How to Save a Stalled Story

This is a bit of a cheeky re-post from one of my own blogs. This comes to us from Fantasy Wordsmiths, an old experiment of mine which actually featured a couple of useful posts. I’ll leave you to it, this advice is really worth reading.

It’s happened to all of us. You get a story all planned out, you create the world, the characters, the set-pieces and you storm through the first few chapters. ‘Excellent,’ you say, ‘this is really going somewhere!’ But then it happens…

You lose momentum. You struggle to churn out a meagre 100 words. In essence, you stall.

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Cover Art Review – The Barrow

Welcome to a brand new cover art review! I have a ton of these I really want to do as there are so many great novels coming out this year. Words of Radiance, the next in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series, is going to be another one I cover over the next couple of weeks.

So, perhaps in contrast to the more classical art featured on the cover of Words of Radiance, today we’re looking at a cover that could just as easily be a movie poster. This is The Barrow by Mark Smylie. The novel takes place in the same world as Mr Smylie’s Artesia comics, which are themselves a military fantasy series with a female main protagonist.

The Barrow
Mark Smylie, (2014 Pyr)
Cover Artist: Gene MollicaThe Barrow

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Action vs Stagnation

Epic Quest

It’s time for our second Epic Quest!

Let’s dive into our writing topic for today: Action vs Stagnation. This is sort of active vs. passive voice and it’s sort of sentence construction and sort of weak vs. strong verbs. Essentially, it’s how to avoid making your writing so boring that it will put the reader into a trance-like state.

Here’s an example:

STAGNATION: “Ishya was creeping along the corridor, keeping her eyes fixed on the floor in case of traps. She was sweating from the heat it was so hot. She knew she had to escape soon or she would roast to death.

ACTION: “Ishya crept along the corridor, her eyes fixed on the floor in case of traps. She wiped beads of sweat from her forehead and snatched at the heavy material of her shirt. She had to escape from this place before she roasted to death!”

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A Rant of Ice and Fire: New Cover Art

Well, I promised you a rant today. I intend to deliver, but I’m going to keep it relatively tame. Mostly because I love A Song of Ice and Fire and I respect George R. R. Martin too much to dive in here and heavily criticise the cover art on his series, no matter how much I may not like it.

What I will do, however, is give my opinions and thoughts and tell you why I feel these new covers do not do the series justice. This is nothing against the books themselves. This is a rant squarely aimed at the cover art.

With that said, I don’t know who decided that this would be the new look for the novels that birthed one of the most popular TV series in recent memory. Is this what we can come to expect from all our fantasy covers in the future?

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5 Examples of Good Fantasy Cover Art

I wanted to put together something to show off some really good fantasy cover art and discuss what makes them so successful and easy on the eye. It’s not that I’m some sort of masochist when it comes to pointing out flaws in book covers, but I am passionate about books having good art (which leads to… anyone? Sales!)

The Remembered

1. The Unremembered

The Unremembered by Peter Orullian is a stunning example of great cover art in action. Setting aside that gorgeous artwork for a moment, the first thing we see is the author’s name all big and bold and crimson. It’s almost a brand, which is great for a new author.

The book’s title is relatively discreet here. It’s the author’s ‘brand’ that the publisher wants us to see first.

Finally, the stand-out aspect of this cover is the artwork itself. It’s all greens and browns and golden hues and it really is beautiful. There’s a certain elegance to the man in the artwork too, which suggests a rich story.

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Keeping Your Story Focused

I thought this topic would be good to cover today as it was something I personally had to deal with this very weekend. Keeping a story focused means avoiding anything (majorly) extraneous to your plot. It’s that whole thing about not throwing everything and the kitchen sink into your project in the hope that something works. You may also refer to the analogy of throwing pancakes at the wall to see what sticks (although in that case it’s better if none of it sticks, surely?)

Let me start off with my own little dilemma as an example of this in practice.

In my story, I have two main factions who tolerate each other right now. Later in the story, they will be at each other’s throats. The trap I very nearly fell into was to add a third faction, an army of foreigners, to come in and provide my story’s big conflict. What I later realised was that I already had a great, meaningful conflict built up between my two original factions. To add a third would be to rob my story of its core conflict and simply muddy the waters with mindless ‘epicness’.

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Character Traits as Sliding Scales

Epic Quest

I’m going to get right into the first writing discussion here on Epically Written by borrowing an idea from a little podcast called Writing Excuses. OK, maybe not little per say, maybe the one of the most popular (if not the most popular) fantasy writing podcasts out there.

If you want to check out the episode in question, I’ll put the link up at the end of this post.

So the technique that was discussed in the episode was Three Pronged Character Development. Basically, you take three character traits (Brandon Sanderson took Proactivity, Competence and Sympathy) and you slide them up or down to create different types of character.

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Cover Art Review – Traitor’s Blade

Look! It’s the first proper post on Epically Written! Let’s all give ourselves a pat on the back for getting this far (nothing is guaranteed from here on out).

Before we get started, I’ll draw your attention to the Epic Mail sign-up to the right of this post. If you like what you see here, be sure to sign up and we’ll keep you updated with future content and blog news!

To kick off proceedings, I wanted to give you guys a nice meaty post to show you the sort of content you can come to expect from Epically Written. Cover reviews are a special kind of review focusing on one thing, and one thing only… cover art! I figured that there are so many beautiful book covers out there (and some downright ugly ones) and, more often than not, they simply get sidelined in a book review.

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