Why Orphans Are So Important in Stories

Oliver TwistFrom Charles Dickens to countless modern works, including some of my own stories, orphans are among the most common characters in fiction. I find this especially true in fantasy – so much so that The Orphan might have its own place among the pantheon of other iconic fantasy figures such as The Soldier, The Peasant, The King. But at what point do these figures become bland labels that define the character more than his or her actual traits?

Fantasy, a genre that so often pulls characters from the grab bag of tropes on display in either The Lord of the Rings or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, has received countless literary complaints over its apparent lack of variety. When a book’s first act describes a backwoods young farmer – unwise to the ways of the world (and obviously having some convenient prior experience with weapons via hunting) – I automatically assume that said farmer will be sitting on a throne before the end. Continue reading

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“Throw Rocks at Them”

Having to read my work aloud, even to someone close, makes me self-concious. It’s here — as the words are read to ears other than our own — that most of us question our writing’s adequacy.

I’ve been reading my manuscript (which I still refer to simply as Brisha) to someone at their request, and since we only have pieces of time here and there, I wonder about things like connectivity and plot complications, which lead to remarks on story arc and the strength of character development.

I ask openly if my audience of one is keeping track of everything and understanding characters, which only displays my self-concious attitude, because if she didn’t get what was happening, I would know that the shortcoming was mine and not hers. Continue reading