Looking at the Mad Scientist: Frankenstein Online

Last November, I read Frankenstein for the first time. Until then, I’d just seen the movie and read the background information on how Mary Shelley came up with the story. So I’m psyched to see that Biblion is looking at the book, Mary Shelley, and her circle. Lots of cool background information and essays.

Right now they have a lot of info up about the Romantics. Seriously guys, the drama in this group could make for some awesome TV drama. (Downton Abbey is already a hit, so why not have more historical dramas?) Get those English major vibes going!

PS–I’m also going to see the National Theatre Live version of Frankenstein when it’s shown in a couple of weeks. Really psyched to see Benedict Cumberbatch rock this one.

(H/T NYPL Wire)

Ray Bradbury Knows the Monster’s Sadness

Another loss for the literary world: Ray Bradbury has passed away at the age of 91. I haven’t read much of his longer work, but one of my favorites is his short story “The Fog Horn,” about a sea monster who hears the fog horn from a lighthouse and thinks the lighthouse is calling to it. From that story:

“The Fog Horn blew.

And the monster answered.

I saw it all, I knew it all-the million years of waiting alone, for someone to come back who never came back. The million years of isolation at the bottom of the sea, the insanity of time there, while the skies cleared of reptile-birds, the swamps fried on the continental lands, the sloths and sabre-tooths had there day and sank in tar pits, and men ran like white ants upon the hills.”

Saddest story about a sea monster ever. Make sure to check out the whole story in Bradbury’s collection, The Golden Apples of the Sun.

The Explosion of Plot

When I was in high school, I was really into writing stories without plot. Plot was old, I thought; existential angst was in! I wish I had seen this quote back then:

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”—Leigh Brackett

I love that description. Plot isn’t just action; it’s people getting in each other’s way and confronting each other.

Also, I hadn’t heard of Leigh Brackett before, but apparently she co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back. Awesomeness!

(via Writer’s Digest)

How to Build a Magical World

At Writers Digest, Steven Harper Piziks talks about how to write paranormal/fantasy novels. One big difference between fantasy and other kinds of fiction obviously boils down to the magical elements. Piziks says:

“The need to explain the magic [is] the biggest challenge, really. It’s so easy to use big expository lumps, but that bores the reader. “

I can definitely see this as one of the hardest parts of fantasy writing. You want to make sure your reader understands what makes this world/these characters magical, but you don’t want to bore them with an infodump. If your character is living in a magical world, wouldn’t he/she not really call attention to a lot of the magical elements? It would be like a character in a contemporary novel explaining in length what a television is or how a garage door opener works. (Although I bet Arthur Weasley would find that pretty fascinating.)

I think the introduction of these elements works best when they’re introduced gradually and naturally. For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss doesn’t really talk about what led to the collapse of the US and the rise of Panem. She wouldn’t because she doesn’t need to think about it. But we find out what Panem is and how classes are structured because she has to worry about who’s in charge and where her family will get food. In The Golden Compass, we meet daemons long before we find out what exactly they are, and can slowly pick up on the subtle differences between the real Oxford and Lyra’s Oxford.

Being able to balance necessary information with compelling forward momentum is enormously difficult, and I salute any writer who can do that well. What are your suggestions for creating compelling magical worlds without all the exposition?