In the Hobbit world, a mathom is a gift that is passed from one person to the next, used and reused and shared around the community. On this Boxing Day, I offer you all a mathom: a post from a year and more ago, in which I talked about why I do the writing posts on the Horseblog. It ties in with the Worldbuilding series, which will resume on January 9th. I hope you enjoy it.
Happy holidays, and a wonderful, horse-and-writing-filled New Year to you all!
When writing about anything, let alone horses, why bother to get it right? Why not fake it, or make stuff up? It’s just a story, after all. Why go through all the trouble of researching and investigating and fact-checking when you can just put something in there and move on?
Well, you don’t haaave to. People who don’t know the subject are unlikely to notice.
But people who do? Owie.
And they will write about it. They might write to you. They’ll review it or blog it or tell their friends about it. They’ll say, “This author Got It Wrong.” Sometimes in great detail and with extreme prejudice.
They’ll point to something that it says about you: that you don’t care enough about your craft to do it right. Worse, you don’t care about your readers. And readers, once you’ve taken your work out in the world (whether it be friends and family, crit groups, or publication), are what it’s all about.
But there’s another and much more personally gratifying reason to do your homework: More and better ideas for plot twists and even whole stories.
The more you know, the more ammunition you have for doing awful (or, what the hey, wonderful) things to your characters. You need to keep your army out of commission for a couple of chapters while your Evil Overlord does Horrible Evil Things That Will Make His Horrible End Even More Gratifying? Have an Evil Minion dump a few wagonloads of sweet feed along the horselines in the middle of the night. Voila! Mass colics in the morning.
Need a way for your hero to romance the heroine without resorting to the usual expedients? Make her a horse girl and have him show off his fantastic–and fantastically sexy–riding skills where she can watch.
Looking for a different kind of magic? Try some form of horse magic. Horse-whisperer-style mind control, maybe, or equine shape-shifters, or horses as incarnations of your world’s deities.
Even as more or less simple transportation, horses done right can move the plot in effective ways. If you know how far a horse can travel in a day, you’ve got a timeline to work with. If you’re aware of what a horse eats and how much, there’s your supply train, and various plot wrinkles that revolve around keeping it running smoothly despite the Evil Overlord’s worst efforts. And riding–how well or how often a character rides can determine how far he travels and what condition he’s in by the time he finishes.
Getting it right is useful. It makes your work better not just in the absolute or moral sense, but in the sense of basic storytelling and effective plotting. It’s practical. It gives you more tools to work with.
And that, as every writer knows, is a good thing.
And look! We’re here to help you get it right. New today from Book View Cafe, the long-awaited book on horses for writers. Questions answered, terms defined, and links, many links, to further investigations. With copious illustrations.
Available today from the Book View Cafe e-bookstore.
We even have swag. Get your very own Writing Horses mug, with very sexy horse portrait (oo-la-la), right here.