How to write something that won’t offend anyone.

That’s a pretty good question, one I’m seeing more and more now, so what’s the answer?
Quite simple: you don’t.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble of being all inclusive and not offending anyone but it’s simply impossible. No matter what you write, there is bound to be someone out there who will take offence to it, it simply can’t be helped.

People get offended because something you said or wrote goes against what they personally believe or hold dear and you, as a writer, have no way of knowing what someone might get offended by.

The real question is though: would we want to read books that don’t offend anyone? I mean, wouldn’t it be pretty boring in the end?
I’m probably pretty biased in this regard as my main genres I read are dark fantasy and horror, and particularly dark fantasy have a lot of grim realism and disturbing things going on.
In there you will find rape, incest (sometimes combined), torture, violence against women, violence against kids, lots of violence in general. It’s just part of that particular genre and, sadly, part of life, which books reflect.

So what do you do when you read something that offends you? Well, you could of course just stop reading, that’s the easy solution, or you could ask yourself: was it intended by the author that I should be offended?
Some time ago I read a novel where a father forces himself on his daughter, a horrible scene and most who read that would probably be disturbed and even offended by it, which is a good thing! You’re supposed to! You’re supposed to despise the father.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind about all of this, is that generally, people don’t cause offence, they take offence; they GET offended.
You shouldn’t censure yourself as a writer because someone might take offence to what you write, if they do, then their writing simply isn’t for them and if you try to pander to everyone, you’ll just end up with a bland mess that’s nothing like your original vision.
Lastly, I’d like to talk a bit about what inspired this post.
I was on Goodreads, looking at reviews for a book that’s been highly recommended, Godblind, a Grimdark fantasy novel by Anna Stephens.
One of the reviews were labelled “don’t read” with the review stating that it was filled with rape and violence against women and furthermore added that it was a “trope” within the grimdark subgenre and a failed attempt at “trying to be artistic.”

And it’s true, grimdark stories often do contain rape and lots of violence, because those are horrible things and the worlds in which grimdark stories are set, are often bleak and horrible. That’s why it’s called “grimdark”…because it’s grim and dark.

Now, of course, the reviewer is entitled to her opinion, there’s no question there, but just because there’s something in the story that disturbs her, doesn’t mean it deserves a “don’t read” label and certainly not the reviewer’s condemnation of the author and her work. It’s simply a matter of “it was too disturbing/dark for me,” which is a fair thing to say, heck, even I have encountered things that were too disturbing for me to watch (I still have nightmares about Teletubbies).

In the end, the important thing when writing is that you write for YOU, that you write what you want to write and what you want to read and that you get YOUR story out there.

Novel and game: Is it possible?

We all know that writing fantasy involved a lot of world building and often when we read our favourite fantasy stories or watch our favourite fantasy movies, we hear of other places and other people in that wonderful, made-up world that we wish we could see, but never do as the story never goes there.

This has gotten me to think back to before I started work on my novel.
Back then my intention was to make a tabletop roleplaying game and now I’m thinking “hmm, maybe that’s not such a bad idea?”
We already have novels based on games like with Dragonlance, the Warhammer 40.000 novels etc. but what if a novel came out alongside a roleplaying game? could it work?

Imagine reading a novel and wanting to see more of that world, and then go do it with your friends with the Roleplaying game set in that world! wouldn’t that be kinda wonderful? I think so.

This of course only speaks to the people already interested in roleplaying games, if you aren’t, well, then you probably don’t care that much, but if anything, a rulebook for a roleplaying game set in the same setting as a novel would be filled to the rim with background lore, something someone like me gobbles up in a nerd-induced eating frenzy.

I dunno, maybe I’m just dreaming, maybe it’s just me who thinks this sounds like an awesome idea.
So let me know, what do you think of a fantasy novel being made and possibly released alongside a roleplaying game in the same setting? and if you’re not a roleplayer, would you consider playing the game if you liked the novel?

Let me know!

A small excerpt from my novel “Call of the Crow”

Seeing as my last post was about my very first novel, I thought I would share with you the first chapter of it, to give a taste of what it’s like, my writing etc.
Keep in mind though that this is just a first draft, an “alpha build” if you will (for all my fellow gamer nerds out there) so a lot can happen before it’s complete.

Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Erharts eyes hurt as he slowly opened them. A tree towered above him, dead and twisted, small drops of water gently hit his face as they fell from its naked branches. Around him and on his body lay it’s fallen leaves; and amongst them crawled countless beetles, maggots, and other critters. The ground underneath was cold and damp, and some of the dirt covered him in place. Overhead, an overcast sky loomed, dark and ominous, only slight rays of pale sunlight breaking through the clouds.

He tried to get up; his whole body ached as he started moving and the metal plates of his brigandine cuirass didn’t make it any easier. As he got on his hands and knees he felt sick, his head was light and it was as if something was lodged in his throat; he started violently coughing, the back of his throat aching until he regurgitated a pool of a dark, bile-like substance on the ground, and in it, a small insect of some kind was squirming.

He sat himself up on his knees, his head aching. He ran his hands through his light brown hair, it was greasy and unkept, and although he was only in his mid thirties, it had already begun to go grey. His beard was the same, although a bit longer, covering a rough face and pale skin.

His clothes were all black, or at least they had been at some point, now worn and the colour faded and covered in dirt. In even poorer condition was the long black coat he wore over his armour; reaching his knees in length, it was of military design, but had been repaired many times. The sleeves of it had been crudely modified to be detachable and a hood, most likely from some other garment, had been roughly sewn on. A long, slender sword hang from a wrap-around leather belt, its grips leather wrapping was worn and the blade had spots of rust on it.

Leaning back, he noticed a crow, perched upon one of the twisted limbs of the tree, with deep black feathers and deep black eyes, staring at him, unblinking. He felt a chill as it watched him, but couldn’t take his eyes off it.

Without being aware of it himself, his hand had started playing with something hanging around his left wrist: two fine silver chains, something he hadn’t noticed before. Breaking his trance, he looked at them and found two names inscribed on plates, connected to the chains: “Anneke” and “Ayla”. He ran his fingers softly over the plates, caressing the names. Those names meant something to him, they were important to him, and yet he couldn’t remember why. He could remember many other things, so why not this? Were they even his?

He slowly rose to his feet. A feat that took a greater amount of effort than he would have thought, his legs weak, as if it was the first time he had tried to walk in his life. He stretched body, bones creaking as he did so.

As he looked around, he saw that the grass around the tree, and the spot where he had lain, looked brown, pale and dead, spreading out almost like a perfect circle, presenting a stark contrast to the muted green of the grass and foliage that filled the rest of the immediate area. The tree also seemed to be the only one in this decayed condition, the rest crowned with leaves, although sparsely.

The world around him seemed awfully quiet, no leaves rustling, no sound of wings fluttering or birds chirping. Not even the sound of wind; just a lot of cold, silent nothing. There was a soft mist hanging over the place, creeping across the forest floor, amongst the trees, only adding to the ghostly atmosphere. As far as he could see, through the eerie mist, there were nothing but trees, no indication of buildings or any sign of life, except for his. And the crow, still sitting there. Silent and staring.

He looked to the bracelets on his arm again, trying hard to remember the faces that the names belonged to, but they just seemed to drift father away the more he tried. He had an immense feeling of longing and sadness when he ran the names through his head; and yet, a feeling of happiness as well. There were so many questions, so many things unknown to him; it was as if he had woken up in a different world.

He started walking in a random direction, at first struggling to find his footing on the uneven ground, the muscles in his legs giving slightly under his weight, but little by little they found their strength. He wrapped his coat tightly around him, it’s hood pulled over his head to at least give him a bit of warmth. The few rays of sunlight that broke through the top of the trees gave the mist an ethereal glow, it was like walking through a dreamscape, as if the forest would go on forever. In a way, it even felt alive in a way, who knew what was hiding in the mist? Unseen phantoms watching him perhaps?

It felt as if he had walked for hours and he wondered if he forest would go on forever, without end. He soon found relief as the trees became more scattered and he could see an end to this labyrinth of wood and fog. Suddenly, his boots sank into deep mud as he stepped on to a road going off into the mist on both sides; and beyond the road, in front of him, stretched barren fields. Finally he had found an end to the darkened forest, it had begun to feel like a prison, and he almost thought that the trees had moved closer, to smother him. He turned left down the road. Mud stuck to his boots, the road had perhaps once been well travelled, with the tracks of numerous carts still visible, but slowly nature was reclaiming it again. The silence was still there, no sound but the ones he made. As if life had all of a sudden been sucked out of the world.

He hadn’t walked long before he saw something coming out of the mist; structures, buildings of some kind, just off the road. Finally, a sign of civilisation, there was hope at last. As he came closer, it became clear that it was a small hamlet, consisting of only a dozen houses, with only a minor fence surrounding it, most likely these people were mainly farmers. He had come across several of these, scattered across the land, while he was on campaign, but something new, something different that didn’t belong there caught his eye: a tall wooden structure was erected just outside the entrance to the dwelling, shaped like a square pole with half of a spoked wheel on top. He knew instantly what it was: a symbol of the church. It had never been displayed like this before, usually they were only seen hanging from the necks of clerics, or in the houses of the very few devoted. A small piece of torn parchment was nailed to the wood, it had something written on it but it was impossible to read, the ink having long been worn away by the elements. When he inspected the construct closer, he found several names carved into the wood, they seemed to have been there for a long time, but he couldn’t decipher their intended meaning or purpose.

The houses of the hamlet were simple, small and made of wood but there was no light coming from any of them and not a soul to be seen outside. Even here the mist had crept in, and the relief Erhart had finally found was drained away from him. Several of the doors displayed the symbol once again, hastily painted in white and they seemed to be boarded up from the outside, along with the windows. The first thought that came to him, was that people had been locked in their homes. The thought brought to his mind, unwanted images of pleading men and women and crying children, locked in their homes as they were set ablaze. Though there were no trace of fire here.

As he stood and looked around, he saw a human figure in the mist, some distance away from him. He moved towards it, calling out with a weak, coarse voice, but the figure disappeared back into the mist. Erhart increased his pace trying to catch up, but there was no sign of whoever he had just seen and he began to wonder, if it had been his mind and the mist playing tricks on him. Not far from where he stood, however, was a house, it’s door unmarked and slightly open.

There was no light coming from inside the house and there seemed to be no movement of any sort. He approached the door and weakly knocked on the frame as he gently pushed the door open.
A low “Hello?” passed his lips. No answer came, nor any sound from within at all. He gently pushed the door open to reveal a simple home; wooden floor, a fireplace for warmth, but were it not for the soot blackening the stone it would be hard to believe that a fire had ever burned there. The furniture was sparse and of simple, yet robust design and a layer of dust covered every surface. Across from the door stood a desk and over it slumped a human figure, unmoving.

As he drew nearer, he saw the body to be that of a grown man, holding a pistol in his hand. On the right side of his head was a thick layer of black gunpowder and on the other side, a large hole surrounded by long since dried blood. “Such a poor soul,” he thought to himself, the idea of dying alone and forgotten like this was horrifying. And to do it by ones own hand, even more so. He gently removed the pistol from the mans cold grip, inspecting it keenly. It was of a slightly older design, its handle and structure well sculpted, made of some form of exotic hardwood and with ivory inlays, clearly a masterly crafted piece, and it seemed almost out of place in such a humble setting. Next to it on the table was a couple of lead balls and a gunpowder horn. With no small amount of guilt, he pocketed the lead shots and hung the horn from his belt. “No reason to let it go to waste.”

The man might have been a soldier, having been unable to live with the horrors he had seen, or the things he had done. Death, may have seemed the only option. This was something Erhart himself knew intimately, and couldn’t help but wonder how many nights this man may have woken up, screaming and sweating, horrible images branded onto his eyes.

He then heard something, like a child’s voice but distorted, very quiet, coming from a room he hadn’t noticed when he first entered. He moved towards the door, pistol in hand and slowly opened the door. As he moved into the room it was revealed to be a small bedchamber and there on the bed, he saw something that made his blood run cold.

Upon the tattered, dirty sheets was what could only be described as shadow and smoke, in the shape of a small girl, laying on her side, coughing violently. Weeping. Her features were unclear, like looking at a person through a dirty window. The voice was like a low, soft echo, unnerving and unnatural, and she sobbed as she coughed up blood, like someone deadly ill and in pain. She then started choking, opening wide what could only be her eyes and then grew still: Life seemed to leave her. If it had in any way had any life in it at all to begin with. He stood there frozen by the sight, trying to make sense of what he had seen, and then, it started again from the beginning, coming back to life to repeat the cycle once more.

Terrified, he slowly backed out of the room, feeling cold looking at it but unable to avert his eyes. When he was fully out of the room he saw something out of the corner of his eyes, a figure, standing in the middle of the room, watching him. He turned to face it and its appearance was disturbing to behold.

It was a gaunt, naked figure of a man; his skin was a sickly colour, bruised and sat tight to the muscles and bones; ribcage clearly visible and his belly sunken. He looked like someone who hadn’t eaten for months, and on top of his head was nothing left but a few thin strands of hair. His posture was crooked, as if his spine was deformed, and his belly pulsed in and out, almost as if he was struggling to breathe. It’s face was perhaps the most disturbing of all his inhuman features. His mouth, with its cracked lips and dark, almost black discolouring, like a bad rash, hang open as it shallowly heaved, revealing yellow, rotting teeth and a black tongue. His ears gone, leaving just small holes. His nose had rotted away and above it, two holes where his eyes and lids had once been, now torn out, leaving only dark chasms from which the same dark discolouring was spreading.

Time seemed frozen as they stood there and watched each other, and even though the man lacked eyes, Erhart couldn’t help but feel him staring at him. That there was something in those deep, dark chasms in his face, looking back at him.

The man took a few short steps towards him, stumbling, almost like it was unwilling to move closer, but some unknown force was driving him forwards. His heaving started to increase in tempo making him seem more like a beast than man and Erhart gripped the pistol tighter. Then suddenly, it lunched at him.

In a panic, Erhart raised the empty pistol and frantically pulled at the already depressed trigger. The creature hammered into him, dropping him to the floor and forcing him down. long nails scratching at the floor on either side of him as it tried to bite at his face.

The pistol fell from his hand as he struggled to keep the monstrosity’s unnaturally long gaping mouth from biting his flesh, it’s rotten breath assaulting his nose as coarse, shallow groans came from it’s mouth.

He kicked with his legs while holding the thing at bay with his arms, but it was stronger than its frail looks would suggest.

Suddenly his hand found the barrel of the pistol and he swung its heavy wooden handle at the temple of the creature, knocking it off of him and unto the floor.

Without thought, he was on top of the creature, holding it down, frantically bashing the pistol against its head, breaking bones and covering the handle in thick, dark blood and brain matter. He kept striking until its face became unrecognisable as anything remotely human.

Panting, he dropped the pistol and crawled away from the twitching body and leaned against a wall; his heart pounding like it was about to break out of his chest. He sat there, looking at the malformed thing on the floor, the ruined body twitching with small spasms, making it seem even more haunting and unnatural.

The scene invoked memories and images in his head of bodies strewn across the ground, men, women and children, lifeless, their blood mixing with the mud. His breathing became heavier and laboured, his head felt light and his hands started shaking.

He felt a strong sense of panic overtake him and he knew he couldn’t stay there, he had to get out, had to get away.

He stumbled to his feet, legs shaking, his hands cold. He rushed towards the door, leaning against the wall to keep from falling, his heart pounding faster and faster.
As he walked through the door leading out to the street his vision had become blurred and his legs weak. He fell to his knees, his one hand on his forehead, eyes closed, desperately trying to quell the thoughts and images assaulting his mind.

He collapsed unto the ground, and the world became dark.

My first novel.

The novel I’m working on currently is my primary project, besides this blog, and is something that’s been in the works for quite a while now and it’s taking up a lot of my time. Time I gladly give it, however!
It’s also my first attempt at a novel which is, to say the least, a daunting experience.
If you, like me, have only written very short stories in the past, then suddenly taking on the task of writing a 90.000-word novel seems almost impossible.
Originally, the novel actually started out as a roleplaying game.
I had done a lot of work on the worldbuilding, characters etc but when it came time to start working on rules, I found myself at a loss as I simply didn’t enjoy that process.
I did, however, have one very short playtest with some friends, to see what others thought of the world design and they seemed to like it.
However, I knew I never could complete the game if I didn’t enjoy the game portion of it at all, so the logical step, at least for me, was to turn the whole thing into a fantasy novel instead.
I knew from the start that I wanted something different from the classic fantasy, as much as I love Tolkien, I have become a bit bored with that sort of high fantasy, and with my love of the Dark Souls/Bloodborne games, my interest in the Dark Fantasy sub-genre slowly grew.
I knew I wanted the story to take place in a world where black powder weaponry was more prevalent, so based my ideas and designs on 16/17th century Europe. I also wanted it to be more of a post-apocalyptic setting, as I love that genre and thought it a shame that it hadn’t been combined with Fantasy more often.
I wanted a world that didn’t know magic, where elves, dwarves, dragons and orcs were nowhere to be seen.
A world, that when supernatural elements were introduced to it from an outside source, it would wreak havoc on it.
Most importantly, I wanted different characters, grey characters, that are neither purely evil or purely good. Why settle for black and white when there are so many shades of grey to choose from (no, I know what you’re thinking and don’t even go there!)
Fantasy today is rife with young farm boys who grow up to become mighty warriors, defeating evil and rescuing the maiden and I would have none of that.
Instead, I would have a soldier, in his late 30’s, how is heavily scarred mentally and emotionally from years of war and who deserted the army.
And so, the character of Erhart and the novel Call of the Crow was born.
A world where a great civil war has become part of everyday life, having raged for over 40 years but is suddenly ended, in a way that no one could have expected, giving way to a new era, known as “The Time of the Long Madness.”
Erhart finds waking up alone in a forest, with no memory of how he got there, but finds that the world he does remember is long gone.
People have died by the tens of thousands from horrible suicides and murder, much of the population driven insane, madness spreading like a plague. And some turned into horribly deformed parodies of mankind.
Erhart must now make his way through an unknown hellscape, to return home to his wife and daughter, while desperately trying to retain his sanity on the way.
So there it is, my first novel, and although I’m only 15.000 words into it I am enjoying the process immensely.
Creating this world from scratch with all it’s cultures, religions, people and conflicts have been so much fun and I will be sharing much of my worldbuilding with you on this site.
So that is it for now, there are pages to be written and monsters and nightmares to be confronted.
I’ll see you next time and don’t forget to praise the sun! \o/

 

Why blog as an amateur fiction writer?

This is something I pondered a lot when the idea of blogging first came to me.

If you’re an established author, it’s fairly easy as you can blog about your novels, what you’re working on, maybe even when you’re doing signings etc.
If you’re a non-fiction writer then most likely you have a lot of knowledge regarding a particular topic that you can blog about.

I did find one blog about why amateur fiction writers should blog and what it said was, basically: there’s no reason to. Which of course was rather disappointing.

So I started thinking about why I, personally, wanted to blog, and the answer was pretty easy: I love writing. Even more so, I love sharing what I write with others, get their feedback and learn from it.

Another thing, of course, is also the genre(s) you like writing within, you may not exactly be an expert, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to say on the topic.
I’ve always found that the best way to learn about a topic, or in this case, a genre, is to read as much as I can from as different sources I can. Everyone have their own take on a genre, and you should never be afraid to give it a voice.
The third part is kinda specific to fantasy and sci.fi writers, and that is the topic of worldbuilding.
Yes, the thing that many fantasy and sci-fi writers spend almost as much time on as they do writing their stories (I know I do!)
Sadly, much of all that glorious, wonderful detail that get put into these fantastic worlds doesn’t really come out in novels, as they are more about the story and the characters.

Here, blogs could also be a great help and one I believe may be underestimated.
In a blog format, you have the ability to post all of the worldbuilding you’ve done that will most likely never make it into a book.
And, of course, when your great masterpiece of a novel finally make it into book form, your loving readers can come to your blog and satiate their thirst for your created world between books (always dream big!)

So that was just a few of the thoughts I’ve had on the topic of blogging as a fiction writer and I guess the bottom line is this: if you have something to blog about, blog about it!