Fiction writers understand the challenges of creating a well-developed setting for novels. Carefully crafted details can draw readers into a familiar world in which relatable characters could feel like real neighbors and even friends.
But what if their characters live in an entirely different realm?
Ben Wolf understands the need to connect special world-builders and will be serving as the emcee of 2017 Realm Makers conference.
He is the founder of Splickety Publishing Group, which publishes three flash fiction magazines. Ben is also the author of the 2015 Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Award winner, Blood for Blood and the 2016 Cascade Award-winning children’s book, I’d Punch a Lion in the Eye for You.
Please welcome Ben as he shares why Realm Makers is different from any other Christian writers’ conference, why speculative fiction writers would want to invest in the upcoming conference, and how all writers can benefit from exploring this exciting genre.
Thanks for joining us, Ben. Please define Christian speculative fiction, for those of us who are new to this exciting genre.
Thanks for having me. Speculative fiction (or spec fic) is an overarching term for genres like fantasy, science fiction, Steampunk, paranormal/supernatural, dystopian/futuristic, and other “weird” genres. The term “Christian speculative fiction” has two widely understood and accepted definitions: 1. Spec fic that is written for a Christian audience with palpable or evident Christian themes, or 2. Spec fic written from a Christian worldview by Christian authors, but not necessarily with overt Christian themes or for a Christian audience.
The most important aspect of world-building is to establish what is “normal” early in the book. If fairies normally float around your story world, but then they suddenly disappear, readers will understand that something has diverged from normal.
A good story world is like a character. Allow readers to experience and encounter your story world gradually, along with the characters in your book. This keeps the story moving while we learn about their world.
What is the most challenging aspect of realm-making?
Cohesion is toughest for me—as in, making sure everything fits where it’s supposed to. If a story world isn’t cohesive, it feels unrealistic. In other words, the story world needs to “work.”
Please share your top tips for developing great speculative fiction characters.
Know your characters well. Get to know them as you write the story or by outlining them in advance. Each character’s values and ambitions can help formulate their story goal, and that story goal should drive your story. I’d recommend Randy Ingermanson’s book Writing Fiction for Dummies for further study on this topic.
Why won’t speculative fiction writers want to miss the 2017 Realm Makers conference?
Realm Makers is the only conference for Christians who love to read and/or write spec fic. The iconic Ted Dekker is our keynote speaker this year. We’ve got an incredible lineup of faculty members and classes that are ideal for speculative minds. Conferees can meet with agents and publishers who are actively looking to acquire spec fic content and will have a blast getting to know other likeminded spec fic authors and readers.
Please share the exciting opportunity Realm Makers is offering writers who are ready to pitch their completed, polished novels.
We’ve secured agents and publishers who are actively looking to publish speculative fiction. Authors should have at least one completed manuscript that is ready for publication prior to requesting a meeting with these professionals.
Besides the great training and networking opportunities, what can Realm Makers offer writers who are not ready to pitch to an agent or editor?
Conferees can request mentor appointments at no extra charge or pay for personalized critiques of a portion of their manuscripts. We’ve also got a conference bookstore featuring select authors, a vendor hall where conferees or other industry professionals can purchase vendor tables to hawk their spec wares, and loads of wonderful information from some of the industry’s best minds.
Did I mention there’s a Nerf War at the end of the conference, too?
Yes, and I get more excited every time you mention that Nerf War. But let’s get back to peace-making. Please share the awesome benefits of the Realm Makers team, who are Christians, inviting high caliber presenters who are successful in the industry, whether or not they’re Christian.
Christian spec fic is a developing segment of publishing. For years, authors in the general market have published high-quality spec fic that doesn’t necessarily reflect Christian values, while many Christians have published low-quality spec fic that thoroughly reflects Christian values. (And yes, there have been exceptions to each of these claims.)
On the whole, Christian spec fic has a lot of room for growth. We’re bringing in some of the most brilliant authors in the industry—both Christian and general market—to help us learn to craft better stories. If we truly want our spec fic to make an impact, we first need to learn how to write phenomenal speculative fiction.
What words of encouragement would you like to offer a writer who is considering joining the speculative fiction family?
If you’re weird, Realm Makers is your home away from home. It’s a place where you can be your geeky self, let your freak flag fly, and be the oddball God made you to be, without fear of ridicule or scorn.
In all seriousness, spec authors have experienced a strong sense of belonging and community with the other authors and fellow nerds in attendance. Realm Makers is a place of growth, encouragement, friendship, and faith. If the stories God has placed in your heart involve vampires, aliens, elves, or sentient robots, you belong with us at Realm Makers, and you will be assimilated.
Also, pack the largest Nerf gun you reasonably can. You’re going to need it.
Thanks for giving us a taste of what writers can expect when they attend the 2017 Realm Makers. I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for the fascinating world of Christian speculative fiction.