Tag Archives: project

Grounding Fantasy

Recently I was asked – by a long-time fan of one of my fanfics, which I am re-writing to be published as original fiction, as it was 97% original everything to begin with – how I manage to make the magic in my fantasy so realistic, subtle, and grounded. This had two results.

The first was that I had a moment of panic because the story they had been referring to is gaining some more …obvious and explosive magic in the re-write.

The second was the realisation that I didn’t actually know how I did it. So, I thought about it for a while and I realised the answer was goldfish. (No, I have not gone mad.)

You see, when I watch or read other works, I cannot turn off that part of be that acts like a belligerent toddler or a particularly sarcastic goldfish. Although I suppose I should specify that I mean a pop-cultural hypothetical goldfish, rather than a real one, as science has disproved the ‘fact’ that they only have three second memories. But I digress. Imagine that this stereotypical toddler is forever asking “Why?” and the stereotypical but snarky goldfish is always asking “How?” and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what goes through my head when I’m observing other fictions.

For example, back when the Lord of the Rings came out in film, I was watching the scenes in Moria and idly noticed that the characters must have superb balance to avoid falling off because there were no handrails in sight. That set the Sarky Goldfish off. Why are there no handrails? What kind of idiots make giants cities over ravines without handrails? Were they made of wood and simply disintegrated? NO dwarves wouldnt have used wood and if they were stone some of them should have remained. Do dwarves just have perfect balance? No elves are stated to have better balance and THE ELVEN CITIES HAVE FREAKING HANDRAILS. Besides, even if adult dwarves had epic balance skills and never, ever fell, dwarven children (you know, the ones who are always portrayed as rare and precious because ever since Tolkien did it dwarves do not reproduce quickly has been part of the Standard Fantasy Setting) would, because all children, in all species, are reckless idiots. Could it be a point of honour? Honour VS Practicality, City Planning Edition, Round One: TOTAL KNOCKOUT, PRACTICALITY WINS.

And on and on it goes. For every “it is this way” that does not match reality, the Sarky Goldfish in my head wants to know How and Why and won’t rest until it has a solid answer. For every “that can’t happen/be done” the Belligerent Toddler wants to know Why Not and will find a way if a suitably reasonable answer is not produced …or even if it is, because if it took too long the Belligerent Toddler will want to prove the answer-giver wrong. “It’s traditional”, by the way, is not a solid or reasonable answer. Nor are “Because” and “Just don’t think about it”. “Why Not”, on the other hand, is – so long as the question was “Why” and not “Why Not” or “How”.

So, you could say – if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like goldfish – that the answer is really just to think about it. Now, I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads and saying “But it’s fiction! It doesn’t have to be realistic! I shouldn’t have to think about it!” and I have one thing to say to that:

When you played with your blocks as a child you had to think about where to put them or they’d all come tumbling down on your head.  When you paint a picture you need to think about what you’re doing or you end up with a mess of squiggles and badly mixed brown. When you create new music – even if it’s jazz and improvised – you need to think about what you are doing so that you don’t make noises only deaf cicadas would love. And when you write fiction you have to think about the way the world you are creating works or it falls apart on you – but whereas child!You got a bruise when their blocks fell and some adult came to kiss it better, no one is going to tell you it’s okay and not your fault if your fiction falls apart because you didn’t construct it properly. Why? Because if you’re old enough to put it out in public, you’re old enough to take the heat for it.

Writing is hard, guys. Writing is WORK.


But I digress.

The reason fantasy authors like George R.R. Martin and Glen Cook (if you don’t know who that is LOOK HIM UP) can produce such high-quality writing, writing which is praised for being top-notch fantasy, is that the ground their fantasy in realism.

“Great,” you may say, “but not all of us have a goldfish living in their heads. What do we do?”.

Well, there are two things that work to ground fantasy – and all fiction, to be honest – in realism. The first is to treat the world you are writing as if it was real. But it’s just fiction? Not to the characters who live in it, I assure you. Not to the readers who want to be immersed in it, I assure you. It’s just fiction is an excuse that those who are too lazy, or too entitled, to put in effort hide behind when their half-assed attempts are not immediately hailed as the greatest thing ever. If you aren’t willing to put in the effort: you shouldn’t be writing. There’s enough crap on the market without you joining in.

The world you are creating may technically be just fiction, but good writing – and good authors – transcend that. Writers are often referred to as the God of their stories’ universe. What kind of evil, stupid god would you be if you created a real world but treated it like it wasn’t real enough to matter? Treat your fictional world as if it was a real one. Imagine you really are a god and you are creating the world. That means that, beyond the scope of the Adventure or Romance or whatever the story you are writing is, your world needs to make sense. It shows when worlds are invented to suit the whims of the plot and add tension. It shows in a bad way. People notice when you, say, don’t add handrails to a place where handrails ought to be in order to add Tension. So, what do you have to do? You have to think about the mechanics.

That’s the first thing. The second thing, which you have to do at the same time as the first thing, is to apply Logic.

I know. I know. It’s a scary Maths thing and it doesn’t seem fair to drag it into the world of Arts where you ran to get away from it, but it does need to be here.

In order to build you own Sarky Head-Goldfish and start grounding your fantasy in realism, you’ll want to apply three specific types of logic: Induction, Deduction, and Abduction (no! Not that kind! Don’t run off with that!). If it makes you feel better about adding something as icky as logic to your creative endeavours, put on a deerstalker cap and try not to think about the fact that, no matter what the original illustrations implied, Sherlock Holmes did not wear one of those.

Got your cap on? Great, let’s go.

Deduction is the logic system in which you reason out the definite specific from the definite general – i.e. Dwarves never build handrails. Moria was built by dwarves. Therefore, Moria does not have any handrails. Deductive reasoning – when used correctly, which Holmes did not because he said deductive when he meant a different sort of logic – always comes to a logically valid conclusion. Use this type of logic to determine what parts of your world must be like (conclusions), based on your previous statements of fact (premises). If they don’t line up, you’ll need to change either the facts (“dwarves never build handrails”) or the result (remove the dwarvish handrails from wherever you had included them).

Induction is the logic system in which you reason out a hypothetical general from the definite specifics. The conclusion reached by properly applied induction is a probable, but not a fact and not a mere possible. The evidence given by the specifics supports the likelihood of the conclusion being correct – i.e. Handrails keep people from falling off high things. Dwarves think the risk of falling off high things is a matter of honour. Therefore, dwarven cities probably don’t include handrails in dangerous places. Again, if these things do not stack up when you look at your work, you need to change something. Or, given that induction is about probability, to show in detail what element logically accounts for the gap left by whatever components failed to pass this reasoning test.

Abduction is the logic system in which your reason out a hypothetical specific from the definite general. It’s basically deduction, but questionable. It is also known as “inference to the best explanation” and is the form of logic we are all most familiar with. Why? Because if it looks like a duck, and it waddles like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. This, incidentally, is the kind of logic that Sherlock Holmes used – as the conclusions he reached were highly probable but not definite. The sheer complexity of human behaviour meant that Holmes was always speaking as certain (a lady of obviously middling means with callouses on her hands from typing is a professional typist) what was merely probable (she could also be a writer or a journalist, you know). This might not seem like a useful form of logic to apply to your fiction, but it’s actually one of the most important, because it allows you to play out the hypotheticals as you try to explain matters to a realistic conclusion – i.e. Dwarves do not build handrails. Dwarves are facing extinction because their children are few and often fail to survive. Therefore, dwarves are probably going extinct because their children keep falling to their deaths.

Then you apply the realism test to your conclusion. In this case: Would an intelligent species – which dwarves have to be if they’re building cities – really wait until they’re nearly extinct to add handrails? Probably not. All it would take would be one human child falling and, honour be damned, a human city council would be under immense pressure to add safety features. If dwarves are building cities they are probably sufficiently similar in psychology to assume that a similar reaction would occur (see that? That’s abduction again).

At this stage you’d do one of three things. Firstly, you could add handrails to nullify the Plot’s Hole’s cousin: Setting Hole (the adventures just happened to pass through the one place where the handrails have been destroyed and note that in text). Secondly you could make it a point that the dwarves cannot add handrails (or do but they keep being mysteriously destroyed) and are trying to keep their children safely away but they tragically keep slipping away and, er, slipping away anyway – in which case you’ve suddenly developed a new and interesting plot which you can write a story around. Lastly, you can nullify the premise which you find most problematic (for example: dwarves are actually facing an overpopulation crisis and breed like rabbits, so the lack of handrails is a deliberate population curbing method).



And after all of this you are probably wondering “But what about MAGIC? You said you were going to talk about MAGIC!”.

I did, and I did. Whatever rules you give your system of magic – if it even has a system the characters can understand, given that magic is a liminal force that exists in fiction to make us question what we are incapable of understanding and how to cope with the unknowable – you need to treat magic as if it is just as real in your world as practical things like handrails.

Ultimately, the way to ground magic – the way to make it seem like it actually exists – is to treat it like it actually exists.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 21, 2017 in On Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author Status !? – The Stress Don’t Stop (because you published)

I am SO sorry for not having gotten back to posting regularly (it was supposed to go back to once a week – my bad).

As you might have guessed, this last …well, almost a month now if we’re counting from the Kindle release… has been hectic. I’ve only just published for the first time and have quickly discovered that – no matter how stressed I was during the publication process – it’s actually more stressful when you think the worst is behind you and then stumble upon the fact that [BLEEP of your choice] you now have to advertise the damned thing.

And if you’re an author like me, you probably know that having to do social media enough to build up a prescence – and a buyer base – is annoying because it takes a lot of time you could be spending on your writing. If your a technologically incompetent outcast with no social life, like me, you probably also know that – to those unfamiliar with it – having to abruptly create and manage a flood of social media platforms in order to market yourself is not quite your worst nightmare (that’s the one where everyone in the world hates you because you’re an embarassment and the spiders turn up) but it’s pretty close.

The one upside is that – while I was contacting my old fanfiction fans to let them know I was taking my fics down – I got back in contact with some wonderful people who used to like my fanfiction and whose opinions on my first published work I am now terrified and anxious to know. But I also really enjoyed getting back in touch with them, which is impressive given the whole “technologically incompetent outcast with no social life” bit. One of them even gave me some truly awesome ideas for posts which I will hopefully get to just as soon as I am no longer completely run off my feet.

The upshot of all this is that I will be trying to get back to a once-a-week posting schedule …soon. That and that you can now find me on several social media platforms. Technically. I’m still learning how to use them so I can’t promise I’ll be any good at responding, but still, I will work it out eventually.

Oh, and I’ve set in motion the beginnings of a youtube channel (in which I will do video versions of some of my blog posts, other similar content, and even do readings of bits of my books… just as soon as I work out how to use the sound and video editing software I have). …There’s also technically a Patreon account and a Zazzle store (both still under construction).

Expect all of these to slowly come to life over the course of the next couple of months.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Help! My Story Has the Mary-Sue Disease (Print)

I forgot to do this: Yay – the book is now available in print!

(And in epub. Somewhere. I’m still working on that.)


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Project Status 8 – Everybody Limbo

Sorry for the lack of articulate and clever prose this time, everyone. I’m just too tired and too stressed for my usual level of quality.

The book is out on Kindle. It WAS out on Createspace/Amazon in print, but when I tried to fix an error in the description it accidentally put it back through the review process. It’ll probably come out again in a few days. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for Ingramspark to finish its review/pre-media process for the print book – during which time the ebook also cannot be adjusted – and then I need to fix the prices. For some reason the cover image is currently listed as not available, which is another headache. And once it’s all over I don’t even know how to find it in the estores of Ingram’s distribution partners, assuming that all books Ingram publishes do go into their distribution partner’s estores (which I’m not even sure about).

So many things have gone wrong, been delayed, et cetera, that I’m stressed up to my gills and haven’t slept properly in at least a week. (And, apparently, was too busy to notice the sudden development of gills on my person.)

I just want it to be over. But even once it is up I still have to market it and do the legal deposit and and and and… I’m in limbo. The book’s in limbo. It’s like a ridiculous dance party ducking under unexpected bars of difficulty and stomping all over my hopes. Everybody limbo!

UPDATE: Apparently no one in my family told the relatives in the UK that I’d published. That means that the whole one sale I’ve made was not, as I’d assumed, just a relative being nice. If it was one of you readers/followers who bought it: Thank you, I hope you enjoy it. If it wasn’t one of you readers/followers who bought it: That’s amazing because that would mean someone completely unaware of my existence found it and bought it. In that case, I thank you for reading my blog regardless of whether or not you care about the whole yet-another-blogger-being-crazy-enough-to-try-publishing bit.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 26, 2017 in On L.C. Morgenstern's Work


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Help! My Story Has the Mary-Sue Disease (Kindle)

I was going to wait with posting this until the Print and Epub versions were also available, but I’m still waiting on Ingramspark for something and it’s already been two days since this was published. So you’ll get more posts like this in a few days (hopefully) when the other forms of the book become available.

It’s available on Amazon Kinlde here. It’s also available on other versions of Amazon (UK, AU, etc) if you search for it in the Kindle store.


…I’m not going to be done stressing until all of the formats are published, at which point I will make a Books page for my blog with easy links to them all.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 24, 2017 in On L.C. Morgenstern's Work


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Ascent of Hassle Mountain

When you’ve finally finished drafting your book and your editor has returned it to you all shiny and untangled, when you’ve paid them and set up your accounts on the various self-publishing platforms you are going to use, it feels like you have fought long and hard but finally, finally, almost reached the top of the great peak of Hassle Mountain and are almost standing at the top of the world – the wind is fresh and cool and you feel as if you could just reach up and touch the stars of Success in the sky above.

You take those last few steps up Hassle Mountain, by contacting a cover person and a formatter, and look up to take in the majestic sight of your finally being at the top of that mountain of complicated and confusing stuff you have to do to get published and


…oh, look, another mountain. That one’s called The Greater Hassle and if you look carefully you can see the triplet peaks of Bureaucracy, Confusion, and Financial Difficulties. What you can’t see is the summit. And if you call out to the camp you can see across from you to send you a line so you can zip over? Well, you’re going to be told that you’ll need to head on down to their lower camp on ISBN Point first, and for that you’re going to have to go around the Unhelpful-FAQ cliffs of Bureaucracy’s sheer face to be able to get anyone at ISBN Point to help you.

Good luck not plummeting to your own certain doom while you try to navigate that fucker. The easy part is over, the hard part just beginning. Suddenly those stars you could touch seem so very far away. Don’t forget to breath, though – remember your oxygen tank, because you will need it.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 3, 2017 in On L.C. Morgenstern's Work


Tags: , , , , ,

Project Status 3 – Warning: Idea Off Leash

Do you ever have an idea that gets totally out of control? The sort which you intend to grow into a nice, quickly written, self-contained, light novel – just a bit of silliness, really – but which then gets off its leash somehow and before you know it has morphed into a massively complex, socio-political mess which is insisting that it would rather like to be the next A Song of Ice and Fire, no matter how much you tell it “NO!”?

I’m having that problem tonight. It’s an old idea that I figured out how to make work – only for it to get completely out of hand because of that. It’s going to need massive amounts of research and planning. It’s also got hopelessly poor timing, because I’ve got four other writing projects (and this blog, and a job, and a need for a second job) going at the moment. One is in the editing stage (actually, I need to get around to doing my taking in of the edits, but it’s always frustrating and depressing), one in the writing stage (I’m on chapter four), one in the plotting stage (apparently the characters have decided on sit and talk as a plot, as opposed to the adventure I intended), and one in the research for plotting stage (in order to write a story focused around a character’s job, I need to know exactly how it works and that basically means learning new jobs in this case).

What I’m basically saying is that there’s not going to be a proper post this week, because I’m busy chasing a rabid idea. See you (kind of) next week?


Tags: , , , , , , ,