Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Finding the Real in the Fantasy with Author Chele Cooke

I'm so happy to introduce fantasy author Chele Cooke to my blog readers. Chele is an awesome sci-fi and fantasy writer who hails from across the pond. Here, Chele shares her thoughts on how writers bring their fantasy and fantastical worlds to life for readers:

Finding the Real in the Fantasy
Guest Post by Chele Cooke

As a sci-fi and fantasy writer, one of my favourite compliments to be given by readers is ‘you made me feel like I was right there.’ When we’re creating whole new worlds, this is a big achievement.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, yet we are constantly told as writers that we need to get to the action faster, hook the reader in quicker. So, when you don’t always have a thousand words, how do you paint a realistic picture of your world and the characters within it?

If you look at popular Sci-Fi and fantasy franchises, you will often find that the protagonist is new to the world, or at least aspects of it, that we, as the reader, are being pulled into. If you look at Harry Potter as an example, Harry is new to the wizarding world, and as the reader, we explore with him, gaining understanding as he does. This use of an outsider stepping into the world for the first time binds the reader to the main character, not only making things easier for us to understand, but also creating an empathetic bond between reader and character, because, new to the world ourselves, we understand the excitement of it.

Imagination is a wonderful thing that allows a reader great scope, but as people, we also like the familiar. We use metaphors and similes, grounding images in the familiar in order to help tie a tangible rope to a new image or idea. It is much easier for a reader to imagine an image similar to one they know from their life, than a completely new image they have never encountered.

New languages can also be implemented in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, especially if you are exploring multiple new settings. However, try to intersperse the words of this foreign tongue with the language you’re writing in. Having sentences of a new language will only confuse and frustrate the reader. If you have conversation to occur in this new tongue, a language your protagonist does not understand, simply comment that they spoke in their foreign tongue and instead focus on the facial expressions and body language of the characters speaking. We gain 70% of our understanding from body language, and 15% from tone of voice. So, even if your character does not understand the words, you can very easily ensure that the reader understands the conversation.

Individual words can also become problematic if the reader cannot pronounce them with ease. I have a number of new words and names in my first sci-fi series, and to ensure that these new words were not tripping readers up, I tried to ensure that even if the pronunciation the reader attributed was slightly wrong, they were at least able to make the pronunciation as easily as possible. If you line up a Q, a J, and an F next to each other in a word, for example, you will have readers struggling because it’s not a combination we have ever experienced.

I used a number of Eastern European languages as the basis of my language Adtvenis, with words and names like Edtroka, Drysta, and Tyllenich. While none of these words are direct translations, or even the same words as used in any Eastern European language, by keeping the words within a general feel of an existing language, it becomes more believable to the reader, and easier for them to get to grips with, as they know not only the individual words, but through them, begin to get a feel for accent and rhythm.

The creation of new ideas, places, and even languages, is one of my favourite reasons to write Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I can go wherever my imagination takes me. By employing some of these points to your writing, grounding the fantastical into everyday reality, you can ensure that your readers will follow your imagination wherever it chooses to go.

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