As part of my Guest blog series for authors and fellow bloggers I am proud to present another guest blog spot. Richard Lee Byers one of the great authors of the new heroic fantasy anthology Champions of Aetaltis I am very excited and
Champions of Aetaltis is out NOW! So go grab a copy!
EIGHT STEPS TO WRITING YOUR FIRST STORY IN A NEW SHARED WORLD
Richard Lee Byers
Champions of Aetaltis is the first anthology of fantasy stories set in the spanking new world of Aetaltis (you probably inferred that.) Edited by Marc Tassin, creator of the setting, and John Helfers, anthologist extraordinaire, it features all-new yarns by terrific writers like Ed Greenwood, Erin M. Evans, Lucy A. Snyder, Jean Rabe, and Cat Rambo. You also get a little something from me.
Over the years, I’ve contributed fiction to a good many shared universes including the Forgotten Realms, the Scarred Lands, and the World of Darkness. Gradually I’ve groped my way to a fairly systematic approach for conceiving that first story in a new setting with a minimum of anguish, and here it is:
Step One is to familiarize yourself with the setting. Of course, if it’s been around for a while, you may know it already, but then again, you may not. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and few of us have sampled it all. If it’s a new world like Aetaltis, you will obviously have to take a gander at the source material.
Now, some decades-old established universes have tons of source material, and you would rightly cringe from the prospect of reviewing it all just to bang out one short story. Fortunately, you don’t have to. At this stage of the process, you only have to check out the core material that serves up the Big Picture of what’s going on in the universe.
Step Two is to ask yourself if there’s anything in what you just read (or, conceivably, watched) that grabs you. If a setting hits you as utterly boring or
stupid, it’s likely you will neither enjoy writing about it nor turn out anything a reader will enjoy reading. In that case, now’s the time to email the editor and let him know you’re bailing (perhaps with a bullshit excuse about workload and deadlines.)
You probably won’t need to do that, though. More likely, something will strike you as cool. Assuming it does, Step Three is to identify the vibe of the setting. Or the vibes, plural. The world may lend itself to a range of tones.
Aetaltis is that kind of world. You could set a Tolkienesque high fantasy there, but it’s also a good milieu for earthier sword-and-sorcery. I’m more of a sword-and-sorcery guy, especially at short-story length, so I was glad I could crank out a s&s piece and it would mesh well with what the setting as a whole is all about.
Step Four (so to speak; from this point forward, the order of the steps is pretty arbitrary because everything starts to interconnect and cross-pollenate) is to decide where specifically your story takes place and learn what there is to learn about that castle, spaceport, desert, swamp, or what have you. In a long-established setting with a lot written about it, this may be when you move from the core material to more detailed, specialized info.
I generally set my first story in a shared world in a place that doesn’t have much written about it. That way, I don’t have to do as much research or worry about contradicting something somebody said before me. In CoA, my tale unfolds in a village out in the sticks, a place too small and unimportant to rate a listing in the core sourcebook. A little burg I made up while taking care to be consistent with the info about the region in which I stuck it.
Step Five is the protagonist. He should have an identity and backstory that reflect the setting, but you probably don’t want to stuff too many cool and exotic features into a single character. If you’re doing Star Trek, for example, you don’t want a half-Vulcan, half-Klingon raised by the Q. Otherwise, instead of your dude looking like he truly belongs in the world, he’s apt to come across as a freakish Mary Sue.
You also want a character who works in the context of the kind of story you’ve decided to tell. For the sword-and-sorcery yarn I was working up for CoA, a shrewd, tough professional soldier with kindly instincts, a character who’s got the right stuff but is neither a superman nor saintly, seemed like a good fit, so that was the guy I developed.
Step Six is the antagonist. Some settings combine genre staples like your basic fire-breathing, treasure-hoarding dragon with creatures unique to the milieu. Unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise, I go with the original menaces. It makes the tale more of a true Universe Whatever yarn as opposed to a generic fantasy, SF, or horror story that feels like you just happened to dump it into this particular world.
Step Seven is to combine all the elements you’ve figured out into an actual plot. It can be tricky to craft a particular kind of story on demand and have it feel fresh and not, say, just a retread of Conan or Firefly. One ploy that helps me is to sneak tropes from other genres into the one I’m actually writing. My Aetaltis piece is absolutely sword-and-sorcery, but it also incorporates shtick from Westerns and detective fiction.
The final step (short of actually writing the damn thing) is to run your concept by the editor. Often, he will require this whether you like it or not, but even if he doesn’t, it’s a good idea. His feedback guarantees you’re not writing about the same stuff as all the other authors. That’s important to me. If three of my colleagues are visiting the Philately Pits of the Pungent Pharaoh, I’d rather choose a different locale, or if four authors are already featuring Skunk Pixies, I’d rather go with a different monster.
And…that’s it. I hope you found the above useful and/or interesting and that you’ll check out Champions of Aetaltis.
Richard Lee Byers is the author of over forty fantasy and horror books including Blind God’s Bluff: A Billy Fox Novel (Night Shade Books) and Black Dogs (coming soon from Privateer Press.) His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and he’s collected some of the best of it in the eBooks The Q Word and Other Stories and Zombies in Paradise. In recent years, he’s branched out from prose writing to scripting a graphic novel and working on electronic games.
A resident of the Tampa Bay area, he spends much of his free time fencing epee and is a frequent guest at Gen Con and various Florida conventions. He invites everyone to Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
About the author:
About the book:
BUY HERE: Champions of Aetaltis
More than three hundred years have passed since the fall of the Atlan Alliance, and the people of Aetaltis have finally brought order to their fractured world. Fledgling nations have grown into powerful kingdoms, thriving merchant states have re-established old trade routes, and the priests of the Enaros have rebuilt their great temples.
But in this time of hope, the shadow of an ancient evil has emerged from the darkness to threaten the world once again.
Discover a new world of adventure in this collection of pulse-pounding stories written by some of the greatest fantasy authors alive. From the vine enshrouded ruins of a lost jungle temple to the seedy back alleys of the villainous city of Port Vale, experience the thrill of heroic fantasy with these gripping tales of action and adventure.
Table of Contents (470 Pages)
- Mother of Catastrophes by Erin M. Evans
- My Doom May Come Soon by Ed Greenwood
- The Bridge by Larry Correia
- Ashes of Victory by Elizabeth A. Vaughan
- Tower of the Golden God by Steven S. Long
- Bellar’s Thorn by Jean Rabe
- The Warlady’s Daughter by Lucy A. Snyder
- Upon Reflection by Aaron Rosenberg
- A Whole Hearted Halfling by Melanie Meadors
- Vendetta by Richard Lee Byers
- True Monsters by John Helfers
- Books Are No Good by Cat Rambo
- The Secret of the Holy Crystal by Marc Tassin
- The Undercity Job by Dave Gross
- A Deeper Darkness by David Farland
- Never a Moon So Bright by Elaine Cunningham
- The Wailing Temple by Mel Odom
A new heroic fantasy anthology, CHAMPIONS OF AETALTIS, which includes stories by bestselling and award winning authors including David Farland, Lucy Snyder, Larry Correia, Ed Greenwood, Cat Rambo, Richard Lee Byers, Elizabeth Vaughan, and many more. The stories in this collection all take place in the world of Aetaltis, created by Marc Tassin and also used as a setting for his role playing games from Mechanical Muse.