The official blog of Jane Domagala

The Next Big Thing

A good writer friend of mine, Chris McMahon, has tagged me for the Next Big Thing blog chain. It has been my experience that the writing community is very supportive and friendly. The Next Big Thing blog is a fantastic way of spreading the word of other fabulous writes, as well as getting some insight into their latest project, by answering 10 questions. At the end, you'll see the links to other brilliant writers also participating. Please check them out.

Here are my answers to the Next Big Thing question:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The title of my current book is The Scroll – Book one of The Gifts of Haythia.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came from a dream. In the dream I was on the front lawn of a suburban house (green grass), when suddenly there was an explosion. I realised that an assassin had tried to kill someone inside the house. Furthermore, the assassin had a list of names of people who were to be killed – an assassin's list. When I woke up I thought about how I could put that idea into a fantasy setting.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Epic, adult fantasy.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

That's a hard question to answer. I don't tend to spend much time thinking about that. I did think at one time that Sam Worthington would be a good fit for my lead male, Katch. But I'd be just as happy with an unknown actor, as long as they were passionate about what they were doing.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Closer to death is he who bears the scroll of Haythia.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm not considering self publishing at this time.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took me about 7-8 months to do the first draft, which weighed in at around 140,000 words. Edits have since cut back many of those words.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can't think of a specific book, but it's definitely a traditional fantasy in that there is magic, epic journeys and mighty battles.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

There was nothing specific that inspired me to write this book, other than my dream and my love of writing. I rarely go a day without doing some kind of writing activity, be it actual writing, editing, plotting or research. I just love it.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I have a capacity to go a little dark and gruesome. The Scroll is no exception. If you're into beastly human like creatures (otherwise known as demons) trying to destroy humanity than this book is for you.

For more great authors,  please check out Nicky Strickland, Kathleen NoudDamon Cavalchini and Sharon Phillips.

ADULT CONTENT – Writing a Sex Scene Part 3

So we've decided whose having sex, we've set the mood and chosen a location. All that's left is the nitty gritty, blow by blow details of what goes on under the sheets. I should give a language warning: everything from this point on will be written in English. In other words, let no word be taboo. As writers, we have a responsibility to be honest, cheeky, bold, daring, challenging, and so much more. So when it comes to writing about sex, don't be afraid to go places we know exist.

Description: How Far Do You Go?
How in depth should your sexual description be? Do you give a blow by blow encounter? Do you use words such as breasts, penis, vagina, cocks, hard on, nipples, tongues? Are orgasms allowed? Should they be metaphoric?

To answer these questions, you have to first ask yourself: what audience am I writing for? Traditional fantasy tends to be less graphic, with short sex scenes. That's not to say you can't be creative, just keep it simple and clean. In adult fantasy, don't be afraid to use words such as penis and orgasm and breasts, but maybe use them sparingly. If you're looking to push some boundaries and lean towards the erotic, you descriptions can be more graphic.

The approach I take depends on the characters' investment with one another. The more connected they are (or become throughout the story) the more sensual the sex scene. For encounters that are less emotion, you may want to be rough, or jarring. Think about your characters. Think about how comfortable they are with sex and use their emotions to dictate how graphic your descriptions are. If they're uncomfortable using sexual language, then don't use it. And vice-versa. There are no set rules, so have fun with it.

Masturbation and other sexual taboos.
The last point I want to make relates to all the other sexual taboos we tend to avoid, for whatever reason. There are some that are touchy subjects; paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia to name a few. If you feel there's a need for a taboo in your story, then I say use it. DO NOT use a taboo for the purpose of sensationalising your book. Like anything in writing, if you can't justify having it in the story, take it out.

In conclusion, by acknowledging unfettered sexual needs and desires within your character you make them far more realistic. People think about sex, there's no pretending otherwise. Where you take those sexual desires is up to you.

ADULT CONTENT - Writing a Sex Scene Part 2

In my last blog I wrote about the importance of deciding who of your characters are going to have sex and with whom. Once you've decided, you need to think about the state of mind of your characters are in and the mood surrounding their sexual encounter.

Set The Mood
Ideally, you want to show the emotional state of your characters and the connections they're sharing with their sexual partner. I ask myself questions like: has there been so much pent up sexual tension that the lovers rip each other's clothes off and they do it in front of the neighbours? Is the romance forbidden, so that they must hide away? Is the interlude brief, undone buttons, lifted skirts? Do they have to be quiet? Do they scare the pigeons from the rafters with their expression of love? Is there seduction? Is there force?

The characters' nature will have a direct impact on the mood. Are they a gentle soul? Cheeky? Do they hold a grudge against someone/something? The better you know your characters, the more realistic the sex scene. Remember to keep your characters true to their nature. Don't force them to be tender if they struggle with intimacy. If they're naturally shy, don't have them be a Casanova in bed and so on. You can, however, allow hidden characteristics to shine through. The tough warrior who just wants to be loved, might show his gentle side. The princess who uses sex to get what she wants can be vulnerable in the arms of the man she loves. Use your characters' personality to help set the mood.

I'm going to tack location onto the end of this post because it is in part a player when it comes to mood. Locations can be great to play around with. Not all of your sex scenes have to take place in the bedroom. Think about it, you're in the barn ripping off your lover's clothes... do you really care if you make it back to the bedroom? Well maybe you do and maybe you don't. 

Do pigeons flutter from the rafters? Is it so dark you can't see your lover's face? Are you working up a sweaty froth in the humid weather? Is the snow hardening parts of your body you'd rather not talk about?

When writing period/medieval based fantasy, you have to remember that there probably wasn't a lot of privacy back in the ye old days. So be aware that storerooms, bathrooms, kitchen tables, tree branches, etc... all make wonderful places for a sexual interlude. Use your imagination. Make it as awkward, or uncomfortable, or unusual as possible. And don't forget to have fun.

Part 3: How far can you go descriptively?

ADULT CONTENT - Writing a Sex Scene Part 1

I've blogged before about sex in adult fantasy fiction and the importance of it to add realism to your story. What I didn't go into was how to write a sex scene. Or more specifically, how I write a sex scene. I've always liked writing sex scenes. The characters are in a heightened state of emotions and it can be great for building character tension before, between or after the fact. Plus it's fun to get down and dirty sometimes, don't you think?

Let's begin with who's having sex. So...

Who's having sex?
When I start writing about characters in a new book I always love to explore the different sexual interactions between them. Who's having sex with whom? Sometimes the sex between characters is amazing and sometimes it's horrific. I always keep in mind that a sexual encounter can (and most likely will) change a character for good or bad. If you commit yourself to a sex scene you'd better be prepared for how those characters are going to feel/change afterwards. For example afterwards are they excited, awkward, ashamed, ecstatic, sleepy or just pleased that they've had sex? Throwing in a sex scene for the sake of it can be disastrous and pointless. At the same time the lack of sex shifts your book from adult to young adult. If there's no opportunity in your story for the protagonist to have sex then at least have them thinking about it. As most people do.

Plot can play a big role in deciding who gets it on with whom, but you also have to consider character development, character personality and the journey a character must take throughout the book. Personally, I like my protagonist to have a solid love interest (call me a romantic). But that's not to say they can't have dark/gritty sexual encounters that go beyond love. A domineering or manipulative character would be likely to use sex to get what they want.

Also, don't forget secondary characters. There's plenty of opportunities for secondary characters to use their sexuality (or lack thereof) to change or mess up the protagonist's plans. In short, I think about my plot and my characters and how a sexual encounter will inhibit or aid the story I'm trying to tell. Sometimes the most unlikely of characters can find their way to each other. What are your thoughts?

Part II - Set The Mood

GOOD vs. EVIL – Blurring the lines

There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it. Buddha

The battle between Good and Evil is never ending, and it's one concept I love to explore. But how does one know who is good and who is evil? In real life we base our decision on our own values. If you believe killing is bad then all people who kill are bad. That's a very basic tool you can use for writing, but is it enough? What if a person killed defending their family? Or, in the case of a character like Dexter, what if a person kills to rid the world of other bad people?

Blurring the line between the good and evil traits within your characters will make them more rounded. Give them something to anguish over. Your protagonist wants to be good and do the right thing, but to reach their goals they have to perform a despicable act. What will they choose to do? Have they made mistakes where they didn't do the right thing? Do they have regrets? How do they get over the guilt? Can they redeem themselves?

The same applies to your villains/antagonist. One thing I constantly remind myself of when I write is that no one believes they are bad. People will justify acts of evil to obtain their goals. They may not see the acts as evil at all if they believe it is for the greater good. And villains are capable of doing good things. But will they choose to do good things? What are their motivations for doing the things that others see as evil?

How dark you make your characters and far you push the boundaries of what they're capable of is up to you. Just have fun and continue blurring the lines.

Stepping out at Continuum

Writers, in general, like our solitude. It allows us to sit for long periods of time alone, in front of a computer to write. But to say we're completely solitary creatures, or that writing is a complete solitary craft isn't true. We constantly need to refuel our creative tanks. How do we do that? In so many ways. One of my favourites is the convention scene. 

The weekend just past saw a flurry of authors and fans come together in Melbourne for Continuum 8. It was a fantastic event with lots of fabulous authors from whom to gain inspiration from and lots of wonderful people to connect with and have a laugh and a glass of wine. I caught up with old friends and made new ones.

Sharon Phillips, Jane Domagala (me), Helen Stubbs, Cheryse Durrant, Louise Cussack
I had several favourite moments during the con including the scene writing workshops with Alison Goodman and the fight writing workshop with Alan Baxter. I also loved the panel about writing different gender, sexualities & cultures with Louise Cusack among others. I thoroughly enjoyed the many readings – one of the more deliciously disturbing ones coming from Kaaron Warren and her severed, grey finger with the red nail polish. Two highlights for me were the launch of Jason Nahrung's novella, Salvage, and Kathleen Jenning's Ditmar win.

Me and Jason Nahrung
Kathleen Jenning's and her octopi
Although it's a sad affair when the con ends and everyone goes their separate ways, it's also great to return home full of inspiration and ready to sit for hours again in front of the computer. So on that note, I'm off to create some more fantastical world. See you soon at the next con...


This is the final installation of my preproduction posts. I hope they've been useful to you. I've covered ideas, characters, plotting and world building. Now it's time to put it together in the character and story arcs.

Character Arcs
Now that you have your characters what are you going to do with them. All characters have to go through some kind of transformation throughout the book. This may be for good or bad, subtle or major. It may be an emotional transformation, or a financial/situational transformation. It will depend on the characters themselves. But they will change. You've just asked them to save the world and they've done it for you (or maybe not). Such events are going to have an effect on them.

As with plotting, it's helpful to have an idea of the emotional and situational state of your characters at the end of the book. Did they overcome their fears? Learn their lessons? Did they lose everything? Or win it all? Did they triumph, or fail? Did they discover things about themselves that they didn't know before? Did their inability to learn bring about their downfall?

When you know how your characters will change, you can then map out turning points in the novel. These are events that have an effect on the way your characters think or act, which ultimately shape who they are by the end of the book.

Story Arcs
The story arc is very similar to the character arc and encompasses both the plot and the characters. You may have heard of a novel having a Beginning, Middle and End.

The beginning is where you introduce your characters, settings and the main conflict
The middle is where your characters run into difficulties, the tension builds and your characters begin to grow.
The end is where the main conflict is resolved and loose ends tied up (if you like neat endings)

This is a really great way to structure your novel, though I have to admit I have trouble consciously marking these points in my own stories. I do stick to some rules though, like never introducing new plots and characters right near the end of the book. Never give away all of your secrets at the beginning of the book. Remember, you're on a journey and you want to stop and see the sights as you go. If you saw all the sites either at the beginning, or the end, the in between would be boring. So you need to think about where you're going to place pivotal moments in the story. When do I want the reader to know that Billy's new friend is actually an evil sorcerer from another world? How far in does my character realise that they're the chosen one? For how long is the king in denial that the world is sinking?

How you answer those questions will depend on the pace and tone you want to set for your novel. But that's a whole other story...
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