Series Highlight: The Stormlight Archive

Way of Kings 3

Hiyo, everyone! It has been a while since I last covered any novels, so today we’ll be looking at a whole series of them: The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. This series is huge, still in progress, and just plain awesome. Currently, the first three books are released: The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. I last read the former two books back when they were first released, so it has been years, and I may not remember everything perfectly. However, I recently devoured Oathbringer, and it has left me wanting to revisit the series and discuss it with others!

It’s hard to properly describe the story briefly because there’s just so much to it, so instead, I’ll focus on three of the early main characters and their arcs in The Way of Kings. In book one, the character who gets the most page-time is named Kaladin. He’s a man who goes to great lengths to protect those he cares about, only to find himself worse off for it every time. After performing a nearly-inhuman feat to help the lord he serves, he is betrayed and branded a slave for his trouble. He struggles to find any hope to cling to in a world so consistently unfair.

Shallan Davar is a young noble who has traveled the world in pursuit of the renowned scholar and atheist Jasnah Kholin. Shallan seeks to become Jasnah’s ward – a sort of academic apprentice – but her intentions are not as pure as they seem. Her true motive is to rob one of the world’s keenest minds of a magical device necessary to safekeep her family’s future.

Dalinar Kholin is a Highprince of his kingdom who is known for the ferocity on the battlefield that characterized his youth. He finds himself forced into the position of a leader rather than a fighter, and experiences strange visions urging him to unite the nations of the world. Changed by the death of his brother, the former king, Dalinar searches for an honorable way to guide his country through the trials to come.

Those are only a few of the characters, of course. There are tons more, some with very unique viewpoints. Sanderson is a master worldbuilder, and the world of Roshar, in which these novels take place, is diverse and rife with deep lore. I can’t do it justice in a short post. I can only urge you to give the series a try for yourself.

That said, The Stormlight Archive is aimed at fans of epic fantasy – each of the three books in released in the main series so far is over 1,000 pages long. There’s also a spin-off novella called Edgedancer. I haven’t had the chance to read that yet, but it’s definitely high on my priority list now.

To make things even more daunting, The Stormlight Archive is one of many series that takes place in Sanderson’s Cosmere, a set of interwoven universes with varied magic systems. The other included series so far are less enormous than The Stormlight Archive, so you may want to start with one of those instead. Personally, the first book I read by Sanderson was Mistborn, and he has since become one of my favorite authors.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into any more detail here. Just know that Sanderson writes both worlds and characters that are deep and exceedingly well developed. I recommend his work to any fan of fantasy.

Have you read anything by Brandon Sanderson? If so, what are your favorites of his stories? if not, who are your favorite fantasy authors? Please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!

Why I Love Writing Deeply Flawed Characters

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to talk about something a bit different – why I like writing ultra messed up characters in my work! I don’t plan on actually discussing my own characters in any depth; analyzing them is best left to the readers. Shameless plug – if you want to see some examples, please check out my sample fiction, Borne of Fear, here.

When writers discuss character flaws, they often express their dislike of ‘Mary Sue’s – characters who don’t have any large flaws. And they definitely have a point. It’s important for major characters in any work to start with flaws, not only to make them more believable, and also to leave room for character development. Fiction is most interesting to experience when the protagonists struggle against themselves in the process of pursuing their goals. But, in this post, I don’t intend to discuss your everyday flaws. I want to talk about characters who are so flawed it’s hard to look past their shortcomings. Here are two reasons why I love including them in my work!

They offer unusual perspectives

It’s safe to say those of us who frequently experience fiction have met multitudes of protagonists with straightforward good intentions. If they don’t want to save the world, they at least want to protect their loved ones. Maybe they have some personal ambition – to excel in their field of choice, to hook up with their ideal partner, or just to find a place for themselves in the world. Characters with such goals work because they’re relatable. Just about everyone has desires like that. It’s easy to get into that protagonist’s shoes.

But what about a character who wants to destroy the world? To be fair, they’re not all that uncommon, either. What sets the interesting ones apart from the rest is learning why they’re pursuing that goal. If they aren’t given a compelling reason, that turns into a letdown for the reader. But when they do have a good reason, they can be marvels to behold. There’s something satisfying about hearing a ‘bad’ character spout their twisted logic and seeing whether there’s any part of yourself that at all agrees. That could just be me, (in which case you all probably now think I’m crazy) but I don’t think so, because readers tend to latch on to those characters. They’re fun to analyze, and, deep down, some of us may want to learn if we, too, are a little messed up in places.

A similar thought process builds intrigue for characters who don’t want to destroy the world, but who have personal goals that would generally be considered ‘not okay.’ For instance, imagine a serial killer who wants to make their kill count as high as possible, or a financial trader whose secret ambition is to crash the global market. Such goals are more interesting to consider than ones based on, say, sheer greed. A character who wants to do terrible things that offer no tangible benefit to themself is inherently more intriguing. And the more invested the reader is in the story, the better!

They present a challenge

As a writer, once I’ve developed a screwed up character with sick goals, I strive to go one step further. I challenge myself to make that character relatable, if only a little bit. Behind all those mental gymnastics and fragile excuses, there exists a person who wants something akin to the rest of us. I want my readers to make that connection. Even if they neither like nor pity the monster I’ve created, I strive to lead them to understand the journey that brought my character to take such extreme actions. If you look closely enough, you may find the remnants of a person who wanted something not so different from the protagonists I described above. Love. A place in the world. Some meaning in their lives. The deeply flawed character may have gone too far, or lost too much self-awareness in pursuit of their goal to understand what they’ve become. I want to show that train wreck in full. I want my readers to be able to imagine the better people my characters might have become if they’d made different choices along the way.

So, darker topic today! Please let me know what you thought! Do you find yourself intrigued by deeply flawed characters? Do you think they’re overdone? Would you like to see more posts like this? I’m eager for your feedback. ‘Til next time, have a wonderful week, and ciao!


Evi’s Tips for Combating Writer’s Block

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’d like to talk about a handful of techniques I use to beat Writer’s Block. Most writers I know find themselves uncertain how to proceed every now and then, so if you are suffering from Writer’s Block, know you’re far from alone. There are plenty of sites around offering ideas for how to overcome it; I have no intention of parroting those. I’m just gonna tell you about a few things that work for me. They may help you, or they may not, but I hope something I say is useful to someone!

Let’s begin!

Experience more stories

One thing that gives me a creative jump-start is reading, watching, playing, etc. some sort of media that’s compelling to me from a narrative standpoint. It doesn’t at all have to be perfect; it just has to do something I like, whether that be executing killer plot twists, developing deep characters, getting me really into the lore, or whatever else. While it’s not cool to copy someone else’s work, there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others. So see what stories the world has to offer – and remind yourself of why you want to write in the first place.

Develop aspects of your story one at a time

Quite often, Writer’s Block stems from a feeling that something about your work isn’t good enough. Starting a story (or chapter, or whatever else) from scratch can be daunting. You may have thoughts about your setting and characters, but struggle to come up with a plot. That’s okay. When I find myself in that position, I slow down and work on the pieces of my stories one at a time. You can flesh out a character you really like; think about what they like and dislike, and what they would do in all sorts of situations they’ll never actually experience. Use what you do know to create more. Imagine conflicts that might arise between your characters and setting/plot. If you don’t know what sort of characters to write yet but do know about the setting/plot, consider the difficulties your setting/plot impose. Make a character who has to overcome them. Make them fight their fears.

It may be frustrating to have to dial back the pace of your writing to get the specifics just right, but it’s better to work slowly than to come to a standstill.

Mash separate ideas together

You may have vague ideas about several stories you’d like to write. They may seem like they have nothing to do with each other. Try making them fit anyway; it can foster new thoughts. Maybe you’d like to write one story about werewolves and another about traveling in space. You could put those together by writing about a werewolf astronaut who’s traveling to the moon and doesn’t understand what sort of effect that will have on their body. Often, mashing two ideas together will lead to something that appears outlandish, but outlandishness breeds originality. You may find yourself with a story that really breaks the mold.

Just write

Sometimes, writing something decent can seem impossible. In the moment, everything that comes to mind may seem terrible to you. One way to break the stalemate is to write something terrible. It’s not like you have to release it to others. I find my emotional state can greatly impact my perception of my writing. If you make yourself write something you think is bad, you may come back to it later and discover some worthwhile pieces in what you wrote. Even if you don’t, you may learn something new about your world in the process. Worst case scenario, you scrap the entire thing. That doesn’t put you any farther back than if you hadn’t written at all. If you think you can’t write anything good, I encourage you to give it a try nonetheless!

Those are all the tips I had in mind for today. I hope you found something in my post helpful; please let me know if you did, or if you think my advice is awful, or any of your thoughts about Writer’s Block. All constructive feedback is welcome! Bye-bye for now!


Looking for Beta Readers for The Sapphire of Sacrifice

Hiyo, everyone! I’m just posting here to more visibly announce the the book I’m writing, The Sapphire of Sacrifice, is still in need of beta readers! If you’re interested in learning a little more about the book, click this. Feel free to¬†contact me if you’re potentially interested or just want to know more about what being a beta reader entails.

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading, and have fun!

Ideas for the Title of your Fiction

Hiyo, everyone! I’m making a brief post today. Recently, I’ve had to choose a title for the piece of sample fiction I intend to release here soon, which got me thinking about titles in general. I’ve always had some trouble selecting them, and I figure others probably feel similarly, so I thought I’d share my findings. To emphasize, I am in no way an expert concerning this matter!

Here are some things to consider:

  • Important characters, objects, places, or concepts in the fiction are often used as titles. For example, Lirael and Abhorsen (both by Garth Nix) simply borrow their names from a character or a rank (respectively) already present in the book. Similarly, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins uses the name of the event around which the book is based. If your work contains appropriately intriguing names or terminology, a key word or phrase central to the work may serve as an effective title.
  • If your work is part of a series or existing franchise, a title that ties it to that franchise may be appropriate. This works especially well for longer series.
  • If you’re looking for something deeper, reflect on the themes of your work. A title tied to a key theme can impart a certain weight upon the reader. Many literary works, such as To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, derive their titles from some theme.
  • Tone is important. If your work is a comedy, a silly title may be appropriate. Not so much if your works centers around solemn darkness. The title of your work is something of a promise to those who decide to experience it, so make it reflective of the content within.
  • Unless you’re purposefully trying to convey a sense of complexity (or something similar) in your title, simple is probably better. People often look to fiction for enjoyment, and people generally like things they can relate to, or at least understand to some degree. Unless it works against your purpose, you’re better off with a title that’s intriguing enough to inspire interest but concise enough not to appear entirely alien. I may not be doing a good job of articulating my point here, but the gist of it is that you want to choose a title that appeals to as many people as possible without sacrificing the identity of your work.

And, for now, that’s all. I told you this post would be a short one!

Have any of you struggled to come up with a title for something before? Do you have any tips of your own, or do you disagree with any of my advice? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below! I’m eager to hear from you. Happy New Year!

Why I love The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperors Soul

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I plan on talking about one of my favorite novellas (and one of my favorite pieces of written fiction) to this date, The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson. Before I begin, I’ll note that this post isn’t quite like the ones I’ve made reviewing other books. I’ve read The Emperor’s Soul three or four times now, and I freely admit I will be posting about it in fangirl mode. I’ve still listed this post as a review, because I will score the novella at the end, but I’m telling you up front that I really, really like it and will be basically gushing. =p

I will avoid spoilers as best I can, although as always, I’ll share the premise of this work. This time, I’ll also talk a bit about what I perceive one of its themes to be.

The protagonist of The Emperor’s Soul is a woman named Wan ShaiLu, renowned for her skill as a Forger – and a con artist. As a Forger, she is able to change the nature of objects – she can turn a ruined chair into a pristine and decorated version of itself, for example. After a heist gone wrong, she finds herself imprisoned by the Rose Empire, who have sentenced her to death for trying to rob the empire. Fortunately for Shai, the faction currently wielding the most influence in the Rose Empire has found itself in a bit of a predicament – one that they cannot fix, but that Shai may be able to.

Following a failed assassination attempt on Emperor Ashravan, the Heritage Faction’s servants were able to completely repair the emperor’s body. But his mind was damaged beyond repair, leaving Ashravan still alive but completely devoid of personality and unable to think on his own.

That’s where Shai comes in. The empire employs people capable of mimicking priceless works of art, as Shai does, but to them, it is completely taboo to Forge a person’s soul. Shai operates under no such restrictions. Therefore, in exchange for her life and the return of certain possessions of great value to her, Shai is tasked with completely creating Emperor Ashravan’s soul from scratch – and it must be all but indistinguishable from the original. She must replace Ashravan with a fake. Such a task would normally take her years, but she has only ninety-eight days to accomplish it, for once the hundred day mourning for the emperor’s wife (who died in the attack) has ended, Ashravan will be forced to make a public appearance. If he were revealed to be all but dead, the Heritage Faction would then be stripped of much of its power.

After agreeing to take on the job despite not knowing whether she’s capable, Shai is whisked off to a small room in which to work. There, she is closely guarded, and that is where the majority of the novella takes place. In order to have any chance of success, Shai will need all the information about the emperor that she can get, and also the assistance of someone who knew him very well. That’s where Gaotona, an old advisor of Ashravan’s, finds the bulk of his role.

Gaotona is an utterly earnest man on whom Shai will have to test her seals (the magical objects she plans to use to impart Ashravan’s recreated soul) despite the fact that Gaotona views what she does as abominable and thinks her talent is wasted on Forging. Only with his help can she complete her project – or find a way to escape before the other advisors decide she has outlived her usefulness.

Throughout the novella, the two come to better understand each other despite their radically different outlooks, and bit by bit, Gaotona is led to understand how every little action can influence one’s life and personality. He is constantly surprised by what Shai is about to do with her Forging – how she is able to convince objects that their pasts were different and, by doing so, turn them into what she feels they were meant to be.

This leads to one of the story’s central themes – one I find myself totally enamored by. What Shai does challenges reality as others see it. She takes pleasure in replacing original works of art with copies she created herself, and with having everyone admire them as the genuine artifacts. She also believes all things have souls. Her seals are only able to stick for more than a short while if the object she changes itself accepts the changes she would make. If they do, she effectively replaces their pasts with different ones that lead them to become new versions of themselves.

If I may digress a little, what she does is essentially use a story embedded in a stamp to change reality. That brings the nature of reality itself into question. What makes something real? Can a lie become the truth? If so, how does that happen? The Emperor’s Soul offers some insight into those questions, and it does so elegantly, succinctly, and in a way that leaves the reader thinking. I think that is what I love most about this novella. The characters are excellent, the setting engaging, and the plot strong, but that theme is what forever caught my attention.

I don’t wish to ramble on for too long, so without further ado, let’s get to the score. I rate The Emperor’s Soul… 5/5. Surprised? Probably not. =p

Have any of you read this novella, or any of Sanderson’s other work? If so, what did you think? If not, I highly encourage you to check out some of his writing – he’s one of my favorite fantasy authors. Let me know what you think of my review and whether you feel I can do anything better in the comments below. I’m eager to hear from you! Buh-bye!