Thursday, August 31, 2006

WC2006 Panel Notes: Is "Realistic Fantasy" an Oxymoron?

Panelists: David Keck, Ellen Klages, Robin Wayne Bailey, James Gurney, and Tim Powers (moderator.)

The keys to "realistic fantasy" are realism and believability. How can you accomplish this?
• Try to limit the number of fantastical elements is one way.
• A better way is to ensure that your "real world" details are accurate.
Do your research.
• For example, when swords contact their metal surfaces become knicked and dented.
• Your research creates "the stage." That's how you build your set pieces.
• Exercise restraint and don't cheat on the details.
• Use "props" to get descriptions right.
• Draw floor plans.
• Draw simple scene plans for spatial comprehension.
• Use photo books for foreign places if you haven't visited them.
• Your reader needs the set-up to be believable. So have them buy the world so that when the fantasy enters, they just go with it.
• The goal is to create that numinous feeling—the sense that "I think I remember this from a dream I had as a kid."
• We want to believe, so use that desire to draw in your reader.

The most important piece of advice: Read broadly so you can write broadly. The panel warned against becoming one of those writers who only reads the genre they write. This puts you at a disadvantage. Read everything you can—including non-fiction.


Panel: Editing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Panelists: Peter S Beagle, Laura Ann Gilman, Betsy Mitchell, and Tim Powers (moderator)

Um, this is the panel where I spent most of the time trying to decide how best not to sound like an idiot when I tried to ask Betsy Mitchell about Del Rey submissions afterwards, what I was going to say—if anything—to Peter S Beagle, and tried not to let the rude person beside me touch me. So I barely took any notes for this one...

• Don't make your characters stupid for the sake of the plot.
• Spelling and grammar in your manuscript are very important.

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