Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Enhancing the Reader's Experience

I didn't know much about writing fantasy when I started The Healer, my epic medieval fantasy that launched with Champagne Books this week. I'd been writing (and submitting) all sorts of romance from intrigue to romantic comedy to short, sexy category.

What I did know was that when I turned to the thick fantasy novels that I loved, they were intricately plotted, rich in setting, and so full of story you were curled into the corner of the sofa for days at a time.

This was the experience I wanted to bring to my reader and you can be the judge as to whether I succeeded.

When it came time to promote the story, I didn't have the first clue how to make my book stand out from the crowd. I haven't even settled on a tagline that I love. I start to say, "Vaun, a Kerf warrior..." and then I think, No one knows who the Kerfs are. There's no context until they've picked up the book and at least read the first chapter.

How will they pick up The Healer without a catchy tagline? It's a vicious circle.

I've mostly settled on:

Vaun, a Kerf warrior, frees a slave he thinks is one of his own, but Athadia is Alvian, one of the mysterious race of healers his people fear--and she senses he is one too.

It's fine, right? But merely 'fine.' I think that's one of the crosses to bear for a fantasy novel. The plots are really tough to sum up in a single line and still do the story justice. I mean, "a band of travellers return a ring to a volcano" tells you nothing of the richness found in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, does it?

I wound up turning to a worn copy of The Hobbit on my bookshelf for inspiration in giving my book a touch of its magic and what did I find within the first pages? A map, Dear Reader, a map.

I've posted elsewhere about how I used the 30 Days Of World Building exercises, by Stephanie Bryant, to develop my story world. One of those days involved good old pencil crayons and an atlas. I drew a map of my world and it stank, but it gave me a firm grasp of where the Kerfs were in relation to their enemy Shotes and these Alvian healers who were nearing extinction.

Hmm, thought I. If my potential readers had a map, it would begin to offer context to my story. In fact, I open the book with a battle that wins our hero a map.

Enter RobA at Cartocopia, a man with a plan who not only created an awesome black and white map for readers to print at home, but also gave me a version for promoting the book that looks like the tattered one Vaun gains in his battle to free Athadia. (above)

The printable map is on my website along with a Reading Guide and Character Guide (Note: the Character Guide contains spoilers).

What types of extra content do you like? Family trees? Do maps help you orient yourself in a story world?


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

A map is an excellent idea. When all the names are unfamiliar, it's important to establish a framework for those new folks and the reader be able to picture their setting.

January Bain said...

I'm with Julie! Hard to believe that when the writing of the novel is finished, marketing will take as much if not more effort! Best, January

Dani Collins said...

I know, I'm currently blogging my fingers to the bone! lol.

At least I'm having fun with it... ;o)