Neil Mach

Author – Fantasy Realism

Brick Tamland artwork Neil Mach

How do you fit into the creative puzzle we call authorship? Here’s a little quiz to help you find a reason to write!

We all have our favorite author, yeah?

ARE YOU YOURS?

It’s time to find the inner person who sits behind the writer!

Here are 8 simple questions to solve the who behind the why riddle!

Before embarking on any creativity exercises, perhaps we should think rigorously about who sits behind the written words…

While we talk a lot about fantasy creation and the mechanics of writing, we don’t talk nearly enough about you, the author. How do you fit into the creative puzzle that we call authoring?

And I mean YOU, the genuine & ultimate person “behind the pen” and not an incarnation or avatar of you, but the true living and breathing self.

Because you don’t simply write with pencil & paper, you also write with heart, with determination, with conscience and with expectation…

So what do you know about this person… this author who uses your name? Do you know this author well enough to answer eight simple questions about their life and values? Let’s see. Try this quiz to find the real human behind those words that are written under your name…

 8 simple questions to find the human behind the words…

What is Your Superpower?

1: What is your super power?

We all know that a key attribute of any superhero is her/his power to do good. Yes, they might possess superhuman strength or they might be able to manipulate gravity fields, or they might be able to fly unaided at supersonic speed, or use telekinesis… but they only use these tools for good.

What ability do you possess and how do you use it for good?

One long and depressingly boring day, I was lamenting with a co-worker about not having any superpowers. I think I felt jealous about her eidetic memory (she could read a new book, on the way to work, and remember every character, every plot twist, the details of every scene… she even knew the page numbers!)

So I said, I don’t have any super-powers… no special prowess or talent…I wish I did

She shook her head, and she said, “Yes, you do. You possess a power. It’s a super power I’m jealous of. It is as rare as photographic memory.

I said, “Oh come on! I’m thick as a brick and you know it. I have no natural aptitude for anything. I barely have any skills. I can sincerely say that I don’t excel at anything.”

That’s all true,” she said, a bit quickly, I thought at the time! But then she added: “You are not brilliant or skilled, but you possess a unique talent. And it is something that makes you who you are. Something distinctive.”

I thought she might go all “New Agey” on me, and start talking about holistics and channelling and higher consciousness and all that malarkey, although (to be fair) I had always known her to be an utter skeptic. Fortunately, she didn’t say any of that crapola. She didn’t pedal-out that hackneyed old trite: “We are, each one of us, worthy in our own way...”

No, she said something useful and constructive. She said, “Your superpower is effort. You are serious and conscientious in everything you do. No matter how long it takes, and how many times you screw-up, you can be trusted to complete a project… and that’s because of effort.” I looked at her and smiled. Nobody had ever said that to me before.

She added, “I wish I could work half-as-diligently as you. But I can’t. My superpower makes me lazy.”

So, question one of this quiz is: What is your superpower? If you don’t know (or can’t be sure) ask a friend. I guess you should ask someone who isn’t tempted to “say the right thing” just to please you, but who likes you enough to give an informed and objective opinion.

Once you identify your super power, use your powerful strength or ability towards a greater purpose… as all superheroes must do! Hopefully this will be through fiction writing (but, through doing this quiz, you may find there are other ways you can make a difference!)

What Are Your Core Values?

2: What are your core values and beliefs?

I reviewed beliefs in Episode 76 of the Myth & Magic podcast for fantasy authors, but to recap, I think the only way to authentically & honestly communicate with your readers is by knowing your own non-negotiable values.

Once you identify your values you can play with concepts (in your fiction) and even threaten or compromise those values, because you will always have a moral compass to guide you back to high ground (and rescues your readers, too). Your non-negotiable values will help take you through the stormy moments of story structure, so you emerge the “other side” emotionally intact.

Values ​​are different to beliefs, although we can merge them. For example, I value personal freedom, and this value overlaps with my belief that people should be free to do whatever they want… as long as that freedom does not harm, erode, or diminish another person’s freedom. So racing down a track in a fast car is fine by me — racing along a public road in a fast car is not.

To be of any beneficial use to society, beliefs must be healthy and positive. Good must win (in the end) heroes must prevail, evil must perish, diabolical monsters must be defeated, angels must triumph, superheroes (however imperfect) must outwit their enemies. Your stories should be object lessons or deterrent examples!

For all these reasons, it’s vitally important to connect with your inner values & beliefs. But how can you write honestly, if you don’t know (exactly) what they are? So take time out to consider them, then write them down where you can see them. Just above your work station. It’s important to write them down, because it’s a commitment.

The Wishing Star Painting by Eileen Hopkins

3: What do you daily wish for?

If you find you are looking forward to a time when something could happen (closing your eyes and wishing you were somewhere else, someone else, or doing something else) then it’s quite possible your unconscious wish-mind is telling you something. It could be an unconscious desire that requires release, or it might be your subconscious thoughts hinting to you that you’ve not yet achieved your goals. Try to identify what your innermost voice is saying. Once you know what your wish is about (or is for) you can plan to achieve it through ambition (action planning).

Write, now, the thing you wish most for…

What Were Your Happiest Moments?

4: What have been your happiest moments?

Explore your life (a good day to do this is on your birthday) and try to identify your happiest moments. You will need to list them (write the list) because this helps manage and organise your thoughts and will bring back forgotten moments. Once you’ve listed your happiest moments, try to see if there’s a common theme or thread connecting them. It can be a person, a place, a sensation, or a feeling. It may be none of these, or perhaps all of them. If there is a common theme or thread, it is probably related to your core values ​​(above), so if you haven’t decided your beliefs/values ​​yet, this exercise will help you complete that task. And if you haven’t added a theme to your values, above, please do so now.

What Were Your Missteps?

5: Achievements & Missteps

It is time to find out what you have done efficiently and what you have done less well. Let’s start with the positives: What are your greatest achievements? Make a list of all the things you’ve done, said, or created that make you feel most proud. Write them down, be honest, then pat yourself on the back for doing so well. Can you understand (at this stage) why you are proud of these achievements? If you can, write down your thoughts. If you can’t, don’t worry.

Now, the less positive, what were your biggest failures? Do you remember when you accomplished less than you should? Your biggest mistakes? Don’t list these (too painful), but try to get an idea why these missteps affected your pride. This exercise is about reflecting on the good & bad and trying to find out if there are any ingredients in the negatives that can be fixed or removed; and any ingredients in the positives that can help correct errors.

good deeds

6: What good works are you doing?

Sometimes our higher purpose fuels the thing that is bigger than us. So, if you do good deeds, i.e. you volunteer your time, you help train or support others, you care for others, or do some other altruistic or philanthropic work… such endeavors will help you feel proud about yourself and will become causes worth fighting for! Make a list of all the good deeds you are doing right now and that you feel most proud of. If you can’t think of any good deeds, go back to the question about your happiest moments and think about how you could make someone else as happy as you once were. Then make it happen!

What are Your Dreams?

7: What will they miss about you when you’re gone?

In “The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) the character known as Brick Tamland attends his own funeral to give his eulogy. It’s a funny scene. Think about your eulogy (in the same light-hearted, but honest, way.) What would you miss about yourself once you’re gone? If you can identify some principal characteristics and explain your most endearing traits, and you can think-up some inspiring things to say (about yourself), then you are halfway to understanding what motivates you, what your standpoint is, and what persuasion you represent. Once you know these things, it will become easier to plan the themes for your fiction.

8: What are you meant to do next?

When thinking of ambitions, many people think of intangibles: I want to be famous. I want to be successful. I want to be rich. I want to be healthy. These are all “airy” notions and even when people achieve them, they are constantly changing and can never be satisfactorily realised. Of all the intangible ambitions, the airiest fairy of all is: “I want to be happy.” It’s like saying, “I want a bus ticket to cloud cuckoo land.

Now is the right time to set goals. And these goals should be achievable and measurable. So make a list of what you’re meant to do next. Re-read those words again carefully: what you are “meant” to do. You are not asking (yourself) what you’d like to do… because that question lets you off the hook! You’re asking what you’re supposed to do — and that’s a completely different ball game!

Your answer should be informed by all the other questions you have asked yourself in this quiz. Your answer will be based upon your strengths & weaknesses, your values & beliefs, what you hope to achieve for yourself and for others, and how others will value and regard your achievements.

So what are you supposed to do next? What are you supposed to do with your life? The answer is in your capable hands…

Good luck!

Neil is the creator of the fantasy author’s guidebook “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and the host of the Myth & Magic show

Any thoughts? tweet me @neilmach


Moondog and the Dark Arches by Neil Mach

Janney is a teenage librarian in a peculiar English feudal village. She possesses a remarkable ability: she can fly from her body and hook up with another person. In this state of detachment, she found herself trapped within another young woman who escaped from a pagan ritual, but then jumped off a bridge. Was this woman chased by a monster that had been sent by the evil priestess? Moondog, the preternatural detective, is called out to investigate these evils. Will he discover the truth? What invisible thing lives beneath the church? What is going on in the weird Vale of Amity?

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