Sunday, November 25, 2012

What the Experts Say: "Making a Make-Believe World Believable" by Epic Fantasy Author Jamie Marchant

Jamie Marchant, Author
Epic Fantasy Author Jamie Marchant introduces the world of  Korthlundia in THE GODDESS’S CHOICE – a sword and sorcery novel based on a Norwegian fairy tale. However, Jamie found it annoying that the female character was basically snubbed in the fairy tale. So she re-invented the crown princess as a strong heroine. As you'll read in her following article, she believes characters are a critical component of pulling readers into a make-believe world.

Jamie teaches writing and literature at Auburn University and lives with her husband, son, and four cats in Auburn, Alabama.  

Making a Make-Believe World Believable
By Jamie Marchant

Fantasy literature transports you from the mundane world into the strange and the magical. How does it do this? By making that world believable, in its setting, its use of magic, and in its characters. To transport you, the fantasy world must be as complex and rich as reality. While I don’t like works that give long lectures on the history and geography, a sense of both must be present in the fantasy world—this sense preferably arising naturally from the needs of the plot and unfolding bit by bit. For example, in THE GODDESS'S CHOICE the way we learn about the longstanding animosity and history of warfare between Korth and Lundia is through the king’s pressure on the crown princess Samantha to marry. King Solar believes her marriage is necessary to maintain the fragile peace between the joined kingdoms. The history and culture of the joined kingdoms flow from and enhance the story’s central conflict

Magic is an essential element of fantasy; yet to be believable, any system of magic must be both consistent and limited in scope. When the limitations on the wizard or sorcerer are clearly established, tension builds as he or she must work within those limits. The existence of magic doesn’t allow the writer to cheat. My hero’s Robbie’s magic lies in the ability to connect to the mind and body of another. It only works on living things. He can’t suddenly have the ability to warp metal even though that would be convenient. The use of his magic also depletes him physically, so he must be wise in its use. His strength is also his vulnerability.

For me, the most important element in creating a believable fantasy world lies in the characters. A believable world must be peopled with believable characters. In reality, few people are without flaws, but few are so bad that they have no redeeming qualities. Fantasy characters must be equally complex. Heroes must not be completely virtuous, and villains at least need sound motives for their villainy. Robbie is burdened with anger, and Samantha is headstrong and somewhat insensitive. On the other hand, Argblutal believes (with some justification) the throne is rightfully his and that he’d be a better king than a eighteen-year-old girl. When I read a novel, if I can believe a writer’s characters, I can forgive other inconsistencies with the work, but if I cannot believe the characters, nothing else the writer does can redeem the story. Depth of character is the key to believability in the make-believe world of fantasy.

Author Bio

Jamie Marchant lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she's been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She teaches writing and literature at Auburn University.

Her first novel THE GODDESS'S CHOICE was released in April 2012 from Reliquary Press. She is working on the sequel, tentatively titled The Soul Stone. Her short fiction has been published in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, and


The crown princess Samantha fears she’s mad; no one but she sees colors glowing around people. The peasant Robrek Angusstamm believes he’s a demon; animals speak to him, and his healing powers far outstrip those of his village’s priests. Despite their fears, their combined powers make them the goddess’s choice to rule the kingdom of Korthlundia.

In Marchant's sword and sorcery novel, THE GODDESS'S CHOICE, Samantha’s ability enables her to discern a person’s character through their multi-colored aura, and Robrek’s makes him the strongest healer the kingdom has seen in centuries. But their gifts also endanger their lives. Royals scheme to usurp the throne by marrying or killing Samantha, and priests plot to burn Robrek at the stake. Robrek escapes the priests only to be captured by Samantha’s arch-enemy, Duke Argblutal; Argblutal intends to force the princess to marry him by exploiting Robrek’s powers. To save their own lives and stop the realm from sinking into civil war, Robrek and Samantha must consolidate their powers and unite the people behind them.

THE GODDESS'S CHOICE  is based on a Norwegian fairy tale, “The Princess and the Glass Hill.” Though Marchant's favorite fairy tale as a child, it disturbed her that the female character has no name and no role other than being handed off as a prize. Her novel remakes the crown princess of Korthlundia into a strong heroine who is every bit as likely to be the rescuer as the one rescued.

Book Excerpt

Chapter 2
            The Princess Samantha sat at her dressing table and glowered at her reflection as her maids dressed her hair. She detested balls and loathed the hundreds of suitors who flocked around her, spouting empty flattery: “I have never seen a lovelier flower, Your Highness!” or “Your eyes rival the brilliance of the stars, Your Highness!” If I hear that one again, I’ll vomit. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if even one of them meant it. Sometimes she wished . . . She pushed the thought away. She was the heir to the throne. She couldn’t expect romance.
            "Let us be painting your face tonight, Your Highness!" Ardra begged, in her north Korthian accent. Samantha's maid was as small and slight as the princess herself and had hair so blonde it was almost white.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Malvina chimed in. “Lady Shela’s maids said just yesterday we couldn’t possibly know our business ‘cause you never wear paint.” Malvina, more of a typical Korthlundian woman, was tall and broad and not nearly as pretty as Ardra.
“Lady Shela,” Samantha snorted in disgust. Shela wore so much paint she resembled some ghastly sea creature. Samantha knew she wasn’t pretty, but she was fond of the freckles that speckled her nose and thought the emerald green brilliance of her gown set off her white skin and auburn hair beautifully. Besides being appallingly uncomfortable, paint would absolutely spoil the effect. The princess gestured toward the huge portrait that covered one wall of her bedchamber. “Do you think Danu wore paint?”
Malvina shrugged. “The Princess Danu was said to be a powerful sorceress, Your Highness. She probably didn’t need to wear paint to attract men.”
Samantha laughed bitterly, as she thought of the army of men waiting below. “I wish not wearing paint was all it took to scare them off. They say Danu never married, and see how happy she is.”
Samantha yearned for Danu’s freedom. The long-dead princess was laughing as she galloped across the fields. Danu’s auburn hair flew out behind her in the wind. The stars on the forehead and chest of her horse shone against its gorgeous coat. Samantha loved this painting, which was just as well because it was bolted to the wall and couldn’t be removed without tearing her chambers apart. She’d decorated the rest of her bedroom to match. Tapestries of horses covered the walls. Her dressing table, armoire, and large four-poster bed had horses carved into the woodwork. A quilt, embroidered with horses and stars, was spread over the bed. The mantle over her fireplace sported figurines of horses in gold, silver, jade, crystal, and precious stones. Every new ambassador added to her collection.

Contact Information

Buy Links


  1. Dear Joyce,

    Wow, what a great guest blog by having Epic Fantasy author Jamie Marchant! It was so great to get to know you and your stories. I can not wait to read your books! Especially the "Goddess Choice", I really love how detailed your writing is. Amazing! Kudos for this Guest Blog Joyce!

    Syl Stein

  2. Definitely on my list. Lovely guest post. Thanks.

  3. You should know that the ebook is on sale for only $.99 through Jan. 1.

    1. Dear Jamie,

      Thanks for the information, I am going to get it!

      Syl Stein