Mother to Katira, the main character in Stonebearer’s Betrayal, and companion to Jarand, Mirelle is both a nurturer and councilor. In sticky situations, she is the one most likely to stay rational and calm and keep the other characters from making rash decisions. This works well because both Katira and Jarand both tend to let their emotions guide their actions.
From her youth, Mirelle has been passionate about the healers art. It came as no surprise that when her powers manifested, her strength and talent aligned with this passion leading her to join the Order of Healers. She is unique among healers with the power, as she also has gathered a wealth of information regarding medicinal herbs. This knowledge is put to good use in the small town of Namragan, where she lives with Jarand and Katira and works as the town’s healer.
Among her peers, Mirelle is considered one of the best Stonebearer healers, second to Master Firen the head of the healing arts at Amul Dun, the mountain fortress of the Stonebearers.
Katira grew up watching her mother work healing the sick, tending to the wounded, and preparing salves, tinctures, and other medicines, all with an expert hand. Katira admired her mother so much in this ability to make people feel better that she begged to learn the healing art as well. As soon as she could lift the heavy mortar and pestle she pulled up a chair and worked alongside her mother. When Katira was old enough to announce her trade as a young teen, she proudly declared she would follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Want to learn more about the cast of Stonebearer’s Betrayal? Check out these posts:
Probably one of the most frustrating thing I hear about fantasy authors is the belief that we make everything up. We come up with a world, stick people in it, add a touch of magic, and voila! Fantasy story. The end.
The truth is, we actually do a fair amount of research. Precise details can bring a sense of realism to our fantastical worlds and often we take vital cues from already existing cultures and beliefs.
Today, Amy Beatty wants to discuss just that – the importance of research in all writing, including fantasy.
All fiction is a shared daydream. Whether a story’s setting
is modern day Chicago, Paris during the Second World War, Edo period Japan, or
a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the writer invites readers to enter
a world that is different in some ways from their own—a mentally constructed
And the number one rule for the fiction writer is:
Don’t break the daydream.
Imagine signing up for a much-needed vacation to an exotic retreat, where you’re sure to meet fascinating new people and participate in thrilling adventures. You buy the ticket, board the plane, and make friends with the person in the seat next to you. With a roar of engines and a stomach-clenching lurch, the plane takes off, climbing into the sky. A flight attendant wheels her cart of goodies down the aisle in your direction. Delicious smells fill the cabin—it’s not just peanuts this time! Your mouth waters in anticipation.
Abruptly, everything erupts in a flash of static and disappears.
“Sorry,” says some broom-wielding dude in the corner. “I tripped over the cord. Also, your mother-in-law is coming over, and your kid is wearing your underwear on his head again.”
Boom. There you are, dumped straight back into your own reality without so much as a by-your-leave.
That’s what it’s like when the author breaks the daydream
for a reader.
And that’s why good research is so important for writers—the
daydream is only fun when it’s convincing and immersive. Details make all the
difference. But a writer can only write
about what the writer knows about.
So, a mystery writer might study police procedure, a romance
writer might study relationship psychology, a writer of realistic historical
fiction might scour old almanacs for historic farming practices, and a fantasy
writer . . .
Wait. Fantasy writers don’t have to do research, do they?
They can just make everything up. It’s fantasy, after all; anything could happen.
But when something happens in a fantasy story that breaks
the established rules of its fantasy reality, it jolts the reader in the same
way as when a realistic story breaks the established rules of the real world.
As a result, researching for fantasy is, in some ways,
actually more complicated than researching for realistic fiction.
For realistic fiction, an author only needs to do enough
research to determine whether a specific technology (for example) really does
(or did historically) indeed exist in the time and place in which the story is
set. For fantasy, however, the writer must determine whether it’s plausible that the technology in
question could exist in the time and place of the story, given the context of everything else that has already been established about
the world of the story.
For example, some technologies can only be developed after the
technologies used to make their component parts have been invented. Are all the
necessary component technologies present in the world? Also, if a technology is
being utilized in one aspect of a society, it will almost certainly show up in
others. A civilization that uses steam-powered tanks to achieve world
domination will be more convincing if it also employs steam powered water pumps
and agricultural equipment.
One fantasy book I read used specific ethnic groups and
place-names to indicate that the setting was an alternate version of early
medieval Europe. Then, in the middle of the story, the characters casually sat
down to a dinner that included turkey and potatoes. For me, this broke the
daydream because both of these items originate in the New World, which would
not yet have been discovered at the time in which the story was set.
This could have been fixed in one of two ways. First, the
author could have mentioned in passing at some point before the meal that a new
land had been discovered across the sea (placing it earlier in the fictional
history than it occurred in real history). Alternately, and probably more
appropriately for this story, the author could have simply substituted similar
foods that would have been available in the time and place the author had
chosen, such as goose and turnips. But as it was, the discrepancy between the
established milieu and the items that didn’t fit that milieu was jarring, and
it took me a while to get back into the story.
By contrast, in another book, set in an alternate version of
modern-day London, a wizard and his apprentice toss a hand grenade into the
basement of a suburban home in order to eliminate vampires who have taken up
residence. The author’s careful description of the label on the grenade is a
potent detail that not only raises the tension and augments the sense of
immersion, but also helps convince the reader that if the author got the details
right on the hand grenades, he’s probably also right about the vampires.
An author who is striving for a realistic setting for a
story needs to make sure that what happens in the story conforms to the reality
with which the reader is familiar.
Likewise, an author who works toward a plausible fantasy
setting needs first to convey to the reader the parameters of the story’s
virtual reality, and then the author is under the same obligation to make the
story conform with that established reality.
In either case, a lot of research can be necessary. Because
the number one rule for the fiction writer is:
Don’t break the daydream.
Amy Beatty grew up in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park
as part of an experiment in crossing the genes of a respected research
biologist with those of a grammar aficionado. She spent her summers making
forts under the sagebrush with her friends and catching garter snakes by the
creek to populate elaborate sandbox villages—or holed up in her bunk bed
exploring the exotic worlds hidden between the covers of books.
She currently lives in Utah with her husband and their two
delightfully unconventional children. For fun, she likes to cut big pieces of
cloth into small pieces of cloth and then sew them together again. Several of
her quilt projects have been exhibited in juried shows at a local art museum.
Edrik, son of the murdered Drake regent, never gained his
dragon magic and cannot shapeshift into his dragon form. Unfit to marry his
love, the Princess Lissara, Edrik embarks on a dangerous mission to prove
himself worthy. He seeks Lissara’s missing father, the dragon king, before an
enemy usurps the throne.
Unfortunately, the search for the king brings Edrik to a
dungeon located in human territory. Inside the prison, Edrik discovers the
missing king, whose captors are unaware of his true identity. Edrik must rely
on a grubby young dungeon keeper to help them escape without disclosing that
his companion is the dragon king. But the dungeon keeper has a secret identity
as well, one that will change Edrik’s destiny forever.
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I’ve run across several articles that argue that fantasy fiction does not have the same merit as the classics and therefore children should be discouraged from reading them. They use examples such as the Hunger Games and the Twilight Series, comparing their worth against what they consider to be the true classics, like Jane Austen.
Their reasoning? Since fantasies are generally set in a parallel world and not the real world children will not be able to see the similarities in their own lives and therefore not be able to learn anything from reading them. In their minds children need guidance and reading 19th century authors like Austen and George Eliot will give it to them.
The books that are going to do children the most good are the ones they are willing and hungry to read. If a kid won’t read a book, any book, for whatever reason, perhaps the vocabulary is too antiquated, or they can’t identify with the characters or their problems; they won’t learn anything. Even if they do struggle through a classic, and kudos to those who choose to, there is no promise that they will find any more solutions or guidance than they would have found reading any other book.
I’ve read my fair share of both 19th century classics, fantasy novels, and contemporary literature. The books that influence me most are the ones where I can identify and find resonance with the story or the characters.
Let’s face it, today’s youth aren’t being raised in polite society. The days of cotillion, formal dinners, and chaperoned activities are essentially gone. The problems that today’s children face have changed as well. Sure, there will always be the quest for popularity and the unending uncertainty of who likes who; but now there are lots of other, more sinister problems that our kids face. The books that they prefer reading reflect this change.
This is where fantasy fiction can triumph. By setting a story in a parallel world, the author is free to explore their character’s problems in a different and new way. They are not limited by the confines of reality or society and therefore have more liberty to reach into the depths of a problem in a way that’s not feasible in standard literature. Readers are then free to make parallels to their personal situations in the way that suits them best.
Will our children have to deal with sparkly vampires? No, but they might have to figure out how to handle a relationship with someone who is considered different.
Will our children be forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat? We hope not, but they might be being forced into doing something that they know is wrong and need the courage to speak out.
Will our children have to go to space to fight an intergalactic war? Probably not, but they might have to fight against a bully and need to know that there are ways of winning.
Saying that today’s children cannot learn anything from reading fantasy books is absurd and narrow minded. If you ask me, they can learn just as much, or even more from fantasy because there are more possibilities for abstract connections between characters and problems that would be hard to find in literal fiction. The nature of fantasy is to allow readers to question reality and view their own world in a new light.
Here’s one of the articles that sparked this post: