This is the first of a five-part series about fantasy writing craft. These posts explore five techniques for composing the story’s narrative passages.
Events. Activities. Story happenings. Writing about the goings-on is the most basic technique for showing the plot. Most début stories fall victim to goings-on problems. Lita has good news. The goings-on problems are easy to fix.
Line Up the Goings-on and Present them One at a Time
All Together Now, Not
Lita covered stringing a story’s actions like beads in another post, but it’s worth mentioning again. In the mundane world, events happen at the same time. A car’s tires screech as it speeds around a sharp curve. An assassin crouches behind a bush as she waits for her target. A driver simultaneously operates a car, sends text messages, and imperils traffic all the way home.
In fantasy worlds, things happen one at a time. A car sped around the sharp curve. The tires screeched. An assassin ducked behind a bush, then settled to wait for her prey. The motorist-to-be turned off his cell phone, tucked it in a pocket, and opened the SUV’s door. Commuters cheered.
Your Enchantress Can Have a Cluttered Workroom, But Your Narrative Should be Orderly
De-clutter with Cause and Effect
Think like a physics whiz in your writing: first there is an action, then a reaction. Our mundane world has plenty to say about cause and effect. Play the field before you settle down. If you want to do well, you must first work hard. The night is darkest an hour before dawn.
Same holds true when writing about fantasy worlds. The knight poked the sleeping dragon with his sword. The dragon awoke, ate the knight, and belched. The princess kissed the frog, got warts on her lips, and went in for plastic surgery. That night, she dined on sautéed frog legs. Wizard Nob scratched the satiated dragon behind its ear. The dracon let out a sigh. Its breath set Nob’s robe on fire.
First the Drop of Water, Then the Ripples
In the early drafts of your fantasy stories, include all the steps of events, even the unimportant ones. Including these steps will help you to show, not tell the goings-on. You will trim away the trivial steps later during editing.
Consider: “Sir Bright poured a love potion for the customer. She loved it.” Not very interesting. We can tell a better story by showing everything.
Sir Bright turned and took a bottle of Number Nine off the top shelf. He fetched a sparkling crystal goblet from the counter-top display. Bright pulled the cork and splashed the amber liquid in the glass to make it fizz. He pushed the drink across the counter to the mousey woman. She took a deep breath, cupped the goblet in her palms, raised it to her thin lips, and sipped.
“Is it to your satisfaction, Madam Seamstress?”
She Dashed the Goblet to the Floor
Emboldened, the woman tossed back the rest of potion, then dashed the goblet to the floor. It shattered. She licked her lips.
“It’s faulty, Sir Bright.”
“In what way?”
“It doesn’t enamor Tully to me.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” Bright said. “He hasn’t laid eyes on you yet.”
“I am aware. The potion has a different effect.”
She scrambled up on the counter, grabbed his jacket lapels, and yanked him forward. He lost his balance and ended up nose-to-nose. Her breath smelled of liquorice and mint. Oh, bother. Wrong bottle.