Okay, confession time. I’ve never read a Robert Jordan book.
Nonetheless, when some of my critique group invited me to the annual convention for all things fantasy, sci-fi, and Wheel of Time-centric, I couldn’t really say no. I mean, Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson were both attending guests. You just don’t say no to that.
Suffice to say, we had a blast. The convention takes place just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, so it was a short three hour drive from our home base in Columbia, South Carolina. We arrived at our hotel late Friday night, watched a grown man pee in the bushes, discovered that trash cans were not in fact hotel room standard at this particular establishment, and mostly ignored the mildew ridden shower curtain while we washed up for bed.
Okay, the con was great. Our hotel? Not so much. Seriously, who doesn’t put trash cans in their hotel rooms? Not a single trash can. Not a one.
But I digress.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a scifi/fantasy con that was so writing-centric. It was very refreshing! Saturday we sat in a panel called “More Than Just Prose” which emphasized the importance of lyricism and working in poetry to the novelist. Basically, Pat Rothfuss talked about Middle English and geeked out over The Last Unicorn. It was awesome.
Next up was “Urban Fantasy Hour” with our pals James Tuck and John Hartness. Oh yeah, and Brandon Sanderson, NBD. They discussed the importance of darkened alleyways and generally making your protagonist’s life a living hell. Also lots of geeking out and proclamations of, “You can try doing this thing… but just remember… YOU ARE NOT JIM BUTCHER.” Good times.
I got so much out of Debra Dixon‘s panel on “First Chapters.” Like, I need to go back through my notes and inject some of them here because they were ON POINT.
According to Dixon, your opening paragraph should have one or more (preferably more) of these characteristics:
- Change is imminent
- Deviation from norm
- Inordinate attention to detail
Avoid prologues at all costs, unless you absolutely need the point of view of a character who is dead from page one of chapter one, OR if you absolutely need an incident outside of the main story line.
And finally, we should close the first chapter with the knowledge that a “fight” is coming up. (Substitute any inciting incident for “fight” here)
Sunday we went to a panel on “Robin Hood” through the ages which was… well, let’s just say it had its moments. The phrase “Dark Ages” was thrown out there in reference to the Medieval Period and there was much gnashing of teeth. Otherwise, decent panel. Moving on.
“Fairy Tale Hour” was amazing because Pat Rothfuss… despite the fact that he looked about ready to keel over and die. Poor guy, I guess he had gotten kind of sick the night before and was just feeling awful. He was nonetheless more eloquent than anyone else on the panel. Like a boss.
He threw out some really great concepts regarding the definition of a fairy story/tale. Which I then livetweeted. As you do.
I just love this idea. He described it as the intersectionality of the mundane world with the magical world. There has to be some way to cross from our world into the world of faerie. If this doesn’t happen, it’s not a fairy tale. Example: The Chronicles of Narnia – they go through the wardrobe into the world of faerie. Fairy tale. The Lord of the Rings – takes place entirely within Middle Earth. Not fairy tale.
That being said, on a microcosmic level, there is a bit of fairy story within LOTR in that the Shire represents a “normal” everyday world full of “normal” everyday people. When the hobbits first set out on their journey and see the elves in the forest, Sam is amazed. On this smaller level, they are passing from their mundane life in the Shire onto the larger stage of Middle Earth – where magic reigns.
Also, Doctor Who is a fairy tale. Just sayin’. THINK ABOUT IT.
The last panel was probably my favorite thing all weekend. Paul Stevens (from Tor) Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal, and Idaliz Seymor (from the About Words agency) offered pitch critiques to volunteers from the audience. Each person was given a few minutes to pitch their book to the panel. The whole exercise was very educational to watch, even though I didn’t personally pitch anything myself.
All in all, a fantastic way to spend a weekend. Hung out with my NaNoPants ladies, had some drinks with Harriet McDougal (whaaaat), met an awesome new author with a series about ancient Egypt coming out next Fall – Michael Livingston, who also teaches at The Citadel (whaaaat small world), met an awesome editor with Tor Publishing (hi Paul!), and generally had a fantastic time.
Sara and I sporting our Original Sinner gear. Because Tiffany Riesz. That guy behind us looks like he could use his own cuppa Joe.
Oh haaaaay time to go to the space partaaaayyyy
Just hangin’ out with the Sanderson. NBD.
OH and for future reference, any book over 1000 pages in length will henceforth be referred to as a “full Sanderson.” This is how we measure book lengths now.
So yeah, will definitely be going back next year. Great convention, wonderful staff. Good times.