Tag Archives: fantasy

When Is It Too Soon?

Hi everyone,

I apologize that today’s blog post is such a short one, we’ve had a family emergency and my mind is just…not in the right place for writing a blog.  However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing this week, so I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been asked by a couple of people recently.

Cover by Christian Michael

“Why did you announce the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons so early?  If people know that there’s going to be a 2nd edition sometime soon, doesn’t that mean few people will want to buy the current editions?  You won’t get many sales between now and then.”

That’s true, and is one of the things I considered when deciding when to reveal those plans.  However, for the same reason that I made the announcement so early, I’ve not been buying any more advertisements for the books.

I would feel guilty, trying to get people to buy my books when there’s a newer, better version on the horizon.  I already feel bad since I know there will be some people who already have the 1st editions that will want to buy the 2nd, and that in turn has fueled my desire to make the 2nd edition as good as possible, to make it worthwhile.

When I said that, someone replied, “Who cares if they have to buy two versions?  You want to make a living off of writing, right?  Then you should try making money anywhere you can.”

Is that the right way to make more money?  Possibly.  But is it the right thing to do?

It’s no secret, I want to be able to make enough sales to one day live off of writing.  But I don’t want to make my entire focus be on money, because I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll lose my real focus –  Telling stories the best way that I can.

Progress on the 2nd Editions

I’m more than halfway through Rise of the Forgotten’s edits, and I’m finding that all of the chapters I wrote just before, during, and just after my writers block all those years ago need way more work than any previous ones so far.  And that makes sense to me, since I had a really hard time getting the story out back then.

As for the maps, the map of Edilas (the continent where the 4 kingdoms are) is complete except for a couple of details.  Test prints came out wonderful!  I need to get the world map cleaned up and a couple of final details on it, and then I need to get Devor ready for book 2.

Projected completion of 2nd editions is still in the air, but I’ll definitely let you all know as soon as I know :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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Writers Can Shape The Future

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Words most often attributed to Spider-Man, these words have come to mind many times when I see certain movies or read certain novels.

You see, a storyteller does more than just entertain, even if that is their ultimate goal and nothing more.  More-so if you are a story teller writing for a high-visibility medium such as major motion pictures.  We inspire, we spark imagination, and we have the potential to shape the course of the future.

Image Source – https://chalcids.deviantart.com/

In fact, this is what makes science fiction such a popular genre.  It’s a perfect platform in which to explore current-day social and political themes in a malleable future, and the very best ones do so without being obvious about it.  Even Fantasy has this ability, as demonstrated by the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit novels, or more recently, The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, which a recent article claims explored World War 2 and The Cold War respectively.

Most writers don’t even consider the potential impact they might have on a single reader, or many readers, or entire generations of readers.  Through popular media, we can shape our very future, if ever so subtly.

Which is why I’ve been concerned about an upcoming major motion picture, Geostorm.  However, in thinking further about it today, I’ve considered the possibility that my initial skeptical attitude towards the message itmight send may have been unwarranted…

Geostorm – Creating Fear of Technology

The Terminator

It’s nothing new – sci-fi has often portrayed how technology could potentially cause our society greater harm.  Terminator is always the first example I think of, where an AI of our own creation overthrows humanity (a theme later revitalized by The Matrix, but there have been many more examples throughout the decades.)

Is AI something to be feared?

Is weather control technology something to be feared and avoided?

Geostorm

In Geostorm, the story revolves around global weather control technology that appears to go haywire and starts creating devastating storms all over the world.  As the story progresses, they discover that a single person has actually intentionally programmed this malfunction, for some political or even perhaps personal gain.

As I watched the very first preview, my initial thought was “great, something that could actually be beneficial to humanity and the world, and now people will be afraid of it, and the invention and deployment of such technology will probably be delayed as a result over the course of the next century.”

Popular media is good at that – using worst-case scenarios and playing on the fears of people to draw them into the movies.

However, there’s another aspect to this kind of movie that I’ve suddenly become aware of…

Setting Expectations of Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility.  And lets face it, the ability to control the weather on a global scale would be an immense power.  It potentially could give a single entity the ability to affect global policy at their whim.

“I want you to follow my political agenda,” this person might say.

“We don’t want to, it opposes our fundamental beliefs,” a world leader might reply.

“Very well.  You’ll not see a single drop of rain until you accede to my demands.  Or maybe even constant floods.”

It’s frightening to think about.  But then, that’s why it’s important to have a system in place that does not permit a single entity to control such power.

And while some might see Geostorm as a story of why we should never ever invent weather control technology, others could see it as a cautionary story, one which suggests safety protocols must be made inherent to it.

Image Source – memory-alpha.wikia.com

The same can be said about Artificial Intelligence and any story that shows such an AI ruling or destroying humanity.  If you give something the ability to destroy you, and give it reason to, then it most likely will.  On the other hand, as Star Trek has explored many times, if you give something, such as an artificial life form, sentience…then how you treat it is as important as how you treat any others.

“What If…”

One of my favorite movies is the 2002 version of The Time Machine, and there is a line in the movie that I always strongly related to: “You’re a man haunted by those two most terrible words: What if?”

We as writers get to explore “What If” with every tale we tell.  What if weather control technology became a reality?  What if that technology was abused?

This is where our greatest power comes from.  Because when we explore “what if,” so do our readers.  And while we can write cautionary tales like The Terminator, we also have the power to write the opposite, like Star Trek.  We can show people the consequences of “What if it goes wrong” but we can also show people the amazing future in store for us if it goes right, if we make it right.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

More To Map Making Than Meets The Eye

Hi everyone!

Part of why I was excited to release last week’s announcement was that I can finally talk about the different pieces of my latest project, and how everything is coming along with them!

This includes the maps of Halarite for the Sword of Dragons novels!  A couple of years ago, Wayne Adams of VtW Productions introduced me to a friend who was interested in making maps for the Sword of Dragons.  Through many months of collaboration, Chloe drew up several maps, including a low-detail one of the world and higher-detailed versions of each continent.

One thing we agreed on was that she would not label anything.  That task would fall to me after I scanned them in.  However, there’s one thing I didn’t think about at the time:

I have very little experience making or labeling maps.  And it is not as easy as one might think.

How do you put labels on a map so that it is understandable, legible, and not cluttered or confusing?

The map that came with Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion

Thankfully, I had actually done some work on this all the way back in school, and a little bit since then.  Plus, I love maps.  I have a giant map of Middle Earth hanging on the wall at our apartment, and I have kept every map from every Elder Scrolls game I’ve bought, not to mention some old maps from EverQuest.

As I’ve been working on this, I’ve come to realize a few things…

Labeling What’s Most Important

Good example of labeling what’s important to a story, from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Just like a book cover must convey the appropriate message to the target audience, a map should be tailored to convey the information someone might need from it.  In the case of a novel, a map should have the information a reader might need.

These decisions are especially important for me since my maps will be in a small, black-and-white paperback format.  That means there isn’t going to be room for a lot of small details, and fine-print will make it impossible to read.  Obvious labeling will be necessary.

I do have the advantage of the fact that I have different detailed maps.  The overall global map has few land features on it, so that gives me room to label political boundaries, for instance.  Furthermore, I’m considering having the global map span two pages, as I’ve seen done in other novels.

Then, for book 1, I’ll have the more detailed map of Edilas, the continent where the 4 kingdoms are, on a single page.  For book 2, I may still include that map, but I’ll also include a map of Devor.

Another lesson I remember from school is that bigger features require bigger names.  So for instance on the global map, I’ll make the world name the biggest.  Continent names will be smaller.  Kingdom names smaller, followed by city and feature names.

Maps for Print vs. Maps for Web

One advantage I do have: these are fairly high-res images.  So while I’ll be focusing for now on the maps that’ll go into books 1, 2 and 3, I will be making higher-detailed versions for the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/.  Thankfully people can always zoom in to read finer print on the web.

There’s also the advantage of color on the web.  I’ve already played around a bit by adding overlay colors for the 4 kingdoms on the global map.  I think this will be useful and interesting for readers.

While I don’t want to make readers of the print editions go online to see more detailed maps, I think having the option will be a nice addition.  “Here’s these maps, but if you want to see more details, go to the website!”  That’ll allow readers like me, who love to learn as much as possible about fantasy worlds, to get more information.

That’s all for today!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of the 2nd editions.  If there are any specific features you’d like included in the maps, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

The Big Announcement – My Next Publication!

Hi everyone!

I’m excited to write this blog post today, because I’ve been hinting around my new writing project for some time, but I’ve not actually made any official announcements.

As many of you know, my life has been extremely crazy and busy lately, between moving, wedding plans, and work going through a busy period, so I knew I was not going to get the 3rd book of Sword of Dragons finished in time for its planned release.

In fact, I’ve not had a chance to really focus on writing the 3rd book at all, I don’t have the time to devote to it.  But with all of my conversations with my fiancee about book covers, and all of the research I’ve done online, I knew there was a project I could do that would allow for very short spurts of work on it between the busy times.

The Sword of Dragons novels have all received high praise from those who have read it, but getting people to give it a chance has been a difficult task.  All of my market research and discussions with other authors and my fiancee point to several factors, including but not limited to the cover.

As such, I am officially working on the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2 of the Sword of Dragons series!

What does a 2nd edition mean?  More than just a new cover.  A whole lot more!  But let’s start there.

The New Covers

Books 1 and 2 side by side :)

As I talked about in my last blog, I’ve learned that keeping marketing in mine from the get go has been important.  This was a key focus for when I started working on new covers for books 1 and 2 while also planning covers for book 3 and for The Orc War Campaigns.  I wanted to create a theme that could be carried through all 4 books, as well as be something I could carry into the rest of the series beyond book 3.

My focus on marketing this time around actually was a big help in coming up with the final cover layout for the entire series!  I also followed the advice of publishers, editors, and cover artists, and created multiple versions for each novels’ cover, and then worked with several people to decide which one worked best, and even how to make the chosen one for each book better.

This involved sending the version to everyone helping me, as well as following my fiancee’s advice and taking a screenshot of an Amazon page, and editing in the versions of my cover to see which stood out best, and how my improvements to them changed how it popped on Amazon.

The result?  4 very amazing covers!  That I can’t reveal just yet.

Cover by Christian Michael

*ducks*  Hey don’t throw things at me!  ;)  But seriously, I am not yet ready to reveal the covers.  What I can tell you is test prints have turned out amazing, and even Christian, the man who made the cover for book 1, agrees that the new cover scheme is well done and works well with my genre.

Where did I get the cover art?  That was where a ton of my time was spent: looking for cover art.  And I ended up finding a cover artist on some stock photo websites who has done several pieces of dragon artwork that is stylistically similar.  This allowed me to find 4 pieces of cover art that are stylistically similar, and I have knowledge that there is plenty more for me to use for future books.

The best part is, being stock art, I can buy the rights to use them on the novel.  No legal issues, no ‘I hope they don’t realize I used their art without permission.’  I’ll have followed all proper procedures and will have legally procured the rights.

However, before I did purchase the rights, I took the watermarked, low-res versions of the artwork and made test covers, then printed them out to ensure they would look good.  This is a method I intend to use from here on out, to ensure that I don’t spend money on cover art that I end up never using.  I am, after all, working on a very limited budget.

Maps Will Finally Be Included!

I’ve heard it from countless readers: maps are a must!  So the 2nd edition of books 1 and 2, and all future volumes of Sword of Dragons will include maps.  I’ve had physical copies for a while, but haven’t had a chance to get them scanned, and a visit a couple months ago to Office Depot to get them scanned was highly disappointing, resulting in totally useless files.

Thanks to Wayne Adams from VtW Productions, I was able to get high-res scans finished last weekend.  This means I now have digital copies to edit and prepare.  These will first be made available on the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/, but will also be included in the novels.  I hope this will be a big help to everyone who reads the novels!

Much-needed Editing

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

My original plan with the 2nd editions was to do another set of proofreads to catch any spelling or grammar issues.  As I started on book 1, it became very clear that my first published novel was in need of some serious TLC beyond copy-edit.

I am not changing the story, but I am fixing up how the story is told.  Sometimes this means very few changes, but sometimes this means entire paragraphs are rewritten.

My beta readers have read through the rewrite of chapter 1 and thoroughly enjoy the changes, while noting that even though they have read the original version several times, the changes weren’t distracting.  In fact, this is what I am working on right now, and am about 1/3rd through book 1.

Furthermore, Wayne and 2 of his friends have volunteered to perform copyediting on books 1 and 2!  So this will further ensure a polished edition :)

But…book 1.  Hmm.  The Sword of Dragons book 1.  Naw, that needs a better title.

Naming Book 1

When I first prepared book 1 for publication, Christian insisted that I should give book 1 its own unique title, different from the series title.  I didn’t listen.  And now I regret that decision.

So that will be part of the change in the 2nd edition.  Book 1 officially has its own title!  *drum roll*

Rise of the Forgotten

Rise of the Forgotten

It fits quite well, not just in a big way, but in many small ways :)  Plus, giving book 1 a unique title has allowed me to keep a theme for the covers of all novels.  (And yes, I just showed you a sneak-peak of book 1’s cover ;) )

Those are all of the big changes coming in the 2nd edition!  “What about book 3” you might ask?  Well, that already has a title and a cover!  But I still need to finish the actual manuscript.  The Orc War Campaigns also has a cover, but again, I need to finish edits on it before it is ready for release.

“When will these be released?”  I do not yet have a timeline for that, and I’m hesitant to try to set one at the moment.  There’s still too much going on in my life to be able to predictably work on the edits.  But I am working as diligently as possible, and I am looking forward to revealing more as time goes on!

I hope with these 2nd editions to please the fans I already have with a nice, polished, worthwhile product, while also attracting new readers!

Thanks for reading! :)
-Jon Wasik

Planning Ahead for Marketing

Hi everyone!

When it comes to self publishing, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is marketing.  In fact, it’s been one of my biggest banes since I started down this rabbit hole.  Going in, I had no idea just how important it was, and for that matter, just how much it needs to be a part of your product development from day one.

I thought I had it all figured out in the beginning.  The day that I decided that I was going to self publish The Sword of Dragons, I immediately started looking at what I was going to do for a cover design.

Image Source – http://indiefreshpress.blogspot.com/2016/08/store-tour-absolutely-fiction.html

This led me to wandering bookstores with friends, pointing out book covers that stood out to us, discussing the good and bad parts of covers, and trying to figure out what would make a good cover for the Sword of Dragons.

In hindsight, doing so, especially first thing in the planning process, was a smart idea.  Unfortunately, that was probably one of the few things I did right in the beginning.

What did I do wrong after that?  For starters, I didn’t have a fully finished product.  I wanted my book out there, and I didn’t want to wait to finish important things, such as getting a polished world map ready.  I also didn’t spend more time researching marketing, researching fantasy novels, or cover design.

At one point, while looking at covers, I looked to a couple of my friends and said, “all of these fantasy novels look the same.  I want mine to stand out and be different.  So I’m not going to follow their examples.”

In principle it sounded like a good idea.  Make my book stand out amongst all the others.

Except I was looking on bookshelves.  Not at Amazon.com.  Not at Barnesandnobel.com.  Plus there’s one other aspect I hadn’t considered…

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

I’ve run into a problem with the Sword of Dragons series: everyone who has read it has thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve even gained a few fans!  And they’ve done their best to try to spread the word to others.

Books 1 and 2 side by side :)

But what about those who don’t know me or don’t know any of those fans?  Or even know the fans, but are so stretched for free time that they are picky about what they read?  What do they think when they see the cover for the Sword of Dragons or Burning Skies?  Do they see a book that looks like a great fantasy adventure?  Or do my covers say something else to them?

I’ve touched on the subject before about cover design, you have to target your audience.  And one of the things you can do is make a cover that fits within your genre while standing well on its own.  Many, many people have told me at this point, “put a dragon on your cover, your sales will increase.”  Why?  Because my book has dragons in it, and the entire series will increasingly feature dragons.  So I want to attract readers interested in dragons.

But there’s more to it than that, and this has as much to do with marketing as graphic design.

Marketing Books in the 21st Century

I think one of my biggest mistakes was trying to consider how my book would look on book shelves.  Even if I get to that point some day where Barnes and Noble puts my novels on their shelves, before I can get to that, I need to consider how my covers will look as a tiny little thumbnail on amazon.com.

And while working on a project’s cover recently (well, sort of recently, before we started packing to move), my fiancee had a great idea that I believe may have helped me in the long run.

If you go to amazon.com and start drilling down into book categories to, in this case, fantasy novels (sword and sorcery!) take a look at the books there.  The covers have all been resized down to thumbnail size.  Beck had the idea, “take a screen shot, and then edit in your cover design to see how it looks in comparison with the others.”

I knew the moment she said it that it was an amazing idea, and set out to do so.  It also helped me figure out which cover to use, because I had ideas for 2 or 3 different covers and had made preliminary versions for each.  I put each version up as thumbnails, and very quickly identified which cover popped best while still being easy to identify as a sword and sorcery type novel with dragons.

But I also realized there were issues with the.  The title blended in with the cover, and the cover was too bland-colored.  So I made modifications and performed several tests, until I had a cover that popped out nicely and whose title was easy to read.

That’s the thing to remember: whether browsing amazon.com or viewing your book cover from a distance at a bookstore, a reader will more likely see your cover as a thumbnail size, and so your title needs to be easy to read without overtaking your entire cover.  A difficult balance to strike, but well worth the effort.

Why Is The Cover So Important?

I keep coming back to this topic: your cover matters a lot.  Why?  Because every single aspect of your marketing campaign is going to hinge on your cover.  In book stores and on amazon.com, it’ll be the first thing a prospective buyer will see.  In a convention or book signing event, it’ll be the first thing patrons will see.  On advertisements, anywhere, whether amazon, facebook, or other, it’ll be the first thing they see.  If you have the money and resources to pay for adverts on billboards, bus sides, or trains, again, your cover, or some edited version of your cover, will be what people see first.

First impressions matter.  People judge books by their covers.

Granted, if you have a fantastic cover but a crappy story, you aren’t going to get anywhere with sales, either.  You might do better than if you had a bad story and a bad cover, but reputation will probably kill your book’s sales.

Do you have a good story?  Then you need an appropriate cover to go with it.  Not just good, but appropriate.

There’s more nuances you can add into a cover design, but I think I’ve written enough on the topic for one day :)  I hope this helps my fellow authors out there, I’ve learned so much about marketing and cover design in the past 3 years and I wish to pass that knowledge on!

Do you have any tips or lessons learned about marketing and cover design?  Please post them in the comments below for others to read!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Defining Moments – Response to Peter Dinklage

Hi everyone,

What is a day job?

I know, a weird question to start with.  But that’s what I define as my day-to-day job, my work in I.T. that pays the bills.  My Day Job.

And I’m going to steal a quote from Peter Dinklage: “I hated that job, and I clung to that job.”  Except I’m still clinging to it.  And I don’t know how to let go of it.  I don’t know how…

Peter Dinklage Commencement Address

Image Source – speakola.com

A few weeks ago, my fiancee sent me this video, a part of a speech given by Peter Dinklage at a commencement speech at his former university.  And it struck a chord in my soul.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  In my waking moments.  In my dreams.  It’s a voice in the back of my head saying “these are the words you’ve searched for, they give voice to what you’ve felt for so long.”

Would you believe that Peter Dinklage was once in I.T.?  He was in data entry, and as he said in his speech, he hated that job, and he clung to it.  Like me, he clung to the job that gave him the freedom (outside of work) to live for himself, to not have to depend on others.  And yet, from the sounds of it, for him it barely even did that.

Until one day, when he was 29, he decided he needed to do something more with his life.  So he took the first acting job he could get, quit his Data Entry job, and went hungry for a while…but kept going.  One job led to another, to another, to another, until now, he’s one of the highest paid actors on television.

And in his speech, he pleaded with the college students not to wait until they were 29, like he did.

29.  I’m 33.  He did Data Entry for 6 years.  Counting my work study time, I’ve been in I.T. for 14 years.

Like Dinklage, who put on puppet musicals as a child and acted in school plays at least since the 5th grade, I’ve been a writer all of my life.  No, strike that: I’ve been a story teller all of my life.  Because funny enough, it was in 5th grade that I actually wrote my first story, but before that, I would tell anyone who would listen stories.

Clinging to the Job

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

Ask any of my friends or family members, for the past year or so, my desire to leave I.T. and write full time has been stronger than ever.  I feel like my day job has been sucking the life out of me, and it’s only gotten worse.

There are days where I even allow myself to feel a little hopeless in that regard.  I feel like I’ll never be able to escape it.  I’ll never be able to write full time.  I’ll never be able to follow my passion, to do the thing that has given me meaning since I was a child!

How do I escape?  Do I take the plunge like Dinklage did, quit my day job, and just write and publish and try to get an agent, and hope that I land on my feet?  What he did took courage beyond all measure.

Yet to do something like that right now would go against everything I was raised to be.  Not that Dinklage was wrong, in fact I admire him for what he did.  But I’m in the rabbit hole too deep.  I can’t just throw caution to the wind and then go “oops, it didn’t work out right away, now I’m living on the streets until I can find a way to land on my feet.”

Whether it was skill, luck, or some combination, Dinklage was able to get through the rough beginning, and came out on top.  But let’s face it, that’s a rare occurrence in life.

…So yes, that means I’m afraid.  Terrified.  Of what?  Failing?

Yes…but what does failing mean?  Dinklage covered this in his speech, too.  He hated his job, he clung to that job, maybe he was afraid of change…are you?

If I were to quit my job and write full time, the chances are extremely high my entire life style would have to change.  Quality of life would definitely go down the tubes for a while, and who knows for how long.

It would feel like a step backwards.  It would be like all of my hard work until now was for nothing…

Would it be worth it?  That’s the maddening thing, I can’t begin to calculate it.  Just as I’m sure Dinklage couldn’t calculate it.  I doubt he had any idea he would one day end up being one of the highest paid TV actors.  Maybe he dreamt of it…but when he took that acting job…  It would be worth it if I knew I was going to come out on top and someday make just enough from writing to live off of, to pay the bills, to have a roof over my head.

Honestly, I’d love to sit down with him and talk, to ask him how he felt as he did it, what he thought, how long he pondered over it before he made his decision.  What was it that prompted him to take such a daring and dangerous course of action?  What got him through the hard times that followed, the doubts as he struggled to pay the bills as an actor?

Hmm…maybe that’s the question everyone should ask those who have ‘made it.’  Not “how did you succeed.”  But rather, “where did you find the courage?”

How do you learn to believe in yourself like that?  Because that’s also what holds me back…my self doubts.  I’m waiting for validation.  I’m waiting for my novels to be at least somewhat successful, as if to prove that I at least have a chance.  Does that make me a coward or prudent?

Honestly I don’t know anymore.  In the commencement speech, Dinklage says “The world might say you are not allowed to yet.  Please, don’t even bother asking.  Don’t bother telling the world you are ready.  Show it.  Do it.”

…I’m trying.

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

PS: if you’d like to see the full speech, click here.  It’s worth watching if you have the half hour to spare.

The Star Wars Sin – Is It Okay To Change Direction?

Hi everyone!

I’ve touched on the subject of 2nd editions and how reviled George Lucas has become due to his revisions of Star Wars.  However, I wanted to touch on another aspect of that topic.

When is it okay to change the direction of a series, and when is it not?  This specific question came up a couple of weeks ago while chatting with Wayne from Show X about Star Wars.

Image Source – http://www.craveonline.com

In fact, Star Wars is a very good example to use in this case, because it has made changes in two ways.  The first is what was mentioned in previous blogs, how he took the original trilogy and modified it, much to the anger and angst of many.

However, what about the prequel trilogy?  There seems to be a sharp divide regarding whether or not the prequels are good or not, some stating that they are not part of the Star Wars saga at all, others who loved them.  It seems that there are few who, like me, like some of the prequels and their elements, but certainly not all (Episode 2…)

What came as a great surprise to me lately is that many of those who hate the prequels often say, “Had Lucas kept to his original plan for the prequels, it might have actually been enjoyable.”

Image Source – starwars.com

When reading and hearing this from others, somewhere in my head something clicked, and I do recall that the prequels didn’t seem to follow the original plan.  Furthermore, some other things didn’t make sense, so I started reading up on the development and production of The Force Awakens.

Sure enough, my vague memories turned out to be right: Lucas had outwardly stated in the early ’80’s that he had planned out both the prequel trilogy and a sequel trilogy.  And based on the quotes, it was in no uncertain terms that he had these plotted out, and he even made statements about what those stories would be about.

And yet…later on, Lucas started stating that he never had any plans for a sequel trilogy, just a vague idea of ‘wouldn’t it be cool.’  These statements directly contradict his earlier statements.

Image Source – http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

This is just an example.  There are other examples where Lucas had to give a back story during Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to production staff, and apparently he was very clear about the origins of Vader and the nature of the Force.

All of which was contradicted in the prequels.  For instance, the much-reviled idea of midichlorians being what grants people the power of the Force.  Or the fact that only some people can use the Force (Lucas was once quoted as saying anyone can use it, some are stronger than others, but it’s only the Jedi who train and dedicate to become powerful in it…a statement Lucas later denied ever saying.)

Where’s He Going With All Of This?

The thing is, Lucas said all of these things about the nature of the Force and Vader long before he ever created the prequels.  The stories weren’t actually created yet, the movies weren’t even in development, and nothing was ‘official.’  Yet people held Lucas to these statements as if they were gospel.  And have since crucified him, so to speak, for changing that direction.

Why?  Why is what he did so bad?  Is it because the prequels really were as bad as people claim, or is it because people wanted the story Lucas had mentioned in off-hand comments, and were disappointed for not getting that story?

As a writer, this is a very important question I’ve been asking myself lately.  Because, let’s face it, I change the direction of my stories all the time.  I come up with better ideas as I develop or write a novel or a series of novels.

In fact, from what I can tell with all story creators (whether novels or movies or plays or video games), this is very common.  As long as you don’t contradict what was explicitly stated or made known as fact in a previous story, because continuity IS important.

So at what point does it become a sin to change the course of your story from what you originally planned?  Other than breaking established continuity, anyway.

The answer became somewhat apparent in my discussion with Wayne: when you’ve promised your consumers one thing but then delivered something else entirely.  ESPECIALLY when it is something that has entered the hearts and minds of millions and is so important to so many people.

Cover by Christian Michael

This, of course, makes me reticent to ever post any plans or ideas for future Sword of Dragons stories.  I don’t want people to expect me to take the series in one direction, only to find I actually take it in another.  The progression of the series has already changed considerably from my original plans (I had intended for Cardin and Sira to have a child at one point, but I’ve completely scrapped that idea, for many, many reasons.)

It may be a little less important for a series that isn’t yet well-known like Sword of Dragons, but it still is a good idea to avoid spoilers and promises.  At least, I think so.

The Mass Effect Sin

I won’t go into too many details here, because I don’t want to spoil the story of the Mass Effect trilogy for my fiancee, but there’s another example of when changing things is a sin.  And that’s the original ending for Mass Effect 3.

Those who are curious can find and read copious articles of how hated the original ending was.  There even was an attempted class-action law suit over it.  Personally, I think this was taking it too far.

However, it does make one good point: stay true to your stories, to the spirit of your stories and its characters.  Mass Effect 3’s original ending did not in any way take into account your choices throughout the entire trilogy.  Considering this was one of the key mechanics of the trilogy, that every decision, even small ones, come to bear later on, sometimes in very unexpected ways, to not include that mechanic in the ending was kind of a slap in the face to fans.

Another, less recent example: Willow and it’s “sequel” novels.  I’ve not personally read the novels yet, I didn’t know they existed until recently, but they were pretty well panned by readers, and one of the many complaints was that the character of Willow was nothing like the character from the movie.

What do you all think?  Am I right on the ball or way off the mark with my assertions?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik