Lytherus was on hand for all of the big book panels at San Diego Comic Con 2012, and none was bigger than The Crownless Shall Be King: Epic Fantasy Wars for Mainstream panel. To have so much fantasy prowess in one room was a sight to behold, and can be called nothing short of epic.
The panel consisted of Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), Heather Brewer (Vladimir Tod), Raymond E. Feist (The Magicians), Robin Hobb (The Farseer Trilogy ), Lynn Flewelling (The Nightrunner Series), N. K. Jemisin (The Inheritance Trilogy), Rachel Hartman (Seraphina), and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn).
Right off the bat the moderator went into a question comparing fantasy and scifi, asking if they thought writing epic fantasy took more or less work than the other. The panelists were asked to answer individually, but the answers had similar themes. There’s lots of research that goes into these types of books, but only a small percentage of the knowledge gained ends up in the books. And that research involved things liked playing with bokkens and making chainmail. But work smart, not hard, when it comes to research; find what makes work as effortless as possible. Of course, any good book needs to be character driven, regardless of where it lies.
The second question was a really good one for this panel: how do you keep track of all of the sub-plots and keep them organized? There were lots of wiki references, and also the repetitiveness or re-reading the books a hundred times for editing. Robin Hobb talked about how any time she adds a new word she puts it in a glossary with the definition and a sample of a few sentences as a reference point to help her remember things. Rachel Hartman mentioned passive experience, things in her life that she’s absorbed that have come out in her writing. Beta readers and OCD friends were mentioned by Rothfuss, which brought out the chuckles, but the best answer was from Brandon Sanderson, who said he googles himself, which of course cracked up the entire audience. Feist went off on an interesting tangent, talking about how when he’s stuck, he’ll often watch TV and an idea will come to him. He also gave some writing tips: 1) Give the reader someone to root for, and 2) If there is no action, then there are talking heads filling in. If talking, make sure they have something to say!
The last question for the panel before the audience Q & A was the simple one of which character was their favorite to write? A lot of the authors said their main characters, or whomever they were writing about at the moment. But some, not surprisingly, said that the villains were the most fun to write as they get to wreck havoc on the world. Feist said that he enjoys subtle characters the most, and Paolini mentioned loving writing from a dragon’s point of view. Brandon Sanderson again tore the audience to pieces when he said it was a character in an Eragon/The Name of the Wind/other-fantasies-I-can’t-remember mix, and that it’s going to be called Fifty Shades of the Wind.
One of the fans in the Q&A line pointed out that the panel was supposed to be about epic fantasy, and it wasn’t discussed, but overall it was great to hear what these amazing, inspirational, and influential writers of epic fantasy had to say. Did I miss the discussion of gore and killing and wars fought over centuries? Not one bit.