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Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Fantasy Writer's Conundrum


As a visual artist as well as an author, I have a very difficult time writing a blog post without including at least one image. So here's one of the 34 illustrations I did for my book Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor. And it actually ties in to what I'm going to write about today, which is a conundrum in writing fantasy.

You can clearly tell I write fantasy by the apron on the hare as well as the cat and rat having a calm conversation.

Last year my sister bought me a wonderful book, Writing for Animals, an anthology of essays about writing in the voice or, and to advance the cause of animals. One of the essays (so sorry I can't remember which one it was and therefore the author) advised for writers of fantasy to add as many realistic details as possible so as to avoid stretching the reader's credulity too far.

I've been writing the sequel to my Milkweed book, Dark Days at Milkweed Manor, and last night I was working on the opening scenes of one of the stories. A hare and two rats are sitting on the fringe of a work site where large machines are scraping, digging, and gouging the earth. Tragically, the ground they're destroying was the home of these three animals as well as many others who have been killed or displaced.

When I woke up this morning, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was realizing hares don't live in burrows - they live in grass nests! So, surely, living in grass nests, the hares would have had plenty of time to escape. Oh, no! What to do?

If I left my writing as is, then I'd be in error about the way hares live. Even if most readers wouldn't catch the error, some would and I would always know it was there. On the other hand, if I write about the hares living in above-ground grass nests, the story as I've written it won't make sense. 

After some cogitation I decided to be as unspecific as I can while still leaving an impressions that the hares were in a position to be caught unawares. This may seem to be a small problem, but I'm glad I caught it!

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