The Strong Independent Woman in Fantasy

This a very hot topic! I have heard complaints from people I know, and I have read online comments that in fantasy women are over-sexualized and/or under portrayed.   It is true when one walks down the science fiction/fantasy aisle in Barnes and Noble that the covers often depict women as culturally ideal. When was the last time you saw a homely man or woman featured on a cover? I suppose someone could give an example since beauty has a subjective component to it, but most images show that are accepted as beautiful by the general culture. I have also seen more and more of a demand for “strong, independent female characters” in my favorite genre. I get that women make up half the population and portraying them in a crude or cookie-cutter fashion is disgusting. However, let me ask you this: what exactly is a strong and independent female character?

In Goandria: The Schism, my goal is to make Evera the light of the story. She has her flaws like anyone, but at her heart she is overflowing with love. However, Evera is dependent upon Lorkai for strength, and Lorkai depends on Evera in the same way. These two characters lean on one another in their fights, when facing the worlox or their own personal demons. Evera is also a very strong character. When challenges come her way, she faces insurmountable odds without backing down. Then, to reiterate my question. What is a strong and independent female character? I could see potential arguments on either side saying Evera is or is not strong and independent. I suppose like many other things in this world, one knows it if he/she sees it, but it is hard to put a definition around it. The thing is, no one is truly strong and independent. No one is an island. No one can function without help in some degree. I’m sure that is not what the term “strong and independent” means, but then again, what does it mean? Sure, as authors we could write characters that are islands and could kick butt by themselves, but how believable is that? Perhaps the term is in reference to female characters that do not need a husband or boyfriend to function. Hey, if that is the case than I am all for it. Marriage and relationships are not for everyone. A woman who chooses to stay home and care for the children is not any weaker than a woman who is career-focused in the midst of having a family.

This topic brings another question: should writers focus solely on the female characters and ensure they are strong to avoid clichés? I’m sure few would actually say that, but this is the impression that is often given. What I feel should matter most is depth of a character, not the gender of a character. Characters drive stories. An author can create a beautiful world, but if the characters are static, the plot will fail. So yes, we should have strong, independent characters, but the expectations need to be realistic.

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The Purpose of The Schism

As I have stated before in previous blog posts, Goandria: The Schism is my debut short story series.  Why did I start with a series of short stories instead of a full-length novel?  Why did I chose to release The Schism instead of my novel that has been sitting, waiting to get published?  I have addressed some of these questions in other areas of this blog, but what I want to do is explain the difficult decision I made in taking this route.

I made the difficult decision to start with a short story series for a couple of reasons.  First, I feel it is easier to introduce small digestible chunks as a new author than to ask people not only to give their money to someone they have never heard of, but also a good chunk of their time.  Let’s face it, reading takes time, and with full-time jobs, families, and other hobbies all desiring a chunk of that time, asking strangers to read large chunks of fiction when they have never heard of you is probably unrealistic.  Second, I am going to do everything I can to avoid prequel syndrome.  We can all think of a movie, novel, or TV series that peaks our interest and then offers a prequel which either adds virtually nothing important to the story or creates a plethora of continuity errors.

Goandria: The Schism takes place several generations before my upcoming novel series.  It tells of a much different world than the reader will see in the future.  What I want to do is lay the foundation of Goandria and more importantly give greater depth to a character present in the future.  The short story series is meant to hone on a couple people while a war rages on in the background, a war that has taken place over several generations.  The Schism is the story of those characters. It is intended to begin within a much larger story, to introduce and focus on characters that will bring change to Goandria. The Schism is the prequel to the Goandria series and offers a small glimpse into this world.

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Behind the Scenes: The Worlox

The worlox are antagonists of The Schism and creatures of utter depravity. Long before the events of the short story series, these demons entered into Goandria, and with them came destruction and death. Much of Goandria froze over when the worlox arrived because of the power of these beings. But who are the worlox, and what makes them different from other antagonists?

The worlox are demons, but they are a diverse group. I depict several kinds faced in The Schism. Why would I chose this foe? Well, this part of Goandria’s history is only hinted at in an upcoming novel series, and when I was a kid, I wrote out a timeline when the worlox ruled. Until recently, though, I did not intend to write the story of the worlox. Then a friend who had read my first manuscript said it would make a great story. I imagined a world before the Three Republics established in Goandria, a world where there are no real governments outside of the worlox. The only laws, beside the worlox, are those of the wizards, and the wizards loosely enforce these laws at best. Being representatives of Voshnore and his will, the wizards have taken charge to care for the people of Goandria. Yet, like all people, the wizards are flawed. They become somewhat self-righteous and arrogant, focusing on war instead of the people.

What I wanted to do with the worlox is have a very different enemy than the upcoming series. In the novels that take place after The Schism, I have an oppressed people that comprise the armies of the antagonist. I wanted to toy with the idea of powerful spiritual beings taking on physical form and dominating the world. What would the world look like if demons did that? Now my answer to that question is not as dark as it could be. There was a bigger story to be told in The Schism, and I didn’t want to focus solely on the brutality of the worlox. I also aim to have a large age range for my books, but there were times when I contemplated showing the true darkness within the worlox culture. What I chose to do instead was offer bits and pieces, small glimpses into their world and what they are like. Instead of focusing on the gritty dark details of their lives, I aim to show what it would be like to have armies of demons roaming the world and what inevitably happens when a race of inherently selfish beings take over Goandria.

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Behind the Scenes of Goandria: The Schism


The short story series Goandria: The Schism tells the tale of two wizards, Lorkai and Evera, as they make their way to the northern regions of the world to save seventeen captive comrades. In this series, Goandria is a much different world than I had originally envisioned, featured in the up-coming full-length novel series. The Schism takes place several millennia before the main events of the novels. It sets up the events to come, but it was a story I never really intended to write. It is a time period when demons, known as worlox, rule Goandria, and most of the people have been eradicated or enslaved except for the wizard order.

As a result of worlox oppression, the wizards have been waging war upon the demons for generations. The war has gone on for so long that none remember when there was no war. Since the wizards at this time make up the majority of the population, let’s talk about them and their powers.

To continue my theme of breaking from the norms in fantasy and still presenting something familiar, I wanted to make the wizards of Goandria blessed with a special gift and held accountable for its usage. Wizards in Goandria are not gods among men. Yes, they have powers other people could only dream of, but they have their limits. One of the biggest turn-offs for me with the Harry Potter series is that there are no defined limitations on magic. As far as I can understand, Harry Potter magic is limited only by the user’s innate abilities, and that still doesn’t limit the user because a witch or wizard can become more powerful. Essentially, how I understand Harry Potter, the world could potentially end up with bunch of mini-gods running around. Note: this is not to say I dislike Harry Potter, just that this is something I have observed with the series and I don’t care for this element personally. I actually enjoy the overall story of Harry Potter.

So what is my response? How do I create a wizard order that has limits and cannot become demi-gods? In the Goandria series, the wizards are bestowed with their magical gifts at birth by the creator, Voshnore. Similar to other series, wizards need to be trained. In Goandria, they go to the temples to learn. Some wizards live at the temples during their training, while others live with their families (similar to college, but for all ages). Magic must only be used by the wizards as a way to help others, or to help themselves under extreme circumstances. The magic Voshnore has blessed the wizards with cannot be used for selfish means, such as for doing chores or for evil. Since Voshnore chooses those who can handle the gift, he will also take it away when it is misused.

While I hint at this in The Schism, the main point of that story is to give a background to a prominent character in my upcoming novel series. The wizard system of magic is flushed out in more detail in there. In The Schism, I aim to show another side of the wizards, where they are more political and self-righteous.

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