Thanks, Marcia, for the opportunity to be featured guest blogger here on The Write Stuff this week. I’m so thrilled this wonderful blog is up and running again after all your trials and tribulations. We missed you!
‘Write what you know’ is one of those rules all authors come across. But when you’re writing a fantasy novel, how can you do that?
With book #3 in my Five Kingdoms fantasy series releasing next week, I thought I’d share a peek into how I chose to incorporate a little of what I know into my imaginary world. You might notice a bit of a theme across my covers…
One of the draws of writing fantasy is the ability (necessity) to create your own world from scratch, but it’s nevertheless important to have enough similarities with the real world for readers to have an easy frame of reference. If everything is unfamiliar, they have to work too hard at understanding what’s going on to enjoy following the plot, or find empathy with the protagonist and supporting characters.
If I’d wanted, I could have given my characters 6-legged, horned critters to ride, but as a professional horse rider (my day job, lucky me), I decided to give them regular horses. Well, slightly enhanced, almost regular horses!
This enabled me to inject some realism into the world of the Five Kingdoms, with small details of horsemanship and horse behaviour that bring the horses to life as characters in their own right. Here’s a snippet featuring one of my favourites:
* * * * * * *
At this time of day, only one horse stood inside. Fleetfoot, Rustam’s bright bay Shivan stallion, dozed on his feet in the middle of the walkway, disdaining an actual stable. None of the stable lads would dream of trying to coax him into a loose box—he’d shown them how such an attempt would end within half a day of his arrival in the barn. Fortunately, as the season was so warm, the lad in question had dried out quickly after his dunking in the water trough.
Fleetfoot acknowledged Rustam’s arrival with a shake of his neck, his long black mane swishing from side to side. Rustam patted his shoulder. “It’s good to see you resting, my friend. We’ve an important task ahead.”
He ran a hand along the stallion’s muscular crest beneath the heavy fall of mane, marvelling as always at the softness of the horse’s hair. Fleetfoot bent his neck around and blinked at Rustam, who sighed. “I’m guessing the hardest part will be persuading Risada to stay behind. Ouch!”
He leaned against the stallion’s shoulder, pushing hard until the horse lifted the hoof he’d planted on Rustam’s foot. “What was that for?”
Rustam hopped a few steps, before rubbing the top of his abused foot against the back of his other calf. He’d never held any illusions about the weight of the substantial animal even before being trodden on. “That’s going to be one almighty bruise, thank you very much. What did I say to offend you?”
Fleetfoot arched his neck, lowering his head until he matched eyelines with Rustam. His expression revealed both dismay and disapproval. Rustam shook his head. “For someone who can’t utter words, you have an amazing ability to express your opinions. You think Risada should come with us, don’t you?” Fleetfoot bobbed his head down, once, twice.
* * * * * * *
Each of my books features several named horses who have their parts to play in developing the characters of their riders, instead of being just a means of conveyance. I find human/horse (or indeed, any animal) relationships bring out greater personality depths, and in the case of horses are often a means of strengthening and deepening certain traits, such as patience, empathy and humility. Exactly what they do for those of us fortunate enough to work with them in real life.
DO you follow the ‘write what you know’ rule? Please tell me in the comments: it’s always fascinating to hear other writers’ thoughts on the ‘rules’.
If you haven’t read any of my Five Kingdoms novels yet, #1, THE PRINCE’S MAN goes on sale next Friday at $0.99 in all stores, the same day as #3, THE PRINCE’S PROTEGE releases with an introductory price of $2.99
Each book has a stand alone story arc, but they have ongoing threads leading towards a final showdown in book #4.
If you HAVE read books 1 & 2, this is what #3 looks like, and is available now on Amazon pre-order,
Deborah Jay writes fantasy and urban fantasy featuring complex, quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.
Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she has time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many horses, and her complete inability to cook.
She has a dream day job riding, training and judging competition dressage horses and riders, and also writes books and magazine features on the subject under her professional name of Debby Lush.
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Other books by Deborah Jay