B2BCyCon Fantasy “Behind The Scenes” Tour—Stop #8

Guest Post

I’m thrilled to host fantasy writer Suzanna Linton as part of the Brain to Books Cyber Convention activities this week. She’s dropped by here to talk about laying the groundwork for readers to suspend their disbelief (a favorite topic of mine).

Realistic Fantasy

by Suzanna Linton

It doesn’t seem right for reality to go along with fantasy. It’s fantasy for crying out loud. It’s totally fine for things to happen that are unrealistic.

This is true. Up to a point.

Suspend Your Disbelief

In order to get readers to swallow a giant who crushes towns for fun, a writer needs to make the reader suspend disbelief. This means they accept something they normally would not. However, if the giant is the cherry on top of a cake of the unbelievable, then the reader finds it difficult to stay with the story.

For example, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy a few of the characters run for miles at great speed, for days, without needing rest. This pushes the boundary of credulity, making it hard for readers to accept it, because an average person would not be able to do that. Especially not a person carrying weaponry and wearing armor. The only reason why a reader would swallow it is that these are otherworldly characters and not the average person.

And it’s freaking Tolkien.

If another fantasy writer did that, involving regular humans who don’t make it a habit of running marathons, then credulity would be stretched. Readers would lose trust in the reliability of the author and disbelief could no longer be suspended.

What Should Be Real?

I sent my novel Willows of Fate to beta readers prior to publication, as one does. One of the readers had a hard time with a scene where my main character, Desdemona, is about to bathe. By this point, Desdemona has left our world for a more fantastical world that’s still stuck in the Middle Ages. Prior to her bath, someone gives her an oval bar of soap to use. My beta reader couldn’t swallow it. She could accept they would have soap in a medieval-esque world but not oval bars.

Now, soap-like mixtures have been in use since Sumerian times but hard, cake-like bars didn’t come into being until the 12th century, which fits the novel. I knew I was right about that, though maybe not about the shape. It sounds more possible that the soap makers cut their product into crude rectangles. For the sake of credulity, I changed the scene slightly.

When I wrote my latest novel, Clara’s Return, I made it a point to research how far a horse can reasonably travel in a day. I used that to plan the pacing of the novel. By being realistic about travel, not only was I able to establish credulity with my readers but I was also able to use it to my advantage.

What writers need to get right, as much as possible, are the little details. Most fantasy is based off a real time period. In terms of social structure and everyday life, what can be carried over into the novel? What things would make the fantasy world more believable?

Some things are pet peeves, like carrying swords into battle while they’re strapped to the back. Swords, particularly great swords, may have been transported that way but warriors didn’t make it a habit of wearing them like that all the time, mostly because they would have been impossible to draw. And women’s armor was no different from men’s armor. (Looking at you, Dragon Age.)

Not every reader will know the difference. Not all readers know about the minutia of a particular historical period. However, that doesn’t lessen the importance of research and getting it right, at least in part.

When a writer gets the little details right, it creates a believable world that makes it easier for the reader to accept the bigger things, like giants and magic. Fantasy grounded in reality is not only still fantasy but also makes for a better read.


Suzanna J. Linton grew up in the swamps of the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she was fed a steady diet of books, tall tales, and catfish. She started writing poetry from an early age before transitioning to fiction. While in high school, she was introduced to the Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Animorphs. From those Suzanna gained a deep desire to write about tough women heroes.

In 2002, she attended the summer program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts of Humanities and graduated from Francis Marion University in 2007. She has three books published and her latest novel is Clara’s Return. Suzanna continues to live in South Carolina with her husband, their two dogs, and a cat.

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Guest Post: Autumn M. Birt

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Myrrah

Autumn M. Birt is an author, educator, world traveler, conservationist, and dog lover. We met on Twitter, proving that one can make connections and form lasting friendships through that behemoth of a social network. Autumn graciously agreed to review my first novel, and later brought me into the fantasy authors collective Guild of Dreams. I’ve always admired her dedication to her craft, her discipline, and her imagination! Her fantasy series Rise of the Fifth Order follows Ria, a teen girl whose unique magic abilities threaten the Church of Four Orders–Water, Fire, Earth, and Air–and thus condemn Ria to death. She and her friends must flee across the breadth of their homeland Myrrah, and somehow secure Ria’s salvation.

 

Autumn and I have both constructed original fantasy worlds with unique creatures and races not found in standard epic fantasy, and we decided to trade blogs to talk about our creations. My post on the scifi creatures of the fantasy world of Knownearth will appear soon on her blog, Autumn Writing. In the meantime, here Autumn shares some of her thoughts behind her unique fantasy peoples!

Growing the Legacy of Fantasy

Autumn M. Birt

I grew up in the era of Dragonlance and the Elfstones of Shannara. Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey were two of the first author names I searched bookstores to find. I knew more about the lives and history of elves, dwarves, trolls, and ogres than I did tribes in Africa or the Mayan Civilization.

So when I wrote my first fantasy novel was full of these paragons of high fantasy? No.

In my epic fantasy novel Born of Water, when the four unlikely friends seek help and refuge with a group who live in a mysterious forest, I immediately thought of elves. And then I immediately thought of elfin politics and attitudes. I love them, but they are a little vainglorious, aren’t they? Individualistic and aloof, those are two other words I’d use to describe most elfin characters; even when they are helpful, they are rarely warm.

For my story, I wanted helpful, warm, and mysterious.

It was all that history of what had already been written that turned me away. So I created my first fantasy race, the Kith. They live in a vast forest of massive trees, but they aren’t elves or elf substitutes. What would the point be in that? They are something totally new. My little addition to the realm of fantasy creatures. Well one of them.

Once you start, it is rather fun to craft new races that fit your story, rather than crafting your story to fit existing fantasy races. I’d love to share a few of mine with you!

The Kith

In the northern forest of the world of Myrrah a vast forest of towering trees grows. It isn’t just any forest…

As Ria’s eyes adjusted, she could make out the aerial houses that looked like massive thickets of mistletoe lit from within. Between them, branches arched as living pathways, swooping slowly downward. Houses made from limbs and vines grew at all levels, even a few along the ground visible by their lights in the evening shadows between the tree trunks.

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A Kith woman

Living among the great trees, and soul-bound to them, are the Kith. When a Kith child is born, a seedling also sprouts. The two are inextricable. If the tree dies, so does the child, or vice versa. And he or she will live as long as her tree, for however long that may be. And these are very large, very slow growing trees. The bond marks them in other ways as well…

 

 

Lavinia waited, knowing someone was nearby. Slowly, she scanned the small woodland opening. Then he became clear to her.

A man who looked about her age stood in front of a wide tree trunk twenty feet from her. His skin was patterned and striped like bark. His hair, a russet brown, blended into the forest around them along with the browns and greens of his clothes. She blinked, finding his green eyes staring back into hers. Lavinia let her sword point waiver. She had finally found the Kith.

Those who meet the Kith mistake the natural, and individual, patterning on their skin as tattoos. But it is more than that. In a world of many races and people, the Kith stand apart. Because they are also Earth Elementals and more.

In a world where elemental magic occurs in about 20% of the population, the Kith are one of the few groups where every child is gifted. And unlike most Earth Elementals who can shape rock to create cities from bedrock, they can also control living plants because of their connection to the forest.

But that bond creates as many problems as benefits. You see, if a Kith leaves the forest, the longing to return to it, to his tree, is intense:

“Being Kith is not all wonder. I feel a call back to my tree in Lus na Sithchaine so deep it wakes me from sleep,” Laireag admitted. “There are times I need to see it more than I need to breathe.”

The Kith are not elves. They are not even close to being elfin, preferring simple clothing and shunning metal as too much metal can poison a tree. But that is just one race that peoples my world.

The Ishian

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An Ishian boy

The Ishian live in a vast grassland, but the surface of their home is water and not earth. The waters of the Marsh of Isha rise and fall with the strong tides of the Bay of Tiak to the west, but within the heart of the wetland there are only the reeds and the stilted houses of the Ishians.

 

The square platforms hold wide decks with overhanging roofs to protect them from storms, as well as to create more roof space for the gardens grown above the houses. Walkways of woven reed rope and bamboo trace pathways between the lofty platforms but usually the Ishian wander through their watery home on reed boats. Or they swim. They can swim very well thanks to fine webbing between fingers and toes.

The Nifail

The Nifail are a tribe of people who live on the vast steppes and whose native language consists of condensed whistles and clicks used to carry over the windswept miles of the grasslands. The scattered clans meet once annually in a great celebration where fights are held to determine tribe leadership for the year. Both men and women fight for the right to lead.

But all of those are cultural traits. What makes the Nifail different is their hair. There are very fine feathers in it. Why stems from a long story that involves a not-so-mythical large bird that nests in the grasslands. It is a creature they hunt … usually.

The Torek

The Torek are one of two races considered myths in Myrrah. The other are the Aquinians, who are said to inhabit the islands, or the sea, in the far east of the Ocean of Illaiya. The Torek live in the Alin Mountains in deep caves they call hoves. Well they think the word hoves, because they are telepathic. Did I mention they are giant birds of prey? Actually, I’m pretty sure they are the legendary birds the Nifail hunt … and the reason the Nifail have a few feathers mixed with their hair because the Torek have some strange and amazing abilities!

The Aquinians

The only known reference to the Aquinians is from when the Temple of Incendia was destroyed by sea and earth. The island fell beneath the waves and all would have died but for the Aquinians, who came as dolphins and rescued many of the Fire Elementals from the water and trembling rock. Or so goes the story told by the survivors. Unless you believe sailor’s tales of naked women seen on island beaches, there one minute and gone into the waves the next. But who can believe sailors?

 

Those are a few of the people and races who inhabit my fantasy world of Myrrah, a world full of elemental magic and adventure. You can enter Myrrah for free! Born of Water is free on all platforms or you can pick it up here.

Born of Water

bofw-niri-5-2-15_250In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16-year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success.

Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them.

Born of Water is the first book in the Rise of the Fifth Order Saga full of elemental magic and epic fantasy adventure. Welcome to the mythical world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders–Fire, Earth, Water, and Air.