For me there are essentially three ways novels are born. When I start a novel, I start with an interesting:
Character. If this is how your brain works, the question (how to create the major characters) is already partly answered. Ask yourself: what does she want? What is stopping her from getting it? Then fill in some blanks for yourself: who are her parents? How does she look, dress, behave? Where did she go to school? Is she a dog or a cat person? What did she have for breakfast? Ad infinitum.For the antagonist and secondary characters, you go through the same process: what do they want? What is stopping them from getting it? Etc.Different authors are more rigorous about this than others. Several successful ones I know write themselves copious notes—even essays—about the characters.
Then, once you know the world the characters inhabit and the story they are involved in, you give the readers the details they need to know to move the story forward. Be careful not to over-indulge yourself: the reader doesn’t need to know everything you know.
Story. If your novel is story-driven, who do the characters need to be to move the story forward? Then go through a similar process as in Step 1.
World. For those of us who work in Speculative Fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, horror, etc.), a lot of our settings are not the one the reader lives in. For some readers, that is why they are attracted to a particular genre. If a different, interesting world is what prompts the novel in the first place, we must ask ourselves, what is different about this world that makes it somewhere a reader would want to spend the hours it takes to read a novel?Then we ask ourselves what the story is that illuminates the world, and finally, who are the characters that drive the story.
Myself, I tend to work top down: the stories and worlds are born of the characters, not the other way around. But many successful authors vary the order.
In this case, don’t tell me the character is emotionally traumatized, especially by having him ponder it inside his own head. Instead, show me the effects of that traumatization. Especially show me how it is important to the story. If it has no effect on how the narrative unfolds, ask yourself why the average reader would actually care about the fictional mental problems of a fictional character.
Once again I’ll be appearing at Fyrecon, Thursday-Sunday, June 21-23. Weber State University campus, Layton, Utah.
Fyrecon is a three day conference on the Art and Writing of Science Fiction and Fantasy that offers over 180 workshops and classes facilitated by published authors and working artists. Fyrecon also features four and eight hour master classes by bestselling authors and nationally recognized artists.This is a great opportunity to meet and greet your favorite authors and artists for free!
The night before Fyrecon I’ll be moderating a panel at the Fyrecon Preview at the Viridian Event Center! Master guest authors and artists will participate in a panel discussion on heroes and villains and will sign books afterward. The panel will feature:
Shawn Carman, Lead Writer for Legends of the Five Rings & Creative Director for Kyoudai Games.
Dave Dorman, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Illustrator, best known for his Star Wars artwork. He earned an Eisner Award for his work on Alien: Tribes.
Dr. Charles E. Gannon, National Bestselling Author, best known for his Caine Riordan series, and his work with Eric Flint and Steve White on the Ring of Fire series.
David Farland, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Runelords series and author, under the name Dave Wolverton, of Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia.
Preston Stone, Artist and Art Director for Fantasy Flight Games.
Chad Hardin, Artist for DC Comics, probably best known for his work on the bestselling comic book series Harley Quinn.
Christie Craig, a.k.a. C. C. Hunter, New York Times Bestselling author of the Shadow Falls series, the Divorced and Desperate series, and the Texas Justice series.
Dragon Moon has been honored by the League of Utah Writers (LUW) with its
Gold Quill award as the best speculative fiction novel of 2017.
The novel, the tale of the new clandestine, high stakes space race that explodes when the People’s Republic of China places a new super weapon on the lunar surface, was in sterling company with Everstar, the last installment in the Vivatera series by fellow Xchyler Publishing author Candace Thomas, which took the Silver Quill.
The announcement came at the conclusion of the LUW’s Fall Conference, held on the campus of Salt Lake Community College.
Many thanks to the editorial team at Xchyler Publishing, including Penny Freeman and Jessica Fassler, for making this long-simmering dream a reality.
A new space race explodes into violence when China sets its sights on the Moon. The aim: seize the ultimate high ground. When a Chinese-American spy brings word out of Beijing, she is assigned to help an unlikely team of Navy SEALs and Russian Spetsnaz special operators to deal with this new threat. The cost of failure: worldwide Chinese empire.
Dragon Moon weaves together the stories of the special operators, the ultra-ambitious Chinese officer who has created this new lunar weapon, and a young asteroid hunter who stumbles on the truth.
With crack editorial team Penny Freeman and Jessica Fassler, we have done our best to make sure this techno-thriller comes to you chock full of the latest in geo-politics, military hardware, intrigue, and glimpses into what I think could very well be Earth’s near-term future.
In honor of the release of Xchyler Publishing’s release of its new paranormal anthology, Beyond the Wail, it is my pleasure to spotlight outstanding emerging horror writer Alex McGilvery.
Alex McGilvery is an author living in Flin Flon, Manitoba with his wife, Alex, and three dogs. He has been an avid reader all his life and wrote novels in his early teens. He has been writing short stories and poetry ever since. In addition to his first twenty-year work, he writes a novel every year through NaNoWriMo and another with the 3-Day Novel contest. He also writes reviews, specializing in indie authors, and works on short stories for contests.
He has now published five books, most recently Sparkles and Blood, a collection of horror novellas, edited an anthology along with the Flin Flon Writers Guild, and continues to be active in the Guild. In order to pay for his writing habit, Alex works full time as a minister in the United Church of Canada. Some of his parishioners wonder at the occasionally dark and twisted nature of his writing.
What is it about fear and the unknown that pulls so passionately at the human heart? Perhaps we are drawn not to the darkness itself, but to the resolution, the overcoming of what we most deeply dread. After all, the more terrible the struggle, the greater the victory when it comes at last. Presented in this anthology are twelve remarkable stories of the darkness that overshadows us, and the resolution that may be found beyond them. They are stories of fear and oppression, but ultimately stories of hope, stories that will take you BEYOND THE WAIL.
Alex’s story in the anthology is Saint Peter’s Fish: Sam is a walking disaster of biblical proportions, but how much is he willing to sacrifice to escape, and will the Powers That Be allow it?
How did you come up with the concept of your story?
This one started as a challenge. I was responding to a blog stating never start a story with the weather. I posted the first couple of paragraphs and got a good response. When the contest came up I knew it was time to finish the story.
How did you come up with the title?
The fish in the story burps up gold coins. It is a direct reference to a fish Peter caught to pay taxes.
Please provide some insight into or a secret or two about your story.
In the first iteration of the story the climax is a bar fight in Toledo and God is a biker. That either needed a full novel to deal with, or a switch to a heavy comedic tone. I shifted it around to match better with the contest.
What was the most surprising part of writing this book?
The fork. I had no idea that blasted fork was going to show up and confuse everyone. In the end I like the concept.
What was the hardest part of writing your book, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was not to overdo the voice of the story. It would have been so easy to fall into writing the lilt instead of the story. I kept being reminded the story came first and making the words serve the tale, not the voice.
What is your preferred writing genre?
I don’t write heavy romance or hack and slash horror. Other than that I think I have stories at least in just about every genre imaginable, and a few you’d probably never think of.
Who is your favorite author? Who has most influenced your work?
I don’t have one favourite author. When you read fifty to a hundred books a year, you need to keep branching out. I have been known to pick random books off library shelves in an attempt to find new people to read. Now being a reviewer takes care of that. As for influence, I love people who can write complex and layered stories and make them look easy, Kristin Cashore is a newish author I particularly like.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing novels in grade school. I never stopped being a writer. Now I sort of get paid for it.
Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
I keep joking about a desert island with power and wifi, and probably a fridge.
Where do you actually write? Do you write on a schedule?
I have an office in the basement which I share with our library and our freezer. I have a wonderful view of the neighbour’s peeling paint when the curtains are open. I don’t have a schedule, but try to work an hour or two a day.
What is your writing drive? The power that keeps you going when your writing gets difficult?
I’m sure when they autopsy me, they will find the claw marks from stories trying to get out of my head faster than my fingers will write them. The stories demand to be written. What keeps me going is discipline. If I am a writer, I will write. Whether I feel like it or not is not part of the equation.
Name one entity that you feel supported your writing, outside of family members.
I’m a member of a local writing group. We share stories and critiques.
How does writing impact other parts of your life?
Sometimes people who hear my more twisted stories worry about my mental health.
What activities best give your brain a break? How do you unwind?
When I’m not writing, I like shooting pictures with my camera. I’ve been planning to make a few more knives for my collection, but it will wait until warmer weather now.
What are some of your other published works?
In order of publication, The Unenchanted Princess, Playing on Yggdrasil, Sarcasm is my Superpower, By the Book, and Sparkles and Blood.
What is your advice to writers?
Write. Really. You aren’t a writer if you don’t write. Then find someone to help you deconstruct your writing to help you make it better. Then write some more.
What’s up next for you?
I’m bringing out another collection of novellas in November called The Heronmaster and a middle grade book for Christmas called Unboring the Princess. I’m also resubmitting a fantasy novel which is the first in a trilogy. I’m in the initial planning stages of a collection of my romance stories called ‘Romantic Shorts’.
What is your favorite snack while writing?
Beer, or coffee, scotch is good, but in small amounts. In terms of food, whatever I can scrounge up.
If you had three wishes, what would they be?
I wouldn’t bother with wishes. If they were handed to me, it would be cheating and I’d miss the story of the journey. Someone else can have mine.
Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you?
My wife is named Alex, same as me. My first published book was written as a gift for her. She is in some way the inspiration for all my stories, but she doesn’t read them. She makes me read out loud, usually in the middle of the night.
Just for fun nerd list:
Star Wars or Star Trek? As a kid, we watched Star Trek every week, but I don’t have a strong preference.
Hunger Games or Divergent? neither
James Bond or Jack Ryan? Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana
Sherlock: Robert Downey, Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch? Not a Holmes fan.
Spock: Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto? As an old fart, Nimoy.
X-Men or Avengers? They haven’t made a Mighty Mouse movie yet?
Batman or Superman? Mighty Mouse
Beatles or Rolling Stones? Supertramp
Vampires or Werewolves? Carnivorous Frogs
LARP or MORPG? I used to DM for D&D complete with manuals and weird dice.
Learn more about Alex, his publications, and what tickles his brain: