All your gangsters need to have nicknames. They don’t have to make sense, though.
Always make sure your main character has a cool name. He’s got to beat up bad guys and solve murders, and he can’t really do that if he’s got a name like Gerald.
Cram it full of questionable metaphors. If you get stuck, elaborate, and then put ‘if ya know what I mean’ on the end of the sentence. Readers will assume you are wise-cracking and witty, instead of thinking that you fell down the rabbit hole with a thesaurus in your hand. If ya know what I mean.
Contractions and slang make your main character sound tough. ‘You’ is always ‘ya’, don’t hesitate to use no double negative, and always go for ‘gotta’ over ‘got to’. Proper grammar is for wusses.
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
They say this city used to be the kinda town where everyone knew each other. A guy couldn’t go a block without seein’ someone he knew. A little old lady with an apple pie. Maybe some kids, playin’ on the sidewalk. Musta been nice.
These days, it ain’t so pretty. Sure, there’s a few familiar faces. But they ain’t exactly friendly. Ya see ’em steppin’ out of alleys with a gat pointed at your belly and ya think ‘Gee, didn’t ya rob me last week?’
Not me, though. Nobody robs Mac Hunter. Even in this city, where sleepin’ in the gutter is a step up, nobody’s dumb enough to rob the best PI in town. Besides, they all know I’m broke.
Feet on the desk, I pour myself another glass of hooch. Business is slow, slower than a snail with a gammy leg. I oughtta be drummin’ up a case, but to hell with that. It’s rainin’. Always rains in this godforsaken city.
I light up a Camel. Yellow light stripes through the Venetian blinds, like a zebra, only one with really straight stripes that’s been turned ass over teakettle. Electricity broke two weeks ago and the landlord won’t do a damn thing about it. Says I oughtta be grateful for a place of my own. Hell. He oughtta be grateful he answers to Jimmy “Spoonface” Giuliani. If ol’ Spoonface wasn’t in the picture, he wouldn’t be so quick to run his mouth off.
There’s a knock at the door. Hell. Landlord, again.
“Velma! Get the door!” I yell, before I remember that Velma walked out last week. Said a secretary wanted payin’ in more’n just stale whiskey. She’ll be back. She sticks to me like gum that’s been covered in glue, and then dunked in molasses, and then glue, again. Never could say no to a man with a pack a day habit and a gun in his pocket.
But then the door opens, and trouble walks in. Turns out, trouble is a redhead.
Legs for days and all the way up to her waist, if ya know what I mean. Poured into a dress as black as a black cat in a coal cellar at midnight and with all the lights off. Curls like spiral staircases twirling up to the top of her head, and I couldn’t think of a man who wouldn’t slug a guy to climb ’em. Fur coat. Shiny gloves. A ring that coulda bought half the city, but that ain’t sayin’ much.
“Well?” she says, in a voice like November, “aren’t you going to give me a seat, Mr Hunter?”
Aw, hell. I tip an ashtray and a few empty bottles of hooch off of a chair. She shakes her head, mutters ‘November?’ and sits herself down. It’s like watching a bottle of oak-cask whiskey uncork itself and wriggle towards your hand.
She frowns. “Oak-cask whiskey?”
“Never mind. What can I do you for, Miss…”
“I betcha are.”
“Mrs Lola Valentine.”
“He’s a lucky fella.”
She fits a cigarette into a long holder. Before I know it I’m lightin’ it for her, like some chubby little drone buzzin’ after the queen bee. Only, with cigarettes and a lighter in my fuzzy bee paws. Note to self: do bees have paws? Probably oughtta look that one up.
She gives me a strange look and takes a drag. “He’s a dead fella, Mr Hunter.”
Damn. Now I remember. Her dear departed husband musta been Frank “Steps” Valentine. Rich. Old. In the Mayor’s pocket and not the one at the back, if ya know what I mean. Shot in the back of the head not two weeks gone. Coroner ruled it a suicide. They always do.
“I know my husband’s death wasn’t a suicide,” she says, fixin’ me with a look that pinned me like a butterfly on a collector’s board. Only, a manly butterfly, with trenchcoat wings, a fedora, and a gat named Ginger in his hand. Antenna.
“Now, Mrs Valentine…”
“You know it too. I heard the tone of your monologue. I want you to find out who killed him. I’ll pay you well, of course.”
She knew I could do with the money. But “Steps” Valentine played a dangerous game, and I don’t mean no game that could be played with the lovely Lola. All kindsa scum had muscled in on Valentine’s racket and his body was barely cold. Eddie “Llama” McMurphy had his slice of the rum-runners. Vincenzo “Beaker” Gorlami was movin’ in on the girlie shows. And worst of all, Boris “the Holly Bush” Krazinsky was havin’ dinner with the Mayor every night, and you betcha he was gettin’ two scoops of ice cream with desert, if ya know what I mean.
But ‘danger’ is my middle name. No, really. It says ‘Mac Danger Hunter’ on my birth certificate.
“And if I don’t take the case?”
“Then, Mr Hunter,” she says, givin’ me a smile that drains all the metaphors right outta me, “I’ll take it to a gumshoe that doesn’t monologue out loud.”
Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.
Time for another book recipe! This time I’ll be looking at epic fantasy. Put on your questing helmet and let’s get started!
An assorted mix of noble adventurers. Choose your own flavours from any of the following:
The long-lost heir to the throne
The wise elf-mage
A drunk, angry guide
A spunky warrior-princess
A charming but slightly morally dodgy rogue
The Sacred MacGuffin
One Evil Overlord
One slightly less evil overlord, for target practice
A magic sword
A series of oddly-named kingdoms
A handful of magical creatures, for set dressing
An Evil Overlord has risen and the kingdom is in peril! Only one thing can stop him: the Sacred MacGuffin.
Assemble your heroes! It’s questing time. Pack your magic sword and we’re off!
Have your heroes amble along towards the MacGuffin. It’s a race against time, but no-one’s really going to care about that until after the halfway point.
Time for group banter. If the warrior-princess is in your band of heroes, it’s also time to start setting up the romance. It doesn’t matter if there’s no chemistry at all. Of course she can’t be single!
Have an amusing tavern scene to pass the time. Make sure to include a bumbling, fat innkeeper.
First encounter with the hordes of the Evil Overlord! The heroes win, and it’s all very exciting.
Keep on questing. Remember that the questing decisions don’t have to make logical sense. They just have to lead your heroes into exciting and difficult situations. Logic is for losers.
A thing has happened which makes questing so much harder! Maybe someone forgot to take their horse in for a service or something. It doesn’t matter as long as the reader knows that now Things Are Serious.
The slightly less evil overlord pursues the heroes. Kill one of them off if you want to show how serious things are now.
The heroes are having doubts. Now is an excellent point to mope about the lovers/families/favourite pizza joints they left behind.
The heroes are saved with the help of some magic stuff. Elves, swords, unicorns, take your pick.
The group is fractured! The noblest and most attractive ones decide to continue the quest, while the others go and do something else.
Have a deep and meaningful conversation about duty, honour, sacrifice, and other things that must be discussed with a very straight face.
Our heroes have found a magic sword, or a secret prophecy, or a helpful dragon – the point is, they’ve levelled up for some reason! Hooray!
The slightly less evil overlord is defeated! Make sure to take notes, as that was only the warm-up.
The MacGuffin is recovered! Time to limber up for the final battle – and for the group to be re-united, because they clearly overheard the conversation in step 14.
EPIC BATTLE. SWORDS. MAGIC. DRAGONS, PROBABLY. THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN.
The MacGuffin does its thing and the Evil Overlord is defeated! Give your armies the day off.
Peace is restored to the kingdom! The rightful heir is back on the throne, the warrior-princess has got married, and the dwarves are drinking themselves into a stupor.
THE END. Serve dusted in a fine layer of magical background creatures.
Language is super important – it’s got to sound epic as well as look epic. People don’t ‘look for’ stuff, they ‘seek’ it. Never, ever use contractions. It’s not ‘because’, it’s ‘for’. Basically, if it doesn’t sound like it’s written on parchment, go back and start again.
Make sure you give your characters the right names. Barbarians need names with lots of consonants in. Elves need names with lots of soft sounds in. Evil Overlords should have names made up of all the difficult bits of the alphabet. If in doubt, spell a normal name badly and stick ‘Brightblade’ at the end of it.
Stuck on what magical creatures to use? Anything that could be airbrushed onto the side of a van is fine.
Horses are basically happy, furry cars with four legs. Don’t worry about making sure they’ve got enough food, water, rest etc. – that would just get in the way of the plot!
Kingdoms are good. Simple country villages are good. Councils are almost always bad or inefficient, and Republics should be treated with suspicion. Empires are stone-cold evil.
Never trust a Grand Vizier.
Fantasy races are a must, but you really only need two or three. Elves are wise but kind of girly. Dwarves are silly. Orcs are bad, stupid and ugly. Goblins are the worst. For anything else use this rule of thumb: if they’re attractive, you can trust them.
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
Alyss Brightblade tugged her hooded cloak a little closer and hammered on the tavern door. Behind her, her companions shivered in the rain. Apart from Wolf. The barbarian, who had come from the wastes of the frozen north, had stripped down to his fur-lined underpants again.
A wooden panel slid open. Alyss caught a glimpse of a jowly face. “What d’you want?”
“We seek shelter from the storm and a hot meal for our bellies, innkeep.”
The innkeeper opened the door. He was a fat man with sideburns and a large white apron. “Come in, then. And tell your barbarian to put a shirt on.”
Alyss glanced back at Wolf. The rain glistened on his chest. She wouldn’t tell him to put a shirt on just yet.
They filed into the inn and huddled around the fire. Durdon, the dwarfish axe-master, made straight for the bar, tucking his beard into his belt and rolling up his sleeves as he went. The rest of them found a table in the corner.
Lorrolarriel looked around the inn with barely-concealed distate, his elfish nose wrinkling. “Must we really seek shelter in such rude accommodations?”
Wolf grunted. Alyss blushed. He was so strong and silent. And stoic. And tall. And –
Lorrolarriel leaned forward. Behind him, Durdon tossed aside an empty horn of mead and called for another. “It pains me to allow you to travel in such squalor, Princess.”
Alyss shushed him. “I thank you for your courtesy, wise elf-mage, but it is necessary. If I am ever to reclaim my father’s throne, I must seek the Grail of Antioch in secret. Lord Kraegorn can never know of my plans.”
“You are wise beyond your years, my lady. But still, this place is so…sweaty.”
The innkeeper came over with a tray of bread and cheese and three flagons of ale. He slapped them down on the table and bumbled back to the bar, tripping over a table as he went. At the bar, Durdon finished his second horn of mead and laughed.
Alyss picked at her bread and cheese. “I would walk into a thousand sweaty taverns if it meant restoring my birthright, Lorrolarriel.”
Wolf grunted. Alyss smiled a secret smile. She knew he’d understand.
Durdon slumped onto the bench, a drink in each hand. One of them had a twirly straw. Alyss beckoned her companions closer and spread her map across the table.
“We are here, at the tavern of –” she checked the menu “– the Monkey’s Wineskin. Lord Kraegorn and his forces hold the Pass of Antigorr, here.” She pointed. “That way is barred to us. To the west is the Bog of Kra’ka’harrgh – impassable at this time of year. To the east are the Mountains of Prigwyth, but I fear we will be too late. Winter is coming, and the snows will make crossing the mountains impossible.”
Durdon hiccupped and moved onto his second drink. Wolf nodded at the map and grunted.
Lorrolarriel gave a disdainful sniff. “We do not all have the constitution of Northmen, barbarian.”
Wolf growled and reached for his warhammer. Durdon slurped his drink through a straw. Alyss raised a hand.
“Good sirs, please. We have foes enough without fighting amongst ourselves. Now, as I see it we have but two choices. We can travel to the Republic of Syssyss and request an audience with Grand Vizier Qrix. He could grant us safe passage through the Pass of Antigorr. Disguised as Syssyssian emissaries, Lord Kraegorn would not attack us.”
Lorrolarriel frowned. “Can he be trusted?”
Wolf snorted. Alyss flushed. She’d made herself look so foolish in front of him. He must think she was nothing more than a child. He’d probably put his shirt back on now, just to spite her.
“I fear not,” she said. “But our other choice is far more dangerous. If we hired a guide, we might be able to skirt around the edges of the Bog of Kra’ka’harrgh and pass through the Very Dangerous Desert.”
Durdon wandered off to the bar to get some shots. Lorrolarriel leaned forward and peered at the map. “But my lady, that is marked with a skull and crossbones. And if you look here, in the margins, the cartographer has added a little note. It says ‘don’t go here, ever’.”
Alyss rolled up the map. “I fear we have no choice.”
“Yes, well,” Lorrolarriel muttered, “I cannot help but muse on our quest ahead, my lady. Might we not be better placed to seek the help of the Griffins of the Tiny Forest? With their aid, we could fly straight to the Holy Citadel of Ka’bathor, retrieve the Grail and avoid spending six months camping in the woods.”
Alyss blinked at him.
“Well of course we can’t do that, Lorrolarriel,” she explained, “it wouldn’t count.”
Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.
I’ve mentioned them on the blog before, mainly when I was doing my Strong Female Characters series. The term ‘Mary Sue’ has become a great piece of critical shorthand, so it often came in handy. I spent quite a lot of time trying to work out whether certain characters were Mary Sues, but often didn’t really have the time to go into a huge amount of detail.
GET READY FOR HUGE AMOUNTS OF DETAIL, GUYS!
Briefly put, a Mary Sue is a certain type of poorly-written character. Often (but not exclusively) seen in fanfiction, what really makes these characters stand out is that they’re just so perfect. They never have any flaws – or if they do, their flaws only make them more appealing, and never actually cause any real problems for them. They’re often physically attractive. They’re usually teenage girls, often with more than one love interest (or villain) passionately declaring their love before the story’s over. They’ll have a dark and tragic past, but the consequences of this are never fully explored – it’s just a secret our Sue can reveal when she wants sympathy. She never fails. She’s always an expert in everything she does, whether it’s speaking alien languages or mastering ancient martial arts. All the good guys love her, all the bad guys want her to give in and join the dark side, and she always saves the day.
Essentially, they’re really, really annoying.
When you get right down to it, Mary Sues aren’t really proper characters. Most fictional characters (and yes, I am about to make a sweeping generalisation here) are intended to reflect real people. A well-written character should seem human, with all the messiness that being human entails. Mary Sues don’t have that messiness.
This isn’t all that uncommon in characters, though. Mary Sue is a pretty modern term, but the flawless and ideal character the term describes goes back centuries. If you look at most classic fairy tales – such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White – most of these characters could be described as Mary Sues. The original stories just don’t focus on the mechanics of their characters, so they’re often described in very broad strokes. They are kind, and good, and meek, and that’s all they are. A lot of this comes down to the purpose that fairy tales fulfilled. While on some level, they are told for sheer enjoyment of the story, a lot of them were also told as a way of showing people how to behave. Charles Perrault, in his seminal collection of fairy tales, made this explicit by adding a few lines to the end of each story that explained the moral in no uncertain terms.
The invention of the novel as a story-telling format didn’t kill off Mary Sues, either. (You can’t kill off a Sue, they’re too perfect.) The moralising Sue is a staple of nineteenth-century literature, particularly literature aimed at children and young girls. Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Little Princess, Heidi – all of these books are children’s classics, but all of them are based around characters that are so perfect that they don’t seem like real children. This is because they were never meant to. Heidi, Sara and Cedric are ideals, not accurate portrayals of children. Every flaw has been ironed out. They’re good, obedient, cheerful, resilient, and say their prayers every night, just as the ideal nineteenth-century child was supposed to. Overworked governesses probably found them very useful.
The other form a Mary Sue can take is a self-insert. This is exactly what it sounds like: an author living out an adventure by writing themselves an avatar in the story. This is the form more modern Mary Sues take, and this too has its roots in nineteenth-century literature. It carried on all the way up to the 1970s, when Paula Smith first coined the term in ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’, a short parody about the adventures of Lieutenant Mary Sue, youngest officer in the star fleet, that was published in a fanzine.
Since then, the term has blossomed, like a beautiful and perfect sparkle-flower. Readers have become much sharper when it comes to spotting Sues, so now the term ‘Mary Sue’ is more like a big sparkly umbrella that encompasses lots of smaller categories. Here are some of them:
Classic Sue: practically perfect in every way. Beautiful, cheerful and sickeningly sweet.
Marty Stu: the same, but a guy. Surprisingly rare, for reasons I’ll talk about in another post.
Jerk Sue: angry, sometimes violent, always wearing a ton of black eyeliner. For some reason everyone loves her.
Twagic Sue: basically exists to have terrible things happen to her and then die meaningfully. The definition of a lost little lamb.
Villain Sue: the most successful cape-wearing villain ever. Also she’s really hot.
Relationship Sue: exists only to date the author’s character of choice.
Chances are you’ve come across some of these characters before, and hopefully at least got a good laugh out of them. Who can forget Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, the most goffik student Hogwarts has ever known? What about Jenna Silverblade, Link’s one true love, secret elemental, and tireless nymphomaniac? Or how about Atlantiana “Tia” Rebekah Loren, Edward Cullen’s infinitely more gothic soulmate? They’re overpowered, they’re ridiculous, and they’ve got all the boys wrapped around their finger – but you could probably sneak off in the time it takes for them to say their full name. And that’s not even counting the Mary Sues who are in books that were actuallypublished.
I’ve got a lot to say, so here’s what I’m going to do. This post will be the first of a short mini-series where I talk about Sues until I’m blue in the face. Why are Mary Sues so reviled (apart from the fact that they’re really annoying)? Where does gender come into all of this? Is there a way that Mary Sues can be a good thing? These are some of the questions I will try and answer, before I get sidetracked and start laughing about their stupid names.
So choose a ten-syllable name, grab your pet unicorn and prepare your tragic backstory. It’s about to get perfect up in here.
Time for another book recipe! This time I’ll be looking at YA dystopian fiction. Get ready to be Chosen and we’ll get started!
One totally dark and edgy heroine
At least two tall and handsome love interests
One standard post-apocalyptic setting
One vague, shadowy organisation that runs everything
Token background characters to be killed off at will
A social categorisation system that makes no sense
A bunch of futuristic-sounding names
Use your post-apocalyptic setting and social categorisation system as a backdrop for our edgy heroine. Don’t explain too much, unless you’re describing what she looks like.
She has been Chosen!
Introduce your love interests. They must fit into one of the following categories:
Overlooked childhood friend
Dark and mysterious bad boy
The Prophecy is revealed and it’s all about the heroine. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just needs lots of Impressive Capitals.
Our heroine finds out the shadowy organisation is plotting something! Better grab the love interests and investigate!
The heroine and one of the love interests are separated from the group! Better use the time wisely and make out.
A Mysterious Secret is discovered. Don’t pay any attention to it until the final third of the book. We’ve still got chapters to fill.
An authority figure tries to tell the heroine what to do, but they’re over twenty-five and can be safely ignored.
Time for a deep and meaningful conversation with the other love interest!
More training. This time there’s a love interest there, so it’s sexy training.
The Prophecy is coming true, just like the Elders said!
Angst. About everything. You wouldn’t understand.
Time to go and destroy the evil organisation! Suit up. If there’s anyone you want to get rid of, make sure the heroine talks to them before she leaves. Then they’re a goner.
Sneak into the organisation’s lair. While you’re there, make sure the heroine agonises over who she’s going to make out with.
BETRAYAL! Kill off a few background characters to make it stick.
Time for the final showdown! The heroine bravely goes off to sacrifice herself, but not before making out with someone. I mean, she might die.
Our heroine confronts the main villain, who sneers. There’s a big fight and a few tense conversations but it all works out well in the end.
OR DOES IT??? Prepare for the inevitable trilogy.
THE END. Serve steeped in teenage angst.
Stuck on coming up with futuristic names? Help is at hand. Just take a normal name and spell it badly.
Responsible parents should never, ever be a feature. Anything like bedtimes, eating vegetables, and insisting you don’t throw yourself into danger at every possible opportunity would just get in the way of your heroine’s adventures.
Never kill anyone off unless you’re absolutely sure you aren’t going to spin this out into a series.
Always, always, always use first person, present tense.
Don’t know how to organise your dystopian society? Take a random online quiz and base it off that. It doesn’t need to make sense – all it really needs to do is generate pointless tension.
Any opportunity to have a ~*Forbidden Romance*~ should be seized at all costs.
Don’t think too much about the whole apocalypse part. Hint at it in a mysterious sort of way, but don’t explain it. You don’t want your readers wondering how toothpaste survived a nuclear holocaust but electricity didn’t, you want them arguing over which cute boy the heroine should kiss!
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
For a second when I wake up I almost forget what Cycle it is. I’m back in The Dormitory with Khamm, Hollow, and Mareen, and any second now we’ll be shaken out of our bunks for Morning Nutrition.
But then I remember. I’m not in The Dormitory any more.
I get out of bed and pad over to the mirror. Elder Landseer’s house is so much nicer than The Dormitory. There are carpets, and a sink with brass taps – something that I haven’t seen before. Apparently there used to be all sorts of things like that, but they all got destroyed in The Cataclysm. Still, I don’t have time for such silly, girly things. I’d much rather be out hunting. I guess I’m not like other girls.
I examine my face in the mirror. Just an ordinary, everyday girl with aquamarine eyes, pure white hair and a scar shaped like a twisting vine on one cheekbone. Nothing special. I pull on my plain grey tunic and leggings and braid my hair. I wonder if they had braids before The Cataclysm.
There’s a knock at the door. Seconds later a guy comes in. I’d know those chartreuse eyes and obsidian hair anywhere. It’s Tretch Landseer, Elder Landseer’s only son. He raises his eyebrows at me, mockingly. “Come on, Freesia. Don’t keep us waiting.”
“It’s just Free, thanks,” I mutter. He wouldn’t understand.
He smirks and holds the door open for me. Stupidly, I trip over the carpet as I pass. I brace myself, ready for the fall, but before I hit the ground Tretch catches me around the waist.
“Careful,” he says, smirking.
I push him away, blushing. I don’t know why he’s being so nice all of a sudden. The Elders and their families hardly ever notice the Dormers. It’s only when we’ve been through The Ceremony that we actually become important.
My Ceremony was supposed to be yesterday, just like everyone else’s. It happens every year: when a Dormer turns sixteen, they are Chosen for their Echelon. There’s five, and once you’ve been Chosen you’re there for the rest of your life.
Khamm and I were both hoping for Venture. They at least get to have some fun – they’re the bravest out of everyone in The Colony, and they get to go beyond The Borderlands. But there’s also Bounty, who farm, Sinistra, who rule us, Meticule, who keep the records, and Pufflehuff, for the rest. Khamm was lucky – he got Venture after all. But when I went into the Room of Knowing, where the Ceremony takes place, nothing happened. I just stood there in the dark for ages, until Elder Landseer opened up the side door and told me I’d better follow him.
Tretch smirks at me again. He’s standing by a door with a twisting vine carved into it. Without thinking, my hand drifts up to my cheek. It looks just like my scar…
I go through the door. It’s pitch dark inside. I stand in the middle of the room and wait.
“Citizen Freesia Brightwater?” a voice asks.
“It’s Free, actually.”
“You are Citizen Freesia Brightwater?”
“Yes, but I go by –”
There’s a rush of whispering all around the room. I squint into the darkness.
“It’s true!” someone says, “she bears The Mark!”
“Her? She’s far too young.”
“She hasn’t even been Chosen! How can a Dormer stand against the Conclave?”
All at once the lights come on. The room is filled with people. I’m standing on a circular stage with rows and rows of seats rising up on every side. The Elders are sitting on a bench high above me, but it’s not them I look to. Khamm is in the front row, his chocolate-brown eyes wide with concern, his tawny hair rumpled, like always. For some reason I turn, and see Tretch looking at me too. There’s an expression on his face I’ve never seen before.
“Citizen Freesia Brightwater,” says Elder Landseer, getting to his feet, “you have been Chosen. Only you can save the world.”
Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.
Tomorrow, the first episode of Game of Thrones season seven airs, and I’m displaying the amount of enthusiasm that is appropriate to a respectable adult.
I’ve been watching the show for a few years now and one of the things I like most about it is the way it can keep me guessing. I never know what’s going to happen, especially since the show started veering away from the books. I’ve always had a bit of a knack for guessing where plots end up going, so the element of surprise is a huge draw for me.
I’ve got no clue what’s going to happen in season seven but here are my ten best guesses, plus a wild card thrown in. Spoilers are coming.
Stark family reunion
Ever since Jon and Sansa were reunited in season six, there’s been talk of a full Stark reunion. Now, it looks like the surviving Starks are at least heading to the same place. Arya is heading north and Bran is turning back towards the Wall. It looks like both of them are heading to Winterfell, and shots from the trailers appear to support this.
I think this is probably one of the most likely things to happen in season seven, and not just because I want an excuse to cry big ugly tears and eat my feelings. The Stark family split up right at the beginning of the series: Jon headed for the Wall; Ned, Sansa and Arya went to King’s Landing; Bran and Rickon stayed in the north; Robb and Catelyn went off to war (which really didn’t end well). As the series went on they were split up even further: Ned was executed, Robb and Catelyn were murdered, Sansa was held hostage in King’s Landing, Arya ran off to Braavos via the Riverlands, Bran went beyond the Wall and Rickon wandered into a trap with Osha. With the series as a whole coming to an end, I think it’s likely their storyline will come full circle and we’ll see them reunite.
The showrunners have used this particular quote from Ned in this season’s promo material: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” Ned originally says this to Arya when he’s trying to explain the importance of family – it’s essentially a wolfier version of ‘untied we stand, divided we fall’. I think that’s a pretty strong hint that the Starks will get back together and be a much more serious threat. How long that reunion lasts is another matter.
Daenerys will lose a dragon
There hasn’t been much hinting for this one in the season seven promo material, so this is mostly speculation. Hear me out. Remember Euron Greyjoy?
He became king of the Iron Islands last season when he won that special clifftop election. In the books this is pretty significant, as Euron has a magical horn called Dragonbinder that he claims can control dragons. This hasn’t been tested yet, as the horn hasn’t got close enough to any dragons to have an effect. We know it has some magical properties (it kills the man who sounds it from the inside out) but the dragon thing hasn’t been confirmed. This is what wins him the election, and Euron and his Ironborn start making plans to reach Daenerys and take the Iron Throne. Euron’s storyline in the show is obviously different to the books, but his end goals are still the same: he wants to marry Daenerys and conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
I’m pretty sure that Daenerys won’t marry him. She’s already allied with Yara and Theon and promised to overthrow Euron in their favour. I also don’t think she’d respond well to Euron’s particular brand of charm, mainly because he has none. So Euron’s only option would be to take a dragon by force using magic. This probably wouldn’t be all that difficult, as Daenerys’s control over her dragons is shaky at best. She can command them to burn things, but she can’t always get them to stop – just look at season four.
The show hasn’t actually confirmed that Euron has Dragonbinder, so this may not happen exactly as I laid out. Regardless, I think it’s still a likely twist. At the moment Daenerys has an army of Unsullied, an army of Dothraki, Varys, the Sand Snakes, Tyrion Lannister, and three fully-grown fire-breathing dragons. None of the other Westerosi lords can compete with the kind of firepower she has (heh heh literally). It’d be far too easy for her to sweep in and take the entire continent, and there’s still two more series to go. Something’s got to level the playing field. If it’s not Euron, it could be Bran warging into a dragon, or even just a dragon being killed by normal people – this has happened before in Westerosi history, when dragons were trapped in confined spaces. But my money’s on the Euron storyline, mainly because it would make things so much more interesting if someone else had a dragon on their side.
Jaime will break with Cersei
A rift has grown between Jaime and Cersei over the past few seasons. Since Jaime lost his hand (and met our precious warrior angel, Brienne) he’s redefined his notions of honour and bravery. He helped Tyrion escape when he knew Cersei wanted him dead. He obeys her orders, but it’s become increasingly clear that he’s not happy about it.
Cersei has changed too. She’s become more paranoid and scheming than ever, but she’s also not very good at it. She blamed Jaime for being taken prisoner and has repeatedly mocked him for things that are beyond his control. She’s become incredibly twisted since her humiliation at the hands of the Faith of the Seven. What’s more, all three of her and Jaime’s children are dead, so aside from their secret relationship (which has been floundering, given the time they’ve spent apart) the bonds between Jaime and Cersei are starting to crack.
I think that in the next season this will only get worse. It’s pretty clear that Jaime wasn’t happy with Cersei’s decision to declare herself queen – just look at his face:
It’s not hard to see why. Aside from the fact that Cersei’s terrible decisions have actively made everything worse (i.e. arming a group of religious fanatics), Cersei is responsible for the death of their uncle, Kevan Lannister, and indirectly responsible for the death of their son, Tommen. I’m not sure that Jaime will be able to forget that.
There are a few shots of Jaime and Cersei together in the trailer, so I don’t think this will happen right away. But in the second trailer there’s more shots of Jaime on his own, which could be a nice little bit of foreshadowing from the showrunners. Let’s not forget that Tyrion is also heading back to Westeros this season, and fans have speculated that there’s some shots of Casterly Rock. I wonder if this means we’re in for a Lannister reunion as well as a Stark one. Given that Jaime loves Tyrion enough to set him free against Cersei’s orders, I’m really excited to see if Jaime will have to choose between his two siblings. There is also the little matter of the valonquar prophecy mentioned in the books – but personally, I think that’s one for season eight.
Jorah will die of greyscale
Yeah, he’s a goner. It’s an incurable disease and he knows it’s spreading. He’s a dead man walking.
The Wall will be compromised
In the previous season Bran’s time-bending vision quests were all fine and dandy until the Night’s King showed up and ruined everything. In a vision where he sees an army of White Walkers and their ice zombies, the wights, this incredibly creepy thing happens:
The mark the Night’s King leaves on Bran’s arm lets him get past Bloodraven’s magic. The one safe place north of the Wall that was supposed to be safe from the Night’s King was blown wide open, and of course our favourite ice zombie came storming in and tried to kill everybody. The show makes it explicitly clear that it’s the mark that has made this possible. Who’s to say that this magic won’t work on the Wall itself? We know that Bran is heading south, and there’s no reason to suggest that the mark would only work once. The Wall isn’t made of just ice; there’s magic holding it together too. If it’s the same kind of magic that protected Bloodraven’s hideout, Westeros could be in trouble.
This is all but confirmed in the books through the character of Coldhands (which the show morphed into Benjen Stark). Coldhands is essentially a good wight: he’s a member of the undead that has somehow been enchanted to regain his sense of self. The books make it explicitly clear that Coldhands cannot enter Bloodraven’s cave or cross the Wall due to the magic imbued in both. If Bran’s mark was enough to break the wards on Bloodraven’s cave and let the undead through, why wouldn’t it do the same to the Wall?
Sam will find an important secret about the White Walkers in the Great Library, but die before he can deliver the information to Jon
This is exactly the kind of thing that Game of Thrones would do. In fact, they’ve done it before, in pretty much every series. But I won’t just leave it at that.
Sam was sent to Oldtown to become a Maester for the Night’s Watch after Maester Aemon’s death. He goes to the library at the Maester’s Citadel, and it’s been made very clear that Sam will read anything that stays still long enough. In previous seasons he read about the White Walkers before the rest of the cast encountered them, and has also read about the history of the Night’s Watch. I think it’s extremely likely that in his time in Oldtown, he will go to the library and look up those subjects again, if only to see how he can help Jon.
However, that’s not all Sam has been up to. He stopped to visit his family on the way, and while he was there he got into a fight with his awful father. He stole the family sword, a Valyrian steel greatsword called Heartsbane. This was a terrible decision all round, because not only is Sam not very good at using a sword, Heartsbane is a highly recognisable and valuable heirloom which his father, Randall Tarly, is deeply proud of. Randall has been adamant that Sam will never inherit Heartsbane, and he hates the idea of him having the sword.
So here’s what I think will happen. Sam will use his time in the library to look up White Walkers, the Wall, wights, and the Night’s Watch – anything that could be useful in the fight against terrifying ice zombies. I think it’s likely he’ll discover something important: the Citadel’s library is the largest in Westeros and is rumoured to have all sorts of secret knowledge. But just as he’s found his secret, Randall Tarly will pop up and kill him, take back Heartsbane, and prevent Sam from ever delivering his very important message. Because that’s just the kind of show this is.
Littlefinger will die
I’m not entirely sure if Littlefinger is going to pop his clogs in season seven or season eight, but regardless of which I think his days are numbered.
Despite the fact that he’s only second to Varys in terms of craftiness, when you actually look at Littlefinger’s assets he doesn’t have as much as you might think. He was in a very different position at the beginning of the series: Master of Coin, Lord of Harrenhal, and the owner of at least a third of Westeros’s most thriving industry – brothels. When he married Lysa Arryn he also became Lord of the Vale. For a while it looked as though he might have control over three of the Seven Kingdoms: the Vale, the Riverlands and the North (mainly because he kept on trying to marry Sansa).
But things have changed. Littlefinger isn’t Master of Coin or Lord of Harrenhal any more; he lost both of those titles when he defected from the Lannisters. He doesn’t have anywhere near as much money to play with, either, as his wealthiest brothels (ie. the ones in King’s Landing) were destroyed by the Faith Militant. He’s now Lord Protector of the Vale, but that isn’t a position that can really last. He’s acting as Protector for Robin Arryn, who is Lord of the Vale in name only, but Robin is fifteen and won’t need a Protector for that much longer. Littlefinger doesn’t have much loyalty from the other lords of the Vale either; the interactions we’ve seen have been marked with tension and hostility on both sides. House Tyrell has also been destroyed – and this is significant, because in a scene at the end of season five, Olenna Tyrell tells Littlefinger that if her grandchildren are harmed, she will reveal his involvement in Joffrey’s murder.
What’s more, Sansa has shown absolutely no interest in marrying Littlefinger, which scuppers his future plans. This is understandable considering he betrayed her father, murdered her aunt and arranged Sansa’s marriage to a rapist and psychopath – oh, who was also the son of the man who murdered and betrayed her mother and oldest brother. It’s going to take a lot of roses and chocolates to make her forget that.
Littlefinger is now in Winterfell. He has the Knights of the Vale with him, but they aren’t loyal to him personally. Olenna Tyrell may be about to make his involvement in Joffrey’s murder public knowledge, which would turn the Lannisters against him for good (along with a few other families besides). He’s cut off from what resources he has and winter is fast approaching; when the snows get deep he might not be able to leave the castle at all. Littlefinger is a southerner with a reputation for deviousness and trickery, which wouldn’t exactly sit well with some of the more straight-talking northerners. He’s surrounded on all sides by people who neither like nor trust him. I’d be surprised if he left Winterfell alive.
The trailers have dropped a few hints about this. There’s a couple of brief shots of Littlefinger being attacked which have got people talking, and as I mentioned earlier there’s been a lot of focus on Stark family values. Littlefinger is trying to sow discord between Sansa and Jon, but given the strong hints we’ve been getting about Starks banding together I don’t think this’ll work. Besides, with the show eventually gearing up for the inevitable dragons vs ice zombies battle, sooner or later the political stuff is going to have to be set aside – and that’ll probably mean the end of Littlefinger’s story arc.
Bran will possess a wight
Bran is becoming an incredibly powerful character. His weird mind-hopping powers (aka. warging and greenseeing) give him the ability to access knowledge no-one could have dreamt of and to jump in and out of other beings’ minds. Since last season it’s not limited to animals any more; he can now possess human beings. Why not a wight?
Of course, there are a few flaws in this theory. We don’t actually know how Bran’s powers work but so far, all that’s been confirmed is that they can work on living things. As the wights are reanimated ice zombies this presents a problem: we don’t know if it’ll work on the dead. There’s a good chance that they wouldn’t. Wights are reanimated corpses, but whatever magic holds them together doesn’t seem to stop them from decaying at the normal rate. I don’t know much about mind control, but I’m willing to bet that it’s much more difficult to pick someone’s brain when it’s literally rotting out of their skull.
But Game of Thrones is fantasy, and as such Bran’s powers are more likely to be limited by magical restrictions than biological ones. With that in mind I think this theory stands a better chance. If you look at the way the wights and White Walkers interact, it’s pretty clear that the White Walkers are the ones calling the shots. Wights seem to be creatures ruled by their killing instinct; left to their own devices they attack on sight. It’s only when a White Walker is around that they move like a more intelligent being, whether that’s by waiting for their prey or trying to herd it. Instructions are clearly being given. Odds are they aren’t verbal, as we never see a White Walker speak, and we rarely see them communicate with gestures. The White Walkers’ interactions (in general, not just with the wights) are marked by an unnatural kind of stillness, with very few visible signs of communication. As they clearly are communicating in some way, this leads me to assume it’s telepathic.
So if the White Walkers can control wights with some kind of telepathic connection, why can’t Bran? He clearly has very powerful abilities; we’ve seen him possess a fully-grown man in the present while his own consciousness was trapped in the past. The Night’s King has also left a brand on his arm. So far this has only been negative, as it allowed the Night’s King to break Bloodraven’s magic seals and track Bran down. But what if there are benefits to this that Bran hasn’t yet discovered? What if, in marking Bran, the Night’s King left a little piece of himself behind – and perhaps, some of his powers?
Daenerys will begin exhibiting signs of her father’s madness
Quick recap for those of you that don’t have time for a binge watch. Daenerys’s father, Aerys II, was the king before Robert Baratheon took the throne. He started off all right but then went mad, which is mainly due to the fact that the Targaryen kings were really into the concept of sister-wives.
Madness has been a pretty consistent feature of the Targaryen dynasty, and after centuries of incest it’s not hard to see why. If you look through Game of Thrones lore there’s a few other Targaryen kings who went mad too, and they were often pretty cruel along with it. So there’s a reasonable chance that Daenerys could’ve inherited this from her father. Much like Daenerys, Aerys started out as a promising ruler; it was only later that these tendencies began to surface. Daenerys’s parents were siblings, so her chances of inheriting some of this behaviour will be much more likely than if they weren’t already related.
What’s more, the show has set another precedent: we’ve actually seen Aerys. Before season six we never actually saw his character in action, he was only ever talked about. But thanks to Bran’s crazy mind powers, we got a brief glimpse of Aerys in the full grip of his madness. Now that an actor has actually been cast, I can’t help but wonder if we’re in for more flashbacks, which could serve as a parallel to Daenerys’s own storyline.
Daenerys has changed a lot over the course of the show. She’s gone from a sweet, naïve girl to a competent and determined ruler, but she’s had to be brutal to get there. She’s crucified people, fed people to her dragons, and burned people alive – which was something that her father was famous for doing. She’s slowly become a much more violent person. It’s a necessary part of her journey to becoming a ruler – she has to prove that she’s just as brutal as the rest of the Westerosi knights and lords, or they won’t accept her claim – but it’s not clear if she’ll know when to stop.
I think this is exactly the sort of thing that Game of Thrones would do to mess with the viewers. So far Daenerys’s storyline has been pretty standard: the exiled ruler returns to take their rightful place on the throne. Dany’s journey hasn’t really been thrown off course. A few people have died along the way, but ultimately she’s still doing exactly what she set out to do – unlike any other character on the show. That sweet and simple storyline is far from the kind of nasty surprise that Game of Thrones likes to spring on us.
IN THE RED CORNER: The Mountain. Ser Gregor Clegane, over eight feet tall and strong enough to rip a man’s jaw off (no, really). He’s back from the dead, he’s got new Darth Vader armour and he’s out for blood.
IN THE BLUE CORNER: The Hound. Sandor Clegane, back in the game after he was left for dead. His wounds are healed, he’s got a sweet new Brotherhood to hang out with, and he’s all out of chickens. You know what that means.
And now, just to make things interesting…
WILD CARD:Jorah’s greyscale has already been passed to Daenerys. She and her court get infected by the disease
Do you remember this shot from season five? Daenerys has just been attacked in the fighting pits of Meereen, and in swoops Jorah the Explorer, ready to save her:
That moment was very sweet, but it might have a nasty sting in the tail. In season four Jorah is banished from Daenerys’s service. He wonders around being miserable for a bit until he kidnaps Tyrion and decides to bring him to Daenerys as a gift. Most men go for flowers, but whatever. On their way back to Meereen, Jorah and Tyrion fight some men infected with greyscale (aka. the Stone Men) and Jorah contracts the disease.
No-one really knows how greyscale is spread. Most people in Westeros think it could be through touch, but this hasn’t actually been proved. It could be spread by anything – rats, water, air, contaminated food, you name it. But it’s infectious and incurable, and Jorah’s got it.
And right after he was infected, he touches Dany’s hand.
Jorah didn’t touch Dany with his greyscale hand, so there’s a chance that she might not have been infected. But we can’t actually rule that out. Jorah appears to have caught the disease after one of the Stone Men touched him in the fight, so it’s likely that skin-to-skin contact will spread the disease. It’s also not clear how long the disease will take to manifest itself: Jorah has seen his symptoms appear pretty quickly, but that might well be for dramatic effect. Game of Thrones likes to keep its timeline a bit fuzzy, so the incubation period hasn’t really been confirmed.
So there is a chance that Daenerys could have been infected with the disease and it hasn’t manifested itself yet. At the moment, Daenerys and her massive army are on their way to Westeros – in a fleet of ships, where they will be stuck together for weeks at a time in very close quarters. That is exactly the kind of conditions that infectious diseases thrive in. If anyone’s got greyscale it’ll spread through the lot of them like wildfire.
This would be a pretty unsatisfying end to Dany’s story, but in some ways I can see it working. It mirrors how Khal Drogo died – a great warrior brought down by an infection that’s impossible to cure. On the show, Daenerys is often hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world, so for her to catch a disfiguring disease would be quite symbolic, in a nasty kind of way. And it’s exactly the kind of curveball that the show likes to throw at its viewers. It might be a little bit ‘rocks fall and everyone dies’, but I wouldn’t put that past the showrunners.
And there you have it! That’s my ten best guesses for what will happen on the next season of Game of Thrones, plus one mediocre guess just for the hell of it. Let’s see how this turns out.
Time for another book recipe! This time I’ll be looking at Regency romances. Grab your parasol and let’s get started!
One beautiful yet feisty heroine
One brooding, hot hero with pots of money
A token rival
More dance parties than you could possibly imagine
A fine dusting of historical facts
A handful of supportive servants to fill time until the hero gets here
Unbelievably frilly names
Give your feisty heroine a ridiculously long name and an incredibly detailed physical description.
She must wed, for plot reasons!
Introduce your hero. If he can’t be described as ‘swoon-worthy’, start again.
Time for a ball. Don’t forget to talk about the fancy dresses!
The hero and heroine are immediately attracted to each other, but can’t do anything about it because of all the corsets.
The hero says/does a thing that causes a rift! The heroine now thinks he is a bounder and a cad.
Throw in a ball. Make sure to describe everyone’s outfits.
The rival appears! He, or she, is clearly ALL WRONG.
The hero and heroine have a series of tense conversations about nothing in particular. They’re all secretly about the fact that they really want to have sex.
Time for another ball. What else are the characters going to do?
Wouldn’t it be terrible if the hero and heroine had to work together to help out a random background character? JK THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
The hero and heroine have a conversation without blatantly insulting each other. THEY’RE MEANT TO BE YOU GUYS
The rival is messing things up, oh no! Better go and lean meaningfully against something in the rain.
Throw another dance party.
Our hero makes an impassioned declaration of love. The heroine compromises her honour by letting him kiss her/see her ankles.
But now the hero must go away for secret reasons!
EVERYTHING IS RUINED
The heroine stands on the brink of a very bad thing! She might fall into terrible poverty, or have to marry the rival, or turn twenty-two before she’s found a husband!
The hero returns! The secret reasons are revealed and they’re always unbearably fluffy.
Get married! Celebrate by throwing another ball, because it’s been a while.
THE END. Serve with plenty of tea.
Give everyone the poshest-sounding names you can possibly think of. The heroine is allowed to shorten hers into a fun and quirky nickname, but no-one else is allowed. Apart from servants, but we don’t care about them.
Worried the setting might feel unrealistic? Flick through Wikipedia and drop in a couple of historical facts. It doesn’t matter what they’re about or how they’re delivered – it’s authentic.
Make sure your readers know the heroine is feisty by having her ride around on horses, loudly contradict people (including herself), and express opinions from the twenty-first century. There can never be any consequences for this.
Have your characters speak to each other in the twiddliest way possible, because it’s olden times. Pick a couple of fancy phrases: ‘ghastly’, ‘I say!’, and ‘how perfectly thrilling’ are all solid bets.
Never ever talk explicitly about sex. Your characters don’t have genitals, they have ‘flowers’ and ‘manhoods’.
Chuck in as many titles as you can possibly find, the fancier the better.
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
The Lady Isabella Marietta Cressida Belle deLisle-Beaumont ran into the marble folly, breathing hard. Her flaming auburn hair was like a red waterfall – literally, because it was raining. Her delicate eau-de-nil muslin gown with the pearl buttons was soaked through, her dove-grey kid gloves clung to her fingers and her magnolia cashmere shawl, once so fine with its silver and gold embroidery, had been trailing in the mud.
Not that she cared how she looked, of course. How she looked meant nothing now. She leant against the pillar and stared out into the rain.
She knew she could not stay long. Sir Humphrey Thingington-Chomsfandleigh had said nothing when she rushed from the ballroom, no doubt remembering her lady mother. But soon he would come looking for her, and when he did she would have to explain about the vile, ghastly, repulsive Viscount Edgar Garbert-Smythe. The way he had looked at her, stroking his horrible black moustache – why, it was worse than the news that General de Malet had not managed to overthrow Napoleon in Paris in October 1812.
To think that she might actually have to marry him…
“Lady deLisle-Beaumont? Is that you?”
An incredibly deep, manly voice like smooth, smooth velvet came from somewhere over her shoulder. Lady Isabella went all tingly.
She turned, and saw Lieutenant George Fitzroy – all six and a half feet of him. His dark hair was attractively damp from the rain and there was water running down his razor-sharp cheekbones. Lady Isabella would have stabbed a man in the eye to be one of those raindrops. Then, she remembered the lieutenant was a bounder and a cad. He’d said such terrible things about dear Miss Cecily de Clare and she could never forgive him.
Lady Isabella drew herself up. “Have you come to gloat, sir?”
He frowned. It was the most perfect frown she had ever seen. “I beg your pardon?”
“I take it you know that Viscount Garbert-Smythe has made my father an offer. The first commercial cheese factory has opened in Switzerland and the Viscount has made millions from it. He wants my hand in marriage for shares in his enormous shipping company. Well, you were right, sir. My father means to see me married, no matter what I think.”
Lieutenant Fitzroy snarled, but sexily. “If he likes the man so much, he should marry him!”
“I would completely support that, but the Viscount doesn’t want Father, no matter how many love letters he writes. He wants me. And I have no choice!”
Lieutenant Fitzroy turned away. Lady Isabella leaned back against the pillar again. From that angle she had a very nice view of his bum.
She sighed, and forced herself to look away. “If only women could own property outright, vote, and have the means of making a respectable independent living!”
“Is wealth all your father wants? Does he not care for your happiness?”
Lady Isabella glared at him. “If I do not marry my family will lose everything! You could never understand!”
He whirled around and strode towards her. He pulled her close against his incredibly broad chest. Suddenly, Lady Isabella was thinking of flowers bursting into bloom, very tall and thick trees, and other metaphors that were making her feel quite hot and bothered. Lieutenant Fitzroy stared at her, intense and brooding.
“Then marry me!”
She gasped. “What are you saying?”
“Good God, woman! I adore you! I do not care about your Father’s questionable taste in potential boyfriends! Your misguided choice of a shawl embroidered in both silver and gold means nothing to me! I only know that without you my life was as empty and meaningless as…as…”
“As Napoleon’s attempts to invade Russia?”
He smiled, and tenderly brushed a lock of auburn hair away from her face. “Yes,” he murmured, “exactly.”
“Oh George,” she whispered, “do you mean it?”
“With all my heart. I have urgent business to attend to first, but when I return…”
“Business? What kind of business?”
“Oh, you know. Thoroughly honourable and above board man-business. I’ll tell you about it when we’re married. But I swear, my love, the moment I return we shall be wed! Now, kiss me!”
Lady Isabella blushed. “But George, we’re not married!”
He grinned, rakishly. “Yes, well.”
They kissed, and it was great. It was a good thing George had proposed, Lady Isabella thought. If anyone had seen them she was ruined. But if they married quickly, her honour would remain intact.
They went back to Thingington Manor together, arm in arm. Lady Isabella did not mind the rain now; it made George’s clothes all wet and clingy.
In the marble folly behind them, Viscount Edgar Garbert-Smythe stepped out from behind a marble pillar. He twirled his black moustache and sneered thoughtfully.
“Make no mistake, Lady deLisle-Beaumont,” he muttered, “you shall be mine.”
Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.
This is the first of my new Book Recipes series – a short look at how silly and cliched different genres can be. To kick things off I’m looking at military science fiction. Pack your laser gun and let’s get started!
One lantern-jawed hero
One beautiful yet feisty token female character
One authority figure you can ignore
An assorted mix of sidekicks, all of whom can be described as ‘wise-cracking’
So many lasers
All the consonants from the awkward bits of the alphabet
A generous helping of background aliens
A thinly-veiled political allegory
One sneering villain (cape-wearing optional)
Give your lantern-jawed hero a manly, monosyllabic name, a random military title and a big gun.
Have the authority figure send him on a mission. This will be the only time the hero actually listens to his boss.
Time for your political allegory. Put it in space, change the names a bit and you’re good to go.
Introduce your hero to the female lead. They’ll disagree at first, but sexily.
Battle plans. These are very serious and important, so you must use the word ‘glower’ and make sure that people bang their fists on the table.
The villain appears. There’s a tense conversation where smirking is involved.
MORE FIGHTING. The sidekicks can come too.
The hero returns – wounded! Use this opportunity to have a flirty yet meaningful discussion with the female lead, instead of tending to the shoulder wound all heroes get when they’re not really in serious trouble but want to look tough anyway.
Want to spice things up? Why not kill off a sidekick?
The hero and heroine confess their love/attraction/general unspecified tingly feelings…
…just before the final battle! Don’t forget to keep ignoring the boss.
ALIENS AND THAT
Was the hero given a specific order? Time to COMPLETELY DISREGARD IT BECAUSE INSTINCT
Time for the final showdown! Punctuate the hero and villain’s tense conversation with bits of the fight. A kick in the teeth is as good as a paragraph break.
Worried about the female lead? Don’t be. She’s either captured by now or helping, but from a safe and feminine distance.
The villain is defeated! Hurrah!
Make sure your hero is proved right about everything, ever. Medals help with this, as does making out with the female lead.
THE END. Serve with a generous dusting of lasers.
Finding it difficult to write a realistic setting? Just don’t bother. Tell your readers where and when they are at the beginning of every scene. It’ll look like a ‘star-date’ and it’s less work!
Not sure what rank to give the hero? It doesn’t really matter, as long as it sounds sexy. Captain and Lieutenant are always safe bets, but anything with the word ‘Brigadier’ in front of it is just going to sound crusty.
Stuck on naming your planets? Don’t be! Just smash together some of those awkward consonants and say it’s an alien language.
Want to show how tough your hero and his friends are? Only ever refer to them by surname. The one exception is attractive women – people might forget how hot they are if you treat them just like everyone else!
Struggling with describing futuristic technology? Say hello to your new best friends: the prefixes ‘holo’, ‘cyber’ and ‘techno’. Slap them on the front of any random word and it’s immediately clear that we are in THE FUTURE.
Having trouble with your alien background characters? Just make them like people, but green (or blue). Actually coming up with your own unique culture completely from scratch that depends on an ecosystem, society and physiology that is utterly different from humanity would be haaaaaaarrrrrd.
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
The Pinnacle, 4570 AD
Somewhere near the Krebluk System
“Cole,” the Commander said, leaning back in his holo-chair, “do you know why I asked you here?”
Captain Brett Cole, 7th Laser Gunner Corps, stared straight ahead, his chin casting a small shadow on the Commander’s desk. He tried not to look at the red-haired Dr River Kamara, who stood behind the Commander’s chair, holding unnecessary papers and pouting. “No, sir.”
“Dammit, Cole!” the Commander yelled, slamming his fist on his cyber-desk. Something sparked. “You know damn well why you’re here! You took a risk! You snuck into the Kmyth base on Krebluk-6, armed with nothing but a small spoon, and single-handedly blew up Imperator Qrump’s technoport access generator! You put us all at risk! What would the Star Fleet have done if you’d gotten yourself captured?”
River gasped, sexily.
“I didn’t get captured, Commander,” Cole said, “instead, I blew up the whole damn base. Qrump’ll be sitting on his ass for months.”
River leaned forward. It was hot. “Commander,” she breathed, “you know I disagree with Captain Cole’s methods. He’s unorthodox. He’s a renegade. He’s a maverick, a tall maverick who looks good covered in space dirt. But be that as it may–”
The Commander held up a hand. “Thank you, Dr Kamara. But what you fail to realise is that Cole here not only got himself wounded–”
River gasped. It was still sexy. “Wounded?”
Cole nodded. “My shoulder. It’s nothing.”
“– not only got himself wounded, but he also jeopardised our position and put the safety of the entire Star Fleet at risk. He’ll be cleaning the latrines for weeks.”
The Commander got out of his holo-chair and stared out of the technoport viewing area, his hands clasped behind his back. The great purple moon of Gyk-jyk 5 twinkled at them, nearly obscured by the harsh rocks of the Jlkusa Asteroid Belt. A Krebluk spacecraft drifted past. The driver was blue, and he made a rude gesture when he saw them staring.
“Qrump is on the move,” the Commander said. “He’s planning something. Something big. I’ll be putting a strike team together – and you, Cole, will not be anywhere near it.”
“Dammit, Cole! One more wrong move and you’re court-martialled. Do you understand me? If you go anywhere near the strike team’s secret training facility, you’re finished.”
Cole glowered at the Commander.
With one last look at River – who was still totally hot, by the way – he left the office.
He was going to break into the strike team’s secret training facility.