Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monsters in fiction need to make sense. Wisdom from author L. Blankenship


I am pleased to welcome author L. Blankenship to my blog. I discovered Ms. Blankenship a few months ago. She's a fantastic speculative fiction author, and I have to say that I've been zooming through this offering of hers like a kid through cotton candy. Perhaps next week, I'll have a review for you. Until then, please read what she has to say :).

*****

FROM THE BACK COVER:

The saints favor her, else-wise a peasant girl like Kate Carpenter would never be apprenticed to the kingdom’s master healer. But her patron saint also marks her ready for the duty of tending to a mission that must cross the ice-bound mountains.
Their little kingdom faces invasion by a vast empire and desperately needs allies; across the snow-filled pass, through the deathly thin air, is a country that’s held off the empire and may be willing to lend an army.

Kate knows about frostbite and the everyday injuries of wilderness travel. She can heal those.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though.

And she isn’t ready for the monsters that harry them night and day, picking off their archers first, wearing the party to exhaustion, pushing Kate beyond the limits her healing abilities.

She must keep them alive, or her blood will be on the snow too.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MONSTERS:

The monsters that Kate and her companions face are unsettlingly smart and organized. The cover story to keep their mission secret is that they're on a hunting trip to thin these monsters' numbers. Who's thinning whose numbers becomes a going question once the travelers are worn to exhaustion.

They call the monsters lamia. The lamia are wolves who've grown up drinking the magic-laced waters of a fount -- it changes them into something more dangerous. But lamia are still part of the local ecology and however intelligent they are, they still need to "make sense."

Any fantasy world that includes monsters, whether it's dragons or unicorns or invented creatures like my wolf-lamia, ought to take basic ecology into consideration. Even monsters need to eat and raise their young. They need places to sleep and everyday lives to go about.

It's a personal peeve of mine that in so many movies, our hero goes into a forest/jungle/desert and immediately trips over a large predator who has nothing better to do today than chase a random human around. This is usually fatal for the predator, too. It's a senseless and annoying trope IMO.

Author photo of L. Blankenship
I asked myself some basic questions, when I was creating my lamia:

  • What do they normally eat? Why are humans on the menu? My answer: they eat deer and elk, normally. But most humans are easy to kill, especially children. It's the ones with bows you have to look out for. 
  • What ordinary animal are they filling in for? My answer: wolves, bears, and cougars all at once. An area can only support a limited number of predators, and my lamia fill all those niches.
  • What are their motivations for approaching humans? My answer: they are defending their territory, especially the magical fount. They know humans are competition for both the fount and for prey in the stretch of forest the lamia claim.  

What questions would you add to my list?

Find L. Blankenship at the following places:

And you can find her on GOODREADS located HERE.

15 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What part of the ecosystem and predatory niche - good point!
And see the cover for your next book, Michael - very cool! Guess your publisher decided not to wait until the last minute this time, huh?

E.J. Wesley said...

Love L's 3 points/considerations on creating her monsters. Very easy to follow guide for creating believable nasties. :-)

And the new cover rocks!

Cindy said...

So much stuff to read, so little time.

And your new cover looks great.

Andrew Leon said...

I think monsters usually fall under the "it's magic" idea that doesn't need any explanation.
As most people see it anyway.

Charity Bradford said...

Having just read this I can testify they fit so well that you never doubt the possibility of their existence. And they are SO CREEPY smart!

Sarah Ahiers said...

THIS. I can't ignore these kinds of thoughts. Everything needs to make sense int he milieau

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

@Alex: Yeah, I think my pub must like me cause he said he's busy through 2014 and didn't know when he'd get to this. Then he just pushed everything aside to do it.

@E.J.: Thanks man for the compliment on the cover. I think it ties the series together.

@Cindy: LOL yeah there's lots of books that are begging to be read. I'm so random with what I zero in on. I basically have no method at all.

@Andrew: You're probably right.

@Charity: Oh! Definitely. I'm reading it too. So great that we can compare notes.

@Falen: Indeed :) Thanks for visiting.

Stephen Hayes said...

It always bothers me when I read a story or watch a movie and thousands of monsters arrive and I wonder how they are fed, what sustains them and makes their existence possible. Interesting interview.

Elise Fallson said...

Working on a new project with a lot of world and monster/creature building, this post is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing. Got this book on my tbr list, looking forward to reading it. (:

Melissa Bradley said...

I've always thought about monsters as just being monsters. I never thought about giving them a reason. Humans invading their territory always seemed good enough to me. But these are excellent questions to think about going forward. Great post!

Matthew MacNish said...

Yes! Even in Fantasy, you have to consider the logistics of a thing. Sounds like an awesome book.

Leigh Covington said...

Hey Michael! Long time no see!

This book sounds really interesting. Hope you'll be sharing a review soon. :)

Damyanti said...

I like the author to establish the logic of their world early. Good advice.

Lisa said...

Nice to meet you L. Blankenship. Your book sounds great and you are so interesting.

kmckendry said...

Great thoughts on monsters. I'll keep that in mind.