Posts Tagged ‘ creation ’

Slate Ahn and the Books of Knowledge: Part I, Graham M Irwin. A fantasy epic with pirates, wolves, shipwrecks AND political corruption

Graham M Irwin Holly Ice Review Slate Ahn Books of Knowledge Legend of Alm

I was gifted this book free of charge on a read for review policy.

Graham Irwin knows how to create a wondrous world full of raspberry coloured bumble bees and exotic plants or wolves which decide to bond to individuals of good merit. He creates habitats and environment as well as original culture.

Of course, world creation is a huge part of fantasy and his achievement here does a lot to ingratiate himself with a fantasy audience. I must also say that the illustrator for the cover did a beautiful job.

Holly Ice blogHowever there are still issues with his writing, particularly in the prologue.

There is a lot of unnecessary description of the Ahn family and their daily lives that adds nothing to the plot; this is things like what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and how they act year round. This back story is not necessary to the novel.

In fact, I believe the prologue could be cut significantly. It could do with opening on page 8 with ‘The tradition bound people of the village observed in the workings of the universe an order…’ This chimes in with the ideology of the villagers and within a paragraph the narrative focuses on the Ahn family. It also gets all the major tradition issues in without the boring parts of what they eat for breakfast. Plus, it is a catchier first sentence (and the major tension of the opening is introduced within a few paragraphs!)

This would also get around the fact that Ahn, Alleste and Aelioanei are introduced close together at the original opening. 3 unfamiliar A words that close together just makes my head spin! In fact, place names beginning with any other letter would be a favour: even the world is called Alm! (I was glad that the western half of the island had place names beginning with other letters and wonder if there is a rational reason behind all the A names or it was just coincidental).

The poetic introduction before the prologue is beautiful. I would only change one like: substance bore distinction to nothingness. There are too many long words here which confuses the complex concept the poem is aiming for.

There is also a tendency towards the beginning of the novel for long, convoluted sentences. However this soon evens out as the narrative continues and the action becomes much more immediate.

Characters are mostly realistic, if a little wacky (but this is allowed in a different culture with different morals and values). I only noticed one seeming slip from the alternate world of Alm in the narrative. This is where a character said ‘such and such a city’ which hit me as a little gossipy in tone and too modern a phrase compared to the rest of the narrative. I also noticed one ‘YOUR wife’ which would be better expressed as ‘your wife’ even if it is bellowed.

However these are mostly small sentence-level problems. My major problem with the book was that it lost its direction. The protagonist began by needing to find his family and, about a third of the way into the book, he finds the reason for their disappearance. However, instead of immediately trying to find them he loses focus and goes to school for a year, seemingly for no reason.

From here, political corruption, mercenaries, imprisonment, pirates, shipwreck, fishing and many hikes through endless (and different coloured) forests ensues. I cannot fault the author on his world building here. In fact, I felt the fishing and boat details as well as the multitude of forest habitats were very well researched. Even the stimulants created seemed realistic and well-integrated into the society. My problem with this is that there is no focus.

Holly Ice blog Graham Irwin Slate Ahn

The core thread of the novel was the boy trying to find his family. This is lost and put on hold. At this point, there is no core reason for me to keep reading. I want to know about the boy and his family, not a random thread of events. I feel that the author has tried to fit too many fantasy adventures into the book without connecting them to the main thread of the novel. Even by the end of the novel, the boy has still not found one single member of his family!

So yes, I grew frustrated with this book plot-wise but this does not lessen Irwin’s world building prowess. If you like books that meander through a new, colourful world and are content to read on despite a long-winded approach to plot goals then this book will be a good read.

The sea is bubbling with new hollow jaws, the floors are writing with white grubs that crawl in the dark and the forests hide wolves that can be friends for life. It is, in essence, an open sandbox to a new, bright world.

I give ‘Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I’ a robust 3/5.

If you would like to give it a go for yourself, The Legend of Alm, Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I can be found on Amazon (UK link and US link)

As always, I can be found on twitter: Holly Ice

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What Your Shoes Say About YOU :)

This is a little writing technique similar to ones I’ve been taught. I’ll show you two full outfits and then we can assess the character of the people who may wear them. This is easy character creation but also gives new ideas for how to describe pre-existing characters.

This is a woman – unless you have transvestite or transsexual ideas for characters.
Now let’s think of adjectives for her; sassy, formal, well-turned-out, posh, snobby, moneyed, rich, spoilt, fashionable, workaholic, fitness freak, minimalist…
You get the idea. The clothes give you some associations to work from.

Here’s a very different outfit.

This to me would suggest insecurity because of the layers or a scene-ness. Perhaps a punkiness, casual, street sports, attitude, sassy-ness, talks back, stays up late, creativity, sexual, if not insecure than confident. Perhaps this is a bravado…

Try creating your own characters in this way – search google images or look on your favourite and most hated clothes sites. Or give these characters a go. View the outfits, form your own evaluations of their character and write a story with both of them in.

Let me know if anything is useful and share if you want to!

“Mummy, where’s the sky gone?” (World Creation).

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Many of us more fantasy aligned types have thought about or actually tried to create a new world in a story to varying degrees of success.

So, I will explore: What makes a strong world?

  • Rules.

Yes, yes. World creation is all about imagination, fun. There are no rules! But, there are. Sorry. A world is only chaotic to a point.

There needs to be some degree of consistency. For example, in Laurell K Hamilton’s books werecreatures, vampires and many other types of creature of the night/day and known to the general public.

This is a pretty popular idea. What makes it good is that society changes. The rules change to accommodate this change in history:

Parents don’t want their children to be taught by werecreatures in case they are infected somehow by blood to blood contact. (The usual parent overprotection).

Necromancers are employed to reanimate the dead to sort arguments over their wills or verify how they died for insurance companies.

But this isn’t all. These supernaturals aren’t gods.
– They can be killed.
– Zombies can only be raised for a day before they rot.

There are LIMITATIONS to their powers. Every character you write about needs limitations, be it inside a new world or our own.

These limitations also go toward the next condition of a good world:

  • Realism.

How many times has there been a big bad vampire who hates mankind and suddenly falls in love, seemingly at the drop of a hat, with a rather stupid (and very young) human?

Think about it. It wouldn’t happen. The years a vampire would have on the young human would make them boring, if attractive. A vampire jaded for so many years would be more likely to eat/fuck them than start a relationship.

Even if you don’t talk about vampires, or have a bad guy…humans can’t live on lava without protective systems in place. Magic doesn’t come out of nowhere. It lives in the genes or radiation or alien experiments. Or, humans have always had it perhaps but it doesn’t come out of nowhere!

Part of realism is also good description. A good world cannot be created without a good idea of what it looks like. However, one caveat: don’t go overboard! The amount of fantasy stories I’ve tried to read which start straight off the bat with new words I’ve never seen and names with too many apostrophes…it doesn’t bear thinking about.

My advice: start simple. Bring your audience into a new world slowly. Let them acclimatise. Show them one or two things at a time. Don’t use too many new words too quickly. Be kind to your reader or they’ll throw your book across the room. (Or click that big nasty red X in the top right hand corner of their screen).

Now for the next big condition.

  • Originality.

This doesn’t mean vampires, angels and fairies aren’t allowed. It means find a new angle. Talk about them in a new way. Find an aspect that hasn’t been explored. Turn stereotypes on their head.

Talk about evil angels, vampires in the circus, tamed by humans, fairies that live in parrot cages in the front room of every home. Come up with something new (but interesting)!

Novelty sells, if it’s good.

One big problem writers have with fantasy writing is…

  • Character.

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Writers get so wound up and lovingly intertwined with their new world that they forget about the people in it. Here’s what I view to be the most important thing with new worlds and fantasy: we have to relate.

It’s not as hard as it sounds. Yes, you have a new world, something never seen or heard of before. Maybe the people have two heads, eight legs or maybe they’re telepathic; it doesn’t matter. They still need elements of humanity, on the inside.

This can be many things: clumsiness, an ability to anally organise their whole life, a fear of the dark, vanity… There are so many examples!

This is important: without relateability, your readers won’t like your story. If the main character isn’t like them or their friends or their enemies, if the story in some way doesn’t help explain their world, they won’t read your story.

The last and probably most important condition I can think of is:

  • Freedom.

You have to be free as a writer to create a world. Umbrellas don’t exist, seas don’t exist, monogamous sex doesn’t exist. Don’t think about what others may think of your story or if they’ll judge you.

No matter what you write, hell even if you don’t write, people will judge you. That’s life. This is writing. Get over it.

Even big writers like Stephen King get hate mail on a weekly basis.

So what? He still sells. His books are still read. He has lots of money.

As a writer you have to be prepared to write badly (this is what edits and rewrites are for – or that very useful recycling bin). You have to be prepared to put the preposterous onto paper.
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Maybe sex gives a person the memories of their partner. Maybe sex swaps consciousnesses of people so sex must be had in sets of two? Maybe hair colour is changeable at will?

It’s for you to decide. It’s for you to come up with the consequences in your world.

And, for god’s sake, it doesn’t reflect on you (or shouldn’t). What your characters do and say should be about their personalities, not yours. That’s what a good reader would see. That’s what a good story does – it takes you on a journey through imagined lives and, perhaps, imagined worlds.

All the pictures featured here are by surrealist painters. Surrealism is your best friend.

Here are the links to the galleries of the two artists featured:
http://vladimirkush.com/
http://kukowski.pl/
Some artistic nudity is present.

Please feel free to explore their sites and enjoy their talent.

As usual, I can be found on twitter, too. Look here: Me
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