When this blog began in 2014, I had one goal in mind. I wanted to promote a fantasy book series I was writing. At the time, I thought this work in progress was nearing completion and I’d have it out within a few years. Since then, a lot has changed.
One of the big realizations I made was this large and complex world was, at the time, beyond my skill level as an artist. In order for it to reach its full potential, perhaps it was a good time to let it take a break and focus on other projects. And that’s what I did. A horror novel has finished its second draft, a script is about to undergo its semi final draft. Yet out of every story currently ticking the back of my head, this fantasy story is without a doubt the most near and dear to my heart.
That’s why letting it rest was one of my best decisions.
The original story concerned a dragon who finds himself blackmailed by a group of ragtag heroes who need his help. The dragon begrudgingly agrees, and finds himself whisked away on an adventure more challenging than he could have imagined. We did a lot of work on this story, from some impressive concept art to highly detailed illustrations, all done by some very close friends of mine. I’m humbled and warmed by the fact that they stuck with me for so long, and continue to enrich my life with their company.
In this illustration, Zhyx the red dragon meets his longtime companion, River the Flatlander, for the first time in the fantasy adventure novel, Never Heroes.
Progress for the Chapter 19 illustration for the fantasy novel Never Heroes, which shows the drooling dragon known as Heavy attempting to eat River, one of the protagonists of the book.
The work my colleagues did was impressive to say the least, and did help capture the pulpy adventure feel I desired for the book. But during this time, as my writing skills developed, so did theirs. The earlier work was still impressive, but by the standards of what my friends have accomplished today, the work is but a stepping stone to something greater.
The cherry on top of all this is since we took a break, we could actually re-evaluate the designs of a lot of the characters. Previously we were afraid to change things based on all the work we’d done. After a break, we could once again experiment. We have begun this process, and the results have thus far proven most promising.
But that’s just the beginning of the substantial changes the story has gone through. Since then I’ve been introduced to other narrative works that have provided much inspiration for the creative process. One of the most unlikely of these was Black Rain, a cop thriller from the late 80s that I fell in love with upon my first viewing. Not exactly what one would expect when seeking inspiration for high fantasy, but I always had a taste for the unusual.
I’ve also made another important decision. Before, I’d bragged that I hadn’t read a lot of high fantasy as to avoid its influence on my own story. Now I’ve come to realize that was a flawed way of thinking, and that many of the classics should be viewed as teachers with a variety of valuable lessons for any author. I’ve since read The Hobbit, and will soon delve into the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion. After that comes A Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter, Dragonlance, and more. Not a bad lineup when trying to make my own fantasy smoothie. All will have valuable lessons to teach.
Even after that, there’s still more. The overall tone and feel of the story has changed, still maintaining its adventurous feel with some added gravitas. Characters have gone through drastic re-evaluations and evolutions to the point that they barely resemble their counterparts from a few years prior. This is a good thing, as an overly meek character and an ill placed comic relief are both vastly improved even in the conceptual stage.
Since this story’s humble beginnings and a four year long slog through a flawed draft, I’ve developed a much clearer vision of where I want this tale to go. Gone is the simple tale of a dragon getting blackmailed into heroics. Hopefully, it’s something far richer.
Today, work on it will continue. My outline board lies ready in my office. Slowly but surely, I’ll begin decorating it with my special brand of color-coded pins, organizing the ideas a little at a time. It’ll be a long, no doubt frustrating process, but as my recently completed novel has taught me, the journey is always worthwhile.