Series Aspirations: Drawn to the Long Arc

PicMonkey CollageHarping on a Hero:

Over the past few years I’ve frequently mentioned my fondness for the epic fantasies of Robin Hobb, both here and on WU, and via social media. Let’s face it, I’m Fool's Assassina geeky, rabid fan. I not only enjoy Hobb’s books, I feel I’ve learned a great deal about writing fiction by reading her, particularly in regards to character development. So I consider her an inspiration; a mentor of sorts. I’ve recently devoured her most recent release, Fool’s Quest, which is among over a dozen titles set in the same world and the eighth to feature Prince FitzChivalry Farseer and his dear friend and longtime companion known as the Fool (owing to the fact that he was literally a court jester when the pair met as boys).

As I said, I appreciate many aspects of Hobb’s work, but reading this last novel reminded me of a powerful storytelling tool I particularly admire. It’s one you don’t often see utilized, but one I aspire to use in my own work. I’m talking about a complex character arc that unfolds over the course of a series of titles.

Admiring An Epic Life:

When readers first meet FitzChivalry he is a young boy, the bastard son of a king-in-waiting. Fitz is delivered into the hostile confines of his extended family’s royal court, where he is the ultimate outsider. Over the course of two lengthy trilogies, we areRobin Hobb Fool's Quest privy to the unfolding development of a character who is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating in fantasy fiction. Fitz goes from victimized bastard child to teenaged trained assassin, tool to the very royal family who maintains his ostracized status, to a man without a name or a family, forced into a life in hiding yet still unable to disengage from the Farseers’ use of him. In the first two books of this newest trilogy, we find Fitz in his fifties, a father and husband; a squire hoping to live out his days simply and anonymously, in comfort and among family. (This, of course, is not to be. Otherwise there would be no new trilogy.)

Watching Fitz’s life unfold is so full of delights, I can hardly describe the full effect here. We are witness as the young man who starts off so impetuous, vengeful, and maddeningly unpredictable matures into a (mostly) reliable, loyal, and deeply reflective man; a former killer struggling to tame his demons as he strives for a life of honorable domesticity in a world made safe – in no small way – through his concealed efforts.

I found so much of this eighth Fitz book moving and deeply satisfying. And I realized that it was because it was like watching someone I’d known all of their life finally coming into his own and receiving his just dues after long years of denial. In spite of a plethora of wrenching new developments, my heart swelled again and again in seeing Fitz gaining rightful recognition as a prince of the blood, the unheralded hero of the realm. It’s a sweeping effect that I feel would’ve been all but impossible in the course of a single novel, or even over a lone trilogy.

My Own Efforts:

I say I aspire to utilize this tool, hoping to create more satisfying characters though complex development over the course of a series. Of course the tricky part of that is not just selling the first book, but leaving readers wanting more. But my attempts to create multi-book character arcs go back to the very beginning of my writing endeavors. Hoping to continue to develop my characters over the course of several individual story arcs is one of the reasons I strive for a worthy first offering in my story world. I’ve already had a blast doing this, and several of my characters’ lives have unfolded in surprising ways; ways that are very gratifying to me.

One character who particularly surprised me is a good example. Rohdric of the Amalus clan first appears in book one of my original trilogy as an antagonist. The nephew of a fallen Gothic conquering king, Rohdric is raised as a slave in the Roman world. As he comes of age, the elder Goth slaves aid Rohdric’s escape to their tribal homeland in the hopes of his raising an army of their kinsmen to ride against the imperials who enslave them. This puts him in direct conflict with the story’s protagonist, Thaedan (his cousin, son of the conquering king) who aspires to avoid his father’s murderous lifestyle and keep his people free from imperial conflict.

As a yRohdric from 123rfoung man, Rohdric is brash and bullying, conceited and unscrupulous. He considers himself the good guy, the only Amalus heir trying to do the right thing. By the end of book one, Rohdric has gained a following and breaks away from the Gothic nation to forge his own path. Along the way to personal glory he is humbled by defeat, and is severely injured. The wound is very apparent to others, and has an ongoing effect on him, both from a physiological and a psychological standpoint. After his defeat, he and his men change sides to become foederati (foreign fighters in the service of the Roman army). As a Roman soldier, Rohdric encounters racism and discrimination. Unfolding events force him to a renewed perspective of the injustice of slavery. Even as a former slave, slavery had simply been “the way of things” – unchangeable. What had been a selfishly personal vendetta (to free his kinsmen) becomes genuine compassion. Ultimately, he comes to understand the importance of belonging and of self-sacrifice; of friendship and loyalty; of love and honor.

And that’s just his young adulthood! And it took three books to get that far. Makes me wonder what a long literary life like Fitz’s would hold in store for Rohdric of the Amalus.

It’s the Transformation, Stupid.

“Story is how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a difficult goal and how they change as a result.” ~ Lisa Cron

I love Lisa’s quote, offered up at the onset of a workshop she gave at the Writer Unboxed UnConference last year. It reminds me that the heart of every story is not the protagonist’s goal, nor is it the stuff that happens along the way. The heart of every story lies in how the characters change as a result of the stuff that happens and the achievement (or lack thereof) of the story goal. And of course, with a character who reappears in multiple editions of a series of stories, they will necessarily be changed many times, hopefully with a cumulative effect.

With that in mind, and also keeping in mind I’ve yet to successfully sell such a series, I offer two pieces of advice to series writers wishing to feature (a) recurring character(s): First, be sure to have them change! And second, be sure to have them stay the same!

Conflicted? I know I am. Hopefully your characters will be, too. Allow me to elaborate.

*Have them change! And in each story. Even if they’re a secondary character. Start with the obvious. If the character is maturing, there will be physical changes. How they look as they age, for a start. But go deeper. This is an element that Hobb has mastered, and often it speaks to other changes in Fitz’s life. For example, even though he undergoes ongoing physical mending through a magic called Skill Healing, in the most recent trilogy he’s still become out of shape and out of practice from a martial perspective. He’s often sore and out of breath. Another example: one has only to think of Tyrion Lannister’s disfigured nose to think of how a visible wound can transform a character’s life. It’s an apparent and inescapable symbol both of his bravery in battle and his fall from grace.

But of course we have to go beyond physical change. We must ask ourselves how what’s happened in each story has transformed our characters. After all, psychic scars can be as enduring as physical ones. In what ways have they grown more comfortable in their own skin? In what ways are they even more vulnerable? What fears have they conquered? What new fears have appeared since the last story? What old fears cannot be shaken? What shamefulness lingers, and how does it manifest itself moving forward? Who do they grieve? What do they regret? What about the past makes them proud, or content? How do they self-sabotage that contentedness?

I’m sure that, depending on the nature of the character, you’ll come up with your own list of questions. Just be sure to delve deeply.

*Have them stay the same! Have you ever reencountered someone you knew in prior life, say, at a dinner party, who seems completely different? It happens. They could look different, seem wiser, calmer—even have reversed a previous impassioned position. But more times than not, by the end of the dinner, their old stripes are showing through, aren’t they? Perhaps they’ve had a few drinks, and suddenly there’s a subtle jibe about a longstanding note of discord between you. Or they tell an unflattering story about you—one you could swear you promised one another you’d never share. How much have they really changed? How much is a new façade?

At their core, some characteristics never change. Someone who’s prone to rage may have gained some mastery of their temper. But how often is their anger still there, simmering beneath the surface? Or have you ever met someone who lights up a room with good cheer? That light never seems to diminish, does it? And they seem to stay that way, even if you know them well enough to know the burdens they carry inside but don’t show to the world.

We should ask ourselves not just how readers will recognize our recurring characters, but how they deeply know them. Based on a character’s history, what are readers waiting for them to do? Will the character’s new icy façade melt in empathy? Will their old explosiveness somehow ignite? Is newfound kindness a cover for their old scheming selfishness? In what ways are they still endearing? Or frustrating? What element of their past selves will we most ardently root for to reappear? How long can we tease and yet withhold that element?

It’s important to know which aspects of your returning characters are unalterable. How do their core beliefs and fundamental characteristics come to bear on the changes you explored above?

Gladiator Unleash Hell battleMaking it Epic!

ep·ic /epik/ noun

1 – a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.

2 – extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope. <That story was epic!>

I admit, I’ve always been a bit frustrated by the confines of the marketplace’s definition of “novel length.” As a reader, I’ve always favored long books—stories that begin at a hero’s childhood and quite often encompass much of her or his life. I can see how such extended character explorations can still be viable, even in today’s market. Through an extended series—one in which the previous trilogy appeared almost a decade ago—Robin Hobb has provided a brilliant pair of examples in Fitz and the Fool.

I’m drawn to tell these kinds of stories. I want my work to extend beyond the usual or ordinary in scope. So I’m seeking to get it right. I patiently strive to prepare a worthy first offering—one that will lead to the chance to delve into my characters’ many transformative experiences.

After all, I’m not just seeking to publish a story. I’m seeking a career as an epic fantasy author.

And you? Do you have a favorite recurring character? Do you seek to write a series, or have you considered it?

Goth Warrior Photo Copyright: <a href=’’>evdoha / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Setting the Circumstances

Ancient books, ghostly imageMy “Career-In-Potential”:

“Once we turn pro (and even before we do), our Muse has plans for us. Those plans are our career-in-potential. They exist, whether we choose to believe in them or not. And they’re operating upon us, influencing us like the gravitational pull of an enormous invisible star.

If you’re a writer, your career-in-potential is a shelf of books. Your books. Books you’ve written. They exist now, even if you haven’t started Book #1.” ~Steven Pressfield

The above quote is from a post called Thinking a Career, from SP’s fabulous Writing Wednesdays blog series. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you not only read this post, but subscribe to the series. I think the piece resonates for me because I felt the “gravitational pull” of my career-in-potential long before I read it. I think I subconsciously felt that pull even as I trudged through the writing of my trilogy, and that was—in part—why I did not stop writing after book one was complete. As I describe in last week’s post, I was self-deluding about the work’s potential, unwilling to allow myself to think too far ahead for fear of freaking myself out (and having my career-in-potential fizzle-in-actuality). But I knew I needed to put my own pieces in place on the board in order to learn the game, let alone the stakes.

Masters of My Domain:

“When the student is ready, the master appears.”  ~Buddhist Proverb

I didn’t start reading Jacqueline Carey until I was nearly done writing the first draft of my trilogy. But after finishing her debut, Kushiel’s Dart, I immediately saw parallels. JC’s epic, character-focused stories and her detailed alternate-historical settings combine to create the kind of submersion for readers I was seeking to craft. And by the time I read Kushiel’s Dart, she already had six fat volumes (two trilogies) on the shelf—a fantasy lover’s treasure-trove. She subsequently added another trilogy set in the same world, as well as two pairs of urban fantasies, with more on the way.

When I started following JC on Facebook in ‘08, she had no author page, but she ‘friended’ her fans, and I was among the first 400 or so. Since then she’s transferred us to an author page, and the page has grown to over 13,000 fans. I admire the catalog she’s built, but I also admire how she has handled her growing fan-base. She interacts with her readers on an almost daily basis, and genuinely shares of herself. In my experience, she responds to every single thing someone puts on her Facebook wall with a ‘like’ or a personal comment. I’ve written her several times, and in each case she has taken the time to respond in a warm and engaged way.

And the reward for her efforts: loyalty! I’ve seen several stories from fans who’ve hand-sold her books to other shoppers in the bookstore. Not only do her fans (including yours truly) recommend her, they buy multiple copies to give and lend to readers they think should be reading her. Heck, there are even scores of fans who tattoo their bodies with images and words from her work (no tattoos here… yet). Talk about a tribute to an author.

Serial Aspirations:  To top it all off, Carey just keeps getting better. After reading her Naamah trilogy, I felt so strongly about her growth that I wrote her to tell her I thought she was at the top of her game. And she never stops trying new things. Fans of her epic historicals (like me) are willing to venture trying her urban fantasy.

I’ve recently discovered Robin Hobb’s Farseer series, and am on my sixth book. I finish one, consider the other books in my TBR list, then download the next Farseer book. So far, I can’t seem to sate my Farseer appetite. Plus I’ve learned a lot about internal versus external plot development, as well as creating micro-tension through constantly rising stakes. She’s another master of the epic historical fantasy domain. I consider writers like Hobb and Carey to be mentors as well as role models. For an epic fantasy writer, they both have careers worthy of aspiration.

Delivering On The First Order: When my wife and I were in the building materials business, we learned a valuable lesson about selling. We knew we weren’t just selling a bunk of lumber. We were selling a service. We sold to lumber retailers, and there were only so many of them in our delivery area. We needed their repeat business—hence, we needed their loyalty. We knew initiating trial was one thing. But once we got that first order, we had to deliver. To get them to commit to us, that first shipment had to be more than satisfactory. It had to be a knockout.

For a writer who aspires to sell a series, the lesson was a powerful one. I think some of my non-writer friends sometimes wonder what the heck is taking me so long (and perhaps even some of my writer friends wonder, as well). Many of them know I have four completed manuscripts, and that I’m on my fifth or sixth major rewrite of book one ( even though it feels like the 15th or 16th). But I know I’ve got to deliver on the first order, or the rest of the series will languish, or worse, never see the light of day.

The Comfort of the Familiar: I’ve been told by several readers that they enjoyed book two much more than book one. And a few have said that, from book one to my most recent manuscript, the writing only gets stronger. I think this is pretty natural and easily explained by my growth as a writer. But I suspect there is something else at work here. Starting into book two or three of a series is a completely different thing than trying a new author’s first book. You’ve become acquainted with the world, and hopefully fond of the characters. As a series moves along, it’s like visiting old friends. You share a history. You know the backstory. It gives a writer a tremendous amount of freedom. And once you have that comfort and loyalty, it even offers a bit of space to experiment and stretch, as Carey has done with her urban fantasy work.

I was discussing this with my wife the other night, and she said, “Sort of like the hair stylist thing.” I am absolutely positive I looked bewildered, because my expression made her laugh. She went on to explain that if you have a stylist you have been using for a while, you not only grow familiar with them, you start to get comfortable. And from that comfort, you begin to trust them. At some point, after several times delivering the hairstyle you know and like, you are open to their suggestions for experimentation. And after a few successful experiments or variations, if they screw up one of your cuts (or color sessions, etc.), you are more willing to forgive it. You go back (perhaps earlier than usual) because you know they can deliver on the sort of comfort you’ve come to expect. A pretty darn apt analogy. One that I never would’ve come up with on my own.

But you wouldn’t go back to someone who didn’t deliver on the first appointment. A series needs to earn familiarity in order to deliver comfort, and thereby to deserve loyalty. So back to getting it right on the first book.

Visualizing the Voyage:

“If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable to him.” ~Seneca

I have admitted I am not an optimist by nature. My wife handles that for me, thank you. I am not saying that I anticipate having the legions of fans Carey and Hobb have rightfully earned. I know it’s a competitive business. And the vagaries of the ever-changing publishing business paired with the fickle tastes of readers will make it challenging to navigate to any level of success.On board a Sailing Ship, by Caspar David Friedrich

I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky to have wonderful mentors and readers and writerly friends. Lucky to have found Writer Unboxed, and to have been given some wonderful opportunities to serve there. Lucky to have had the business background, the time, and (even though I often feel the opposite) the patience to strive for the right set of circumstances for a successful voyage toward publication.

I’m sure there will be storms to come, but the experience I’ve gained along the way will help me to steer through. Thus far I’ve had mostly favorable winds. But I know to what port I am steering. I believe in my career-in-potential. I can see those books Pressfield refers to on the shelf.

I’m not sure what to expect from my next destination, but I’m comfortable knowing I’ve done everything I could to make the best of it when I arrive.

Do you see your books on the shelf? Whose esteemed career do you aspire to? 

Image credit: <a href=’’>fyletto / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Getting Lost In History

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, By David Friedrich Caspar (1818)“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death” ~ Robert Fulghum

Lost and Found: I’m a sucker for a good historical fantasy, but I’d been feeling like I hadn’t read a good one in a long while. That all changed in the last few weeks, since I found a series of books, The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb. I’m on book three, and I’ve been told there is another trilogy in the same world, featuring some of the same characters. Huzzah! As each book ends, I take a look at my existing TBR pile, consider what to read next, then download the next edition of Hobb’s work. I’m totally lost in her historical fantasy world, and I’m delighted.

It’s more like wandering than being lost, I suppose (and remember, “Not all who wander are lost.” ~JRRT). In reading Hobb, I am wandering through the recesses of imagination, exploring ideas of my own. Her writing is so compelling, her characters so well-realized, that I have mostly been able to turn off my writerly internal editor. Her work still makes me think, not just about my own work, but life in general—probing my perception of the world. I’m more than entertained, I’m enlightened and stimulated to further and deeper examination of my thoughts and feelings. By getting lost in her historical world, I find myself anew. Now that’s powerful writing!

The History Behind the Historiography: One of the things the series provoked me to ponder is the why behind my love of historicals. As far back as I can remember I’ve loved imagining myself living in another time. One recollection of the early kindling of my ardor was a trip my family took to Mackinac Island (in Northern Lake Huron), and my first tour of the restored British fort there. I must’ve been about seven or eight. I stood on the wall walk, sighting down a cannon barrel across green hillsides to the blue straits beyond, imagining being surrounded by hostile French and Indians.

In the fort’s bookstore (yeah, pretty sure that’s a modern addition), my mom bought me a copy of Young Voyageur, by Dirk Gringhuis. I tore through the Shooting the Rapids (1879), By Frances Anne Hopkinsaccount of a young British boy sold into indentured service to a crew of French-Canadian voyageurs. My heart raced as Danny hid in an attic during the famous massacre at the fort, begun under the guise of a La Crosse match between Ottawa and Chippewa braves. I could picture the very spot! Pure preteen exhilaration. From 18th Century Michilimackinac, I was on to Middle Earth, Narnia, Arthurian Britain, and 19th Century India. And my love lives on, unabated.

The Legend of the Legend-Makers: One of the things Hobb points out about her quasi-medieval world is the importance of minstrels and scribes. Since the small folk of our not-too-distant past were mostly illiterate, and there were no other sources for news, the job of passing along important cultural information fell to traveling singers and mummers. And all that was put into record, from a noble’s vainglorious accounting of his deeds, to the land deeds and marriage agreements of freemen, had to be written by hiring a scribe. Wherever folk gathered, from the courts of the mighty to the neighborhood taverns to the wayside inns, minstrels and scribes were welcomed and heeded. Storytelling and publishing for the masses were born. Just as does our news of the day, the singers sang of what had happened, in part to pass it along and in part to help make sense of it—to show the audience how the stories affected them. But, of course, minstrels had an overriding goal–to entertain.

And, as everyone loves a good story, and stories are often made all the better by ever-so-slight modification—adjustments that with time and frequent retelling turn into outright embellishment—so too are legends born. If a warrior won the day, soon enough he had won the day nigh alone, and with one injured arm tied in a sling. We have a hero, ladies and gentlemen! And of course all would then love to hear the details of his motives, including the smoldering eye contact he made with that besieged nobleman’s wife after the battle. You get the idea. Thank goodness our modern mass news sources have gotten away from such sensationalism and puffery.

“To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity.”
~Roy P. Basler

To Yore Place, Then to Mine: It’s said that myths and legends exist to explain the unexplainable, that they cement the basic structures of societal belief, and reconcile difficult dichotomies, such as good versus evil and existence versus nothingness. What better way to illustrate such difficult subjects than to see what has gone before? “How did our hero fare in this difficult circumstance? What happened to our heroine when she dared to go to that strange place?” Seeing the hero through dire straits makes facing our own circumstance seem a bit less difficult, which is comforting and alluring. “Well, if they can get through that. Our lot is jolly when laid out beside theirs.”  Give me more. I want to get lost in the days of yore.

I have always been comforted by stories from the past, but nothing could compare to what I felt when I started to dig through history, mining for details for the creation of my fictional world. As some of you may know, my work leans toward the historical rather than the fantastic. Once I had picked out my era and setting—a place and time that sent a shiver down my neck in imaging living there—I couldn’t get enough. One of my biggest writing hurdles has been to refrain from piling on the world-building details. I want so badly to convey my tingling feeling over being immersed in my setting, but too much and I’ve cluttered up the story. It’s a delicate balance.

“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.” ~Machiavelli

Stripping To Be Romantic: There is a lot of romanticism in historical fiction and fantasy. We are offered a safe distance from which we can view a familiar world, but as it once was–dangerous and exotic. Legend and myth evoke a sense of mystery, often tinged with a sacred aura. We view well-known archetypes on a glorious stage, our preconceptions lushly painted by history’s continuum of minstrels and scribes, painters and poets. Not that a legendary feeling can’t be created in other genres. There is, for example, often such an atmosphere created in sci-fi or in dystopian fantasy. Heck, Star Wars is a perfect exemplar of  legendary romanticism.

In many ways, starting with a historical setting strips the process of story craft down to fundimentals, to be built on an existing foundation. Also, utilizing the window of history creates a safe distance and a legendary atmosphere for my tales. But for me there is more. I wanted the glorious painting but without the constraints of the existing stage. It’s why I write historical fantasy. Of course all history is fantasy–seen as we wish it to have been, and distorted by the lens of legendary storytelling. But I bent it a bit further. By building my own world, I was freed from history’s confinement, but (hopefully) left with our fond collective reminiscence. My setting is stripped of technology, modern convenience, and of our minute division of expertise; a place where safety is an uncommon luxury. I sought to build a world where the characters’ roles and conflicts are at once familiar and foreign, exotic and relatable.

By using history as a lever, I aspire to create an ease of passage into story. I’m hoping to take readers to a place that offers both comfort and exhilaration. A place that might even throw an occasional shiver down their neck.Arbo

What say you? Do you feel the romance of the past? Do you think history is a help or a hindrance to being transported into story? Does historical fantasy convey a legendary feel to you, or do you roll your eyes at us geeks?  

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.” Of course it was.

Winter View - Sunset Point“Oh, winter,
We are falling,
We are hiding,
We are hibernating.

In the depths of the wake,
In the depths of the dark,

In the depths
of our dreams,
And so it seems,
That winter comforts me.~ Susie Suh (Winter)

Gimme Shelter: There’s snow in the forecast. It was sunny when I started this post,  but the skies grow darker. I’m glad. As a writer I’ve always loved winter weather. Any kind of inclement weather, really. I do my best writing when the weather is stormy or harsh—anything but sunny and warm.

My friend Rhiann Wynn-Nolet wrote a wonderful post about how she is inspired by winter, with some really lovely photos. Go take a look at it, here. In it, she writes beautifully and poetically about the stillness, the beauty, and the clarity of winter. I heartily agree.

There is a coziness about winter, and it’s not just the coziness of wearing warm socks (I know some of you were waiting for the sock reference, so I thought I’d get it out of the way). Stormy weather makes me appreciate the comforts of my little cottage. It’s the perfect weather for cuddling by the fire with a book. They always talk about summer being ideal for reading, but I’ve always done more reading in winter. And I think that this fondness for winter reading is part of my preference for writing in winter.

But for me there’s something deeper.

Winter in HazelhurstA winter’s day,
In a deep and dark December,
I am alone.

Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock,
I am an island.”
~ Paul Simon (I Am a Rock)

Rock + Island = Fortress: There is solitude in winter. There is reflection, yes, and silence. In the depths of winter, here in our little resort town, I am alone in the world. Alone with my thoughts, my emotions, my dreams. I am alone with my characters—my stories. Splendid isolation, as Warren Zevon aptly calls it.

During my daily walks there is only the muffled crunch of boots on snow, the wind through the firs overhead. Sequestered in my cozy office—my window on a frosty forest—there is no human voice, no beach-going tourists passing my window, beckoning my attention. Here in my fortress of seclusion, I am more easily transported into the world of story.

Carry on, carry on, carry on,
Our silver horn it leads the way
Banners of gold shine
In the cold, in the cold,
in the cold,
Footprints of snow, we’re b
lind from the road.
~Anthony Gonzalez (M83- Intro)

Winter Is Coming! I’m sure it’s no coincidence that many of the scenes in my four completed manuscripts are set in inclement weather. And I’m not alone. Many of my favorite Winter is coming-Game of throneshistorical fantasy stories rely on winter weather settings to create a mystique or a mood. Most notably, the ever impending multi-year long winter of GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire, much ballyhooed by the Starks, who made its coming their family motto. Winter also features prominently in the series I’m reading now: The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb.

There is something special about an impending storm—a potent cocktail of edgy anticipation and hunkering snugness. My characters endure swirling snow, bone-chilling wind, and stinging rain. My stormy mood is often imposed upon their world, creating a beautiful melancholia—the perfect backdrop for heightened conflict and emotional perseverance. Reading the trials of a favorite character in an epic tale is like experiencing the severity of the season through a frosty window pane, huddled under a throw in your favorite armchair.

My window on a snowy world.Are you an inclement weather reader or writer? Or perhaps neither—“just bring me my flip-flops and may palm trees swaying in a balmy breeze be the worst of my winter.” Either way, wishing you the season’s best!