What if whales did live in the sky? How would that affect the weather? Flight patterns?
I can just hear an announcement at the airport: “All flights are cancelled from JFK today because the Cloud Humpbacks have begun their annual migration sooner than expected. We will resume flights as soon as it is safe.”
What if all the life in the sea was in the sky? Would we travel by sea? Weather reports would have to include what the animals were doing, unless I did a total reversal and had the sea act like the sky and have all weather originate there.
What “what if” questions does the picture spark for you?
The world of speculative fiction covers so many subgeneres. Earlier, I had Jason C. Joyner talk about his superhero novel and today I have Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, who writes epic fantasy. Welcome, Jenelle!
Me: Which comes first when developing a story – characters, setting, or plot?
Jenelle:With regards to what comes first, personally, I think anything goes. Some authors start with a character. Others start with a plot line. Still others begin with their world-building. Although my stories tend to be heavily character-driven, I’ve used all three of these as my starting points, and I can’t honestly say that I prefer one over the other. What works is going to vary from one author to the next, and even from one story to the next.
Me: What are some unique challenges to writing speculative fiction?
Jenelle: There are many challenges that are unique to writing speculative fiction. It deals with the imagination in ways very few other genres do, and begs the reader to suspend their disbelief a bit more than other genres.
One of the main challenges to writing speculative fiction is the setting. Most fantasy and sci-fi stories take place in different worlds. They may be connected to our world via a portal of some kind, but they are separate entities, and as such, they need to be defined and explained and described extremely well, as they are not places a reader can ever actually visit. If there is futuristic technology or magic or the characters have abilities that defy our laws of science, those things need a sensible explanation that the reader will accept as reasonable. This gets even more difficult if the story isset in our own world, because the author needs to come up with well thought-through explanations for the more fantastical elements of the story.
Another difficulty I’ve observed has been the overuse of tropes. Tropes can be a very good thing, but if they are consistently used in the same way, they become cliches.
Me: What do you do to renew your inspiration when it is running low?
Jenelle: When my inspiration runs low, it often means I need a break. Sometimes this means doing something else for a while and NOT thinking about my story, other times it simply means a break from staring at the screen – and talking through ideas I have or the problem spot I’m stuck on with someone else.
Me: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write speculative fiction?
Jenelle: Be creative. Let your imagination loose. What tropic elements are in your story? Think about how you can turn them around and use them to surprise your reader. Make sure you think through the world-building aspect of the story and really make the setting come alive through your descriptions and explanations… and make sure that the setting is important to the story. If you could take your same story and not lose anything by setting it somewhere more mundane, then maybe think of ways to make the setting more important either through the obstacles it presents or the themes it can convey.
To learn more, visit Jenelle at the sites below.
Jenelle Leanne Schmidt is a dreamer, compulsive opener-of-doors, and award-winning author of the new novel: Minstrel’s Call. She resides in Wisconsin with her husband and their four adorable children who are all named after characters in The Lord of the Rings.
Using as many senses as you can, how would describe this scene? Here’s mine:
“The mist crawled in and chilled me, even though I was wearing a jacket. The wind sighed over the treeless hills. That was the only sound except for an occasional creak from an overturned vehicle. The faint scent of gasoline mixed with the stagnant smell of still water from the half-frozen ponds lining the road.
“Behind the hill to my right, a shape stood dark against the fog. My heard revved, but I stopped. I pressed my lips together, swallowing hard, then called out with as much confidence as I could gather to keep my voice from shaking. “Dad?”
In July, I will be focusing on speculative fiction. All the sparks for this month will be ways to ignite your sci fi and fantasy stories.
If the picture above was the opening scene of a story, how would you finish the opening lines?
“As I stood on the edge of the cliff, I stared at the wormhole that had appeared, then glanced down at my computer. I hadn’t typed in the common for wormhole. I wanted a portal. I raised my hand to throw down the computer. Piece of junk!”