Friday, October 28, 2016

Setting vs. Story

I know a good many fantasy fans who like to think of themselves as a writer. They will come up to me, in person or digitally, and tell me their "story ideas" to get a response, critique, or praise. I think we all do that to some extent. I always take it as a compliment that they would want to hear my input. But I am stuck with a dilemma in almost all circumstances. What people tend to tell me are settings, not stories.

As world creators, we are often taken away with the innovative ideas of how we make things work. What are the rules? What kind of context in which do our characters engage? Even, what kind of characters does the story have? Who are they and what do they do? All of this is necessary, but misses the main point of story-telling, namely, what is the story? I can tell you all about how Age of Mystics begins a saga of a post-technology apocalypse, where mystical powers supplant technology as the means of advancement. But, in so doing, I have told you nothing about the story. The story may seem to be about the apocalypse, but that is just the setting. The story is about family, community, and dealing with hardship. Fantasy writing is a great method for telling a common story, we just do it within a fantastic context. While the setting may be the element which sparks and interest in a reader, or prospective reader, it is the story with which we hook them. It is the commonality of first love, of parental protection, of the fight for cause, or the camaraderie of community. These are the elements to which we can all relate, and this is the story.

So, the next time one of you wants to tell me about the fantasy world which you have created, or the characters and their powers, please also tell me the story. I will start with my current working project, Kelvin the Elven. The setting is contemporary, but it is a coming of age story about a 14 year old boy discovering who he is and what life might have in store for him. How about you...what is your story?

The Last Freebie

Alas, my friends, the summer of free comes to an end this week with the final free download. This week (8/21-25) is Plague of Mystics, Book ...