‘She crawled on her knees through the thicket. Prickles began nibbling at her clothes, to be replaced by the unkind tug of cluster of sharp twigs. Across her back, a waft of air caused her to turn and she saw the edge of her jacket caught on a black thorn, lifting away from her as she crawled forward. She tried to reach back to slash at the branch, but in moving her arm another thorn dragged at her sleeve, piercing the skin beneath. She thought she heard a sound, a hissing – some wretched creature bent on enjoying her misfortune. She could imagine the basilisk eyes and the sinuous body just staring, waiting. To drag her away to a lair where it would send her into some deadly sleep and then when its fangs had pierced her skin, to turn her into a creature like itself. She couldn’t retreat, the branches were converging and twisting to form a fedge-like thicket. But she would not be trapped, could not be trapped – there was too much at stake. She thrust against the thorn in her arm, feeling it rip through her skin and she bit her lip at the pain, watching the bright red blood pool drop by drop near her knee. She thrust with her small weapon again, slashing a thick bract, then another, each time inching forward through the dirt . . .’
And all I was doing was attacking the wild blackberry that had seeded itself in the garden and was threatening to become aggressive and spoil my domain. My point with the above is that any writer, let alone a fantasy writer, lives and breathes their craft. I gave myself a project a week or so ago, which was to re-write my mundane activities into something like the fantasy genre and see what I came up with. I believe it gave me an eye into what a character might be sensing in any particular endeavour. It doesn’t matter that I live in contemporary society, the emotions are the same, all I had to do was switch a few words, imply this and that within the endeavour, to give it a touch of magical realism.
I have a preference for the real world in writing fantasy: the world as close to my own as I can make it. I’m not interested in multiple moons, scrabble-box names and horses with green manes. The world’s politics will only ever have relevance in my world if it has a direct bearing on the plot and the characters. The socio-cultural aspect will most often be coloured by any part of our world between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries because that is what I studied at University and remains my deep and abiding interest. The use of myth and legend of course is unquestionable.
Sometimes when I read current published fantasy, I lose interest in the story because the author is so intent on building a ‘fantasy’ world that the plot and the characters become lost in the detail. Subsequently I will stop buying that author. The thing I’ve learned since The Stumpwork Robe and The Last Stitch were published is that many ordinary readers are scared of the fantasy section of retailers. TSR and TLS have brought a whole swag of readers over because of the soft approach to world-building. They don’t feel intimidated and their credibility isn’t stretched to the point where they throw the books down and walk off in a huff.
So I guess I might be doing something right . . .