Elements of Fantasy #2 – The Quest

Welcome to the second in the Elements of Fantasy series! Last time, we talked about Wizards, Warlocks and Witches (and magic users in general). In this episode, we look at the Fantasy Quest…

I want to start off by talking about, what is for me, the quintessential fantasy quest. I’m talking about The Hobbit. I know, I know, I must mention Tolkien in one way or another in many of my posts! I love Middle-earth and I love the stories set there – it’s as simple as that.

So, The Hobbit. One of the first ever fantasy books I read as a child, I remember being captivated from the first page. Essentially, it is the story of a man who lives in a secluded and somewhat xenophobic community and is taken out of his comfort zone when he is dragged along on an epic journey to the other side of Middle-earth to face off against a dragon. As expected, Bilbo Baggins is not a very willing participant in this quest, nor is he the kind of hero who enjoys being away from his home comforts. But as the story progresses and Bilbo has to face ever more terrifying enemies and difficult obstacles, he slowly grows into his new persona and even finds himself enjoying the adventure. After the quest, he returns home a changed hobbit and the rest is history.

The Hobbit

It’s the stuff that great childhood fantasy is made of. Little people with hairy feet? Check. Little people with beards (and most likely hairy feet)? Check. Wizard? Check. Dragon? Check. I could go on. But at the heart of the story, when you strip it back to basics, there lies the simple tale of a reluctant and unlikely hero on a quest to steal a dragon’s treasure. Continue reading

Niklaus: Part One – An Invitation

Happy Friday, everyone! Today marks the final day in our Festive Fantasy Week celebrations for 2013. I want to share with you now a short story that I’ve been working on in the build-up to Christmas. Now, I’d hoped to have it wrapped up by now, but it’s not quite there yet. However, that might not end up being such a bad thing. I’m going to release it in three parts here on the blog, hopefully having the whole thing on here by Christmas Day.

I really hope you enjoy the story and make sure to stay tuned for Part Two, which should be posted over the weekend.

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Niklaus: Part One – An Invitation

Tobacco smoke snaked up from the pipe and obscured the old man’s face like a veil of fog. Impossibly blue eyes danced from behind the smoke, framed by a briar patch criss-cross of wrinkles and scars. The man’s weathered face—so dark, so lined and like old boot-leather—was encircled by brilliant white hair, so overgrown now that the man’s mane and beard were indistinguishable from one another. His thick, pale lips formed a perfect circle as he took another drag from the pipe and let out the smoke in a series of silent whispers.

‘Tell me that last part again,’ he purred. ‘About the deer.’ Continue reading

It’s not a race… It’s a marathon

Something I learned just recently, which has changed my approach to writing for the better, was the idea that writing a piece of fiction is not a race. For years, I was competing to write my novel as quickly as possible in order to get it out the door and sell. But it doesn’t work quite like that (at least, not for us amateurs). No… writing is a marathon, you see. It isn’t so much a question of when you finish, but a game of seeing if you even can finish.

When you’re rushing your writing, you rarely have a chance to pause and actually enjoy what you’re doing. Characters don’t develop in your head, so much as splat onto the page in a bloody mess of literary abandon. Plot lines become knotted abominations, settings broken and/or bland and your own mood takes on a dark, savage quality. In short, you are no longer writer and story; you are now raving madman and word-scramble.

The greatest thing you can do for yourself as a writer is to take time over what you are doing. The time you might think you’ll be saving yourself writing the first draft will come for payback, doubling, trebling even, when you come to re-drafting, IF you rush! Who cares how many words you wrote today, or yesterday, or last week? Is your story moving along? Are your characters developing? If so, what have you got to worry about?

As an old friend of mine said recently, everyone has time to write at least 100 words every day. Whether you bash them out on your phone while waiting for a train, or on a scrap of paper during a boring meeting, or even on a napkin (a NAPKIN, dammit!) while you’re knocking back your morning Starbucks… *pause for breath*… it doesn’t really matter.

Oh, and if you think you need to get your story written and out in the world ASAP because you might get hit by a bus next week, I have these pearls of wisdom for you:

  1. There’s more of a chance agents/publishers will reject you if you’ve rushed your manuscript.
  2. Your manuscript probably isn’t that good anyway (no offence, but let’s be honest with ourselves).
  3. What do you care if people read your story or not once you’re dead? Just relax and have fun haunting that guy at work you don’t like!

In all seriousness, though, just enjoy your writing. When you’re having fun, your best work will come through.

Back With a Vengeance!

You may have noticed the brand new blog design that’s just gone up. If not, don’t worry, I forgive you.

The exciting news, of course, is that Fantasy In Motion is back in business. With my novel-writing going well and really coming to life, I thought I should really get back to blogging. I’ve learned a lot about writing, about people and about the fantasy genre, so I have plenty to share.

As always, you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

This month, I’m planning to write and enter two pieces of flash fiction into contests at SFFWorld and Fantasy Faction. Fingers crossed!

Fiction Friday: The Story – End of Part One

I’ve decided that we’ll leave the first part of our story on a cliffhanger. We’ll resume with Part Two sometime after Christmas. Well done Lauraducky for your chosen entry (and for giving us a great mystery to solve)!

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

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~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

‘You have come a long way, boy,’ the knight said. ‘Beset by enemies at every turn and hunted by those who desire your power.’

Aleks could feel Naia’s fear. He kept his blade between him and this stranger. ‘And you?’ he said. ‘Do you also desire it?’

The knight laughed and it sounded like a swarm of locusts cutting through a desert. ‘What I desire is none of your concern. What the Knights desire, however, will soon become apparent.’

Naia put a protective arm in front of Aleks, shooting the knight a dangerous look. ‘Tell us what to do,’ she said. ‘Tell me what you need.’

The Knight chuckled malevolently. His deep voice didn’t quite fit with the surroundings, as if he didn’t exist. Maybe he didn’t, Aleks thought desperately. Maybe this was all a hallucination. Then he looked at Naia’s frightened face and decided otherwise. He could never dream that up.

He looked back at the Knight. The Knight opened his mouth as if to shout, though Aleks could hear nothing. Naia, however, doubled over as in pain. Her hearing was far beyond that of a normal human. Aleks realised that the Knight was calling the other Knights, and a shiver of fear ran up his spine. Escape was impossible now.

An instant later, the full troop of knights stood before them in gleaming armour. They looked so similar that Aleks could no longer distinguish the first one from the rest of them. There were twelve of them in all, standing motionless before them.

Naia sucked in a deep breath. “Knights of the Last World,” she said. “Give us your demands so that we may give our answer.”

End of Part One

Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 7

It’s that time of the week again… it’s episode seven of our ongoing fantasy story! Congratulations to Flowerfarie, who concludes last week’s thrilling installment. It’s going to be a short piece from me this week, because I want to leave the next twist in the story mainly up to you guys.

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

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~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

‘Just what we need?’ Aleks said. ‘What do you mean? You told me we would find it. The answers I want are there!’

‘Hush!’ Naia hissed. She put a finger to her mouth and her ears seemed to prick up. ‘They’re here,’ she whispered, eyes wild.

Aleks glanced about him, searching in the darkness above and below for unseen enemies. ‘Where?’ he said. He drew his short blade, though he knew he was vastly under practiced with it.

As if on cue, a rushing, roaring noise came from all around them and evil, disembodied voices wailed out of the chaos. Aleks swung wildly, trying to destroy whatever this strange force was, but to no avail.

Naia reached out and took Aleks by the hand. ‘We’re getting out of here!’ she yelled. She closed her eyes, recited something under her breath and the world as the pair knew it fell away. They had evaded the hunters once again… but how long could they keep running?

Naia peered through the clearing mists of transition. She’d made a mistake; which really very rarely happened.

‘Where on earth are we?’, Aleks looked at the bright blue sky and the burning orange sun. The colours were vivid and he thought to himself that it was the most beautiful place he had seen in a long time. A river flowed out in front of them, the water sparkled full of diamonds; the trees and grass were lush; and he immediately felt his vitality returning.

Naia couldn’t understand it. This was not the place she’d had in her mind.

The gauntlet was still in her grasp; and the stones that decorated it were glowing strongly. As she examined it closely she recognised the intricate decoration that was only now becoming visible. ‘The magic this contains’, she said shakily, dropping the gauntlet to the floor, ‘ Is that of The Knights of the Last World’.

Aleks saw the confusion on Naia’s face. She was usually so sure of herself; but now she was pale and had never looked so vulnerable.

‘You should have realised that when you first saw it, Naia, I know it’s been a very long time; but I had hoped you would remember us’.

The voice belonged to a very tall, thin being who suddenly became visible to them. Dressed in the unmistakable uniform of the Knights; the armour clad man smiled and introduced himself to Aleks.

Episode 7

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

‘You have come a long way, boy,’ the knight said. ‘Beset by enemies at every turn and hunted by those who desire your power.’

Aleks could feel Naia’s fear. He kept his blade between him and this stranger. ‘And you?’ he said. ‘Do you also desire it?’

The knight laughed and it sounded like a swarm of locusts cutting through a desert. ‘What I desire is none of your concern. What the Knights desire, however, will soon become apparent.’

Naia put a protective arm in front of Aleks, shooting the knight a dangerous look. ‘Tell us what to do,’ she said. ‘Tell me what you need.’

Now it’s your turn to tell us where the story goes next!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Writing For Children: World Within a World

Welcome to a brand new subject area here on the blog: Children’s Fiction! You’ll find all future posts like this one under the Children’s Fiction category or you can just do a search from the top of the blog.

One of the things I see time and time again in stories for youngsters is the idea of the world within a world. It’s in Harry Potter and it’s in Artemis Fowl. It could even be argued that it’s in the Young Bond and Alex Rider books, too. Essentially, it’s something fantastic or impossible, existing within the confines of Earth as we know it. The reason I think it is so used and so successful, is because of the following reasons:

  1. It’s so versatile
  2. It gives the reader familiar references
  3. It makes our boring world feel more fantastic

You only have to look at concepts such as Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic to know that it’s such a great concept to use in children’s fiction. You can literally take anything from the real world; be it school, home or something as generic as a forest and transform it into a place only possible in the reader’s imagination.

Personally, I feel this concept works the best when reality is tweaked very slightly. For example, a secret restaurant for London’s pigeons hidden at the top of Big Ben. The environment and landmarks are all there, we’ve just changed one tiny thing, but it’s something that could never possibly happen… or could it? There’s the beauty. Nobody really knows whether pigeons have a restaurant at the top of Big Ben, because nobody ever looks. You need to make children believe that these fictional things could possibly exist in the real world. Take Harry Potter as another example. You had tourists trying to push trolleys into a solid brick wall at King’s Cross Station, between platforms 9 and 10.

How many hopeful geeks out there occasionally wave their hand about in the hope they have been granted superpowers? Loads, I bet. There’s the secret – make people believe that something could be real and you’re onto a winner.

Remember, you’ve only got 3 days to leave your entry for Fiction Friday: The Story! Episode 6 is at this link!

~ James

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Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 6

Here’s episode six! Only one entry this time *sad face*. Congrats to Lauraducky!

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

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~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

‘What do we do?’ Naia asked.

Aleks took the gauntlet in his hand and studied it closely. He could see no markings or insignia which would bring him closer to its creator or owner. Perhaps it had never had an owner? What if it was meant for him and him alone?

Naia reached out a hand to touch the gauntlet, but Aleks snatched it away, scowling. ‘Get away!’ he snapped. ‘It’s mine!’

A rush of blood went to his head and he suddenly felt dizzy and sick. Naia was looking at him as if she’d never met him before in her life. Suddenly, her face contorted into a frown and she slapped him hard across the face.

‘How dare you?’ she cried. ‘Remember your place, boy.’

Aleks’ face stung, bringing him back to his senses. He shook away the rest of his annoyance, knowing it was irrational. He felt as if the gauntlet had somehow been controlling his emotions. The shame hit him like a wall, and he felt his ears heat up. Of course Naia was justified in looking at the gauntlet.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

With some reluctance, he handed over the gauntlet. Naia smiled at him, but he thought there was a patronising edge to her smile. She turned it over in her hands, peering closely at it. Her expertise, he knew, would be valuable.

Naia smiled. “This is a very powerful magical object,” she said. “It could be just what we need.”

Episode 6

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

‘Just what we need?’ Aleks said. ‘What do you mean? You told me we would find it. The answers I want are there!’

‘Hush!’ Naia hissed. She put a finger to her mouth and her ears seemed to prick up. ‘They’re here,’ she whispered, eyes wild.

Aleks glanced about him, searching in the darkness above and below for unseen enemies. ‘Where?’ he said. He drew his short blade, though he knew he was vastly under practiced with it.

As if on cue, a rushing, roaring noise came from all around them and evil, disembodied voices wailed out of the chaos. Aleks swung wildly, trying to destroy whatever this strange force was, but to no avail.

Naia reached out and took Aleks by the hand. ‘We’re getting out of here!’ she yelled. She closed her eyes, recited something under her breath and the world as the pair knew it fell away. They had evaded the hunters once again… but how long could they keep running?

Ok, you carry it on!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 5

It’s time for episode five! We had three entries last time and it was really difficult to choose between them. Nevertheless, I had to choose one, so read on to find out whose got chosen…

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

Aleks carefully shimmied down a shallow slope and touched down on a wide ledge. He could see what Naia had meant when she said that something was lodged down here. ‘What is that?’ he said. ‘It’s huge.’

Naia joined him and shifted effortlessly back to her human form. ‘I-I don’t know,’ she said, stumbling over her words. ‘Is that what we’re looking for?’

‘It can’t be,’ Aleks said, scratching his head. ‘Can it?’

Naia squinted at the object, trying to make out what it was. “I can’t see anything,” she complained.

“I’ll make some light,” Aleks replied. He hadn’t wanted to because it would drain his energy reserves, but being in total darkness was beginning to make him feel uncomfortable.

With a flourish (which he later realised nobody could see) he clicked his fingers and a bright orange orb of light appeared above their heads, illuminating the crevasse for the first time. The light had an ethereal quality to it, making the black rocks around them seem smoother and shinier that they actually were.

As their eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, Aleks heard Naia quietly gasp. The curiosity within him burnt even brighter at this, and he took a closer look at the object in front of them.

Nestled within a huge bed of pure crystal which shimmered in the orange glow was an intricate gauntlet made of a bright silver metal. What it was doing there, neither Aleks nor Naia could tell, but it seemed to radiate with power. It seemed like a strange thing to do, to leave a single glove deep below the ground in such a deliberate spot. It made Aleks think that someone had wanted him to find it, but who? He could think of no such person.

Episode 5

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

‘What do we do?’ Naia asked.

Aleks took the gauntlet in his hand and studied it closely. He could see no markings or insignia which would bring him closer to its creator or owner. Perhaps it had never had an owner? What if it was meant for him and him alone?

Naia reached out a hand to touch the gauntlet, but Aleks snatched it away, scowling. ‘Get away!’ he snapped. ‘It’s mine!’

A rush of blood went to his head and he suddenly felt dizzy and sick. Naia was looking at him as if she’d never met him before in her life. Suddenly, her face contorted into a frown and she slapped him hard across the face.

‘How dare you?’ she cried. ‘Remember your place, boy.’

There you go. Let’s see what you can come up with!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday (Thursday): The Story – Episode 4

I really must apologise for not putting up episode four last Friday. I had a week off work (a rare occurrence) and I let it go to my head ;) Here it is, on a Thursday. Episode five will be up tomorrow as usual, so get your entries in fast!

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

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~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

A few hours later, the pair came to a huge split in the ground; a crevasse that seemed as if it had torn a painful wound in the world itself. Aleks slowed and carefully approached the edge. Naia circled overhead, having taken the shape of a hawk, and let out a cautioning cry.

Aleks, she said, her voice somehow in his head but not audible. I sense something terrible inside that tear in the earth. I don’t like this.

Something terrible? Aleks was sure his friend was just being overly cautious, but she had been right about such things in the past. He took a deep breath and shimmied gingerly over the edge into the unknown.

The rock was slippery, and Aleks feared for his life as his feet struggled to find purchase on the icy walls. Naia guided him where she could, and slowly but surely he navigated his way down. It seemed to take forever, and he began panting heavily after just a few minutes. Every metre he would look behind him into the freezing darkness, wishing for some light. This was starting to seem like a bad idea.

Naia had changed into a bat, and she hovered anxiously behind him. “I told you it was dangerous,” she said, her mental voice rising in pitch.

Aleks ignored her. “Can you see anything down there?” he asked.

Naia flew around behind him, clicking at a frequency too high for him to hear. “There’s something lodged in this crevasse,” she said. “Not too far now.”

Episode 4

This week in Fiction Friday (Thursday): The Story…

Aleks carefully shimmied down a shallow slope and touched down on a wide ledge. He could see what Naia had meant when she said that something was lodged down here. ‘What is that?’ he said. ‘It’s huge.’

Naia joined him and shifted effortlessly back to her human form. ‘I-I don’t know,’ she said, stumbling over her words. ‘Is that what we’re looking for?’

‘It can’t be,’ Aleks said, scratching his head. ‘Can it?’

Oo, mysterious, no? Your turn!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 3

It’s time for episode three (I promise you, it won’t be as bad as Star Wars: Episode 3)! We only had one entry this time around, so make sure you participate if you enjoy reading the story :)

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

Every week, you will all have the opportunity to continue the story by leaving a comment on this post. I will then choose my favourite entry and add it to the story for next week, at which point I will continue the story from where you left off.

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~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

The sea lion considered the question a moment and slowly nodded its head. ‘Aye, I did. The red rage came upon me… I just couldn’t–’

‘It’s alright,’ Aleks said. He placed a comforting hand on his friend’s nape. ‘Come on, we should make ourselves scarce.’

The odd pair took their leave and proceeded across the dunes, away from the beach and back onto solid earth. As soon as they were out of sight, the sea lion let out a cry and started to change even as it waddled along. Slowly, its features began to twist and morph and it started to resemble a human. Whiskers retracted and the leather-grey skin smoothed to a supple pink. The strange girl that now walked beside Aleks gave him a wry smile, her eyes dancing and impossibly black.

‘At least you decided to wear clothes before you shifted, this time, Naia,’ Aleks said.

‘Yes,’ Naia replied, flushing. ‘That was an awkward moment, wasn’t it?’

Aleks smiled wearily as the familiar fields stretched out before them. There was precious little energy left to take from the soil beneath them. The grass was already beginning to brown and die in patches.

“We’ve been too long in this place,” he said in a low voice.

Naia breathed deep, searching, and frowned. “We’ve still not found it.”

The two walked a while longer in silence, contemplating their predicament. They had to move on soon but if they did… would they ever be able to return? A hunter was dead. Soon more would come to see what had happened. Yet that for which they searched was somewhere in these lands, perhaps hidden in a villager’s home, perhaps forgotten in some cave in the mountains.

Naia sensed his struggle and put a comforting hand to his shoulder. “Come,” she said. Aleks could hear the dull clicks of bones changing as Naia began to shift. “Let us continue.”

Episode 3

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

A few hours later, the pair came to a huge split in the ground; a crevasse that seemed as if it had torn a painful wound in the world itself. Aleks slowed and carefully approached the edge. Naia circled overhead, having taken the shape of a hawk, and let out a cautioning cry.

Aleks, she said, her voice somehow in his head but not audible. I sense something terrible inside that tear in the earth. I don’t like this.

Something terrible? Aleks was sure his friend was just being overly cautious, but she had been right about such things in the past. He took a deep breath and shimmied gingerly over the edge into the unknown.

Right, let’s see what you can do with that! Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday Episode 3 is Coming!

Hey everyone! Due to an unforeseen event this morning, I’ve not been able to compose anything worth reading on here. However, I do have an important reminder for you all!
Fiction Friday: Episode 3 will be here in 2 days! That means you only have a short time left to add your contributions to the story for this week. Just follow the link below and leave a comment with your entry. It doesn’t have to be perfect, long or even remotely intelligible – just write whatever you want!

>> Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 2 <<

And if you encounter any difficulty leaving a comment on the post, just contact me with your entry and I’ll consider it with the rest!

I’ll see you on Friday. Be there or… well… don’t be there!

~ James

Worldbuilder’s Workout – Transport

Worldbuilder's Workout

In our last Worldbuilder’s Workout, we talked about Distance. Well, today we’re going to look at Transport.

By Land

By their very nature, fantasy worlds are usually medieval, in technological terms. What did people use back then to get around? Horses and their own two feet? It’s sort of correct, but not very imaginative. Horses/mules were important because they were the tools that drove society. They drew wagons and carriages, helped farmers work their fields and transported goods from one place to another. However, they were also expensive; in much the same way that some people can’t afford to buy a car nowadays. Bicycles weren’t invented until the 19th century, so walking was the other option. But that shouldn’t be the end of the matter. Think how someone who buys a horse and cart could profit from it. The medieval world had taxis, just not as you know them today.

Carriages

By Sea

Sailboats and rowboats are usually the transport of choice for the high seas. When you start bringing in steam-powered ships, you edge out of fantasy territory and start to add in steampunk elements. There’s no reason why you can’t do this, but I’m talking about standard fantasy here. Writing about ships and adventures at sea can be really good fun, but you need to know your stuff. Look up some basic information on sailboats so that you have a good idea of where everything is on one and how they worked. You can adapt things for your story’s needs, but I find its always best to stick relatively closely to established real-world rules.

By Air

Now, this is an interesting one. Airships or dragons/giant birds are usually what we’re presented with in fantasy. I find airships don’t sit well with me. Warcraft uses them, but I feel they detract from the fantasy setting a little. Giant winged creatures, on the other hand, can sometimes work if done well. However, I would advise steering clear of dragon riders or anything similar, as this has now become a huge fantasy cliche, in my humble opinion. Magic systems providing flight is another option, of course, which I cover in the final section.

Airship

By Any Means

Depending on how cleverly you can do it, you could try to invent new ways for your world’s inhabitants to get around. It could be magic-based or not. What about a new species of animal that’s different to a horse in some way? How about a crude and unexplained form of electricity that is used to give speed to ships? Or what if instead of roads there were tracks and horse-drawn wagons ran on them? The possibilities really are endless, it’s just up to your own imagination!

What’s your view on transport in fantasy settings? Got any ideas/questions for the community?

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Remember – if you missed the chance to take part in the second episode of our community-written fantasy story, you can still leave your entries by following the below link!

Friday Fiction: The Story – Episode 2

More Worldbuilder’s Workouts…

Worldbuilder’s Workout – Distance