Guest Post: My Top Five Tips For Writing Great Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels by Michael Phillip Cash

Hey everyone. I’m honored to share this amazing guest post from author Michael Phillip Cash. Be sure to check out his website and links down below, and don’t forget to follow the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway as well! Take it away Michael!

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“My Top Five Tips For Writing Great Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels”

By Michael Phillip Cash

When you’re just starting out as an author you may be tempted to heed the advice to “write what you know.” But what about writers who want to write in the Science Fiction Fantasy genre? That’s certainly not a world you’re going to have some knowledge of. But wait. Don’t get discouraged. You have a distinct advantage over some other genres. Everything you need to know about writing Sci-Fi Fantasy is already stored right in your noggin. That’s because it’s your world and you get to create every single thing about it. It’s known as world building and it’s awesome. As long as you keep some things in mind you’ll be good to go. Here are my top five tips for writing great Sci-Fi Fantasy books:

  1. Read, read and then read some more

Read every science fiction/fantasy book you can get your hands on. Study them like you would any other reference book. Learn from the masters. Take notes as you read. Don’t aim to copy, but use other books as jumping off points for your own unique stories.  

  1. Tap into traditional fantasy elements

It’s okay to include the standard trolls, elves, giants, wizards, warriors, or whatever. Just use them in totally different and unique ways. Use these tried and true elements, but do it as originally as possible.

  1. Combine basic writing principles in distinctly unique ways

Boy loves girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets captured by a ten-foot tall giant and girl must use her magical powers and her talking dragon to fool the giant into letting boy go. You get the idea. Much of what works in say for instance romance or another genre will work in fantasy. You just have to do it with a magical sort of imagination.

  1. Make sure your characters have dreams, hopes and goals

If your characters have nothing at stake, or nothing to overcome then no one will care what happens to them. When you’re creating your cast of characters, be sure to give them strengths, weaknesses, fears and flaws. Even fantasy characters have these and this is what will keep your readers invested in your story.

  1. Study old (and new) maps, and learn about different cultures and climates.

Maps are beautiful and artistic props to use as inspiration – particularly older maps. Imagine what it might be like to live in a foreign land. Research the clothing, tools and equipment other cultures use now and in the past. Considering what the terrain or climate might be like in your fantasy world will ultimately allow your readers to immerse themselves in your story.  

About Michael Phillip Cash

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Michael Phillip Cash is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter. His novel The Battle for Darracia is a three-part saga and is available on Amazon.

Michael’s novels are best-sellers on Amazon under their genres – Young Adult, Thriller, Suspense, Ghost, Action Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror. Michael writes full-time and lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wonderful wife and screaming children. You can follow him @michaelpcash or connect with him via his website.

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Interview with Author Stephan Morse

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Writing came about from a failed project in the 5th grade. It was a bad fiction where I turned into a dragon and burned some other child in class I hated for reasons that were probably silly. We ended up meeting Ursula Le Quin (I believe, this was decades ago well before I’d read her books) as part of a school event. Between those two events, I’d always had an interest in writing novels. It only grew as I went through Junior High and High School and read anything fantasy related in three libraries. It took some time before I dared to write my own novels and release them to the public.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

 I tend to read a dozen or so books as part of my recharge process. over a few month span.  The Fiasco came about from a superhero kick, where I read nearly anything my Kindle could find from the genre. During this reading spree I’d been editing prior works, prepping some for release on eReaders, and so on. I wanted to try something new – a way to see a new story in an older setting. Comics, movies, and even a few old audio novels all played their part in inspiring The Fiasco but I feel like I managed something new(ish), which is my first goal when writing.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

It’s less about theme and more about exploring the rest of a world that others may ignore. As an example, my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe were the ones that fell between the cracks – specifically the Morlocks. They weren’t good enough to fit on a team, they weren’t powerful enough to be villains or anything else, and generally ugly enough that everyone gave them dirty looks. I loved these people because they were living a real life. They had day jobs and failure to fit in with normal crowds. They were the most developed characters because their plight started well before mainstream heroes started addressing life behind the mask.That sunk in, misfits among misfits.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

The Fiasco’s superhero sort of ideas were a weird mix of every other mainstream series – since I’d spent so much time reading superhero novels. That being said, probably Marvel’s universe had the biggest impact on a desire to write in the genre. It’s simply been around so long that nearly everything else shares some inspiration from their works. Heck, I grew up reading comics (and compulsively sorting them). But I couldn’t let my work be a carbon copy of the classic coming of age and learning to use powers for great justice sort of tale. It couldn’t be about stopping the big bad from ruining the world in their ill thought out megalomaniac plot. It became about the captives left behind, the person who’s forced to be in all these powered events. The man who’s simply tired of being in the super powered world because he’s never the actual hero or a catharsis seeking vigilante/villain.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

There’s a lot of stuff I’d ask my characters – and constantly are things I’m asking them. I could pick Ted, who’s the first book’s semi villain and sort of mentor. His role is complicated because people are rarely one dimensional. He wants to get back at those who ruined his life and took away his daughter. He wants to make his wife see that there are some forces which are unstoppable – that losing their kid wasn’t his fault, but he also wants Adam to answer for his reactive role in everything that goes on. But because I know all those things, asking him his motivation seems weird.So, any question I ask has to be really out of the way.

Like, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten and where was it? That’s a question I may never have an answer to. So now, I really want to know.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Facebook, hands down. I have my little author page and hang out in a few groups that focus on the same genre as my main series. It’s fun interacting with the readers who ping me when topics come up. I try to avoid self promotion and generally only pop by when someone messages me about a post – but Facebook lets me see what people think about the work, and that’s always an awe inspiring moment.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Finish a book. Don’t restart it 10 times. Don’t edit it until you’re drowning and hate yourself. Finish it. Quality aside, knowing that you have finished a book means a ton. It was the greatest thing I ever did.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

More books, more writing. But real life and the day job take precedence over putting together novels. However, now that I’ve started – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop. There will be two more books for The Fiasco eventually, bringing the series to a close. There’ll be some virtual reality based books along with western fantasy mashups. Ideas tend to occur faster than my fingers can type.

How I Met Your Mother Fail: My Problem with the Finale:

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER OR THE FINALE, DON’T READ AHEAD.

Now before I write this, let me state a simple fact: I loved How I Met Your Mother and all the characters over the course of it’s nine
seasons. While the ninth and final season had it’s hiccups, I even loved the emotional core of the season. This post however is one writer’s
perspective on the finale, and why I felt it failed to conclude the series story properly.

There are a few problems I had with the finale as both a fan and as a writer. First off, let’s start with the fact that the final episode
felt like a forced plot. Spending an entire season building up this massive weekend affair for Robin and Barney’s wedding, plus spending
the whole last season showing Barney and Robin’s progression as characters to evolve to a loving, more committed place, would have been
a great payoff. However, to end the series with Robin choosing her career over a balance of work and love, and having Barney return to
womanizing after the divorce, only to get a woman pregnant and become a father, seems a huge disservice to the growth each character
had towards the end of the series.

Now let’s talk about Ted and The Mother. The entire series has been this huge build up of meeting the mother. Everyone has been looking
forward to learning the mother’s identity, and then we spent the entire last season meeting and falling in love with the mother character.
It seems to me that the entire series led up to this beautiful relationship building between Ted and the Mother, and then we finally get
this relationship, and then she’s taken away by an unknown disease. Then, to end the series, the kids tell Ted to go after their aunt
Robin. To me, this seems like one of the biggest slaps in the face the audience could get.

To me, this, coupled with little things in the finale like Robin leaving the group because of another burst of unresolved feelings for Ted,
or the group loosing touch with one another after going through everything they went through together, made the finale a bust. The biggest
takeaway from the finale was that Barney, Robin and Ted seemed to regress to their season 1 selves, completely taking away the growth each
character had throughout the series.

The only people that seemed to grow as people were Marshall and Lily, and yet their success was not enough to wash away the bad taste this finale left. As a writer, I felt let down by the utter lack to faithfulness to the characters. If I had
written the show, I either would have alluded to Robin’s conflicting feelings for Ted throughout the series more often, with the Barney
relationship being a mistaken hook up and nothing more, or I would have let the mother live, and let Barney and Robin stay together, and the
group, including the mother, would stay together as a close-knit group of friends. To me at least, the name of the game would be growth for
these characters, and this finale was more about a total regression.

What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below whether or not you guys liked the finale, or if you agree with my view on it.

The Voice of the Night by Dean Koontz Review

While it’s always enjoyable to get into huge, epic stories with a massive cast of characters and an incredible tale, sometimes the best books
can be incredibly short, sweet, and to the point. That is the case with Dean Koontz’s novel, The Voice of the Night. Following the friendship
between two boys, Colin and Roy, and the troubling developments that come when Colin realizes there’s something not quite right with Roy, this
book features a very small and intimate cast, where all but two or three of the characters are truly likeable, and readers are given a fantastic
look into the horrors humanity is capable of inflicting on itself and how few innocent people reside in it, and how even an innocent can be
turned and twisted into something unimaginable. For those looking for a short and intimate read, then The Voice of the Night by Dean Koontz
is for you. Filled with the classic elements of horror and mystery, this is a great read and well worth the time and effort.

Books and Other Media Formats #1: The Stand by Stephen King

One of the biggest inspirations for me personally as a writer is other media formats. While the written word is my favorite medium of storytelling,
when I write, I imagine what certain scenes in my books would look like as a movie or television series. I also enjoy seeing some of my
favorite books translated into film, television and other media formats. One book I’m incredibly excited to see become a film franchise is
Stephen King’s The Stand. Written as an epic saga of good versus evil, the book follows the survivors of a devastating plague that wipes out
all but a few of the human population. Those survivors must choose whether to follow the path of the light or give into the evil desires of
a ruthless stranger who seeks to wipe out the remaining good guys in the world. It’s an interesting take on the classic tale of the apocalypse,
and this story is incredibly character driven, and I think with the right cast this can be an amazing new film series that fans and newcomers
alike will enjoy. Who do you think should be in The Stand series? If you don’t know the book that well, what book do you want to see get
made into a movie/tv series next?

Future Book Reading #1: Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to be a Grown Up

While most of my favorite books to read are usually fiction, specifically horror and science fiction novels, I’ve been enjoying reading
memoirs and nonfiction books more in recent years than I ever did before. After reading and reviewing Viv Albertine’s memoir,
Clothes…Music…Boys…, I really enjoyed reading that kind of book, and since I’m also a fan of and a part of the YouTube community, the
next book I’d like to read is Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending To Be A Grown Up. Written by one of my favorite YouTubers, gracehelbig,
this book looks to be hilarious, and filled with funny and honest experiences from her life and her advice for anyone who’s ever had to
grow up fast or anyone still struggling to grow up. This is #1 on my list of memoirs to read, and I look forward to the day when I get my
hands on a copy of this amazing book.

Character Development #1: The Antagonist

Developing your characters is an essential part of the writing process when creating a new story. While most people might think that flushing
out your protagonist is the first step in the process of creating your characters, for me, I find developing the antagonist a lot more essential
to the creative process. As I’ve talked about before, without a problem or central obstacle, there is no plot to the book. The same goes for
character development. Without an antagonist to facilitate that problem or obstacle, there would be no need to create a protagonist whatsoever.

An example I can give would be from my own book, I was a Teenage Killer. For those who haven’t read the book, beware of some spoilers. In
this novel, I created an evil teenage girl named Lisa Etron. I created her before I created the two heroes of the story, because she is the
central focus of the plot. She is a serial killer, born without empathy or regret, and who lives to torment and kill. She hides behind a
false identity as the girl next door, who spends her days cheer leading and dreaming of going to the prom with her supposed love. I created
her first because she is the driving force for the central obstacle, and because of her, two heroes are created to solve the problem that
becomes Lisa Etron.

The antagonist is just as important as the protagonist. When developing your characters, I recommend finding out who your antagonist is and
what their driving force is. Once you know this, then you can flush out your hero of the story, and from there the rest of the cast can
come into place. Remember, the central obstacle and the antagonist go hand in hand.