I am excited to welcome author Laurence MacNaughton, who is celebrating the release of his new novel, It Happened One Doomsday.
Magic is real. A handful of sorcerers wield arcane power against demons and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are the best magic-users in the world. Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them. She’s got magical potential. She uses crystals to see enchantments, and she can research practically anything in the library in the back of her little store, sandwiched between a pawnshop and a 24-hour liquor mart. She sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by.
Everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red. Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to transform into a demonic creature that could bring about a fiery doomsday. There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse—and it’s about to fall into Dru’s inexperienced hands. . . .
The #1 Secret to Fantasy World Building
It’s called world building, and every writer does it a little differently. My secret is to start with research. The world we live in is so weird, it’s impossible not to get inspired.
Before I sat down to write about the crystal magic in It Happened One Doomsday, I went to plenty of lapidaries (rock shops), which are all over the place here in Colorado.
I also attended quite a few gem and mineral shows. And I visited metaphysical shops to talk to people who really believe in crystal healing. It was an eye-opening experience.
As a kid, I loved to collect a certain type of crystal called a Herkimer diamond. Of course, these “diamonds” aren’t really diamonds at all, but an exceptionally pure kind of quartz crystal.
In fact, some people believe that Herkimer diamonds have magical purifying properties. Dan Aykroyd (yes, the guy from Ghostbusters) uses them to purify his own brand of vodka.
Did it go into my book? You bet.
Keep digging until you hit the weirdness.
Speaking of crystals, there’s another real-life crystal called tourmaline that often looks like a stack of glittering black needles. In many metaphysical beliefs, tourmaline brings spiritual energies back in line with the Earth.
Tourmaline is also used to line the inside of really expensive hairdryers, and the negative ions it creates help dry your hair faster. Strange, but neat.
Or consider rose halite, a cotton-candy-colored crystal that supposedly dissolves negative energy and protects you from harm. It will also protect you from falling on an icy sidewalk, because “rose halite” is just a fancy name for common rock salt.
As a writer, you take all of these weird connections and facts, and then extrapolate them to a fantastical level.
That’s how you create fantasy from reality.
When I’m writing a fantasy story, I extrapolate and exaggerate those real-life details until they become something new and magical.
In It Happened One Doomsday, tourmaline helps the heroine break curses. Rose halite protects innocents against evil. Quartz can literally cleanse your soul.
The magic is inspired by real-life crystals, but the effect is magnified to a fantastical level.
Tap into the eternal power of metaphor.
One of the most powerful aspects of fantasy is that it brings abstract concepts to life. Good and evil. Angels and demons. Heroes and monsters. All right there on the page.
Give your heroes something solid to struggle against, and that makes your book more powerful. Done right, it can be the most dramatic kind of storytelling.
It can transport the reader away on an adventure that couldn’t exist in our normal, everyday world.
The secret magic of fantasy.
There’s one last key to making it all work.
It has to matter to the heroes. And to us, the readers.
The danger every author faces is letting the world-building get too far from our everyday reality. Fantasy elements – magic, monsters, you name it – have to feel emotionally real in order to work in the story.
And I use the word “feel” for a reason: whatever you write, it has to work on an emotional level. To do that, the weirdness of a made-up world needs to relate somehow to the world we live in today.
For me, the best stories begin in the weirdest parts of our own world. Before I start writing a book, I sit down and immerse myself in research, and I keep digging until I find something strange and interesting.
Truth really is stranger than fiction, and that makes it the most fascinating place to start a story.
Meet Laurence MacNaughton!
I grew up in a creaky old colonial house in Connecticut that I was pretty sure was haunted. As a kid, I was a choirboy in a church that was built in 1754. I also pounded out stories on a black manual typewriter until I sold my first magazine article at age 19. Over the years, I’ve been a bookseller, typesetter, printer, copywriter and (somewhat randomly) a prototype vehicle test driver. When I’m not writing, I bike and hike the Colorado Rockies, explore ghost towns and wrench on old cars. But the whole time, I’m usually thinking about the book I’m going to write next.