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Balancing Story Elements, by Russell Cornhill

One of the main problems for any writer of fiction is getting the balance right. What’s most important – plot or character? How much backstory should intrude? How important is the setting? Does the humour water down the drama? Does the story water down the satire? How important is the theme and when does it border on soap-boxing? (Is that a word?) Etc, etc.

The problem intensifies for spec-fiction writers where the world building is such an important facet. Even more so if you’re writing the first book in a ten book series linked by a background story/theme.

How much should all this intrude? The short answer, no doubt, is only as much as it needs to. Of course every reader will feel that need differently. Some will want vivid descriptions (not my forte) of the world and its inhabitants and will long to know the social mores of all the various races. Others will only want the story.

The problem of the background story is solved by making its set-up the focus of the first book – the gods have fowled up and the inhabitants of the world are left to deal with the consequences. What the gods were trying to do and why will obviously be the theme running through the series.

The main continent of the world resembles (only resembles) North America. I haven’t been there and I’m relying on research but there was a reason I chose that continent. On the other hand, the various races are based more on European mythology. Okay, I’m  making it up and it’s a fantasy world. It just means the races will be familiar to most readers even if I happen to change them somewhat, well, quite a bit, probably.

There are basically five races in the first book though many others might be mentioned. As the goblins are the central characters I need to explore their social mores in some detail. Hopefully I’ve managed to do that without sounding like an anthropological magazine. The orcs were easy – smaller slightly different, versions of the goblins. With the fairies and trolls, I only told what I needed to. There might be more time to explore their cultures in future books if it becomes necessary.

The humans – well, they’re humans. Hang on, I still haven’t decided if they’re black, brown, white, pink with purple polka-dots, what religion they follow, if any.

Oh damn, back to the drawing board.


Russell Cornhill bio page

The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, Volume OneComplete Guide to Writing Fantasy Vol 2: The Opus MagusThe Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: Volume 3 (the Author's Grimoire)The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your BestsellerWriting Fantasy and Science FictionHold Me Closer, NecromancerA Million Suns: An Across the Universe Novel

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