A.M. Burns, author of the popular Yellow Sky and E.S. Peters Investigations series, lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. You can find out more about A.M. and his writing at these online contacts:
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5134598.A_M_Burns
Mystichawker Press Author Page: http://www.mystichawker.com/amburns.html
Books: Perfect Love, Perfect Trouble, Blood Moon, Yellow Sky, Coyote’s Pup, Dr Gnome. All can be found on a variety of ebook retail sites.
Perfect Trouble: When Connor Wildman opens a portal to another world in his closet, E. S. Peters is called in to find the young man. With his trusty werewolf partner, Dusty, at his side, Ethan enters the portal and finds himself in the realm of Fairie. The realm beyond the portal is in chaos due to Connor’s unauthorized visit. Ethan must fight his way through angry elves and emboldened trolls to reunite Connor with his family, while trying to stop the Fairie Queen from declaring war on Earth. Meanwhile, can Ethan’s assistant Tiffany find the person responsible for the theft of sacred objects all over Dallas? The second book in the E.S. Peters investigations series brings even more action than the first and delves deeper into an elegant cast of characters.
Let me preface this by saying that I mostly write urban fantasy, so there’s not a whole of lot horses in my works, so far, and in the high fantasy I’ve done, I normally use things like griffons that can talk so it’s easy to make them into characters. Normally, they turn out as smart-mouthed characters. But I have some friends that write high fantasy and lately we’ve been having a huge debate about horses in fantasy writing. The debate is this, should they be treated as beloved pets or just as transportation?
There are actually several sides to this argument. To my way of thinking, writing them as just transportation, aka little more than cars, is a cop out. This is a lazy authors’ way of not doing the needed research into the aspects of their writing to flesh it out properly. When you look at published fantasy writing, there are a number of writers, including Terry Brooks, that for the most part, treat their horses as cars or better yet bicycles. They haven’t bothered to find out what horses are all about and therefore just think that they can graze while being ridden, and don’t need a lot of attention paid to them.
The idea that all horses are beloved pets is also a bit of a cop out. I own horses. I know what these critters are capable of. Yes, I love my horses, but there are times, like with any relationship, that they get on my nerves. The Pollyanna mentality that every horse out there is beloved is also a cop out and would get on my nerves quickly. These are also the writers that pay too much attention to every little detail all the time. You don’t need to go into gross detail of grooming a horse before riding it every time a band of adventurers sets off in the morning. A little note that your characters take care of their steeds should be enough to show that they and by extension, you are not completely heartless to the creatures they share your world with and make them more likable in the long run. Look at how Tolkien does horses in his works.
It is possible for a writer to find a comfortable middle ground when writing horses or other critters into their fantasy work. When riding a horse, it’s almost a reflex for most people to reach down and stroke its neck. You don’t have to make a big deal about this, just add it as a dialog tag, ” He stroked the big bay’s neck. “ Things like this also help avoid talking head syndrome, but that’s a whole nother post entirely. If you have a party of adventurers, the odds are they will share duties when setting up camp. Your characters can have a conversation while caring for the horses. Like I said earlier, don’t throw in the details just to throw them in, sneak them in during plot points. These are the spices that can make a story come alive for your readers.
Also, anyone who rides horses knows that they are going to spot things like predators or even other horses before the riders. This helps make the horses more active characters in your story. So, if your band is riding through a thick forest and the horses start acting odd, little things like a swivel of an ear or nervous glancing to the side, this can alert the riders to trouble. Again, its little details that most readers enjoy.
Horses are like any other character in the story, they have basic needs, and the writer that forgets these needs is showing a lack of caring for the readers as well as the creatures that inhabit their world. I think, this also goes back to writing what you know. Horses are an easy thing to get to know. The odds are that most people know someone with horses. (I know, I’ve lived in Texas and Colorado most of my life and not everyone is lucky enough to have access to farm people.) Even if you don’t have access to horses, it’s not that hard to find a riding stable, or horse breeder to go talk to. Hang out with the horses for a bit, ask questions and find out more about them. If your characters are going to spend many miles trekking across the massive fantasy world that you have spent years coming up with, then take a few minutes and get details that people in our world can relate too. It helps bring more life and more understanding to your writing. It will also help bind readers to you by giving them details they really care about.
So what’s your take on horses? Characters, cars or something in-between? Give us some input.