This is going around as a meme for the contributors on , and I had fun writing it up. So I thought I’d cross-post it here, for the entertainment of those who know me and my writing. (Especially those of you who have seen the unpublished stuff, as you have a broader sample in which to see patterns.)
Top ten signs a story was written by me . . . .
1. Names are somehow important. Seriously, I don’t know if it’s because my own legal name is so unmanageable or what, but it comes up again and again. Sometimes it’s as small as a married woman who’s left her husband choosing to abandon his surname; sometimes it’s Blatantly Meaningful Nomenclature or somebody getting their name from a god. But names keep on being important, again and again.
2. So are siblings. Or quasi-sibling entities. I have a perfectly normal relationship with my own brother, so I have no idea where this comes from. Siblings,
evil twins, or just really good friends who might as well be related.
3. Also religion. Which is so not a reflection of me. But fantasy deals with the supernatural, and I can’t seem to think about the supernatural without the divine coming into it, too. And really, when you get down to it, most human societies in most time periods have believed in some manner of godlike being(s). So it’s true of the worlds I build, too. (I’m probably the only person who thinks of Jacqueline Carey’s work as “those books with all the neat religion stuff” instead of “those books with all the kinky sex.”)
4. Characters surrender themselves to things. Sometimes the thing they’re surrendering to is the divine. Other times it’s fate, or their powers, or just The Inevitable, in whatever form it’s taken. But I seem to have a thing for that moment of letting go, and having that be some kind of turning point.
5. If I’m making up the setting, the names look like they come from some real-world language. This is because it’s an old trick of mine for creating the illusion of depth in my worldbuilding. If you look at Europe historically, you could generally tell Germans from Spaniards from Turks just based on their names; why shouldn’t that be true in a fantasy setting, as well? So now it’s become standard practice for me. (Though the practice was instituted after I’d written Doppelganger, so the only place you can clearly see it there is in the witches’ names.)
6. Yay art! Singing. Dancing. I reeeeeally want to publish my novel about a playwright in a fantasy world. I just published a story about a minstrel in Intergalactic Medicine Show, and I have a half-finished story about a sculptor sitting on my computer. I gravitate more toward what I know (which is probably why the sculptor’s story is floundering), but in general, I likes me some artistic expression. I like it even better when it has some magical component to it.
7. I’ll never give anyone a Fate. I’m far more interested in people who choose to step up and do something, rather than being destined to do it. If there’s a prophecy, it’ll be more of a conditional statement: “if this happens, then this will happen,” or “someday somebody will do this, but it isn’t pre-determined who.” There is one exception to this rule in the compost heap at the back of my head, but it’s a story that is going to examine the entire concept of fate very directly.
8. Romance might happen, but it isn’t guaranteed. Many of my characters are too busy to really think about that. Or so hung up on various issues that, while by the end of the story they may be ready to consider it, the actual lovey-dovey developments are more left to the reader’s imagination than played out onstage. At most, it’s a B plot trying to make space for itself in the A plot that’s busy trying to kill everybody. I would make a terrible romance author . . . .
9. I know my folklore. Several of my published or soon-to-be-published short stories are built off fairy tales, ballads, or other traditional narratives. Bits and pieces also show up in things that aren’t as directly related. It’s an endless source of material for me.
10. You can always tell I’m an anthropologist. In fact, I even have a “Cultural Fantasy Manifesto” posted on my site. I like worldbuilding, and I like building worlds that do new and interesting things. And then my stories are always tied closely into their setting, with the culture shaping how the characters think and what choices they make, so that you couldn’t possibly transplant them into a different world without the story just falling apart.