The Creation of Naiyar for Epic Fantasy – The Best Weapon

Right. A blog.

I’ve been putting this off for a long time because it doesn’t come naturally to me. I am a man of few words (unless I’m drunk) and I don’t usually say anything unless it is really important or I think its funny. This is probably neither important nor funny, but hopefully it is marginally interesting, so here goes.

Epic Fantasy Fiction character - Naiyar

Artwork by Zennor Matthews

As you may or may not know, my first book (co-written with David Pilling), The Best Weapon, is an epic fantasy due for publication on 2 March 2012. There are two main characters (heroes, if you will) in the book: Fulk, a man raised as a warrior-monk on a freezing island in the north of The World Apparent, and Naiyar, a jungle warrior raised in the humid equatorial rain-forest. Of the two, Naiyar was my creation, while David dreamed up the north-man.

So, where did Naiyar come from, besides the jungle? You’re in luck, because I am going to tell you, hopefully without giving away what happens in the book.

This was my first fantasy novel. Naiyar was the first character I have invented and written seriously about, so I didn’t really have any idea where to start (this may prove to be a common theme if you continue reading my blogs). So I started at the most obvious place, with myself.

In my life I have fought a battle, a battle against my own rage, my own anger. I don’t know where the anger came from, I have blamed many things in the past – the deaths of two of my brothers, the police, society, my teachers, the odd brick wall – but all of them have proved trivial in comparison with my true problem. I needed to learn to control my rage or I would destroy everything I loved, including myself.

After many years of searching externally for a scapegoat, I finally realised the answer was inside me all along. My anger was part of me, and only I had the power to control it. Yes, I know, a big fat cliché, but bear with me.

I learned that, far from being a curse, my anger was a gift. I could channel it, I could be creative, and that has made me happier than I ever imagined I could be.

Naiyar’s “gift” is a little different, though not a million miles away from mine. We both have to fight our demons, we both find it confusing and enraging. We both experience deep loss and have to find a way to come to terms with it, and we both have to search inside ourselves for the answers.

The Best Weapon is, of course, a fantasy novel, but hopefully the fact that the characters are based on (or at least relate to) real people and real emotions will make it all the more believable. I hope you like Naiyar, he is flawed and vulnerable like a real person, but with a bit of a twist…

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Co-writing an Epic Fantasy Novel

When my good friend, David Pilling, and I decided to write an Epic Fantasy novel together we had no idea where to start. We had both written of stuff individually, but how do you coordinate a dual effort?

Epic Fantasy, The Best Weapon cover

Available now from Musa Publishing

Before we could think of the actual story, we had to decide how we would both contribute to a book without it being disjointed and difficult to read. After a few decent ales and a good chat, we came up with the idea of a story with two main protagonists who are born on opposite sides of a world, have never met, but are inexorably drawn to each other, for reasons we were yet to think of!

The plan seemed perfect because it meant we had two main characters, each with a life, enemies, friends, culture, religion, who didn’t meet until the end of the book. I would write about one character and David would write about the other. And so our first Fantasy, The Best Weapon flickered into life.

Our plan of action turned out to be the first step towards a story line and, over a few more ales, we thrashed out a rough outline of the synopsis. Then, feeling rather excited and eager to get started, we both went home to start work on our first chapter. A few days later we were reading each other’s first efforts. It was good to see the characters we had ranted about in the pub come to life.

The great thing about co-writing is that you have instant feedback on everything you write, but to take full advantage of this you absolutely have to be completely honest with each other. It is really important that you point something out which you don’t think works and are equally happy to take criticism. If you’re working with the right person, it’ll work well.

We are both influenced by the same authors, Bernard Cornwell, Robert E Howard, Joe Abercrombie and Rafael Sabatini to name a few, and our writing styles are similar. We found that what we had written fitted together fairly seamlessly and those few close friends and family who read the first couple of chapters couldn’t tell who had written what or where I stopped and he started. We took that as a good sign.

Over the following six months, we would meet around twice a week and talk about the story. We would discuss ideas for plot-changes and developments, often getting quite heated in our debates. These discussions were really important. Being able to bounce ideas off one another meant that we could develop them into some thing which we felt was really exciting.

On a personal note, I have learned a lot from working with someone who has a bit more writing experience and a much better education (he spent a lot of time correcting me spelling!) and now I have more confidence to write on my own.

If I had any advice for anyone thinking of co-writing a book, it would be to be completely honest with each other from the start. Don’t be afraid to criticise or suggest improvements about your co-writer’s work, it is all about the two of you coming up with the best story you can by using the best of both your skills. Most of all, you should really enjoy writing together because the more you enjoy writing it, the more someone else will enjoy reading it.