The Magic of SCBWI

I had the awesome opportunity to attend SCBWI’s annual national conference in L.A. a week ago, and you’ll be pleased to know that the spec fic world was well represented.  I saw the likes of:

Holly Black (Valiant)
Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger)
R.L. LaFevers (Theodosia Throckmorton and the Staff of Osiris)
Ingrid Law (Savvy)
Marlene Perez (Dead is the New Black)
Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix)
Michael Reisman (Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect)
Joni Sensei (The Farwalker’s Quest)
Linda Joy Singleton (Dead Girl in Love)

And these are only the people (off the top of my head) that I ran into with spec fic books out! It boggles the mind who else was there.
BUT this post isn’t about name-dropping (too much). It’s about Holly Black’s talk, Examining the Strange: The Basics of
Fantasy Writing.

Some key points:
-As fantasy writers, we need to read broadly and widely. Some of the best fantasy is melding ideas from so many genres. We are in a genreless genre.
-Fantasy gets labeled as escapist, but it’s no more so than any other kind of literature
-In fantasy, we can sometimes learn things that are much harder to learn in realism; fantasy gives us distance
-You have to watch your metaphors and be aware of what stories you’re telling
-Fantasy is like historical fiction. In both, you’re introducing readers to a place they’ve never been and can never visit, but you must convince them that they HAVE been there. And like historical fiction, there’s a lot of research
-Magic rules can be divided into day logic (the same action gets the same result every time) and night logic (rules are seldom spelled out; must work intuitively…it contains the numinous).
-In fantasy, there have to be two stories, the fantastical and the human. The interaction between these two plots is what makes the story.

Well done, Holly!

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8 responses to “The Magic of SCBWI

  1. Next year I need to go. I’ve been watching your blog posts about it for three years now!

  2. Parker Peevyhouse

    What do you think she means by “You have to watch your metaphors and be aware of what stories you’re telling”?

    • The example she gave was a werewolf. A werewolf doesn’t want to be that way but has to endure that fate and live in anguish. You can’t hate the werewolf for being different; you have to learn to deal with it. This metaphor can resonate with a reader struggling with their own issues of identity and isolation.
      I think that’s what she meant. But I’d just eaten some doughy, heavy pancakes, so they might have affected my comprehension of reality.

      • On this point, she also talked about being careful about unintended messages such as might be present if, for instance, all your bad guys of an alien race were dark-skinned, or a particular gender, etc etc. — to be certain that something in the fantasy world was not unintentionally interpreted as a comment on the human world.

      • Parker Peevyhouse

        And that’s a LARGE task. Seriously, it seems like people are just itching to misinterpret fantasy especially.

        I wondered if she meant that she tried not to end up writing a story with a message she didn’t believe it–for example, promoting elitism or the mass consumption of fast-food. I guess that ties in with being misinterpreted.

  3. cindypon

    it was a fantastic conference. a pleasure to meet so many of the spectaclers!!

  4. I would have loved to have been there to hear Holly’s talk, she makes some very important points about fantasy writing and generally I agree with everything she said, as you’ve reported it in your article. However, there is just one issue I’d take up about the need to read broadly and widely. Yes, I think it is one way of helping to gather ideas and explore situations and environments that will can trigger events in our own writing, but the issue is about the word ‘need’. As a fantasy writer myself (my recent book Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulun Swings) I think it is very possible to write good quality fantasy without being an avid reader – as it happens, I do read, but I believe I draw ninety percent of my ideas from real life – it’s much more fantastic than most of what is available to read!

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulun Swings

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance

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