Story Parameters 8/14/2020

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by Shawn Lamb

Each genre has various parameters that govern the flow and structure of storytelling. Examples: Mystery novels usual follow a private investigator, police, or a person with sleuthing tendencies. The case slowly unravelwithout revealing the truth until the end. These stories are usually in-depth character studies when dealing with “who done it”. Thrillers are non-stop suspense stories with dark overtones, and are heavily plot driven. Historical fiction, romance, and contemporary also have general guidelinesSci-Fi can vary with parameters, but heavily based in science – or at least – should be.

The one genre that tends to stray farther than others in regard to parameters is fantasy. If the straying goes too far, this can pose problems for the author, and subsequently – the reader. Creatures, magic, supernatural, etc., can become out of control if not harnessed. Example; the hero is on a quest and must defeat monsters. If he suddenly and miraculously wins without a cause or reason, it will leave the reader wondering: How did that happen? Why did it happen? Where did that power come from?

Some of the most successful fantasy stories are rooted in the ordinary. Think Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. The vast majority of these characters are just ordinary, whether human, dwarf, elf, or creature. Overcoming great adversity joined with personal growth is what endears these characters to the reader. The fantastic has it place, but should not compete or overshadow the characters.

Before I began writing Allon, I considered what parameters to set for the kingdom. I thought about how the immortal Guardians would interact with the mortals. I decided what angeliclike qualities and powers to give each Guardian. They have a hierarchy, ranks, and stations. Yet unlike angels, they are confined to physical form, thus have weaknesses so their superior strength and wisdom would not continually interfere with the mortals. This created a unique relationship, and tension, with the mortals.

 To form the government of Allon, I used Elizabethan England and Old Testament Israel for a king and Council of Twelve, which represents the Twelve Provinces of Allon. There are knights, castles, ships, and cannon. In short, the ordinary grounds the stories and relationships, so that when the extraordinary elements happen it is believable to what has been established. This will also produce the greatest impact.

Therein lies the secret of creating memorable fantasy stories – ordinary things. There are sixteen books in the Allon series, which includes a children’s spin-off trilogy. Although I finished the original arch, readers still ask if I will ever consider revisiting the kingdom. So, if fantasy is your chosen genre, do not be so quick to get to the fantastic by overlooking the ordinary. Draw your readers into the world with things they can understand, and relate with the characters. 

About the Author:

Shawn LambShawn Lamb is an award-winning author of over 20 books. She travels the country as an event speaker and workshop leader. To learn more about her books, visit:  or for information about speaking engagements, contact her at email: 

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