J. Kathleen Cheney — Historical Research

Over the last few years I’ve had to do tons of historical research for my writing, quite a bit of it in foreign languages. I’ve even spoken about this at the DFW Writer’s Conference. I’ve had to wing a lot of it. But we writers have one major advantage that didn’t exist twenty years ago. If you’re reading this, you’re looking right at it: The Internet.

(Now don’t dismiss the first line of attack, the public/university library system. Via the public library system, I can get my hands on almost any book/DVD/map in the statewide system. The library also has one thing the internet does not: Research Librarians.)

Even so, when looking only at the internet, there are several resources that might not occur to the newer writer. Yes, there are search engines and via those you can find specialized web-pages that deal with your time period (always […]

Continue reading J. Kathleen Cheney — Historical Research

J. Kathleen Cheney — The Delicate Balance

I’ve been writing Historical Fantasy for a few years now. I’ve had novellas set in 1905 Saratoga Springs, short fiction set in 1200 Northern China, and just turned in the last of three novels set in 1902-3 Portugal. Those publications have taken up the bulk of the last five years (so it was jarring when I started working on a new series in May that’s a second-world fantasy.)

I do love my Historical Fantasy, and I’ve found some real advantages to writing it.

The main thing that separates Historical Fantasy from other types of Fantasy is that the backbone of your setting is based in an actual historical period. You’re working in a real place that has real history and a very real setting, and in that setting, you’re writing fantasy.

So your setting already comes half made for you. Culture, events, religion…they’re mostly laid out. You don’t […]

Continue reading J. Kathleen Cheney — The Delicate Balance

Explaining it All — J. Kathleen Cheney

Last week I talked about how most Fantasy writers do a great deal of Worldbuilding. We like to be able to explain every aspect of our worlds, even if we don’t do so on the page (in order to spare the reader.)

But what about those things we can’t explain?

I’m not talking about Differential Equations or Quantum Physics. I’m talking about some piece of our world that we simply can’t pin down. It happens.

Here’s my example: I’m very cautious about shapeshifters. I like to have a reasonable explanation of how they’re doing what they do. At a most basic level, what they’re doing is Magic, but…what kind?

For most of the shapeshifters I create, I use a physics-based standard; if their mass changes, then I like to have an explanation for the difference in mass. For my horse shapeshifters (puca), they draw energy from the world around […]

Continue reading Explaining it All — J. Kathleen Cheney

Worldbuilding: Leaving It Out — J. Kathleen Cheney

Most writers who write fantasy do a lot of worldbuilding; they try to understand everything about the world in which they write. This often includes the world’s geography, cultures, economics, and history. In order to write a cohesive book in their setting, they have to know all those things. The same goes for other media like games and TV/movies.

If the creator doesn’t do that, it will show up in their writing as mistakes and inconsistencies. Readers or viewers will pick up on that (and a certain percentage will email in about it!)

But the other side of the coin also exists.

First, it’s true that a writer can do <em>too much</em> worldbuilding. Some people spend all their time creating their world, a quest to make it perfect. But if you spend all your time doing that, you never get around to writing. (In her book <strong>Plot,</strong>, Ansen Dibell […]

Continue reading Worldbuilding: Leaving It Out — J. Kathleen Cheney