Letter From The Editor - Issue 55 - February 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  Writing Advice by Mette Ivie Harrison
March 2008

How to Write a Fantasy for Young People (in 20 easy steps)

1. The young "chosen" one loses parents as infant. Parents are:
a. Wizards
b. King and Queen
c. Aliens
d. Scientists
e. Fairies
f. Movie stars whose names have been combined into one horrible word

2. Foster parents who raise the young chosen one are:
a. evil and stupid
b. loving and stupid
c. surly, but kind-hearted
d. giants
e. wolves
f. The Simpsons

3. The malevolent one is shown killing one of his own minions. Malevolent one is:
a. not fully human
b. wears black hood and hides face
c. has a name that signifies evil, such as "Lord Badde" or "Duke Malyce."
d. is fat
e. has a speech impediment
f. puts empty milk container back in the "refrygerateure"

4. The young chosen one grows up and is plagued by his differences to the other mundanes. Nonetheless, there is always the sign of his power lurking, hidden, in the background. This must be shouted to the reader by one or more of the following:
a. unusual color of eyes
b. a scar
c. wild hair
d. glasses
e. a heroic name, with a couple of letters changed, such as "Herkulys" or "Promeethys"
f. a limp

5. Young chosen one shows a weakness in early life:
a. temper
b. impatience
c. clumsiness
d. stuttering -- especially good in books where magic requires pronouncing spells precisely
e. lack of a killer instinct
f. bad dance moves

6. Young chosen one sees another tortured like himself. In rescue, he shows his character strength (not identical to his magical power):
a. kindness
b. intelligence
c. wry sense of humor
d. self-sacrifice
e. good fashion sense

7. Young chosen one experiences first glimpse of magical power which allows him to:
a. communicate with animals
b. read minds
c. see the future
d. move mountains
e. walk on water
f. make water

8. Magical system explained to reader. How to get more magic, where magic originates, what the limitations of magic are. Fake folklore/poetry optional. Skip entirely if:
a. there are no rules to the magic
b. the rules will be changing in book two
c. it takes more than ten pages to explain the rules
d. you must use a diagram/map/family tree
e. the explanation uses more than ten made up words

9. Magical interludes interspersed throughout the novel include:
a. quaint magical creatures that will have nothing to do with the resolution of the plot
b. descriptions of twentieth century technologies done with magic (telephones, databanks, microwaves, cars and planes, etc.)
c. magical spells that almost "rhime"
d. nasty potion recipes
e. magical homework that goes slightly awry, resulting in great hilarity
f. capitalized words that would otherwise be perfectly "Ordinary."

10. Cadre of friends introduced to the reader. Use humor as much as possible. Puns are admissible, as are long stories of the history of one particular magical race or another. Choose four of the following:
a. elf
b. dwarf
c. fairy
d. water sprite
e. warrior
f. speaking animals, preferably furry, forest ones like mice or rabbits, but avoid slimy toads, aardvarks, and carrion birds.
g. boggart
h. leprechaun
i. pooka
j. ghost
k. red head
l. gay guy
m. spunky human girl
n. bard/minstrel

11. A magical object is lost. Choose one:
a. ring
b. amulet
c. mirror
d. finely woven tapestry
e. disco ball

12. The world has gone wrong. Only the young chosen one can right it. Show evidence of the dark magic at work:
a. earthquakes
b. a dark and stormy night
c. dead magical creatures
d. evil ones thought dead walk the earth once more
e. heavy breathing

13. The wise old one appears to teach the young chosen one of magic. The wise old one must have a strange habit of speaking in:
a. a Chinese accent
b. German sentences, with the verb last (Show me, you will)
c. rhyme
d. dire predictions about the future
e. endless stories about the past
f. prophecies that mean nothing until they are explained in the final chapter

14. The young chosen one makes a terrible mistake and one of his cadre dies. Choose the one least likely to be missed by readers. Nonetheless, a scene of mourning is appropriate, less than three pages long.

15. The friends begin to doubt. Betrayal is revealed. The fellowship is broken. The young chosen one remains with only one of his friends. This must be the one least strong, in order to show off the young chosen one's growing magic. (Rocky theme song should be clearly heard in the head of the reader.)

16. The malevolent one grows in power. Killing minions is no longer enough for his pure evil. Also known as raising the stakes. Try one of the following:
a. killing children
b. killing entire kingdoms/planets
c. killing furry animals
d. killing his own mother
e. magical torment worse than death

17. The moment when all seems lost. The malevolent one captures the last of the cadre and:
a. the young chosen one dies
b. the wise old one dies
c. the young chosen one almost dies
d. the young chosen one appears to surrender and become evil
e. the young one chosen one gets a very bad head cold

18. Just when all seems hopeless, there is a resurrection of:
a. the young chosen one
b. the wise old one
c. a dragon long dead
d. Father Christmas
e. a lion
f. a pet fish flushed in chapter one

19. Words of wisdom. Choose one tiresome phrase, either a cliché from ordinary speech or crib from Shakespeare for a light-hearted conclusion to your tale:
a. All's well that ends well
b. There are more things in heaven and earth . . .
c. Evil always gets its due
d. Love will conquer all
e. You can't go home again
f. The early bird catches the worm

20. The hook to the sequel:
a. malevolent one begs for mercy and is wounded, but not killed
b. malevolent one dies, but one of his minions gets away
c. the magical object is rejected by the young chosen one, and picked up by another
d. a new magical object appears
e. the master of the malevolent is shown wearing even blacker clothes
f. the young chosen one discovers a portal to another world where evil lurksin the heart of men.

Read more by Mette Ivie Harrison

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