Throne of Glass series – epic fantasy romance not to miss!

I’m a big fan of Sarah J. Maas’s THRONE OF GLASS series. I’ve read all the books so far and am hanging out for the sixth book in the series!

throne-of-glass-series

Now… I’m not a big fan of the covers. In fact – the covers almost put me off reading the series. They’re too ‘young adult’ and comic book for my liking. The series gets very dark, has some steamy sex, is pretty violent and tackles some heavy issues. The covers don’t give you any of that – they are all wrong. That said, don’t let the covers put you off. This is a hugely epic, emotionally powerful series that gets better and better with each book.

I actually wrote reviews for each book as I read it, and thought I would share them here. I’ve also inserted in links to Amazon for each book, just in case my reviews inspire you to read the books!

51egs3mf22l-_sx166_sy265_Throne of Glass (Book #1)

An exciting start to a well-written series (I’m now into the third book and loving it). Maas creates a believable fantasy world and the main character – Celaena – is fantastic. I’m always a bit cautious when reading novels where the heroine appears to have superhuman abilities but Celaena is completely believable as the tough-as-nails teenage assassin. I highly recommend this character-driven fantasy series.

Crown of Midnight (Book #2)51nyjnp7ktl-_sx166_sy265_

The second installment to the Throne of Glass series was even better than the first. The character development was more exciting, the themes darker. There’s more at stake – and the twist half-way through was fantastic. I love it when an author surprises me with a twist I never saw coming!

Celaena really develops in this novel. She matures and we start to discover more about her heritage, which sheds light on parts of her character. I also enjoyed Chaol and Dorian’s character development as they embark on subplots of their own. This novel really is a roller-coaster, Maas packs in a lot into it but everything works. A fantastic series!

Heir of Fire (Book #3)519kgyzi9rl-_sx166_sy265_

The best of the series so far!

Each novel is getting darker and more complex, which I love. I also enjoyed the various subplots – especially the one about the witches. The Yellowlegs, Bluebloods and Blackbeaks all vie for dominance as they strike a bargain with a human king and train wyverns for the battle ahead. These witches are unlike any I’ve ever read about – worthy of a series all of their own!

Maas creates a truly believable fantasy world populated by richly drawn characters. We learn more about Dorian and Chaol, with a twist at the end I never saw coming (unusual for me!). The creatures Maas creates – the Skinwalkers for example – are excellent. They reminded me a little of George R. R. Martin’s White Walkers, with a creepy twist of their own.

Well-written, gripping epic fantasy. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series!

Queen of Shadows (Book #4)51frdjedgl-_sx166_sy265_

Another wonderful installment in this series. Maas’s world building is great – and I love the supporting characters as much as the heroine. I particularly like the witch Manon Blackbeak and can’t wait to see how her character develops in the next book. The fact that I’m four books in and still want to keep reading says it all really. I don’t usually have the patience for long series but I’ll make an exception here. A real page turner – highly recommend!

Empire of Storms (Book #5)51qvjmwvsxl-_sx166_sy265_

A fantastic book – this series just keeps getting better and better!

It’s epic too – huge in its scope – and Maas manages to pull everything together. She has subplots, a massive cast of characters and a overarching theme that has been on a slow-burn since Book #1.

I really felt it all works.

This story surprised me, not just because of twists and turns, and the shock ending I didn’t see coming – but also because of the way the characters developed. For me, Aelin and Rowan were the least interesting characters in this novel. Sadly, Chaol disappears in this book but instead we have some great subplots with Dorian and Manon (I adore Manon – this woman deserves a series of her own!), Aedion and Lysandra, and Lorcan and Elide.

I think these three ‘secondary’ romances are actually more interesting than that of Rowan and Aelin (which I found a bit overplayed). There’s more grit, tension and realism in the developing relationships.

However, the best thing about this book is that it’s a sheer emotional roller-coaster. This is what makes epic fantasy such an incredible genre. Maas makes us feel as if we’re right there, as if it’s our world on the brink – as if Aelin is our queen. Long series often aren’t my thing; I tend to get bored. It shows real writing talent to be able to develop stories and characters over five books and still keep readers on their edge of their seats. Maas does this brilliantly.

Absolutely loved this book, and now have to sit on my hands and wait for the next installment.


So there you have it, my thoughts on this amazing series so far. As a writer of fantasy romance these novels really inspire me!

The stories are not without their faults (a slightly overplayed central love story, superhuman heroes and heroines instead of men and women we can relate to were my two main gripes) but the storytelling is so strong, the writing so seamless and the emotional connection so strong that I can forgive these – and that’s the test of a great story.

 

Ruled by Shadows is a finalist!

ruled_by_shadows_frontBack in August 2016, I entered the first 3 chapters of RULED BY SHADOWS in the RWNZ Great Beginnings Contest 2016.

I have recently been notified that the story is a finalist!  In the next round, the finalists (I think there are 4-5 of us) will be judged by a romance industry editor, and a publisher. The results will be in sometime in December, so watch this space…

To be finaled in Great Beginnings is gratifying news on three levels:

The first is that this novel is my passion project. It’s a combination of the two genres I’ve been writing in: epic fantasy and romance. I’m really putting my heart and soul into this story. I’d like to think that my love for it, and my drive to make it the best it can be, shows.

The second is the great feedback I got from the three judges. I entered this contest primarily for feedback on my current ‘work in progress’. I wanted to know how my target market would view my story. Although they pair romance sub-genres with judges who read those books, I wasn’t sure if it would be the judges’ thing. Being epic fantasy the romance is a ‘slow burn’ and not that evident in the first three chapters. As all fantasy writers know, those first few chapters are essential for scene-setting so that readers can believe our world actually exists. However, it appears all three judges loved how I evoked the world, presented my characters and set up the story. Whew.

The third is that it has given me a much appreciated boost. Writing is a solitary task, and being an indie author is a lot of work – more than most people realise. For me, it’s a job I love – I live and breathe it. However, it really is a long-game, a ultra marathon rather than a sprint. When three industry experts love what you’ve written, enough to push the book through to the finals, it refills the enthusiasm well!

Will let you know how the next stage of the contest goes!

Progress update: Currently 55% through the first draft

Why storytelling matters

I’m fully immersed in writing at the moment – with two projects on the go. I’m also reading a lot and thinking a bit about stories – why some work and others don’t.

elf-478330_1920I’ve come to the conclusion that what makes a good story, isn’t beautiful prose. It isn’t seamless sentence construction. It isn’t a passage of breathtaking description that makes you go “ahhh” when you reach the end.

Sure, all of the above make a story more pleasurable to read.

Instead, what sorts an average story from a really good one is an exciting – can’t stop turning the page because I have to know what happens next – story.

Sounds obvious?

It might do – but looking back at my mindset when I started taking my writing seriously, it wasn’t something I really considered. In English classes at school, ‘creative writing’ consisted of writing descriptive passages about a member of my family, or a beautiful view. When I studied English Literature at university, very few of my lecturers (with a couple notable exceptions), talked about the strength of Shakespeare’s storytelling. Instead, we focused on symbolism and the deeper (and usually not immediately obvious) meaning beneath the action.

This is fine if you just want to study fiction rather than write it – but it sends out the wrong message to writers. We think that crafting a novel is a matter of writing beautifully, yet it’s about so much more.

Whatever novel you’re writing, it’s the story that matters most.

Call it plot, call it action – the story is what moves the novel forward. Think of your favorite novels, your favorite movies. I’d guess they all have powerful stories; they make you laugh, cry, get angry, or hold a pillow to your face in fear!

But don’t the characters matter?

Of course – but great characters don’t exist in isolation. They become great through being put through their paces, through living a story that tests them on every level.

Here are five of my top tips for making your story a strong one:

  1. Add conflict: this is what creates a sense of purpose and urgency in a story. Layer conflicts – they need to be both external (i.e. assassins hunting your protagonist) and internal (i.e. a paralyzing fear of conflict). Each chapter needs to have some form of conflict, where your characters push against inner and outer forces.
  2. Make things bad . . . and then make things worse: this just follows on from conflict. Readers don’t want stories about people who have easy, perfect lives where nothing happens and everyone’s happy. They want to see your characters get into strife (it’s not their life after all). They want to see things get diabolically bad for your heroes . . . and then they want to see them figure out how to put things right.
  3. Make the story a journey: it doesn’t have to be a physical one but we need to feel as if we’ve been through the wringer with the characters by the end. The world needs to look different by the time you reach the last page. We need to feel something massive has been gained or lost by the end.
  4. Give your characters room to grow: your main characters need to change. Give them a ‘flaw’ at the beginning, a ‘false identity’ that they’re living that’s not really who they truly are. See them fight against it as the story progresses and watch them take tiny steps forward and then big leaps back. Let the readers know that if your hero doesn’t change, he’ll never get what he wants. Cheer at the end when your protagonists face their deepest fears and become who they were meant to be – even if it means their own doom.
  5. Give your characters goals: I’ve put this last, although it’s probably one of the most important on the list. A hero who wants nothing, needs nothing and is working toward nothing is boring. He has to want something and there has to be someone or something that thwarts him. Just like each chapter needs a conflict, it also needs a goal. A story won’t have just one goal – there will be many – and this is what creates an exciting pace. Your hero might be out to save the world, but there will be many mini-goals on the way to him getting there. He’ll need to cross the enchanted forest, convince the reclusive wizard to join his quest, learn how to use a sword, save his travelling companions from goblins, and then wrestle with the troll gatekeeper before he gets to the big goal of killing the dragon at the end!

So next time you start agonizing over whether your prose is purple enough – stop yourself. Lovely writing won’t make readers love your novel. Focus instead on building a story that has them on the edge of their seats.

Want to know more?

Here are three of my favorite experts when it comes to storytelling. Their websites are mines of information and resources – I recommend you dive in!

Cover reveal for RULED BY SHADOWS

Work on RULED BY SHADOWS is progressing well. I’m now 30% in and getting toward the end of the first part—our hero and heroine are about to set off on their epic journey.

I’d originally planned to hold off on revealing the cover for RULED BY SHADOWS—but as I’d really like some feedback on it, I thought it was time to reveal all.

Since this novel is an epic fantasy romance, it can’t have a traditional feel. Instead, it needs to blend the two genres of romance and fantasy. I did some research and found that fantasy romance covers tend to fall into one of two categories: a young woman in gown overwhelmed by dark forces, or a close up of a young woman’s face, once again overwhelmed by dark forces. I’ve opted for the latter!

I’m publishing this novel under by pen-name, JAYNE CASTEL, due to the fact it’s romance, rather than traditional epic fantasy.

Here’s the cover and a blurb about the story. What do you think?

ruled_by_shadows_frontRuled by Shadows

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

Lilia is afraid of the shadows, so when her own one starts behaving strangely, she can barely cope—especially when it starts threatening her.

It all starts the day she meets Saul of Anthor. Handsome and darkly mysterious, he leaves a charm-stone in her safekeeping. Only, what appears to be a humble Hag Stone—used by folk to ward off evil spirits—is in reality a powerful talisman. One that a secret brotherhood has spent a thousand years searching for.

Perrin is Lilia’s best friend. He has spent his life avoiding responsibility and hard work—but now he becomes her unlikely ally. When Saul of Anthor reappears, Perrin suspects his motives. Robana, a healer with a mysterious past, also believes Lilia is in danger—although from those far more dangerous than Saul.

The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia embarks on a journey into danger, discovery and . . . love. But she must face the darkness, and her own fears—or there will be no going home.


Sign up my mailing list for updates on RULED BY SHADOWS—and get a chance to read the novel before anyone else!

Manuscript in progress – 25% done

After a break finishing off a few other (more urgent) projects – I’m back at work on RULED BY SHADOWS.

I’ve now reached 25,000 words, which since I intend for this novel to be around 100,000 words, means I’ve reached the quarter mark. Woo hoo!

Long or short chapters?

I’m often wary of going back and rewriting chapter before the first draft has been done – as it tends to block my creative flow and ‘deadens’ the whole process for me. However, upon re-reading my first 9 chapters I realised my chapters were too long.

I think it’s important to follow your own natural pacing when writing – trouble creeps in when you try to get too clever.

I tend to have quite a fast-paced, episodic writing style. I view book scenes a bit like movie scenes. In an attempt to be a bit more ‘literary’ (cringe) I had tried to lengthen my chapters with this novel – but this just made the story ramble and lose focus.

Lesson learned – I went in and chopped it up a bit. Now there are fourteen chapters and the whole momentum of the story has changed. I’m incredibly excited by Lilia and Perrin’s story and can’t wait to get back into it.

The cover is done!

The other update is that I’ve had a cover designed. I’m pretty excited to share it but am sitting on my hands. I have a natural tendency for over-exuberance – I’ve decided the world can wait a month or two! 😉

How to keep track of your fantasy world – create a style sheet!

There’s a lot to remember when writing a fantasy novel. You created the world, the magic system, the place-names, languages and religions – but that vast store of information can easily become a difficult beast to manage.

A professional editor handed one of my manuscripts back to me with a handy style sheet/character list at the end of his notes. He’d filled it in as he line-edited the book – but it occurred to me that I could have done with a style sheet during the writing process as well!

Why creating a style sheet/character list is a great idea for fantasy writers

It means you have everything about your world and characters – plus any style rules – at your fingertips. No more starting the novel with your main character having blue eyes and ending with green! No more having to painstakingly change details after you’ve written the manuscript because you created a rule for your world and then didn’t stick to it!

You might have a great memory, but since epic fantasy novels are usually huge in scope and size, it’s nearly impossible to remember everything.

Not only does a style sheet streamline the writing process it also helps you create a detailed world that’s both believable and original. Having everything laid out on a document will make any flaws in your world-building much easier to spot!

I use this sheet to keep track of the following during the writing process:

  • The spelling of characters’ names and their physical appearance
  • The names of the towns, villages, rivers, forests etc. in my world
  • The names of gods and mythological figures – plus their distinguishing features
  • Names of any invented animals, monsters or demons
  • Any stylistic features I want to repeat throughout – i.e. using italics for thoughts.

I’ve pasted in an example of a style sheet (still work in progress as I’m only 25,000 words into the manuscript) to give you an idea about how this sheet works. I’ve also created a blank template you can use for your own writing.

Download a template to create your own Style Sheet and character list.

 


Style Sheet/Character List

Title:  Ruled by Shadows           Author: Jayne Castel (my pen name for anything romance!)

Key: Proper names = characters, place names, etc.

A

 

B

Blood Letting – ritual on Winter Blood, sacrifices of animals to the gods at dusk.

C

cunning woman – healer

common room

A proper names

Ailin – Perrin’s father. Innkeeper. Physically, an older version of his son. Small, lightly built, bright blue eyes, shaggy hair and boyish manner.

Altar of Umbra – obelisk in Port Square, homage to the Shadow Gods

Anthor – a kingdom in the south of Karth.

B proper names

Balin – Lilia’s brother who died 10 years’ earlier, carried off by a servant of the Shadow Gods.

Bearn – old carpenter in Port Needle.

Black Fire – strong liqueur made out of blackcurrants.

C proper names

 

D

 

E

 

F

 

D proper names

Derian – young ironsmith in Port Needle.

E proper names

Elder Council – rules Orin.

F proper names

 

G

 

H

hag stones – rustic stones with holes in the middle, traditional used to keep away evil spirits. Popular in Orin, people hang them over their doors.

I

 

G proper names

Gerthun – miller at Port Needle, stocky, balding and square-jawed man.

Gregor – big, white male goat (wether – castrated male) – Robana’s familiar.

Grey Ravage – a plague that results in grey, scaly skin, swollen glands and death.

H proper names

Harbour Way – main road in Port Needle

High Road – a road that runs from east to west across the Isle of Orin.

I proper names

Isle of Orin – small island off the west coast of the continent

J

 

K

 

L

 

J proper names

 

K proper names

Karth – the main continent

L proper names

Lilia – young cook at The Grey Anchor. Small, curvaceous with long, curly auburn hair, pale skin, freckles and green eyes. Nervous, fearful disposition.

Loughlin – farmer, Muriela’s husband.

Lord of the Sky and his kin – old religion, before the Shadow Gods.

M

 

N

 

O

 

M proper names

Moon Cakes – sweets made with oranges, eaten at Winter Blood.

Muriela – pretty blonde girl, married to a local farmer, who has a market stall at the Port Market.

Mosshollow – small village in north-west Orin

N proper names

Neasa – Perrin’s mother. Short, plump, blond, blue-eyed with round face.

Nightgenga – a creature of the Shadow Gods, comes out only at night. Long limbs sweathed in shadow, knuckles grazing the ground, eyes like glowing coals, slow labored breathing – sweet smell stench of decay: hunch-backed gangly creature with long lank hair and glowing eyes.

O proper names

Orin Folk – the people of Orin.

Order of Light and Darkness – a order of mages residing on the mainland.

P

 

Q

 

R

 

P proper names

Perrin – young man, short, intense blue eyes, shaggy light brown hair. Irreverent, lazy.

Port Needle – capital of Orin

Port Square – main square of Port Needle

Prefect Redlin – head of Orin’s Elder Council: obese with ruddy face and booming voice.

Q proper names

 

R proper names

Reoul – King of Anthor

Robana – cunning woman of Mosshollow, was once a mage in the Order of Light and Darkness. Her specialty is darkness. Tall, broad-shouldered and strongly bbuilt, around forty with messy blonde hair threaded with grey and cool grey-blue eyes. Once pretty, now bitter-looking.

Rithmar – capital of a kingdom in central Karth, where the Order of Light and Darkness resides.

S

 

T

 

U

 

S proper names

Shadow Gods – the main religion of this world.

Saul of Anthor – mysterious stranger from the south. Tall, dark and olive-skinned with dark eyes. Dressed in black leather.

T proper names

The Grey Anchor – an inn in Port Needle

The Wash – channel separating Orin from the mainland

Talia – wife of slain carpenter, Bearn.

U proper names

 

V

 

W

 

X

 

V proper names

 

W proper names

Winter Blood – festival on the longest night of the year.

Woody End – pretty hamlet in north-west Orin.

X proper names

 

Y

 

Z

 

Y proper names

 

Z proper names

 

 

 

PUNCTUATION

·         Follow The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS)

 

STYLE

·         Thoughts are italicized

·         Non-English words are italicized

·         Addresses such as milord and milady are not capitalized

·         Kinship addresses such are capitalized

·

NUMBERS AND DATES

·         Follow The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS)

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES


Happy writing!

A title at last!

I find it extremely difficult to complete a manuscript, without a title (or a ‘working’ one at least) decided.

It really starts to bother me after a few chapters.

I feel like I’m writing blind, as the title (for me) links into the theme for the whole novel. In my previous post, I did a bit of dabbling and mocked-up a cover for The Hag Stone, but after some reflection it just didn’t feel right.

It was too traditional epic fantasy – not taking into account the fact that romance plays a major part in the plot. I looked into the kind of covers that readers of fantasy romance expect – and there appears to always be a female on the cover.

Creative Indie Bookcovers did a blog post that explained this well: “Unlike non-fiction, which prizes creative ideas, fantasy book covers want dark, sumptuous, beautiful girls with long hair and flowing dresses, probably being overwhelmed by nature/dark forces.”

The name, The Hag Stone, wasn’t working for me either. It was too literal… I wanted something that encapsulated what the story is actually about.

So, back to the drawing board…

After much research and deliberation, my current novel has a name! The cover below is just a placeholder (once again created using Canva) . The final version will be quite different, as (since it’s Epic Fantasy Romance), there will be a young woman on the cover. Something like one of the covers on this page.

So here’s the title – followed by the premise and pitch for the novel.

New fantasy romance (1)

Ruled by Shadows

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

When Lilia promises to look after a charm for a mysterious traveller, she has no idea the trouble it will bring to her door. What appears to be a humble Hag Stone, used by folk to ward off evil spirits, is in reality a powerful talisman – one that a secret brotherhood has spent a thousand years searching for.

Anxious and reclusive, Lilia is not equipped to deal with the danger she now faces.

On the run with assassins at her heels, she finds herself in unlikely company. Her friend Perrin and Robana, a healer with a mysterious past, join her on a journey to seek the truth about the Hag Stone and the dark lord it once banished.

The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia must face the darkness, and her own fears – or there will be no going home.


Whew… now that’s done, I can get back to writing! 🙂

‘Mock-up’ a cover to clarify your novel’s theme

I’m a great believer in ensuring you’ve got a strong theme and concept in place before embarking on the writing process. A great way to do this is ‘mock-up’ a front and back cover for your story before you write it.

I’m around 24,000 words into my current manuscript. I’m not sure what the final cover will look like – whether I’ll opt for elaborate cover art or something simpler and more atmospheric – but this attempt on Canva, using a free photo from a photo library (and a bit of imagination), is how I see the story so far.

What’s the point?

The benefits of creating a front and back cover like this early on (apart from the fact it’s fun, and a great delaying tactic!) is that it helps set the mood and tone, and allows you define the theme and the concept for your story. These last two are the glue, keeping the whole story and characters together, and ensuring you don’t lose your way.

My efforts have shown me that although there will be a love-story running through it, my novel is going to be a classic epic fantasy of the kind I love to read. An epic journey with an unlikely hero and an underlying theme of darkness.

Here it is…

THE HAG STONE_version2

Backcover_THE HAG STONE_version2 (1)

 

 

Twisting Epic Fantasy character tropes

There’s been a bit of a lull in-between posts as I’ve been hard at work on my latest epic fantasy manuscript – currently 23,000 words in!

I did quite a bit of additional planning (on top of what’s already on this blog), but decided not to publish my story outline as I didn’t want to risk spoiling the story for anyone who might eventually read it – there were quite a few spoilers in there!

New fantasy romanceTitle troubles

I still haven’t come up with a working title for this manuscript. Usually the names of my books come relatively easily to me – but this one is proving tricky. Most of the ones I end up brain-storming tend either already exist or seem banal and stereotypical. I think I need to dig a bit deeper into my story and see if I see inspiration there!

Unravelling archetypes

Speaking about stereotypes – I wanted to take a look at creating epic fantasy characters, without venturing into trope territory.

Of course, epic fantasy has its archetypes – that’s why lovers of this genre are so passionate about it. The trick is to take an archetype, and twist it to give readers what they want – but presented in a fresh way.

Here are the four most important characters of my novel, the archetype they represent, and the fresh approach I’m taking to them.

Archetypes

The Naive Hero: Lilia (twist: she’s female, and she suffers from panic attacks due to a crippling fear of death)

One thing I didn’t want was a Xena Warrior Princess-style character. I’ve just finished reading a highly popular fantasy romance series (which shall remain nameless), in which the heroine has super-human abilities, fights like a ninja, and is gloriously beautiful to boot!

Please, no. I don’t want to read another one of these. If you give me a badass female character that’s fine, but why do so many female leads in fantasy have to be Lara Croft? Give me George R.R. Martin’s Brianne of Tarth or Ayra Stark any day. They’re both tough – they’re both different. But, they’re both believable.

The warrior female heroine trope is a big one for me, as this novel is an epic fantasy romance – rather than traditional epic fantasy.

My female lead, Lilia, is someone other women can relate to. In the beginning, she’s fearful, reclusive and cripplingly insecure – and of course the story sees her develop into a strong, confident woman who finds love (and saves the world!). However, she holds no magical abilities, there’s nothing superhuman about her.

The Loyal Sidekick: Perrin (twist: he’s not just a sidekick, but the love interest)

I loved Samwise Gamgee’s character in the LOTR, and the way he develops during the last part of the story. However, I don’t really enjoy stories where the sidekick provides comic relief, or is simply a vehicle to the lead protagonist’s greatness. Perrin is much more than that – he has his own journey, and is a very different man by the end of the story.

The Wise Wizard: Robana (twist: she a damaged woman, an exiled mage, who doesn’t have any answers – just an indomitable will and a determination to find the truth)

Robana’s an outcast who lives in an isolated spot and chooses the life of a healer other than a witch. She is embittered, outwardly tough, but in reality soft-hearted. She chose her exile as a result of a broken-heart, twenty years’ earlier.

The Wildcard: Saul of Anthor (twist: he’s also the second ‘love-interest’ in the story).

Handsome, charming and mysterious – Saul isn’t your usual wildcard (like Gollum, for example). Yes, we’re not sure where his allegiances lie, or who he really serves, but our female lead, Lilia, begins the story infatuated with him. Who will she eventually choose, Saul or Perrin?


 

Character development is something I absolutely love. It’s one of the best aspects of writing.

It’s great fun bringing a character to life, fleshing them out and making them breathe on the page. If my readers get angry at, feel sorry for, cry over, or cheer on my characters – if they can elicit emotion – then I’ve succeeded.

Planning a Fantasy Romance #4 – The Story Core

Following on from my overview on my main characters in my last post, it’s now time to start on a character arc for both of them.

Once again, I’m following Libby Hawker’s lead. I used her book, Take Off Your Pants, to plan my last Historical Romance, and ended up with my strongest, most coherent and complex story to date.

What I love about Libby Hawker’s ‘method’ is that using her strategies for planning a novel actually makes you more excited about the story – whereas some of the more ‘traditional’ books on planning use a lot of writing jargon and take you through endless steps that eventually (for me anyway!) kills any passion you might have initially had for your idea!

This method builds your plot through creating a story core. I will need to create two of these, as I have two main characters, but here’s Lilia’s.

f4c5cd959b9adcab20afa8bd0c9d09f3Story Core: Lilia, daughter of Shale and Fleura

Main character: Lilia, young cook who works in a tavern in Orin Island’s port.

External goal: She must protect a dangerous magical talisman, so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

Antagonist: Saul of Anthor (working name, could be changed). He is a member of the Shadow Brotherhood, who found half the talisman that would release the Shadow King from his mountain prison. He is on the run when he meets Rosa and, in desperation, entrusts her with the talisman, planning to come back for it later.

End: She manages to face her fears, defeat evil, save her home and finds love – a soft, happy ending.

Flaw: Has a fear of death and so is afraid to truly live.

Ally: Lilia has two allies – the first is Perrin, who is her friend throughout the book (despite the developing love story). The second is Robana, a cunning woman (a type of witch/healer) who lives a hermit’s life in the woods in the centre of Orin.He is the one who tells Lilia what has come into her possession. Knowing that she cannot do this alone, he set off on the trip with her and Perrin to help them.

Theme: We do not conquer our fears, or problems, by running away from them.

Tolkien’s quote, “You can only come to morning through the shadows,” encapsulates both the theme and the dominant symbol of the book, which is ‘shadows’ and ‘darkness’.


Story Core: Perrin, son of Ailin and Neasa

MartyMain character: Perrin, young man who works in his parents’ tavern in Orin Island’s port.

External goal: He must help Lilia protect a dangerous magical talisman, so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

Antagonist: Saul of Anthor – who is both the antagonist and love rival.

End: He manages to find meaning in life, defeat evil, save his home and finds love – a soft, happy ending.

Flaw: Selfish, only interested in the pursuit of pleasure, personal freedom and money.

Ally: Perrin has two allies: Lilia and Robana.

Theme: We do not conquer our fears, or problems, by running away from them.