Our flagship Summer Camp event went off with little a hitch and much a bang- culminating in an amazing stream and an equally amazing meetup in Berlin (the details of which are soon to come). Hot on its tail, World Anvil is proud to announce our next competition for the month of August- in partnership with Kyanite Publishing.
We believe stories aren’t just good for escaping; they’re powerful and necessary tools in humanity’s quest to define our legacy and build a better world. The themes that carry through our catalog are resistance, strength, hope, tolerance, resilience, and the complexity of the human experience.
An independent publisher of speculative fiction, Kyanite was founded in 2018 and is based in the gorgeous state of Colorado in the US of A. And with a mission to “publish speculative stories that entertain, engage, and awaken readers by authors with diverse voices and backgrounds”, we’re absolutely thrilled to announce this competition.
To sweeten this momentous occasion, we’ve got the beautiful… The amazing… The glorious B.K. Bass from Kyanite here on the blog today talking about the competition- and offering a bit of advice for all you aspiring authors out there.
Are you Ready?!
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard that Kyanite Publishing and World Anvil have partnered to bring you an exciting new challenge! We here at Kyanite are very excited to have been asked to not only participate in this process… But to be the publisher for the anthology that will be produced as a result- and showcase the amazing talents of the World Anvil community.
Once entries have been qualified and judged by the World Anvil staff, twenty finalists will be passed along to us for evaluation. From there, we will select ten entries to be published in the anthology. We will also select one that we feel has great potential to grow into something more, and the author will also receive a contract offer for their own stand-alone book of novella or novel length.
I wanted to take some time to talk about what we will be looking for in the entries submitted to us from a publishing perspective; it’s hard to quantify everything that an acquisitions editor is looking for when considering a piece of fiction for publication, but I will endeavor to communicate our top priorities.
First, there are the technical aspects: spelling, grammar, sentence structure, readability, etc.- many of which can be fixed or improved in the editing process. Still, I will say that a more polished piece has an advantage over one that would need to be stripped down and re-written.
Beyond the technical aspects are the grey areas that set a great piece of fiction apart from the rest. Are the characters engaging? Does the story flow smoothly from one scene to the next? Are there deeper themes or concepts? Does the story make the reader think about them and challenge their views? And finally—where I think you will all shine—will the reader feel immersed in the world of the story?
This brings me to some personal writing advice I’d like to share with you before you embark on this journey. We all know that the strength of the World Anvil community is crafting amazing settings, but this is only one third of what makes a complete narrative. Keep in mind as you write that every story is made up of three basic building blocks: Character, Plot, and Setting.
Our Beloved Characters
A lot of popular writing advice centers on the idea that characters are the most important part of a story. Many professionals adhere to this almost religiously, and for good reason; if you have compelling characters that are relatable to the reader, the rest of the story will often fall into place… But how does one achieve this?
First and foremost, make them realistic. Take a moment and think about what makes you tick: what are your desires, ambitions, fears, strengths, and weaknesses? Now venture out and consider this for others around you. I always say the best character research is interacting with actual people, so pay attention to the nuances of those you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Apply these concepts to your characters and answer these questions for them, and you will have a well-rounded cast for your story.
Also be sure to avoid flat characters. By flat, or one-dimensional, we refer to characters that only have a few of these aspects filled out; do you have a character with ambitions and strengths, but no weaknesses or fears? Congratulations, you’ve crafted the dreaded Mary Sue. Be sure that—whether they are an actual human or an orc, elf, fairy, or what-have-you—that your character is human at heart.
Pro tip: be sure to apply the same to your villain! I always say the best villain would be the hero if the story was written from their perspective.
Finally, if you are focusing on character you want to make sure that the protagonist has a character arc. They should start with a status quo, be shoved out of it by some sort of event, and then end up with a different situation or worldview at the end.
Hot, Hot Plot Juice
Plots are the backbone of your story- and naturally, it seems to be a matter of common sense that you’ll have one. The differentiating factor between a good plot and a bad one, though, comes down to organization; how is it structured?
There is a reason that certain ‘standard’ plot structures such as the three-act format or the hero’s journey are seen so many times across so many different media: They work. Given that we are looking for novelettes, structuring the plot should not be a large obstacle. In a short format like this, I would probably advise keeping the three-act structure in mind; especially if this is your first or an early foray into writing narrative fiction.
A trick of mine is to also look at the rhythm of the plot. I always like to ensure that there is a steady beat throughout my stories where moments of high action or tension are interspersed regularly by slower, more introspective moments… Don’t spend half the story building up to the action and then exhaust the reader with a twenty-page fight scene! Keep these moments spread out.
One of my other favorite tricks is to start in the middle of the action. Start with something exciting, and then gradually fill in the exposition; don’t open a story with five pages that read like one of your world articles. As great as they are, there’s a time and place for that—and it’s not in a piece of fiction!
A Little Segway
Now, I’m going to digress to the point made above about characters being the most important aspect of a story. While this is normally true, and often the easiest way to ensure that a story is engaging, it is not always the case. Some among the literati might argue that plot-centric works are the product of hacks, but I beg to differ.
Not every piece of fiction needs to be a deep dive into the intricacies of the human soul. Sometimes, we just want to escape and have some fun! Looking back to my own favorite era of literature—the heyday of the pulp magazines in the early 20th century—one can see a plethora of successful authors who built entire series around characters who were compelling and interesting, yet had no character arcs… They never changed, yet they engaged repeatedly in exciting adventures or dramatic tales that were immensely popular at the time and remain so today. One need look no further than the likes of Conan the Barbarian, created by Robert E. Howard, for an example of this.
I argue that if the plot is exciting enough and you have an interesting character to drive it, the character doesn’t have to change, and the plot can be the focus of the story.
Editor’s Note: To add on to what B.K. says here, the act of staying steadfast and not changing can actually be a character arc all its own!
And finally: Setting
I feel like I shouldn’t have to give anybody in the World Anvil community advice on the topic of settings! However, in the interest of applying your worldbuilding expertise to crafting a piece of narrative fiction, I will express some words of warning: While showcasing your world in your story is an important part of this challenge, the trick to immersing a reader into your world over the course of a narrative is to feed them bite-sized bits of it from the characters’ perspectives. This piece of advice that is so often repeated as to be a cliché of its own: show, don’t tell.
Don’t tell us about the thriving market economy of a city…
Show us what your character sees, hears, and smells as they walk through a bustling marketplace.
Don’t tell us the village lies at the top of a mountain…
Let us feel the burning in your protagonist’s legs as he climbs the twisting trail that leads to it.
The best way to show us your world is to show it to us through the eyes (and ears, nose, flesh, and bone) of your characters. In this way, you’ll have transitioned from telling us about your world to transporting us into it. We want to live vicariously within your world through your characters. Accomplish this, and the chances of seeing your story in the World Anvil Anthology presented by Kyanite Publishing will grow exponentially!
Good luck to everybody,
and I look forward to reading your stories!
B.K. Bass is a former U.S. Army serviceman turned science fiction, fantasy, and horror author whose work is inspired by the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century, and classic speculative fiction. He is a student of history with a particular focus on the ancient, classical, and medieval eras.
A lifetime of experience and a specialization in business management and human relations serve him well as the Acquisitions Director for Kyanite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Kyanite Journal of Speculative Fiction.