Posts Tagged ‘fantasy


WorldBuilding: Naming Techniques and Philosophies — A Writer’s Path

A bit of handy advice for those of us dreaming up names for fantastic people and places. (Comments disabled here, please visit the original post.)

by Whitney Carter Last week at my Saturday writer’s group, we had a discussion about character names. One of our people is taking her first crack at fantasy, and one of the questions I had for her was whether or not she intended to change the plain Jane names she was using in […]

via WorldBuilding: Naming Techniques and Philosophies — A Writer’s Path


Fantastic Races and Why To Change Them

It’s safe to say everyone has read a fantasy novel at some point, right? We know all about orcs, goblins, dwarves, elves, dragons and the like. When we read or write in the genre, we’re aware of certain tropes and styles, and by and large, we conform to them.


When one says “elf,” one tends to think “willowy, long-lived, magical, pointy ears, forests.” There’s a lot of wiggle room in there, but we almost always end up with Legolas. There are other options, other ways to fill that racial niche.

Dwarves. Mining midgets with Scottish accents seem to be the most popular. Dragon Age turning them into political schemers and less-than-scrupulous merchants was brilliant, in my opinion.

When you say “vampire” to an older person, you usually get the Dracula or Lestat motif. Sexy, predatory, dangerous, tragically romantic. When you say it to a younger person you either get the modern variant of that (like Vampire Diaries or True Blood style) or you get Twilight. Much as I hate Twilight for being garbage, the sin isn’t in “what it did to vampires.” Trying to do something different isn’t a crime. Doing it really, really, really badly is. But that’s just me.

But why aren’t there more rule-breakers out there? When I was still working on my Milefront pen-and-paper setting, I decided I didn’t want any elves and dwarves… but I knew I still needed things that fit their tropes. So instead of elves, there were blood-drinking immortals born from a tree, who preferred to hide in their heavily-canopied lairs away from the angry eye of their mother the sun goddess. They were older than other races present in the world and had once ruled the land, but things went south when they pissed off mom, so now they’re dwindling and reclusive, but still magically potent and possess arcane knowledge no one else has access to.

I’m not too down with dwarves, so instead, I had a tribe of dark-skinned giants who crawled from the bowels of the earth, fleeing chthonian horrors and digging uncountable pathways through their mountain homes to confound and capture their pursuers.

Maybe those were stupid changes. Maybe I should have just had elves and dwarves like normal people. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something a little different, and I don’t think that’s a sin.

I’d like to see more folks upend that applecart. I want more goblins who are actually corporate bureaucrats keeping slave labor forces forced to push technology further and further. I want dragons who are deified humans who roar with the authority of the gods of old. I want orcs to be a warlike band of lepers and freedom fighters, pushing back against aristocratic and caste-system following elvish nobility.

I want some variety. How about you?

What kind of fantasy tropes have you upended, and how and why? Any good recommendations for fantasy novels that don’t just follow the Tolkien and D&D blueprint? Let us know down below!
KA Spiral no signature


Goodreads Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gaiman does it again; as with most of his works, he sets a basic stage with a great deal of drama, then scales things back to a much more human level, spending much of the story’s time making you care deeply for the people you walk these strange roads with. Inevitably, as is Gaiman’s usual method, once you’ve reached the peak of that emotional investment, when you regard folks such as Bod, Scarlett, the Hempstock witch, and dear old (and possibly formerly murderous) Silas as your dearest friends, he lays you low with a swift punch directly to the feels.

The Graveyard Book despite its trappings of fantasy and high adventure as a young boy raised by ghosts probes the past, discovers how he was orphaned and hopes to gain vengeance against the one who harmed him, is at its heart a book about growing up. The wonders of childhood rendered commonplace until viewed through the lens of another, the desperate attempts to keep things the same even as they change, and the knowledge that eventually, everything fades. Buried in that melancholy, though, is a hopeful message: Life is for living; live it while you can. As one of the ghosts that form Nobody Owens’ extended family tells him, that family’s time is passed; there is no change for them, no truly new experiences to be had. His time to join them in that state will come one day, but for now he should live his life to the absolute fullest so he can ride with the Lady of the Grey with no regrets or fear.

Bod’s struggle with those concepts, alongside his troubles with things as mundane as the school bully and as fantastic as a troublesome spirit waiting for a master of unimaginable power known as the Sleer, is presented lovingly and beautifully, and lets the reader feel as they are in some way growing up with him; as the book opens, things are fresh and new, but like with age or the nature of the graveyard he inhabits, the shine begins to wear, rot seeps in, and all we can do is mourn for it.

As with anything Gaiman, I strongly recommend giving it a read. It’s very easily one of his best, and even adults can pull something from it, despite it being marketed as a book for younger audiences.

Just mind the Sleer. And ‘ware the Man Jack.

View all my reviews

KA Spiral no signature


Goodreads Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I realized I had not shared my review of my 2nd favorite book of all time, and felt that situation needed rectifying.


The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I lack the words to appropriately describe this book. Gaiman is amazing, as always. He grabs you, drags you down into the waters of his imagination, and whispers to you, sounds like the waves lapping on the shore, and refuses to let go until the last word is spoken. Then he releases you, leaving you to bob up to the surface, both relieved and saddened that you have to leave.

Melodramatic? Maybe. But appropriate, I think. From our narrator first explaining about Fluffy the kitten to his final moments on the shore of the eponymous ocean, I couldn’t stop. Nothing else mattered. The book owned me, sunk its fingers into me and made me its puppet, leaving me wrung out, emotionally exhausted and completely satisfied when I finished the last page.

I’ll put it plain: You need to read this book. No excuses. You can find it fairly inexpensive nearly anywhere, it’s only 180 pages so can – and must! – be devoured in a single sitting, and contains only vague references to sex and violence, with no naughty words, so it’s appropriately clean for any audience.

Go read it. Now.

View all my reviews

Show your support

Adopt an Artist

Take pity, and eternal gratitude will be yours; helps keep this site running and the words flowing.

PayPal Donate Button


Follow Insomniac Nightmares on