1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Interview Interview with TWErvin2

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by Wreybies, May 10, 2015.

    terryshowingturtle.jpg
    First_Civilization_Legacy_Series_FH_BS_SF.jpg

    I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Ervin, a longstanding member of writingforums.org. He's one of the first members I came to know who had been published and I was delighted to get his insights on the world of Fantasy.


    WF: What's your take on the conversation concerning what is and isn't Fantasy, High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, etc.?


    Terry: I don’t put much stock in the exact ‘labeling’ of a novel or series as very few novels published today fall 100% into one category or another—depending on how each type of fantasy is defined.

    That said, labeling or categorizing has value. It helps readers find something similar to what they’ve already enjoyed.​

    WF: What's your take on how large, sweeping Fantasy stories like LotR and ASoIaF have affected the general view of Fantasy?


    Terry: I’ve read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and enjoyed it, but I haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe that will make some writers scratch their head, as ASoIaF is quite popular and often discussed. It’s just that there is so much out there, meaning an author (or reader) can’t read everything.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that fans of the LotR movies often don’t enjoy the novels quite as much. They’re different—the novels contain areas with extensive description and detail, and they have a far different pacing than the movies.

    Tolkien’s classics were written and published when television wasn’t as prominent. The internet didn’t exist. Readers experienced places they’d never seen or even imagined through printed words. TV, movies and the internet have changed all of that. Mountains or forest trails or monolithic statues don’t need to be described in such detail, at least many modern readers don’t feel it necessary. I think this affects the content and pacing of successful sweeping fantasy novels published today.​

    WF: I find the same to be true with Science Fiction. When you read classics like DUNE, the exhaustive detail in description is evident, and quite different from what one finds today. Do you think this has changed the tone of Fantasy novels as well? If there's less emphasis in detailing a world with rich ornamentation, what other tools does the Fantasy writer rely on to bring the reader into the world he or she is creating?

    Terry: I’m not sure if it’s changed the tone too much. For example, many current epic fantasy novels still echo The Lord of the Rings or Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (one of my favorites). The goal remains for the author to engage the reader’s imagination. No combination of words or descriptions can match the images conjured within a reader’s mind.

    My preferred method, one that I’ve observed over the past couple decades, is to provide just enough information—description/details—giving the reader what’s needed, and within the context of the story whenever possible. For example, instead of simply a paragraph of description, insert bits through character observation, and/or interspersed within dialogue, and/or incorporated with character actions.​

    WF: What is your take on the role of female characters in fantasy stories? How they are/should be/could be portrayed?


    Terry: I think it depends on the world the author has created, the story to be told, and the intended audience.

    For me and my First Civilization’s Legacy Series, a female character can be a powerful, intimidating enchantress, or an adored leader. Other times a woman is more along the lines of a worrying wife or a lowly maid. But that’s the world I created, where an individual’s initial social status, opportunities, and choices have impacted what she is or becomes.

    Every reader has different views based upon life experiences. When a reader opens a novel those experiences influence how he or she interprets characters, including their status, their actions and motivations. That’s not something I attempt iron-hand control or influence over. It’s not my place as a storyteller to direct or force readers to see my characters in a certain way—like it’d work anyway. My primary purpose isn’t social commentary. It’s to entertain.

    I do find it interesting what readers think of my characters (male and female), what ones they like and don’t like, respect and don’t respect, and more. They’ve read the same words, but come away with widely varying opinions.

    For example, one reader described Supreme Enchantress Thulease as authoritative and ruthless. Another found her accomplished and powerful, yet lovingly driven, with cracks of vulnerability.

    In the end, characters are tools used to relay a story to readers. And if I create and use them properly, the readers enjoy reading and learning about characters, discovering who they are within the context of the story while being entertained.​

    WF: With that said, where is your leaning as regards a story being driven by characters vs. characters being shaped by the needs of the story?

    Terry: It really depends on the story to be told. My protagonists aren’t powerful individuals—not master swordsmen or highly trained Colonial Marines. They’re not renown spellcasters or unparalleled nuclear physicists. They’re regular folks that find themselves in challenging circumstances. They don’t always have the big picture, with events and choices often beyond their immediate control.

    Their responses, learning, relationships, successes and failures, and sometimes a little luck are what pulls them through. Here’s a quote with respect to the protagonist of Relic Tech which should clarify what I’m getting at: "The tech level premise is fascinating, but what really makes the novel special is the spirit of Krakista Keesay. Kra is a hero to root for—often underestimated, adept with brass knuckles, bayonet, shotgun, and all sorts of old style weaponry. He proves that, while technology matters, so do courage, intelligence, and daring."
    —Tony Daniel, Hugo-finalist, author of Metaplanetary and Guardian of Night

    It’s the balance between plot driven and character driven storytelling where, in my works, neither dominates.​

    WF: That's high praise from a Hugo-finalist! One last question: Knowing that there are many forum members who are both avid readers and writers of Fantasy, if there were one thing, one piece of advice you could give them concerning success in their writing careers, what would it be?

    Terry: Thanks. I am quite honored to have received Tony Daniel’s positive words.

    My advice would be to finish your projects.

    Many people talk about writing, and some even start, but very few do what it takes to finish. Hammer out that first draft. Revise and edit, research, and repeat, learning along the way. Get input and weigh it. Go at it again, improving the story through a third and fourth draft, and more. Writing a novel can be fun and interesting, but it’s also hard work and takes a long term commitment in time and energy and a willingness to learn, knowing that, in the end, there is no guarantee of success—however one might measure it. But if you don’t finish that story or novel, there’s absolutely zero chance of success.

    Oh, and after you finish that first piece, proceed with crafting a second.

    Finally, thank you for your questions and this opportunity to speak to the members here at Writing Forums.
    Thank you, Terry, and best of luck in all your future endeavors. :agreed:
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks Wrey and Terry! This was a nice read. :) I love the advise about finishing your projects... Editing, polishing, cutting out etc. it's all hard work, and, I've found, takes more time than whipping up the first draft. Or maybe @T.Trian and I are doing it wrong. :p
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    KaTrain,
    Thanks for reading! No, I am pretty sure you and T.Train are not doing it wrong, as there isn't one 'right' way to write a novel. Me, it takes a lot longer to write that first draft than to do the revisions and editing.

    And Wreybies, thanks for the interview! Great questions.

    Terry
     
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  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I always imagined @TWErvin2 as a burly viking.
     
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  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    He is. I think the picture above is of his high-powered lawyer, who is even more terrifying. :D (Sorry, Terry! I couldn't resist. :oops: )
     
  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Was that apology an attempt to placate his high-powered lawyer?

    I'm now imagining a Fantasy story about a Viking hero in New York, trying against the odds to stop the high-powered lawyer.
     
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  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Great interview Terry. I must admit now I'm deep into my novel WIP, I keep thinking that it is such hard work! But just having the words of encouragement makes me more determined to continue. :)
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for this interview. I've always admired TWErvin2 for his willingness to help the other writers on this forum, and the kindly way he goes about it. Never a smidgen of ego, or dismissiveness of other writers' problems. He is straightforward with his advice and his take on what works for him, but is always encouraging of others. I'm delighted that he's found success with his own writing.
     
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  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A.M.P. Must be the avatar I use ;). I'm just a regular guy...sort of. Depends on who you ask.

    Nope. Although I am a politician of sorts....a member of the village council. It's pretty much the lowest level of elected official, except for dog catcher. But I occasionally do get to talk to lawyers and auditors and such, where they answer questions and try to enlighten me :)

    The Iron Druid Chronicles has an Icelandic vampire that is a lawyer and works for a law firm headed by a werewolf.

    Great, Lemex! Keep pressing on. Writing is hard work. Not in the same way as hauling bricks, but you're moving stacks of bricks with your mind and imagination.

    Jannert, thank you for the kind and positive words.

    I think writers sometimes forget, especially when they see 'that same question being asked again' that they might have had that same question in the past and had it answered. The question isn't any less relevant today for the newer writer than it was several years ago for me...or for the forum member that asked it three months ago. Sure, they could search the old, buried threads, but maybe that didn't contain exactly what they're looking for.


    And everyone, thank you for taking the time to read the interview. It was fun to do.
     
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  10. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Great read!
     
  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for taking the time to read, Cutecat22. Glad you found it interesting and possibly useful. :)
     
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  12. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    One of the things I find interesting is that I've never been into fantasy stories s a reader or a writer but this bit you said:

    My preferred method, one that I’ve observed over the past couple decades, is to provide just enough information—description/details—giving the reader what’s needed, and within the context of the story whenever possible. For example, instead of simply a paragraph of description, insert bits through character observation, and/or interspersed within dialogue, and/or incorporated with character actions.

    rings so true for the genre I write. Even though the world I write in has already been formed because it's the world we are in, there will be readers who have never visited the places my characters live in so giving readers my character's eye view of the world, also makes it easier for the reader to "get into the character's head".

    And I love this bit:

    Many people talk about writing, and some even start, but very few do what it takes to finish. Hammer out that first draft. Revise and edit, research, and repeat, learning along the way. Get input and weigh it. Go at it again, improving the story through a third and fourth draft, and more. Writing a novel can be fun and interesting, but it’s also hard work and takes a long term commitment in time and energy and a willingness to learn, knowing that, in the end, there is no guarantee of success—however one might measure it. But if you don’t finish that story or novel, there’s absolutely zero chance of success.

    That, is just so spot on!
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. Even if you don't write fantasy or SF, where this is important in world building for example, any genre (romance, historical fiction, action/adventure, mystery, etc.) can employ this technique.


    I participated on a panel (Writing a Series) at ConCarolinas this past weekend, where this was discussed. I cannot recall if it was (Baen Editor) Jim Minz or (Author) J.F. Lewis who said: "81% of the people in the USA say they have a novel in them. Of that 81% only 1% ever manage to write the first draft." Whichever individual that said it, did not state the source. Actually, I think 1% is high, but I guess it might depend on what one defines as a first draft. In any case, both men are very sharp and have more experience in publishing than me, and they agree with us :)
     
  14. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Everyone 'thinks' they have a book in them and to be honest, everyone probably has but, I can agree that only 1% of those people manage to do the first draft. But, of that 1% who actually get that far, it would be interesting to find out the %age of people who then go on to iron out the creases, fill the plot holes, flesh out their characters, double check their research, go through beta readers, re-write sections, delete sections, read-through for the fifth time, re-edit, polish, polish some more and then publish, self or trad.

    That would be interesting.
     
  15. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I love the tie.
     
  16. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for taking the time to do this, it says a lot about what it takes in writing to finish books.
     
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  17. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lewdog,

    Thanks for taking a few moments to read.

    Yes, finishing a novel is a major undertaking--far more than just getting through a first draft, even though that is no small accomplishment. There are more than a few writers here on the forum with serious talent and potential. With follow through and a little luck, who knows?

    Terry
     
  18. Genghis McCann
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    Genghis McCann Member

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    Good, insightful interview with lots of practical advice. Thank you.

    "Finish your projects" - #1 advice. I love it!
     
  19. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Genghis McCann,

    Thanks for reading and glad the interview offered something of value. I've not been around the forums too much as I am pressing to finish up a revision that my publisher is waiting on...so I need to get back to it!
     

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