Interview with Author Stephen Herczeg

Dragon Soul Press sat down with one of the eighteen Sea of Secrets authors. Known for his horror story, Angels of the Deep, we were intrigued to know where his inspiration stemmed.


If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?

Those that know me know my love for Stephen King, I have a collection of over thirty-five hard cover first editions in pride of place on my bookshelves.

But, my all time favourite author is James Herbert, and my favourite of his books is “The Fog.”

I think it’s the book that inspired me to take writing seriously. It’s a fun ride through a nightmarish hellscape and back, but what I loved about it and what I would love to emulate, if the right idea arrives, is the fact that the first quarter of the book is more or less a short story collection. Herbert devotes each tiny section in the first few chapters to one character whose entire journey is played out before your eyes. Few get out in one piece, and on the first reading you can’t even figure out who the protagonist is until you’re well into the book.

The other aspect is the level of unbridled freedom in the book. This was written in 1975 well before splatter-punk was a thing, but it’s just so intense and graphic. I read it when I was a teenager and it was like reading a Playboy, it felt like I was doing something rebellious.

I try to keep that style of writing myself. I don’t want to be held down by what is considered “correct” for the day. Writing should be a pleasure and not constrained by the tenants any other person’s subjective opinion.

What genre do you consider your stories? Have you considered writing in another genre?

I mostly write in the horror genre. It’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading and especially writing. I mostly blame my grandmother for introducing me to the horror genre. I lived with her from a young age, and on Friday nights when my mother was out, we’d sit down and watch the Friday night horror movie of the week. Between the ensuing nightmares about werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster, I developed a taste for it.

I also let the story decide where in the horror genre it lives. Some tales lend themselves to abject depictions of gore, while others move themselves into the more gothic and atmospheric side of the genre.

I have dabbled in some dark Sci-Fi and even a little bit of fantasy.

Lately, I have found that I’m a dab hand at writing Sherlock Holmes style pastiches. I was lucky enough to be involved in a Sherlock Holmes / H.G. Wells crossover anthology and that has opened a new world of crime fiction where dwells an insatiable lust for new Sherlock Holmes (or similar) stories. I’ve so far managed to have around eight stories accepted, both within the Holmes canon as it’s called and as part of various cross-over anthologies. My latest work-in-progress, in fact, is a Sherlock Holmes / Edgar Allan Poe cross-over involving one of Poe’s earliest stories.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

This may seem crazy, but it’s not a book but a series of comics. I love Batman. I grew up reading comics, mostly DC (Batman, Superman) and 2000AD (Judge Dredd, etc).

As I grew into adulthood, those things that I loved most about Batman, (i.e. he’s human, he’s trained himself to be the best, he never kills, he’s the world’s greatest detective, etc), are probably what influenced me the most.

I’m an unashamed IT geek, not nerd – let’s be clear on that and I’ll explain in a minute.

I work in a world where detective skills are paramount to being on top of your game. I started out as a programmer, investigating bugs in programs and using detection to get to the bottom of problems. As I’ve journeyed through my career that set of detective skills has stayed with me.

I now sport a Batman tie clip and cufflinks, drive a black car (it’s a Ford Focus ST, not quite the Batmobile but it goes fast), and I’m a Third-Degree black belt in Taekwondo (hence why I’m a geek, because nerds don’t have black-belts in martial arts).

So apart from the extreme wealth, I’m almost there.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?

Possibly, the most amusing and most amazing thing (apart from being married and having kids, that is) that has ever happened to me was “I won a car.”

Not just any car, an $80,000AUD Mitsubishi Evolution VII.

And not just in a raffle either.

Back in 2002, I was living in England and watching a rally on the TV. An advert popped up for a competition. I logged onto the super-fast internet of the day, watched a video of a car driving a rally course, chose the track map that I thought it was following and thought nothing more about it.

Two weeks later I received a big silver envelope inviting me to Cardiff to vie for the chance to win a car.

24,000 entered, 24 were chosen.

We spent a day at the Rally of Great Britain, meeting the Mitsubishi team, dining out at a nice restaurant, and generally having a good time.

The next day, complete with hangovers, we fronted up at the permanent track in Cardiff. There, all 24 of us were given a “how to drive” lecture and undertook four events:

  • Simulate changing a wheel during a stage of a rally;
  • Co-drive for a proper rally driver around the Cardiff track;
  • Do some actual driving in a modified rally car; and
  • Drive the Cardiff track on the simulator.

Each event was given points depending on how well you did.

At the end, my name was announced.

I won the car, I was on the Telly and I appeared in Rally XS magazine.

I drove the car around Europe, visiting sixteen countries and heaps of racing circuits. I brought it back to Australia with me and kept it for fourteen years.

I’ve dined out on that story for seventeen years and never get tired telling it.

Sadly, I sold the car three years ago. It was getting old, much like its owner.

What gives you inspiration for your stories?

To be honest, anything.

I try to look at the world with one question in mind “What If?”

My very first published short story “Death Spores” was based on the opening scene of my screenplay of the same name, and had its origins in me walking around at lunch time and asking myself “What would happen if someone was walking along and their head exploded?”

From that simple question came a rollicking tale of a galactic fungus that crashes to Earth and turns all and sundry into flesh eating zombies.

The screenplay came top ten in the 2012 Horror Screenplay competition, and the short story was published in “Sproutlings: A compendium of little fictions.”

The way I approach it now is to map out the closing dates for submissions to anthologies that I’m interested in and use the themes to inspire my mind.

“Angels of the Deep” was no different. The “Sea of Secrets” anthology had hints of the sea, creatures from the depths and fantasy about it.

I wanted to stay away from the standard creatures, i.e. Sirens, Mermaids, Kraken, etc, and researched strange and unusual myths associated with water. From that I discovered the Rusalka from Russia.

They were said to be the spirits of drowned women who were scorned by lovers and had turned malevolent towards humans. I already had my “mermen” creatures from another story and came up with the concept of a group of men in the worst possible situation (stranded at the bottom of the sea) being attacked by beings that resembled their loved ones. It is virtually a Greek tragedy played out during World War II at the bottom of the ocean.

What tactics do you have when writing?

I’m a planner. In fact, I’m an over-planner.

I start any new story with the germ of an idea, then I create a mind-map in a software tool, to which I keep adding more and more ideas. Fleshing out characters, their arcs, their interrelationships with other parts of the story.

When I’m planning a story, the mindmap is generally open on my computer desktop (at work), and any flash of inspiration goes into the map.

I also have a small database, that I wrote, which keeps a log of the characters and their place in the story. It can map the overarching character arc of the protagonist. It has a name generator, which can then link characters to the story.

I spent several years writing feature length screenplays, and through that I came across the Syd Field method for screenplay writing. A lot of the same concepts can be applied to prose, and I have used them from time to time.

The main thing I always keep in mind, is using the concept of “Setup” and “Payoff”, especially in Holmes story. Any little nugget of information that is needed at the end of the story must be planted somewhere along the journey.

Though I must admit that the level of planning is dependent on the length of the story. I do hate it when I start to plot out the bones of a story and end up having more words in the crib notes and internal dialogue than ends up in the finished story.

Have you written any other stories that are not published?

Tons.

I started writing in earnest back in the early 1990’s (yes, I’m that old). I still have some of those early stories, and the two shortish length novels that I hammered out as well. I cringe when I read them now.

I figured my problem was I couldn’t get the stories down quick enough by writing prose, so I then spent the next twenty years writing feature length (and a few shorter) screenplays. I’ve finished sixteen in total (with a couple unfinished). Four of them have won awards in various International Screenplay writing competitions. I managed to win the 2017 International Horror Hotel competition in the Sci-Fi category with “Titan” and came second in the horror category that same year with “Dark are the Woods”.

I also spent about seven years and several thousand dollars trying to get my ghost-serial killer film “Control” made, but at the end have nothing to really show for it other than a lot more experience. That whole raising money to make a movie thing is a lot harder than you think.

In terms of my recent prose writing, yeah, still have heaps of stories that haven’t found a home. Some I revisit when I see a submission opportunity that might suit, some I rework into shorter or longer versions, some I just forget about.

I think I’m up to about eighteen rejections for this year with various stories, so there are a heap in my “bottom” drawer, so to speak.

In fact, “Angels of the Deep” grew out of a different story that I wrote that never found a home, where the creatures are awoken from their icy slumber by a meteor strike. I’m seriously considering turning that one into a full-length novel.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Just the getting down and doing it.

I don’t mind the planning, I don’t mind the research, but I just love getting lost in the creative process when the juices are running hot. I’ve had days where I’ll sit down, with the intention of writing for half an hour or so, and by the time I reach a natural lull in the process I find that two hours have flown past and I’ve put several thousand words down on the screen before me.

It’s like a drug when that happens. It’s similar to the narcotic effect that long-distance runners feel.

Even at that stage, when you know you should be getting on with the dull day to day activities that make up life, all you can think about is going back to the computer and pushing ahead with the story.

I find that with some of the Holmes stories, I’ve done so much research and planning that the story just screams out of my brain, through my fingers and up onto the screen.

In fact, I find that when I type “The End” it’s almost like coming off a drugged out high. There’s a moment of denial, a feeling of being let down, and you almost have to drag yourself away in case you go back into the work and try to add something just to regain that feeling. Those moments are when you need to let the work sit in its first draft state until you’ve regained enough composure to revisit it with a clear mind.

What do your friends and family think of your writing?

My wife and kids are a little non-plussed. They see the anthologies arrive in their cardboard boxes. They help me take a photo with them, but they’ve never read anything I’ve written.

I’m hoping that Stephen King had the same problem when his kids were younger, not so much now I assume. To be honest, I wouldn’t let my kids read half the stuff I’ve written anyway.

I did manage to convince my daughter to participate in a Sherlock Holmes for younger readers anthology. I helped her come up with the idea and plot it out, but she did most of the writing. It gets published later in the year, though I think I’m more excited than she is.

My Mum loves my writing. She waits on each Facebook post and shares them with her friends. She’s also bought a few of the magazines and anthologies herself. She recently visited for a week and spent most of the time going through my vanity shelf and reading my stories.

Friends and work mates are simply amazed when I tell them I’m a published author.

It’s sort of the same reaction you get when you tell them you’re in a band (which I’ve done) or you’re a Black-belt in a Martial Art. To the average person those things are pipe dreams and supposedly unachievable, so it’s always nice to prove to them it can be done. I’ve been lined up to present a talk on story telling in the workplace later in the year. Have no idea what to talk about, but it’s an opportunity to promote my writing to my colleagues.

Where can we find you online? 

I must admit I’ve been really slack in setting up a Facebook page or a website to promote my writing.

It’s on my list of things to do but is stuck behind the ever-increasing list of submission opportunities that keep presenting themselves.

I have set up an Amazon author’s page and a Goodreads Author’s page.

Creating Worlds of Wonder (3 of 3)

In the previous two posts (One and Two) regarding world-building, we discussed the rules on maintaining consistency and the tools you’ll use to craft your world in order to keep it all straight. But what if you’re in the middle of your series, and then suddenly you’re hit with an awesome inspiration, but it requires a fundamental change?

Here, we discuss what to do when you need to make a change that essentially violates the rule of consistency in your world-building.

Evaluate the damage if you just make a change and not expect the reader to notice. For example, if you have some far-off country named Ko-Astera, you’ve never used it in your series other than make a couple of references to it, will your readers notice if you introduce a character who is from Astera, not Ko-Astera? It depends, if you’ve been providing the reader a glossary and it specifically names the nation and inhabitants as Ko-Astera, you’ll need to come up with a justification. You can write the minor change as part of a dialogue:

“Hey, I thought you were called Ko-Asterans?”

“You thought wrong, fool. We changed and dropped the name of Ko the Usurper back to its proper name. We are Asterans. Get it right before I take my blade and butcher you like I’ve done my cows at home.”

“Excuse me, wolf-biter. It was just a dancing question. No need to get bloody Six Flames bent over it.”

Then, in this book, you’ll have a revision and a note about Ko-Astera now changed to Astera.

You’re literally changing the look/feel of a particular species. This one is a bit harder to do. Say for example you have a race of demon-touched humans who you never really took the time to describe other than they are humans with demonic tendencies, but you saw a super-awesome picture of a succubus with demon horns, furry goat legs, the whole nine yards. You want your demon-touched people to have this look and feel. Congratulations, make it part of the plot. Bad Stuff is happening and guess what—it’s changing the demon-touched more like into actual demons. When the book is concluded, the process is not reversible.

You need to add a new magical ability/spell/power. Just add it, and make it seem like it was part of the plot/story arc all along.

You need to “break” a rule in your world because you realize it will be totally awesome. You’ll need to work this into your story as part of the dialogue or an event. For example, you have a water mage and you want them to cast fire spells. You need to work out a method or something in the plot so it makes sense you have broken this rule. In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, it was long established men could not channel (use magic) without going insane, so the theme of one of the books was to overcome just this problem.

In conclusion, when you discover you can writing something really cool and awesome, but it will violate the rules regarding consistency, a bit of creativity and stepping back to alter the direction of the story can be yours.

Happy writing!

Introducing Author Aditya Deshmukh

Dragon Soul Press presents creator of dark tales Author Aditya Deshmukh! Ranging from poetry, short stories, and novels, all contain elements of spine-tingling horror. Continue reading to see our interview with the author.


Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Pseudonyms are useful when an author writes in a variety of genres. Yes, I’m a multi-genre author, but because the tone of almost all my stories fall under the same, wide umbrella of dark fiction, I never felt a need of a pseudonym. Psuedonyms are also used for hiding. I want to own everything I write. Putting pieces of my own soul under a fake name just doesn’t seem right to me. So unless I start writing something completely different than I’m used to (like children fiction or romance) and I don’t want that (delicate) audience going on a hunt to find my other (traumatic) stories, or unless I write something against powerful and corrupt entities which will put me on their radar, I have no plans to mask my identity.Aditya Deshmukh Website Logo

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly? 

I’m not a psychologist or a brain-scientist but I don’t think one needs to be an expert to understand that brain is a complex thing. And every person behaves differently when exposed to a certain situation. It’s a part of who we are, and every person is unique and so is their behaviour.

To answer this question, I’ll use myself as an example. I joke about being soulless (we dark fiction authors find it cool) but in truth I’m a sensitive person. I may not have a strong memory but I remember things. One never forgets the bad moments of one’s life. I believe crying helps. It’s kind of magical. The haunting memories surfaces, the pain erupts, you cry and you forget. That’s what I used to do. But my complex brain developed another layer of complexity. Now the bad things don’t quite affect me as strongly as they used to. It’s like there are walls around my heart filtering all the bad things. I willfully ignore them and it’s working pretty great.

I was a writer back then and I still am a writer.

It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel emotions. As long as you feel something (and you do because you’re a human), and you’re able to focus on that emotion, you can write that scene. In fact, even writers who feel emotions strongly sometimes struggle in writing that perfect scene. Writing is difficult. It’s a long process and there are no short-cuts. There are so many dimensions to it that frankly I think writing should be the most paying profession. It’s too much work and we’re expected to be good at everything. Don’t worry about any of your shortcomings. You can work on it and master it (and it’s going to be sooner than you think).

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Oh God, so many things! Because I just took my tea, I’m high on energy, so I’ll take the time to list them and elaborate on each point.

1) Just write it

This is perhaps the most popular writing advice ever. When I read it for the first time, I pictured a writer with black circles under their eyes staring at the blank screen, a pile books on writing on either side of the laptop and screaming, “Come on, just fucking write it!” There’s just so much advice available that it’s very easy to get distracted. We read so much about writing that we forget our topmost priority: writing. The worse thing is we actually feel satisfied after spending our hard-earned time (from work or college or family) on the articles and books and podcasts and YouTube channels and Twitter and Facebook and whatever. We feel happy about ourselves because we think we learned something new.

It’s just an illusion. Congratulations! You learned the same thing you read yesterday, or the earlier week, or the past month. I think if you read every day religiously for a month, most of the stuff you come across is a repetition. You still might learn something new. But is it worth your writing-time you spent on it?

That said, you should have some basic knowledge. Remember those 100,000 words of crap you wrote with zero writing wisdom which is so bad you cannot salvage anything? Yes, no one wants to read that shit. Spend a month in reading basic things. That will get you started.

 2) Discipline

Writing might have been your hobby. But now it’s a profession. Treat it like one. Set a routine and discipline yourself. Set small goals. Make them bigger as you progress. You must have a daily word count goal (it doesn’t have to be big. Mine is just 500 words). But you must strive to maintain the streak. Don’t think you can make it up on weekend. If you miss your daily goal, it will definitely kill your confidence.

3) Read

Once you’ve finished your word count goal, read books on writing. No, don’t roll your eyes. I’m not contradicting my earlier point. Read those books only if you’re sure it’s about something you don’t already know (and trust me there are many things you haven’t even heard. Don’t forget being a writer no longer means you just need to write. Today a writer is also a businessman. Learn about social media, marketing strategies, book distribution networks, how giants like Amazon work). Why not just skip “Just write it” and learn all this stuff first? That’s one way to do things, but then expect to spend at least a decade. As I said, these things take a lot of time. And the most effective way to learn is to learn in steps. It’s fortunately also the most fun way.

Articles are good, but I encourage getting a book (don’t just randomly pick any book. Go through lists of recommendations, compare them, see if they provide exactly what you need and only then start reading. This will save not only your money but also time.) You can then treat it like a subject and study every single element with dedication. Good articles are hard to find, and most of the stuff is repeated. When you finish a book, you’ll have more solid knowledge on that subject.

4) Have fun #1

Don’t expect your writing to get better just by reading about writing. Yes, it will certainly develop. You will not hesitate from calling yourself a good writer. But good is not enough. You want to be the best. You want to become a champion. And for that you need to read other champions’ books.

Read a lot and read widely. I cannot stress enough how exponentially your knowledge boosts up when you make this a regular habit. You get exposed to new writing styles, better dialogue, action, plots, fighting scenes, descriptions, pace, character development, you understand every little thing there is to writing just by conscious reading. Ask questions like why the writer didn’t write it this way? Why is it that the writer decided this ending when other endings are possible? Why did the writer trade good dialogue for what could have been an epic fight scene? Why these characters feel like real people? Why do I love this story so much? Yeah, analyze everything about your favourites. Go crazy!

5) Have fun #2!

There’s another way to have fun and sharpen your writing skills simultaneously: watching movies and TV shows. Yeah, don’t blink, don’t reread that sentence. I mean it. I don’t understand why it isn’t a very commonly heard advice. It has worked like magic for me. I’m a terribly slow reader. If I cannot finish a book in reasonable time, how can I learn from it? And on the contrary, I’m a binge watcher. I can devour an entire season in a night. Most of my understanding of fiction came from the shows I studied. All those questions I listed in the above paragraph can be applied here also. Remember that literature, films, all these are just different mediums of the same thing we want to tell: stories. As long as you actively observe and study, you can derive knowledge applicable to your writing from any source.

6) Build a platform

Internet is crazy. Make use of it. I’m an introvert and if you ask me to give a speech I’ll melt before your eyes. And yet here I’m, still talking something that (hopefully) makes sense. If you can socialize in real life, that’s great! But internet helps you reach audience who perhaps haven’t even heard about your town. Isn’t that great? Just imagine how wider your reach is now. What’s that smell? Something is burning. Must be our jealous writer-ancestors. 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is a very important step in the writing process. It plays a big role in making stuff sound realistic. I do most of the research during outlining. I add comments to the document explaining the research elements and include links to the websites from where I got the information for future reference. I note down things which are yet to be researched.

I understand the importance of research, but I do not give it priority in case I’m writing a short story on a short deadline and lots of stuff is remaining. But I do make it a point to ensure that my guesses are reasonable. If you’re short on time, you can still create a realistic environment provided you haven’t included stuff that your audience know is 100% false. If you have time, don’t be lazy. Research matters. Now information is available easily and it’s everywhere. Books are still the best resource, but there are tons of blogs and vlogs and YouTube channels you can explore. Don’t forget to compare facts. If you can compare with standard sources, that’s good. Otherwise simply go with the widely accepted idea (facts many sources state in similar manner opposed to something only one source claims is the truth)

For my longer works, I spend months on research. My dystopian novella “Black Veins” is coming out this September, and for it I had to read about philosophies on society and recent development in robotics. Yeah, it’s going to be fun!

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

 I don’t suppose I can name one thing. Either they all are equally easy or equally difficult.

But yeah, diffidence is definitely something that bothers me. And I’m sure many writers face this problem. I stress a lot on quality. To the eyes of others the stuff I write is good, but I think it could be better. I know nothing can ever be perfect. But this knowledge is not enough. It’s kind of like a staircase with no end. You can climb it, every stair making your story more beautiful. But you have to stop somewhere and it’s hard to decide when. Fortunately my mind is not always bleak. The confidence returns. I just say fuck it and type ‘END.’

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Depends on the book. Few months back I finished a book in just two months. My very first attempt at novel-writing is four years old and nowhere near completion. As I said I focus on quality, not speed. If I write faster, I can see my quality deteriorating. So the wait doesn’t bother me much.

What’s the best way to market your books?

 I may not be the best person to answer this question. But I know that there is no universal best way. What works for someone may not work for you. The best thing to do is to attempt everything (social media, ads, mailing list, book tours), analyze the data, and then create your own strategy.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Oh no I can’t answer that question. Oops, by saying that I’ve already answered, haven’t I?

Yeah, each book stands on its own unless its a part of a well-defined series, but there’s definitely a common element regardless of the genres. It’s very subtle. And it’s going to be super fun when it becomes obvious. So let’s not ruin it now.

Where can readers learn more about you?

My Facebook page is pretty active. Do subscribe to my Newsletter and join my Facebook group. It’s a fun place. And yes, you’ll get free stories! DSP has added an author page to their website. Also check out my website. You’ll find free stories and poems from not just me, but also other talented writers I invite every week for a chat. Feel free to message me. I’m always finding new ways to procrastinate and will chat on almost anything.

Tips and Tricks: Making Self-edits Fun and Constructive

Yes, I wrote it. Editing. That dreaded e-word that can be ranked up there with the same level of reaction as if you shouted the f-bomb at a birthday party for 90-something-year-old nuns, all because you walked in with the hired stripper. Oopss…wrong party.

However, you don’t have to dread the editing process. You can make it fun and entertaining almost as crafting the story itself. The key is to focus on various parts of it and tackle those parts as if individual projects. So, here are two tricks on making the self-edit fun.

Note: The two tips below are guidelines. They are not hard and fast rules that will turn your story into a bestseller, but it will allow you to practice your prose and engage the senses with your reader. Call it a stylistic guide. I personally love the editing process at all stages of it, and I hope that with these tips, you’ll end up liking it too.

The Dreaded Passive Word “Was”

Was is an important verb, but the problem with it is that it leads to a lot of passive language which in turn opens your story up to more telling than showing. This is fine when it’s in the dialogue between characters, but it gets a bit more problematic when it’s in the narrative.

Some examples:

Wyntiir was angry.

Carla, my girlfriend, was a tall woman.

There will be times where it’s fine to actually write these, but if you literally dump the whole bottle of pepper on your meal, you will not stomach the taste. Your reader will grow bored with your story. In your narrative, go through your story and find every instance of the verb was. You must not only rewrite the sentence using only action verbs, but add to the sentence with stronger descriptions to appeal to the senses of the reader.

Let’s rewrite our two examples.

Wyntiir stewed in her fury, her hands balling into fists with a trickle of blood winding its way down her wrist from her nails digging too deep in the soft flesh of her palms.

Holy cow, she’s really pissed.

Carla, my boisterous girlfriend, loved to describe herself as an Amazonian maiden as she stood taller and wider than me, and her girth betraying her love of exercise and pure physical strength.

Dang, you go girl. You’re big and buffed.

You can do this with other passive verbs too, but you have to use discretion. If you literally managed to expunge all passive verbs and write elongated descriptions, you’re going to run the risk of killing tension, bringing your pacing to a snail’s pace, and having your reader grow bored because they just read three pages of your characters going back and forth with each other and still nothing has been accomplished. This is why I recommend you only do this exercise on the verb was. It’s the most common verb, but not enough to hamstring your pacing and tension. As for your other passive verbs, just rewrite sentences using action verbs and move on.

Let’s get to the second tip.

Targeting Boring Verbs

Amateur writers typically use “boring” verbs because they are like said and ask. They just come out and you don’t pay attention to them. However, when your reader is not paying attention to them, they are not paying attention to any action or drama you wish to convey. The boring verb list is ran, covered, broke, found, gave, held, pulled, and threw. You can Google more, but these are typically it. You especially do not want to be using these words in action scenes or sex scenes. However, you can liven up your editing by not only replacing the boring verb with a stronger action-oriented verb, but also use a single adjective or adjective phrase for emphasis. Only one (think of the pepper metaphor above). Let’s deal with an example.

Wyntiir threw her knife.

Now we can use an adjective on Wyntiir or her knife, but we’re only going to choose one.

Wyntiir hurled her blood-stained knife.

See? Self-editing can be a fun game if you take the time to break it down into manageable components. And you’re still creating! Now, go forth and get rid of all those verbs was.

Creating Worlds of Wonder (2 of 3)

In the last post of this series, I discussed the rules of about world-building. In this post, I will discuss how those rules are applied into actual tools and what said tools consist of.

First, why have these tools to begin with? For one thing, it will help you maintain a level of consistently. Not every author can keep track of every alien/foreign element in their world. The stranger you have something referred to using oddly spelled-out words, the harder it gets to keep all of it straight. For example, in my portal fiction, Fallen From the Stars, the elves referred to marriage as the “reading of their oaths.” They don’t have the words “married” or “marriage” (though the humans from the valley do). I have to have this written down somewhere because I have other cultural references, greetings, salutations, etc I need to keep track of. So there are two tools that you’ll commonly come across to help you keep all of this in good working order—the story bible and the glossary.

  1. Overview of the world
  2. Primary Religions / Gods
  3. Special Geographic Locations (floating islands, etc)
  4. General System of Magic
  5. The Races and Cultures (orcs, gnolls, humans, elves, etc.)
  6. Individual Nations
    1. Nation One
      1. Culture
      2. Politics / Government
      3. Special Laws / Taboos / Customs
      4. Special Notes
    2. Nation Two, etc…
  7. Special Terms / Terminology
  8. Technological Levels
    1. Medicine
    2. Warfare
    3. Transportation
    4. Communication
  9. Special Artifacts (magic swords, rings, crowns, etc.)
  10. Historical Timeline (go as far back as need to)

The story bible is more than just an outline (though it can contain it). It is the author’s comprehensive system of how their entire world works. It’s a behind-the-scenes toolkit that details the magic system, the religions, cultural nuances, nations, geography, races, all the way down to curse words to the name of the world/universe itself. It is as detailed as you need it to be (key word: need). When crafting your fantasy world or world that uses some form of mystical elements, take the time to put some effort in it. Start with a big overview, then work your way down like this:

As you can see, we can get quite detailed on just the list alone. An article I read some years ago (don’t quote me though) about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is that his story bible was as thick as one of his books. If you’re not familiar with his work, his series was fourteen big books weighing close to an average 1,000 pages.

Now the important caveat is you should only create what you need to completely tell your story in its entirety. If you wrote out your outline for all six of your books and you never have your characters go to the nation of Ko-Astera, never interact with the djinn-like humans who live there, never use a Fire Summoner in your stories, don’t spend a lot of time detailing that nation and everything within it. The same with Conjuration magic. If you don’t have anyone who is a Pact-Binder with a demon from the Eternal Abyss, you don’t need to detail this system of magic.

Will you be laying this out to your reader in your books? I hope not unless it’s critical to your story. But if your characters are following the rules you outline in your story bible, your reader will note the consistency and detailed world-building. They will appreciate that—greatly (assuming your readers like world-building).

There are many articles on world-building and building your story bible. I (personally) hate most of them, because they are very generic. If you want an actual live example, there are books that give just that to you. They are called campaign guides or campaign settings. If you ever played Dungeons and Dragons or similar table-top rpgs, you’ll be familiar with what a campaign setting is. Video game guides to popular fantasy worlds are also great resources and examples. Essentially, they are the “story bible” for the game master to run such games that keep everything in a logical manner. Some of them are quite detailed and beautifully written. Here is one of my favorites, though it’s nowhere close to comprehensive:

Pathfinder Campaign Setting

The second type of resource is a glossary. This is for your reader. It goes at the beginning or at the end of each book of your series and pretty much is what you’ll use as your own story-bible. Whatever is in the glossary is all you’re using to tell your story. It’s a “story bible lite” per se. This is great if you don’t have a lot of different detail in your world, such as an urban fantasy set in modern day Seattle, but you just need to advise the reader of the different names of werewolf clans, their powers, their blood magic, and their weaknesses.

In my next post, I’ll discuss what do when you run into problems. Until then, happy writing!