Sunday, 10 February 2013

Tips, Tricks and Tales - Lesson 5

Editing your Story: Using the Stylesheet for Copyediting tricks

As mentioned in Lesson 3 Copyediting is more than just using the right tenses and pronouns. In a fantasy world, your reader has no idea what the place looks like so it is entirely up to you to describe it.
In my fantasy series the first two stories take place mainly on a planet that I called Xa’an. To me as the author it is a living, breathing place full of people, magicians, dragons, rain forests, cities and a desert. But since my readers can’t ‘see’ that, I have to make sure that not only do I describe it to them, it has to be a consistent image to them in scenes where my characters walk through the village of Akan, or the streets of Ikea.
While the copyeditor is as much reliant on my words as my readers are, I can draw a map of both these places on paper or screen for me to keep track of what those places would look like. These maps can then be part of my style sheet.
Copyeditors check facts and truths as part of their service to the author, but in a fictional world these facts and truths are purely figments of the author’s imagination.
However, if I have defined my fictional universe to have two suns, and space travel and shape shifting dragons, which it does, some truths will still apply. The laws of physics do still apply, and the accepted truth that an evil being in one form is not going to turn our to be the saviour of humankind in another.
Of course, you can make your universe and characters any way you want, but there are some things that cannot be made believable just by wishing it to be so. Pushing the boundaries is what science-fiction (and sometimes fantasy) is all about, but being consistent in the presentation of the facts and truths as you define it is essential.
In my fictional universe some of my characters have unusual abilities, but they are still people with flaws and limitations. A good character definition helps make a character come to life in my mind while I am writing, but the Style Sheet can have a short list of the major traits of the main character. For example: T’ara in Géra’s Gift is constrained by her gift when using magic, while Elizabeth in Keeper of the Dragon Sword, has the same gift is constrained by having no magic at all, and yet had to learn to fight people who did.