it be necessary. If not, scratch it.

In my humble opinion anyway.

OK, I kid, my opining is never humble. But, you get the gist here. This issue is one of the reasons that genre fiction gets the short end of the stick sometimes when compared to literary fiction. They know we're all full of crap.

We've just gotta become better liars...


  1. That is so very true. A few weeks ago at a writers group I manage one of the writers read her piece. It was a stilted, managed accounting of everything in the house and where every room was in relation to the other. I had a hard time explaining to her that if none of this is relevant later in the story then we don't need to know.

    C Murray

  2. If it's ordinary in the character's world, they won't make a big deal of it, no more than we'd make a big deal out of things in our ordinary world. If you want to sneak bits of description into the story, I think it's best to do it in action. Don't tell me about the odd shape of the coffee cup, show me how it breaks when it's thrown against a wall, or someone's head. :)

  3. Well said. I've recently been reading Tim Stretton's The Dog of the North and have loved that aspect of it. All the world-building is done through the story, not dumped on top of the story, or shoved in between all the actiony bits.

    Now that I know how you think about this, I'll have to check out your writing, as well. In concept, I love fantasy. But at this point in my life and psychological development I have lost all patience for voluminous, digressionary, explicative world-building nonsense.

  4. Haha, C.N. we added maps and a glossary for that very reason. It's there if folks want it, but not "in your face." If that makes any sense. Plus, check Anthony's review of SOE and you'll see that I definitely steer toward character driven stuff rather than those voluminous tomes you just mentioned. I can't suffer those either! :)

    Jessie...I'm soooo throwing a coffee cup at someone's head now just for you! lol.

    Craig,'s a tough concept to get across to those who are dead set on it I have a beta reader who thinks all of my early drafts are woefully bereft of detail.'s that quality about a book that'll draw me in--the quiet invitation to use my own imagination as a reader. Suggestions, not paintings, are what I'd prefer to lay out for a reader.'s a glimpse of what could be...walk through the door and see the rest of it for yourself.

  5. I like the sound of that, JS. I plan on ordering your book in a couple weeks, if all goes well...

  6. I'm one of those that skips whole paragraphs if all they contain is description. Get me to the part where she's whispering in his ear, err, I mean he's holding the gun to the guy's head..

    I'm with you, weave the description in with the action. Only point out the details that really matter. I know that streetlights give off light, I know that you sit in a chair. Tell me what's different.

  7. Maybe that's why I haven't liked really epic fantasy? I don't know. I'm still figuring out what fantasy really is and if I'm even writing it when I write my fairy tale themed novellas. I need to read more of it, and I need to read your book soon. :)


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