Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Age of Myth: Scene Stealing Characters Stage a Plot Coup

Book outlines are, in effect, plans. What do we all know about plans, whether they be of the battle preparations or the best laid sort? For the stories of plots, they usually don't survive and often go into the delete bin. Such was the case with Age of Myth. 

I had my outline and my characters. I was building my story nicely, but trouble was brewing in the most unlikely of places—the tertiary character district. I can’t help it. Whenever I create any character, I create a person. Doesn’t matter if they have only a bit part, I make a whole individual. I can take greater chances with the third tier cast as the story doesn’t rest on them. In the case of Age of Myth I kept making characters and those characters were unfortunately—great. I discovered I liked them a whole lot more than the main characters. They were far more interesting, more colorful, more tragic, and more emotionaly moving. That’s when a radical idea hit me.

Why not make them the main characters?

This was silly. These assortment of misfit toys from the reject pile can’t possibly carry a novel about heroes the likes of Achilles and Hercules…can they?

So many fantasy novels are about privileged princes or princesses, or skilled warriors, or powerful wizards doing grand things. How many are about average people—no—how many are about less than average people making a real difference and doing something truly extraordinary? Frodo and Sam come to mind. Dorothy of Kansas does, too. I liked the comparisons and set out to explore the possibility of doing something that surprised me, that I hadn’t been expecting. The more I thought about it, the more it excited me.

How much of history was created by people too small to be remembered by historians? Did the big names really do the things they are lauded for, or was it the efforts of a dozen quiet folk who might not be respectable enough to carry such a lofty mantle as "hero"?

The idea just kept picking up speed.

Wasn’t a huge part of why I liked Lord of the Rings because they seemed like ordinary people who succeeded at achieving amazing things?

What if the fate of mankind did not depend on the bravery of a muscular man with a broadsword and a gritty past. What if everyone owed their future to a cripple, an emotional shut-in, a self-centered bitch, and a little girl who likes stories a bit too much? Wouldn’t that be way more interesting? How could such a thing happen?

This idea is where Legends of the First Empire really started.

I didn’t change what I had written prior to this discovery. I didn’t want to. I like that the idea might creep up unseen on the reader the same way as it had with me. I wanted the reader to discover this amazing shift from the expected to the—are you kidding me? No way!

As a result, just like in my Riyria series (where I began with a slow build and familiar tropes only to later twisted them), I did it again. Didn’t mean to. Just happened.

I’m glad it did.

Tomorrow: Age of Myth, And So it Begins


  1. The intentional nature of this writing really shows. This is from my review of the book: "The characters: From start to finish, they are well developed. They are believable. They are entertaining. They are fun. There are a multitude of characters in this book and somehow there are a remarkable number of them that are fleshed out."

    Now I know why.

  2. Finally able to seen inside the mind of a genius. I'm enjoying these immensely.

    Concerning the previous post, I do love the style you write in. Doing such you are able to remove the unnecessary repetition of “X says” or “Y responds.” You know the characters well enough you can just KNOW who says what.

    On this post, I’m glad whichever character wins out they produce a stories like these. Suggests a form of Darwinism existed in the First Empire.


  3. @CompuChip - thanks for writing a review - you have no idea how important it is to have independent feedback on the books. They really help for those who are on the fence about giving a book a try.

    @Tom I can't help hearing Wile E. Coyote's voice in my head. "Michael J. Sullivan, super genius." - Yeah I added the "super" portion but I'm honored you added the genius part. Have you read The Death of Dulgath? The reason why I ask is I recently made "Behind the Book: Making the Death of Dulgath) where Robin and I explain a lot of the backend writing of that particular novel. If you've not read TDoD then reading The "making of" will not make sense. But if you have, then you might enjoy the added peeks behind the scenes. You can get a free copy just by dropping me an email: michael(dot)sullivan(dot)dc(at)gmail(dot)com.

    I do try to avoid too many dialog tags. There is a book which I'll not name that I had to stop the audio book of because the "xxx said" were so prevalent I couldn't concentrate on the dialog as the attributions dominated my ears.

    As to the characters...I think the best bubble to the top, and I really like that this series is more of an "ensemble" cast rather than one or two main protagonists.

  4. any chance we will see a plothole cartoon about third tier characters taking over?

  5. I just finished it and have started a second reading of Heir of Novron to refresh my memory. Well, not read but listen, im too hooked on Tim Gerald Reynolds to actually read any of your book now. I was very happy to see this blog entry, i got a very Tolkien feel to the story of lessor folk doing what needs to be done while i was listening to Age of Myth. I read a less than flattering comment of (i assume) younger reader feeling you drew heavily off of George R. R. Martin, sigh. Will you ever go back and write more aboutGenevieve Hargrave: Duchess of Rochelle and Leopold Hargrave, Duke: Duke of Rochelle ? I really want to know more about those two characters.

  6. Hello! I have just finished listening to the audio books of the Riyria Revalations and Chronicles. I just needed to let you know that I LOVE this series and these characters. Not since Harry Potter have I found anything to engross myself in the way that I have with this story. Thank you for your creativity and for sharing your gift. I sincerely hope to read more Chronicles books in the future. :)

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