This is the trailer for Radiance, the first book in the new middle grade ‘Radiance Series’ by Alyson Noël. Alyson expands her ‘Immortals’ story by giving Ever’s little sister, Riley, her own brand-new series.
More about ‘Radiance’:
Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. She has picked up life where she left off when she was alive, living with her parents and dog in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When she’s summoned before The Council, she learns that the afterlife isn’t just an eternity of leisure. She’s been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a possibly cute, seemingly nerdy boy who’s definitely hiding something. They return to earth together for Riley’s first assignment, a Radiant Boy who’s been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But all of that was before he met Riley . . .
I recently cam across this website (The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam) and had a lot of fun reading some of these questions. The exam is supposedly set up to determine whether or not your fantasy novel is actually original and the instructions say that if you answer yes to any one question then you should abandon the novel immediately. Now when question four is:
Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
This doesn’t leave a lot of room for the vast majority of fantasy stories and so while the quiz does reveal some of the more cliche parts of the genre I don’t think anyone should be taking the instructions overly seriously. We all know that there are very few ‘new’ ideas out there. That said I think most of us can agree that if you answer yes to the following maybe you are going to have to work really hard to make it sound fresh:
Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
What I found really fun was trying to think of at least five books I have read that the question would apply to. It actually was a lot of fun though there are a few cheap shots taken at Robert Jordon throughout as well as RPG’s which aren’t necessarily a bad thing though probably shouldn’t be used to plan the plots of novels.
So here’s the challenge for the fantasy lovers out there. Pick a question, any question from the list, and see if you can think of at least five novels that it applies to.
It has occurred to me recently that if I were to actually write dialogue the way most people speak there is very little chance that someone who wasn’t inside either of the speaker’s heads would understand what on earth the conversation was about.
For instance, I recently overheard the following conversation.
“Ya. Like.. Just yeah.”
“OMG. Really. This is just… Oh my god.”
“So have you told..?”
“We have to tell…”
“She’s… Where is she?”
And this continued for another few minutes and then the two people talking walked away. An entire conversation unfolding and yet nothing that actually identified a subject or point to the conversation. What if characters spoke like this in books? The reader would need a lot of narration surrounding the conversation to make heads or tails of it.
Then again, my characters always speak far too precisely. I’m trying to work on that and find a more natural flow for the dialogue.
What about your characters? Do they speak in grammatically correct English or do they take a more natural approach? Love to hear your thoughts.
Cat Woods recently shared a post called Strap On Your Writing Helmet and she related the story of her son who is too afraid to try riding his bike. She then linked this to her own fear of sharing her writing with the world for fear of rejection or even fear of success.
I could definitely relate to this feeling.
Other than my close friends, I don’t tend to share my writing with many people. Even my friends have to wait until I’ve tidied the draft sufficiently that I don’t want to dig a hole and hide in it while they read. Making the decision to try to get Death’s Daughter published was absolutely terrifying. Knowing that the worst thing that could happen would be rejection didn’t really help. In the end, it was up to me to decide that I wanted to share this story and if that was what I wanted then I needed to push the fear aside and try to make it happen.
Amazingly, rejection didn’t kill me. It didn’t even metaphorically kill me. A form rejection letter has limited sting because it isn’t a personalised attack. A more complete rejection with reasons why my manuscript was returned became a valuable tool for improvement and could have been considered a fairly positive step.
Then the book was picked up and I was terrified again. What if I couldn’t finish the edits and rewrites? What if I stuffed it all up?
Then it was released. What if no one likes it?
I could panic and moan and fall apart thinking of all the what if’s in the world but at the end of the day I have to be pretty happy with how things are going. I finished the novel, which was a huge achievement. I refined the novel, which probably took way too long and I really need to work on that. I found a publisher and I had my novel published.
I’m not going to lie and say that I am fearless and everything will be all breezy and easy from here on in. That is a complete lie. I’ll continue to worry and second guess myself forever. It is part of who I am. But I’m not going to stop writing and I’m not going to avoid rejection. The only way forward is to move forward.
Thanks Cat for this very inspiring post.
I’ve previously looked at heroic traits and my favourite heroes but recently I’ve been thinking about why some heroes just don’t live up to their hype.
Personally, I have never liked Superman. I know, this is a terrible thing I am saying and many of you are staring daggers at the screen but I’ve just never really connected with Superman. Why? Because the man in the red cape and blue lycra has it far too easy. The only reason he’s ever in peril is if someone manages to get hold of one particular kind of rock (which is meant to be hard to find but there seems to be prolifically spread throughout the stories) and you just can’t care about someone who is mostly invincible. I did like Tarentino’s take on the Superman story as explained in Kill Bill 2. It may be a long winded scene and the story itself has very little connection to the story of the movie (there is a very loose tie-in at the end of the tale) but it is fascinating hearing Bill’s perception of the man of steel.
So where do other heroes fail and why do they fail? And is it actually failure or is just a matter of these heroes not being directed at the right audience?
Examining movies the obvious character to pull apart would seem to be Riddick (or at least it would be obvious if you were currently inside my head). Riddick was an incredibly interesting anti-hero in Pitch Black and his characterisation and development were smoothly executed, he had some of the best lines of the movie, and while he was the hero of the story at no stage did he make you want to gag because he didn’t have that sudden epiphany of “what have I been doing with my life”. He was who he was and his essential personality did not change.
Then we move on to Chronicles of Riddick and while it might seem a pointless exercise to attack Riddick’s character when the entire movie had issues, I’m going to do it anyway. To start with, the minor developments of character that he underwent in Pitch Black are gone and we seem to be back at the beginning of Riddick’s character development. In their haste to try to develop a back-story we have info-dumps all over the place that weigh our character down and don’t really help us to understand him any better. As a hero he fails to appease the audience because at no stage do we care if he succeeds at overcoming an incomprehensible ‘evil’ army. The worst thing about his character here is that he becomes less heroic and more unlikable by the minute in this film. Heroic failure – though feel free to disagree if you found some redeeming qualities in Riddick.
If I look to books then I start to think about Janelle from Ann Bishop’s Dark Jewel’s Trilogy. I love these books and the stories. Janelle’s character is fascinating and frightening and completely mesmerizing, but as a hero she doesn’t really do much for me. Her changeable nature from passive, to fragile, to furious in the blink of a few pages makes her an interesting character, but hard to support as the hero. The characters surrounding her are more what you could call traditionally heroic, but even they are deeply flawed individuals. Great story but hard to find the hero.
Does it matter? Do we need a ‘hero’? Do we have to like the hero for the story to be effective? Clearly in the case of Ann Bishop I didn’t like the hero on reflection and can see all the flaws in the other candidates and yet I still loved the story. In the case of Pitch Black, I liked the development of the anti-hero but found the break down of Riddick’s character in the sequel to be tiresome and boring which completely undermined the little story being told.
Who are the heroes that you never liked?
What makes a hero work for you?
Lua Fowles on Bowl of Oranges wrote a post about how to annoy a rookie writer which was an excellent read. I particularly like her second point where someone suggests to her that she should write about their friend who is cool. I love her response to that.
A couple of days ago I was ‘offered’ a kind story suggestion from someone. They’d made a comment about time travel, or gaps in time, or something that I hadn’t particularly listened to. Anyway, the next thing I know they are telling me I can use this for an idea in my next story.
They thought they were being helpful but I considered it this way. If I go to a restaurant with a mixed bag of groceries, march into the kitchen and drop them on the work bench before announcing, “You can use these to make a meal”, am I being helpful or annoying?
At the time I simply pointed out that time travel wasn’t really my thing because it leant itself far more to science fiction than to fantasy (though it is used in fantasy and quite well but I don’t really want to deal with overcoming paradoxes and the like so I’ll leave time travel to others for now). I additionally pointed out that I’m in the middle of a project at the moment and won’t be thinking about a next story for several months at least with the project I’m working on and projects I already have written but need to do some serious editing work on.
I didn’t get annoyed by this. They thought it was a great idea and maybe it had been a great idea (I probably should listen better to people). They weren’t being condescending or rude or anything like that. They just weren’t very helpful.
I’m the cook and I already went out and found my ingredients after pouring through all the recipes I might have considered. I’ve already done the prep work and cut up all the ingredients and half of them are in the pot cooking. And having gone through the bag that I was delivered I don’t even know a recipe I can cook with that particular combination of food stuffs so I’m really unlikely to use them.
The problem here was that as a non-writer this person didn’t really get the time and dedication required to work on an idea. To them, here is an idea, write the story, done. The thought that I wasn’t looking for new ideas and didn’t really want that idea hadn’t really occurred to him.
Do people do this to you? How do you deal with ‘helpful’ suggestions?
I’m going to admit it. I’m becoming very critical.
I’ve always been critical – particularly of myself – but lately I’ve been really critical of a lot of things.
Today I was given a short story to read. The purpose of the story was to demonstrate how to use descriptive language to create an emotional affect in the reader. Possibly it succeeded in that but the only emotional affect it had on me was the desire to grab a red pen and have at it – I managed to resist the urge but barely.
So what was wrong with the story?
Every single person or thing in the story was described by at least two adjectives in almost every single instance. Every single time. I’m sorry. The person is whistling. Sure, you can tell us how they are whistling and what it sounds like but the next time you feel the need to mention it you could just say whistling. You don’t then need to come up with two new adjectives (or an adverb and an adjective) to describe how the whistling is happening.
Objects were appearing ‘out of nowhere’. Umm, no. Unless they were tearing through interdimensional portals I’m pretty sure they came from somewhere. Maybe it wasn’t an important somewhere but to explicitly state they came from out of nowhere just leads the reader to wonder how that is even possible.
Characters were behaving out of character – which in a short story is really distracting because you don’t even have the benefit of later explaining the out of characterness (I know that isn’t a word).
I’ll admit it. I’m awful and I’m tearing this story to threads. And it lead me to realise some of the weaknesses I still have in my own writing. I like adjectives (not to this extent but I over use them to be sure). I may not have things appearing out of nowhere but I’m sure I suddenly have people in scenes where they shouldn’t be and have no logical reason to be and I’m sure I need to work on it. I need to turn this critical eye away from things I’m reading and apply it to things I’m writing and I need to look at what I could be doing instead.
Plenty of areas here for me to work on. What are you working on improving?
Not for long though. I’m getting sent out of town for a week for some professional development and I don’t know what my internet access is going to be like. I’m hoping to post a few times during the week but if not, I’ll be back in a few days.
Until I get back, I’d like to leave you with the trailer to Death’s Daughter – it is a little rough but it is a start. If you can’t hear the sound, you may need to turn up the volume a bit.
Have a great week.