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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Is Aquaman Worth Seeing? My Review of the DC Superhero Film that Takes Viewers Underwater

On Christmas Day, my teenage son and I decided to give Aquaman, the latest DC Comics superhero film, a try. He and I generally prefer Marvel superhero films (though we both love  the Dark Knight trilogy starring Christian Bale). Still, we felt Aquaman looked promising, so with a new AMC gift card in hand, we headed for our local theater to catch the DC superhero film in 3-D.

And today, I wanted to give my readers my take on the film. Though this blog generally focuses on science fiction and fantasy books (mainly because I want to encourage reading), I will occasionally review a film. Hence, this spoiler-free review of Aquaman.

The film stars Jason Mamoa as the title character and Amber Heard (with red hair) as Princess Mera. It's directed by James Wan. According to Screen Rant, production costs on Aquaman came in at around $160 million.

Let me start by saying that I consider myself a Jason Mamoa fan. I thoroughly enjoyed Mamoa's turn as Ronon Dex in the spectacularly awesome TV series Stargate: Atlantis. (Oh, how I miss that show!) In that series, Mamoa proved himself to be one of those rare actors who can completely dominate the camera and keep viewers engaged. While I liked all the Stargate: Atlantis characters, you could tell that Mamoa was the actor whose career would live on well after Atlantis wrapped. And that has certainly been the case.

Mamoa starred in the disappointing Conan the Barbarian remake in 2011 and was featured in the hugely popular Game of Thrones HBO miniseries. (Full disclosure: Though I love fantasy and recognize Game of Thrones to be exceptionally well made television, I have steered clear of it due to its morally objectionable content). When the DC movies incorporated Mamoa into the Justice League lineup as Aquaman, I knew it was a good match.

Mamoa is not your grandfather's or even your father's Aquaman. When I was a kid, I remember watching the 1960s cartoon version of Aquaman that featured a blonde-haired hero riding his trusty sea horse. Mamoa is not that Aquaman. And many film critics and everyday commentators have hailed this change. "Gone is the Aryan-looking Atlantean in green-and-orange spandex, replaced with a bare-chested Hawaiian super-stud with long, shaggy surfer hair and all-over tribal tattoos," declares Peter Debruge for Variety.

"There is a frisson of delight in seeing a biracial hero dominate a superhero movie," echoes Wesley Morris for The New York Times. "He’s an inspired left-field choice for Aquaman, who in the DC comic books, and the cartoons they inspired, tended to be a slab of Eagle Scout-y blondness."

Clearly, when it comes to racial diversity and sheer screen presence, Jason Mamoa is a giant step forward for the Aquaman character and franchise. And when it comes to diversity and screen presence, mention must also be made of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who chews up the scenery as a ruthless high-tech pirate turned super-villain Black Manta.

As for the cast overall, I found it enjoyable to see Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman and Dolph Lundgren with significant supporting roles. As a fan of 1980s and 90s action movies, I especially smiled at Lundgren who plays King Nereus.

The movie features fantastic world-building, incredible action sequences, and marvelous special effects. The finale is especially intense, though it gets a little confusing at times. And, as mentioned previously, it also serves up a fairly strong cast -- though, in some cases, an underutilized cast. 

Unfortunately, the movie itself has an overall underwhelming feel. The packaging is great. The content seems (at times) weak. Writing for ForbesErik Kain sums it up pretty well: "Instead of character development we get spectacle. Glorious spectacle. The CGI is as outstanding as it is overwhelming. Half the movie takes place underwater and they do a decent job with that, but every other scene turns into a battle. Explosions abound. Giant sea creatures are eclipsed by even more gargantuan underwater beasts." Yes, indeed. The spectacle (the packaging) is incredible. But the movie left me with a feeling that can perhaps best be described by the famous question asked by that cantankerous lady from the old Wendy's commercial: "Where's the beef?"

Morris puts it a little harshly, when he writes: "There’s no joy or wonder to behold, just comic-book movie blah-blah." While I wouldn't go that far, when my son and I exited the theater, we couldn't rate the film as being any better than "mediocre."

Much of the script was trite and predictable. Some of the dialogue was downright cringe-worthy. And the movie was just too long. Had the movie been written, directed, and edited as a 90-minute action film, it would've probably been three times better. As it was, it plodded along for 2 1/2 hours! By the time we finally made it to the end, we were more than ready to depart.

Conscientious parents and those looking for clean cinema will be disappointed at some of the language and should be advised that there is violence throughout. Writing for Common Sense Media, Michael Ordona sums up the film's moral content as follows: "[I]t's largely bloodless, but characters are beaten, impaled, and eaten by monsters, and weapons (including blasters and tridents) are used. Language is infrequent but includes 'ass,' 's--t,' and 'd--k'; adult characters also kiss and drink (once to excess)."

Many moviegoers these days are quite fine with limited character development, predictable plots, and trite dialogue. They just want action and cool effects. If you're in that group, you'll like Aquaman. Indeed, if you like superhero films in general, you'll probably find Aquaman at least passably enjoyable. If you're a Jason Mamoa fan, it's definitely something you should check out. But...

If you're hoping for a superhero movie as excellent as 2008's Iron Man (starring Robert Downey, Jr.), the Captain America film series (starring Chris Evans), or the Dark Knight trilogy (starring Christian Bale), you will likely be disappointed.

As for me, I enjoy going to the movies with my family. And my son and I both enjoy action-packed superhero films. So, a night out with him was worth it. And, if you're a parent like me looking for a good reason to hit the movies with your kid, you could do worse than Aquaman. And honestly, I've learned the most important thing isn't the quality of the film you're watching. It's about the quality of the relationship with the one you're seeing the movie with. For this reason, I was glad to go to the movies with my son. And I'm grateful to the church family that gave us the AMC gift card (as a Christmas present) to make the outing possible.

Aquaman is rated PG-13, and (as of this writing) is currently showing in theaters nationwide.
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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Enjoyable Military Sci-Fi: My Review of Chris Fox's Destroyer

"Commander Nolan ducked through the hatch into the combat information center of the UFC Johnston." That's the opening line of Destroyer, the first installment in Chris Fox's Void Wraith saga. And there's something about that line that hooks this Star Trek fan.

It's not just that line. Fox knows the military sci-fi genre well. He hits all the right buttons and kept me riveted from beginning to end. Indeed, Destroyer is one of the few novels that I've read more than once!

The setting is simple, yet compelling. Human colonies on the edge of explored space are disappearing without a trace. The UFC Johnston, our heroes' destroyer, undertakes the task of finding out why. In so doing, they tangle with the cat-like Tigris and their own headquarters all while uncovering signs of a seemingly invincible new enemy and a horrifying conspiracy.

Nolan is the Johnston's first officer, a veteran of Fleet Intelligence who was relegated to the aging Johnston and the outer edges of space after a falling out with a high-ranking admiral. A falling out that involved said admiral's daughter. The story follows Nolan who must earn the respect of his maverick captain, a grizzled space marine non-commissioned officer, the Johnston crew, and later the Tigris as he struggles to get to the bottom of what's going on.

The novel is fast-paced and action-packed. Considering the politics and intrigue featured in the novel, it's impressive that Fox keeps the story moving at such a brisk pace while keeping the reader fully engaged - at least those readers (like me) who appreciate military sci-fi along the lines of Star Trek.

In one of his other books, Write to Market, Fox recommends that aspiring indie authors target specific reader markets and thoroughly study the tropes of their chosen genre or sub-genre. Fox practices what he preaches as Destroyer checks all the boxes. His Void Wraith saga is similar to other popular sci-fi series such as Nick Webb's Legacy Fleet series.

I can't speak to the science. I enjoy reading and watching space fantasy and science fiction, but I'm not an expert in space travel, physics, gravity, theories of hyperspace, etc. I'll leave discussion of those aspects to minds much smarter than mine. That said, from this layman's perspective, the 'science' sounded plausible enough for me to suspend any disbelief or suspicions and just enjoy the story.

Destroyer is the first part of the Void Wraith trilogy. The other titles are Void Wraith (Part 2) and Eradication (Part 3). And then the series continues beyond the trilogy with additional novels that feature a mech focus.

If you like sci-fi space action novels, this one belongs in your library. I encourage you to check out Destroyer and begin your reading adventure in the Void Wraith universe.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Virtual Reality Game Testers Should Always Read the Fine Print: My Review of Ryan Decker's Deadly Realm: Fighting for Freedom

In Ryan Decker's gamelit novella Deadly Realm: Fighting for Freedom, a young game tester is thrown into a fast-paced, virtual reality world that tests not only his survival skills, but his sanity!

The story begins with Paxton Tyler selected to test out a new game that supposedly will help advance autism research. His brother is autistic, so Pax sees this a triple-win: He can help his brother, get paid, and enjoy playing inside a computer game. Pax loves computer games.

Unfortunately for Pax, it isn't that simple. And the experience is more terrifying than enjoyable. He's greeted by a tough, mean-spirited guide who claims she is trapped inside the game. Within a few pages, his guide softens and warms to him. But she's pulled away from him after the first three levels. The nature of her 'reality' is part of the story's mystery. And he faces a succession of monsters that cause him intense pain, panic, and medical crises back in the real world testing facility.

As the story itself puts it: "[Pax] thought living in a fantasy world, battling demons or beasts would be everything he'd ever dreamt of. Instead, it filled him with confusion and fear unlike anything he'd known before."

Deadly Realm is light on game mechanics and RPG elements. Those who enjoy hard litrpg (lots of charts, number-crunching stats, etc) should look elsewhere. It's also quite short. An experienced reader can zoom through this in one sitting. And while short reads are fine (at least for me), the speed with which Pax races through the levels makes the story feel rushed for no reason. The game world doesn't feel very big and certainly not very open. The short length, combined with the story's fast pace, also makes Pax seem more powerful (despite his earnest fear at times) than what the story tries to convey. And the ending is, shall we say, rather abrupt.

Definite language warning on this one. Many of my faith-oriented readers will want to take a pass. I suppose this reflects how a majority of RPG gamers talk, but I find such vulgarity unnecessary and a definite turn-off.

I personally found the story enjoyable overall, though hardcore Gamelit/LitRPG readers will likely see plenty of room for improvement.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Be Zombie Chow-Mein or Play in a Virtual Reality Role-Playing Game: My Review of Jackob Tanner's Arcane Kingdom Online: The Chosen

Clay Hopewell was sentenced to die. His crime: He somehow got infected with the ZERO virus -- a virus that either kills you outright or turns you into a zombie. The details of said virus, including which is more likely, are not really explored or discussed in The Chosen, the first installment in Jakob Tanner's Arcane Kingdom Online. It's just clear that having the ZERO virus is a death sentence.

Only Clay doesn't just face a normal death. Not in this story. Once Clay tests positive for the virus, he is whisked away to a quarantine zone, which is basically a re-purposed airport hangar. An airport hangar devoid of life, save for a crazed, shrieking female cannibal that's ready to make Clay into her dish of "zombie chow-mein" (one of my favorite terms from Tanner's book). Clay is rescued in the nick of time and given a choice. He can die (either as zombie food or when the disease runs its course) or ...

He can play a computer game.

So goes the premise of our story. Arcane Kingdom Online is yet another entry into the emerging subgenre known as RPG Lit, GameLit, or LitRPG. And this appears to be Jakob Tanner's first novel.

According to The Chosen's backstory, Arcane Kingdom Online was a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that faded into commercial oblivion after decades of success. As far as the public is concerned at the beginning of Tanner's novel, AKO is defunct. But our protagonist, Clay, soon finds out that AKO isn't defunct. It just became a top-secret project pushing the edge of revolutionary technology.

Those unlucky enough to contract the ZERO virus and who have the right connections are given the opportunity to "digitally reincarnate" in the online universe of AKO, leaving the cares and troubles of the real world behind. Facing certain death, Clay decides to take his chances in the game (even though, we're told, at the novel's beginning, there's a chance he won't survive the consciousness upload process).

Arcane Kingdom Online provides a compelling, if not original, premise. And The Chosen hooked this reader in at the outset. And it kept me turning (or digitally flipping on my Kindle app) the pages until the very end.

Among the things that Jakob does really well is he serves up a believable main character (MC) -- someone who is not overpowered (OP) and who experiences real danger. His opening sequence, complete with a "save the cat" moment that endears you to the MC :-), is quite compelling. It draws you into the story and keeps you engaged. At least it did for me.

The writing quality is solid. There were no distracting typos or other such issues. It showed the work of an editor - or at least a good proofreading. And that's a refreshing contrast with many of the titles out there in this subgenre.

There are a few minor shortcomings. First, I have mixed feelings about how little explanation is provided regarding the ZERO virus - the whole reason our hero gets uploaded into the game. On the one hand, not going into a lot of detail keeps the story moving. On the other, it makes the whole plot device feel cursory and contrived. (I understand that all fiction is contrived, but a good story shouldn't feel that way). One reason it feels this way is the whole ZERO virus thing is forgotten until the end. In my opinion (and some readers may disagree with me), the virus and the havoc it's wreaking on the earth deserve a little more attention throughout the story (maybe a few more system messages during the course of events in-game). Another is that a couple characters supposedly important to Clay are introduced in the beginning and then dropped. One would think Clay, however strained relations may be with them, would care about their fate. But, again, this is a minor concern. It didn't make the story any less enjoyable. It just made it a little awkward for me.

Second, if the virus is threatening the earth with apocalyptic doom and if digitally uploading souls into a computer game is really a technologically workable solution, there should be a whole lot more interest in that option than the story suggests (at least at the beginning).

Third, if keeping the human race alive digitally is the goal, why (other than to serve the needs of the story) create a fantasy, medieval world full of danger? This is a common sense question that lots of authors playing with this kind of premise love to avoid. But it's a question that I couldn't get out of my mind considering the miserable situation the game thrusts our protagonist into at the very beginning of his online journey. If you're going to entice people to upload themselves (permanently, mind you) into a game, why not offer them the opportunity to endlessly enjoy virtual beach resorts rather than be a prisoner marked for death? But maybe that's just me.

Finally, I should point out, as I must with virtually all the novels I review, this is not a Christian fantasy. Many of my readers don't care about that or prefer it that way. But many of my readers do care, and that's why I feel the need to mention it. So, if you're looking for an overt Christian fantasy novel, this is not it. And if you're looking for a novel free of any objectionable language, this isn't for you either. That said, The Chosen contains no objectionable sexual situations and is thankfully free from the harem craze that has unfortunately infected so much of this subgenre. I therefore give it props for that.

With all the above said, I want to make clear that I found the story quite enjoyable. I don't want any of my objections above to call into question the fact that I do recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys LitRPG / GameLit reading. It succeeded where novels matter most: It entertained me, and kept me reading to the very end. Thus, not only do I recommend the story, but I look forward to the author's second installment.

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For additional reading, be sure to check out these articles...

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Have You Tried Fantasy RPG Literature? Why This Fantasy Fiction Fan Loves GameLit

Do you read fantasy novels? Do you enjoy playing tabletop or computer role-playing games? If so, RPG Literature may be right up your alley.

What is RPG Lit?

RPG Literature (or RPG Lit for short) is a fantasy and science fiction sub-genre combining the conventions of role-playing games (RPGs) with, you guessed it, science fiction and fantasy novels. This subgenre is more popularly known as GameLit (Game Literature) or LitRPG (Literature or Literary Role-Playing Game), however there are some distinctions between GameLit and LitRPG, which we will discuss shortly. RPG Lit is all about following fictional characters through a (hopefully) high-immersion, virtual reality ‘world,’ specifically a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).

In the last few years, I've become a big fan of this subgenre. My introduction to RPG Lit / GameLit / LitRPG was author J.A. Cipriano's World of Ruul series. Cipriano, a New York Times bestselling author, has written three installments in this series thus far - and I've read them all. They are Soulstone: AwakeningSoulstone: The Skeleton King, and Soulstone: Oblivion. I was hooked with Soulstone: Awakening, even though the language was a little rough for this Christian reader. And I have read dozens of GameLit / LitRPG / RPG Lit lit novels and short stories since.

Some of you reading this might find that ironic since I'm a Christian - and a pastor, no less. Not all Christians will understand or approve of my sci-fi and fantasy fandom, but I respectfully see no inconsistency or issue. The Bible certainly condemns “mediums,” “necromancers,” and “sorcerers” (see Leviticus and Revelation). But these passages very specifically refer to individuals consorting with actual witches and demons. These passages are not talking about Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or even the main protagonist in I Dream of Jeannie. It’s important that Christians exercise some discernment, and it troubles me when Christians have a knee-jerk, judgmental reaction to things without taking the time to understand those things.

RPG Lit / GameLit / LitRPG essentially plays on the portal fantasy theme (something C.S. Lewis popularized with his iconic Chronicles of Narnia series), only it’s a portal to a virtual reality or digital world instead of another planet or dimension. Anyone who has seen The Matrix or a few particular episodes of Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, or Stargate: SG-1 will be familiar with the idea. However, with this subgenre, it isn't just thrusting the character(s) into a digital reality. It highlights the need to progressively develop your skills, talents, and powers according to game rules and mechanics that characterize RPG or MMO games.

In a typical MMORPG game, a new player starts with minimal levels (or stats) in things like strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, charisma, etc. He or she also has little to no money and virtually no skill or ability when it comes to fighting, crafting, trading, or whatever occupations the game offers. The player must start from scratch and systematically build his or her character into a formidable warrior, archer, ranger, mage, or whatever.

GameLit vs LitRPG

As I said, the more popular names for this subgenre are GameLit and LitRPG, and there is a distinction between the two. GameLit is basically any story that takes place in a game, whereas LitRPG also takes place in a game (or game-like world) but emphasizes the linear progression of the main character via leveling and other game mechanics. And within that LitRPG umbrella, there are two subsets: hard vs. soft. A hard LitRPG novel is written for number-crunching game fans who love statistics and charts. A soft LitRPG has some stats and charts, and definitely has its character or characters progress through levels, but the emphasis is on the story as opposed to the stats.

Having said all the above, there are some GameLit/LitRPG readers who will take issue with how I've described things. This is still an emerging subgenre and thus, there are lots of disputes, opinions, and unresolved questions throughout.

Why I Love RPG Lit

I love this subgenre, which I'm calling RPG Lit for this article (though, again, GameLit and LitRPG are the more popular designations), for several reasons. One, I love portal fiction in general. The idea of escaping into another reality and having to cope with that new reality is something that's long fascinated me. It's why I've long appreciated The Chronicles of Narnia. Another reason I enjoy this subgenre is the strategy! I love it when players (and characters) utilize strategy to outwit their opponents as opposed to brute force. It is for this reason that I absolutely loved Travis Bagwell's Awaken Online: Catharsis. And it's why I really enjoyed the second installment of Cipriano's World of Ruul series.

If you enjoy strategy or role-playing games and appreciate the charms of escapist fantasy (like Chronicles of Narnia), I suggest you give this subgenre a try. I believe you'll enjoy it.

**Check out my GameLit / LitRPG Favorites.


Friday, November 2, 2018

The Lord of the Rings: Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand (Guest Article by Rene Smith)

This is an older article (dated July 5, 2007) pulled from EzineArticles.com for all those who may be interested in traveling to New Zealand to experience the sites and locations associated with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings masterpiece. The article is written by Rene Smith. 

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The Lord of the Rings: Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand
by Rene Smith

The Lord of the Rings story has captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. New Zealand has been lucky enough to be involved in this global phenomena thanks to Peter Jackson's critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. The wide-open spaces, diverse landscapes and spectacular scenery of New Zealand were the best place to film the movies, allowing New Zealanders to showcase their country and create a growing Lord of the Rings tourism industry.

The Lord of the Rings back-story

When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the original Lord of the Rings novels between 1937 and 1949, he would have had no idea of the huge impact they would have on future generations throughout the world. The stories have had a massive influence on pop culture and you come across many Lord of the Rings references in songs, movies and other literature.

Tolkien had earlier written a book called The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings novels followed as sequels and continued the epic fantasy theme and have since been reprinted into over 30 languages, making it one of the most popular franchises of the 20th century.

The Lord of the Rings story is based around human like creatures such as Elves, Hobbits, Wizards, Dwarves, Orcs and Men. They live in a sprawling world named Middle Earth, home to mysterious beings, magical rings, the devious Gollum, huge battles, the dark realm of Mordor and much, much more.

Part of the success of the Lord of the Rings can be put down to its complexity and Tolkien's endless work in developing a credible and highly detailed back-story. This back-story is brilliantly revealed as the story progresses, filling in important details and creating a living and breathing world with a rich history in the minds of readers.

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

After several acclaimed but moderately successful feature films, New Zealand's Peter Jackson diverted his attention to a new project, one that would consume many years of his life and eventually turn him into a star and one of Hollywood's most sought after directors.

Jackson always had a desire to make an updated film of the Lord of the Rings and often wondered why it hadn't been done earlier. After years of negotiating and revised scripts, Jackson and New Line Cinemas finally agreed to film and release the Lord of the Rings is a trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of The King. Filmed entirely in New Zealand, the films proved to be financial gold mine for both parties with the combined profits of the movies, video games and related merchandise easily heading in to the billions of dollars.

The movies were released to much critical acclaim and while some purists felt that Jackson deviated too far from the book, most agreed that it was both faithful to the book and a spectacular motion picture. The three movies combined for 17 Academy Awards with The Return of the King being the most successful, earning 11 of these, including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson.

The movies created a huge windfall for New Zealand in terms of publicity, tourism, the movie making industry and the creation of Weta Workshops as a leading special effects design studio. Wellington was even chosen as the destination for the premiere of the final chapter of the trilogy, The Return of the King.

Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand

With the Lord of the Rings thrusting New Zealand's spectacular scenery in to the limelight, it was inevitable that a demand to see it up close and personal would be created. labeling itself as "Middle Earth", New Zealand's tourism industry gained a much-appreciated boost thanks to thousands of travelers taking part in tours and scenic trips. Immersing themselves in various film locations, ardent Lord of the Rings fans and casual travelers alike could enjoy the wide open spaces of New Zealand knowing that these were where the movies plot twists, dramatic scenes and great battles took place.

Filming took place throughout the country, with areas surrounding Wellington, the lower North Island and Christchurch receiving the most attention. The Canterbury Plains, Southern Alps and Mt Potts high country station serve as particularly beautiful and inspiring areas to see various Lord of the Rings film locations such as Edoras, Helms Deep and the Misty Mountains. All are accessible with tour groups and you'll have the opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests along the way.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings story has affected the lives of millions of individuals around the world and none more so than here in New Zealand. His epic tale of courage and honour has not only inspired readers but also helped Peter Jackson create his own masterpiece, opening up a whole new generation to Tolkien's wonderful story. New Zealand's film industry has been taken to a new level with the burgeoning local industry talent allowing other blockbuster films such as the Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong to also be filmed in the country. The benefits spread further into tourism and related areas with many overseas visitors coming to experience New Zealand's special link with the Lord of the Rings.

Rene Smith is a travel guru who lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand. Visit his Christchurch travel website [http://www.christchurchholidays.co.nz] for more articles, reviews and information on planning a vacation to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Rene_Smith/105601

Friday, October 12, 2018

How to Write Fantasy Fiction (Guest Article from Rob Parnell)

This is a guest article taken from EzineArticles.com. It was written by Rob Parnell, a prolific author who not only entertains readers but teaches other authors how to write better and be more successful in their literary endeavors. Even though the article is several years old, it still contains useful tips. If any of you are interested in writing fantasy fiction, I believe you'll find Rob's article helpful.

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How to Write Fantasy Fiction
by Rob Parnell

Most fantasy writers have been constructing their fantasy world since childhood. It grows with them; they add to it as they develop as writers until it's so real to them that writing about it feels effortless - even when they seem to have created a huge, sophisticated universe.

But if you're new to the genre, where do you start?

Many professional fantasy writers will joke about 'the formula' for good fantasy because it does exist and good fantasy authors still use it - not because they're lazy but because the fans want it - in fact insist on it!

It has been condensed thus: 'Hero, artifact, quest'. That's it. All you need to start a fantasy novel! Think Froddo, the ring and the journey to Mordor and you'll see what I mean.

I prefer something a little more organic and creative.

Get a very large sheet of paper. A3 at least - that's about 3 feet by 2 in the US. Draw an outline for your kingdom - or kingdoms. Experiment with the shape of coastlines, archipelagos and spits. Maybe put some islands around it.

Use a blue crayon or chalk to shade in the sea and draw a compass somewhere on the paper to orientate the map. Maybe a scale too: one inch equals 100 miles say.

Divide your kingdom into countries or regions - draw in the border lines.

Using different color pencils, add mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, whatever you like. Have lots of fun with this bit!

Cities normally grow up on rivers and ports - so start placing important cities and towns, farming communities, military posts etc. Start thinking about trade routes, badlands and resistance enclaves where nobody goes...

Don't forget that most fantasy is set in an entirely medieval world where technology is limited to bows and arrows, spears and fire, with a liberal sprinkling of magical swords, jewels or articles of clothing like magic capes or belts. Don't take this element too lightly.

I have known many writers who try to insert guns and flying machines into their world and are promptly asked to remove them by pedantic publishers!

Now for some writing.

Invent three major castes of inhabitants. For example: human, elven and dwarves say, or make up your own. One of the caste may be dragons if you want to be faithful to the 'formula'.

Describe the class system for each. Who's the king or the head magician, how the government of Elders work, what the peasants do, whether there are bands of mercenaries roaming the countryside, that kind of thing.

Now think of three characters for each caste - have them related for maximum impact. For instance three characters might be Princess Tumar who needs to regain the crown after her father was killed by the evil Majadon, aided by her younger brother.

Write a paragraph for every character, describing their physical appearance.

Give each of the characters an agenda that is at odds with at least two of the other characters.

Write a few pages describing the scenario you have invented.

By now you should be feeling an attachment to one or more character. Choose one to be the hero and give him or her an important quest that they must undertake to gain maturity, power or enlightenment (perhaps all three!)

Next, choose a magic artifact that the character must obtain during this quest. Don't choose a book!

Then create a huge threatening situation (a war, natural disaster or magical event) in which the characters are all at risk - of losing their power, authority, self respect, lives etc. and then...

Open up a new file and write: Chapter One.

Okay, over to you!

Rob Parnell Rob@easywaytowrite.com Go here to receive free ebooks and free lessons on writing the easy way: http://easywaytowrite.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Rob_Parnell/24710