Christopher Paolini is currently participating in his “Putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy” panel and Shur’tugal is there covering the panel live! This panel features a host of brilliant fantasy authors, including George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter Orullian, KJ Taylor, and Kevin J. Anderson. We are currently live-blogging the event. To view our live coverage, continue reading!
Here are the highlights and quotes from Christopher’s big “Epic in Epic Fantasy” panel today!
- KJ Taylor, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter O, Christopher Paolini, Brandon Sanderson, and George R R Martin on the panel!
- Christopher got a huge clap, eclipsed only by Martin’s applause
- This panel is about putting the “epic” in “epic fantasy”
- Christopher: “I define epic as Wizard of Earthsea. Massive books can be epic, but not always”
- Christopher: “So Brandon, you’re telling us that the Wheel of Time is never going to end?”
- “Epic fantasy is a marketing category to distinguish the type of things us on the panel write.”
- “Within an epic story you can tell many small stories” – CP
- George R R Martin is sitting there playing with his beard. Hilarious.
- Question: How do you start world building?
- “You can argue that Tolkien is language-based, as it was such a large part of the world”
- “I think that it’s become very clear that everyone tackles world building with a different focus. Everyone’s heart sits in a different place.” – CP
- “All you want to do is write about big battles and action sequences. If you’re honest about how those effect your characters, you’ll start delving far into their psychology and build on them from there.” – CP
- “You might have a story where your characters don’t do anything…” “Isn’t that what literary fiction is?”
- “The world I created was a matter of asking very simple questions. Where do they get food? Who do they not hate?” – CP
- “Everything is: what is ______ about? Ask those questions to build a world”
- “There are tons of half-finished books where I have a great character with no world for him to live in, or a great world with no good characters to populate it” – Sanderson
- “World building needs to go hand in hand with storytelling, the focus needs to be on both equally” – George RR Martin
- “It begins and ends with the characters and their story” – Martin
- “We’re not all Tolkein and we cannot all spend decades inventing languages” – Martin
- “World building has come under attack on the internet lately. I completely disagree with it” – Martin
- “In Ice and Fire, I started with a scene where some wolf pups were found with their dead mother in the snow. I didn’t know what story it was apart of, what world it was a part of — nothing.” – Martin
- Question: Do you start with a character and let the character tell YOU where to go?
- Martin: “Yep”
- “Dammnnnnn! Damn! I’m an outliner!” – Patrick Rothfuss (after once dogging on story outliners) “We’ll have to discuss that afterward!” – CP
- “The best parts of a book are ‘beautiful accidents’ — part of an organic process”
- “I do do a — I said dodo.” Ah, fantasy authors…
- Christopher’s long (and interesting) and interesting answer:
“Looking up and down this panel, this is an awesome panel to be on. And Peter — am I the only one here who has beard envy now? More seriously, for me… I’ve never actually written more than one story. For me, every single story book that I’ve outlined or decided I wanted to write at some point — it always comes from a single image coupled with emotion. It’s usually the key turning point for the story. I’ll feel the emotions in my head and I’ll say, ‘This means something. This touches me. This is good. This is important.’ The challenge I then have to face is ‘how do I create a world and a structure to get to that point?’
Ultimately I’m an emotional writer. In the Inheritance cycle, the key idea was a young man finding a dragon egg in the middle of a forest. Everything I did after that was an attempt to justify everything after that experience. Before I started Eragon, I tried writing books before and couldn’t get past the first three or four pages because I didn’t know what happened next. So I decided to be very rigorous about this, plotting out an entire book… and I never wrote it. OK, now I know that I can plot out a book. I’m going to write my first book as practice and then I’m going to write a real book. I do love Eragon by the way, don’t get me wrong. Of course Eragon was the practice book. Each book is a 12 to 14 page outline, single spaced. I talked to Terry Brooks about this a couple of times — he’s rigorous about this as well. That said, you have to have the ability and courage to recognize when the outline is ruining your story. They grow and change in ways you don’t expect. You have to have honest with yourself to acknowledge that. ‘The guy I had intended to marry so or so, or kill the king, that just doesn’t fit now’ (MIKE’S NOTE: HINT FOR THE FUTURE??) ‘So okay, how do I work out the rest of the story?’ Without exception, I found that this process led to a much better story. I’m a big believer of outlining, but you have to be willing to throw it away when the story demands it.”
- “Writing an outline is like running a war.”
- Check out writingexcuses.com — Brandon Sanderson’s website offering advice to aspiring writers. “It’s soooooo useful. Thank you!”
- “Editors will let you know if your book is ready by sending you a check!” – Martin
- “Don’t take forever with a story. Write a story, send it out. Short stories are how I began and I still think that’s the best way to begin.” – Martin
- “It’s important to keep writing, to keep working on making your work better. But if you continue to write, you have to be aware. People may not learn from what they’re writing, and you have to make the effort to improve with every story.” – CP
- “Don’t write to the market. Write to please yourself.”
- “Epic fantasy needs better female characters” – Patrick Rothfuss. Christopher: “Patrick just nailed it there.”
- CP: “I like e-books, but I do not read them. I think they have their limitations. Reading on the computer is hard — it’s going to hurt your eyes. Ultimately I like having a physical book. That said, I think the format allows for a type of storytelling that hasn’t been explored yet.”