This month, I thought I would talk about authors who have influenced my writing. Although there are numerous authors that have shaped my ideas about fantasy, four come to mind as ones I most want to imitate.
GIL KNEW THAT IT was only a dream. There was no reason for her to feel fear—she knew that the danger, the chaos, the blind, sickening nightmare terror that filled the screaming night were not real; this city with its dark, unfamiliar architecture, these fleeing crowds of panic-stricken men and women who shoved her aside, unseeing, were only the vivid dregs of an overloaded subconscious, wraiths that would melt with daylight. She knew all this; nevertheless, she was afraid.
If that first paragraph doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will. Barbara Hambly has such vivid descriptions that make scenes come to life. I was there with Gil as she stood amongst strangers fleeing from some unknown, but well felt horror.
She wrote another series that’s fairly similar, called the Windrose Chronicles. There she throws a modern day computer programmer into a fantasy world via a kidnapping. I read this series and the Darwath series until my paperbacks turned crinkly.
Finally, she has a vampire based urban fantasy, The James Asher Novels for all the UF fans out there.
I knew if I ever wrote stories, I’d wanted my description to be like hers–filled with emotion the reader can almost physically experience. I also love the idea of crossing sci fi with magic and writing in multiple genres.
The longboat cleaved waters stained blood-red by sunset, far beyond sight of any shore. A league distant from her parent ship, at the limit of her designated patrol, she rose on the crest of a swell. The bosun in command shouted hoarsely from the stern. ‘Hold stroke!’
Beaten with exhaustion and the aftermath of battle, his crewmen responded. Four sets of oars lifted, dripping above waters fouled by oil and the steaming timbers of burned warships.
‘Survivors to starboard.’ The bosun pointed toward two figures who clung to a snarl of drifting spars. ‘Quick, take a bearing.’
That passage is from the eleven book Wars of Light and Shadow epic fantasy saga. Book 10 was just released and the audio can be preordered (yay!).
Janny Wurts is another author who has vivid imagery. I first read Janny Wurts as part of a collaboration with Raymond Feist in Daughter of the Empire.
She’s gone on to write several standalones in addition to her WoLaS series.
The special thing about Janny’s writing is the way she uses few words to paint a detailed image. She also has the ability to use as few as two words to convey an assault on the senses. ‘Dropped meat’ comes to mind: how the meat would land on the floor, squish, and spurt. Maybe even give the reader a sense of smell. She sprinkles these in her writing like rich spices in a savory stew. I enjoy them so much I try to add my own here and there. But, she’s definitely the master at it!
It’s truly amazing the power she wields with so few words. Also, this series is the only one I’ve ever reread after each new book and discovered more that was hinted at or even explicitly stated but missed the first time around. I can’t imagine how much time she spends weaving such intricate threads in this complex series.
If you aren’t quite up for a super epic fantasy series, her standalones like To Ride Hell’s Chasm and Sorcerer’s Legacy have her same sense of vivid imagery without the complexity of a large series.
“Yield to me, Master of Crows, and I will make you ruler of kingdoms.”
Silhara of Neith groaned and doubled over, clutching his midriff. Blood streamed from his nose and dripped on the balcony’s worn stones. The god’s voice, familiar and insidious, wrapped around his mind. Transfixed beneath the rays of a jaundiced star, he huddled against the crumbling parapet, fighting an evil the priests assumed long vanquished.
Grace Draven combines poetic imagery with steamy romance in her fantasy romance books. What I love about her stories, is her dedication to writing a serious fantasy tale even as she twines a rather deep romance story in with it.
She has a Beauty and the Beast influenced story called Entreat Me that’s probably the most unique of the ones I’ve read set in a fantasy world.
If you want more of a standard fantasy series, she’s also currently writing the Wraith Kings series.
Finally, if you enjoy ‘gaslamp fantasy romance with a sprinkling of airships, monsters and ghosts’, check out Gaslight Hades, part of The Bonekeeper Chronicles.
My stories aren’t quite as steamy or romance focused as hers, but I strive for the poetic and sensual aspects of her writing.
Kalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast. The enormous stone beast lay on its side, riblike protrusions from its chest broken and cracked. The monstrosity was vaguely skeletal in shape, with unnaturally long limbs that sprouted from granite shoulders. The eyes were deep red spots on the arrowhead face, as if created by a fire burning deep within the stone. They faded.
Even after all these centuries, seeing a thunderclast up close made Kalak shiver. The beast’s hand was as long as a man was tall. He’d been killed by hands like those before, and it hadn’t been pleasant.
Of course, dying rarely was.
I first discovered Brandon Sanderson when I heard that some nutjob was daring to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I mean, who could possibly want to do that or was capable of doing it? Once I read one of his stories though, I was a rabid fan!
What I love about Brandon’s stories is his detailed world building. In all of his stories, he has a complete environment built up with alien creatures, plants, and civilizations that feel like they belong and have been entrenched in that world for eons. Nothing seems out of place.
The other remarkable aspect of Brandon’s stories is his detailed magic systems. Every world he comes up with has an intricate and unique way of doing magic, from imbibing metals in The Mistborn Trilogy to stealing breaths in Warbreaker to stamping things in The Emperor’s Soul to alter their appearance. Each of his systems has rules and limitations and he sticks to those.As a lover of physics and science, I like the idea of rules for magic and incorporate those in my own designs. I also like building worlds that make sense.
Each of these authors is on my ‘buy everything from’ list and I encourage you to check them out.