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View Full Version : The Pitfalls and Pleasures of Writing Fantasy: Fantasy Writers Discuss



Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-13, 09:44 PM
If you like to write fantasy, let's discuss some things about it. This started as a post in Random Banter but I thought it might make a good thread.

You know, one of the toughest things about writing in the fantasy genre is that you don't want to be lost in slavish imitation (or worse, outright rip something off) of earlier, popular works but still be true to the conventions of the style. For example: most works of High Fantasy feature at least a few races other than Human. Often, these are races either taken from Tolkien or the standard D&D races. I say "or", but they're mostly the same. There's nothing wrong with this. But sometimes people might get a little tired of the same old stuff. So you make your races different, with Elves that aren't necessarily better (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OurElvesAreBetter) and Dwarves that aren't all the same (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OurDwarvesAreAllTheSame). But sometimes you decide that isn't enough, and you decide to come up with some new races, because people see Elves and Dwarves all the time, but they probably haven't seen any Xyztlhanyans. The trouble with this is coming up with new races that are fantastical without seeming too silly.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-14, 01:15 PM
I'd be very interested in such a topic, as I'd like to try writing a fantasy novel or two myself.

Of the two major setting ideas I have in mind, one probably wouldn't feature any real races besides the humans. I have to agree that the human-elf-dwarf thing is played out, and adding additional races doesn't really help either. Most "new" races just get seen as rehashes of old races, like the writer wanted to call them elves but for some reason couldn't. The other setting idea I'm using is rife with various fantasy races, but only because it's in that "dystopian fairy tail" genre.

For other writers, I'd recommend avoiding new fantasy races altogether unless they really don't fall under the labels of existing fantasy races.

Helanna
2012-08-14, 08:27 PM
I'm just here to drop off some links.

Writing Excuses (http://www.writingexcuses.com/) is a weekly 15-minute long podcast hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and Mary Kowal, focusing on writing in general and sci-fi and fantasy in particular.

Story Board (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=52khu_YJAmo) also just released its first episode. It's an hour long but I think it's going to be a monthly thing - this episode was about writing urban fantasy, and why it appeals to us and is gaining in popularity. I think Patrick Rothfuss is going to be the only permanent member with other authors appearing but I could be wrong.



For other writers, I'd recommend avoiding new fantasy races altogether unless they really don't fall under the labels of existing fantasy races.

I recommend avoiding re-naming elves and dwarves in an attempt to not sound like you're ripping off other books, but I'd also encourage writers to come up with new races if they can. It's fantasy, you can do practically anything. Surely a good writer can come up with something interesting, but not completely unoriginal. (Okay, at this point, I think it'd be hard to not be accidentally ripping off some DnD monster, but still.)

Ravens_cry
2012-08-14, 10:11 PM
Try to create something new, yet don't be so enamoured by novelty that it takes over.
Use apostrophes sparingly, if at all. The apostrophe mines are almost exhausted.
Recycled apostrophes can be used in contractions and to show possession.
Be careful with slang.
Too much invented slang can be hard to understand, yet real world slang can have origins that don't likely fit the world. As much as it is fun to invent a glossary of invented terms, few readers like having to go back and look at it every time you describe something.
Unless you really, really know your Elizabethan grammar, don't use it.
And yet, don't be too modern either.
World building is a fun part of fantasy writing, but avoid the temptation to exposit everything you've invented. Instead, allude to it, give little hints and nibbles that help create the feeling of a world that is more than just is what is on the page.
People don't spend long periods of time telling each other what they already know. Sometimes an info-dump is unavoidable, but try to make it as painless as possible.

Obrysii
2012-08-14, 10:59 PM
Here's a problem I have: I have too many ideas at once and they all sort of push to the fore-front and I can never write just one, so I end up writing nothing.

Any advice? Right now I'm working on a sci-fi / fantasy story, but have so many character ideas that I can't concentrate on just one.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-14, 11:33 PM
Here's a problem I have: I have too many ideas at once and they all sort of push to the fore-front and I can never write just one, so I end up writing nothing.

Any advice? Right now I'm working on a sci-fi / fantasy story, but have so many character ideas that I can't concentrate on just one.

Write them down individually, consider the story you want to build, and see how they may overlap in it. I find that many of my ideas are simply various ways of accomplishing the same goal. When I put them side by side on my computer screen I end up liking one more than the other, or find the two can be blended together. In either case the ideas are still there for your future projects.

This happens quite frequently with my characters as well, as I'm more keen on picking the one that matches my ever-changing mood at that moment. I usually try to get at least one character with each of the different temperaments -- sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and apathetic -- with some attempt to balance them out.

I think through the heads of each of them, consider where they might fit into this world I'm making, what their various life goals may be, how they would interact should they meet. Whoever objectives' are the most interesting to be met gets to be my main character, the most likely to interfere with this objective becomes the antagonist.

Having too many character ideas will make this process more complex, but if it feels like I'm juggling too many characters at once, I'll put them down for now and play with them later when I'm underwhelmed with my creativity or need that particular itch scratched..

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-14, 11:56 PM
Use apostrophes sparingly, if at all. The apostrophe mines are almost exhausted.

I'd just say not to use an apostrophe in proper names at all unless there's actually a good reason to do so. Sort of on the same note, it's good to try to keep the names of places and people consistent, like the Giant talks about in one of his worldbuilding articles (Don't have the capital city of the nation of Eagleclaw just be a random jumble of letters, etc., avoid Aerith and Bob). For example, the human lands might all have names in the Common tongue, (Centaur's Leap, Swordsheath, etc. Names like this also give you the opportunity to invent fun histories for them. I used Centaur's Leap for a town in one of my stories that was next to a ravine that a famous centaur had jumped over while being chased by goblins. Lame, I know, but I thought it was terribly clever at the time.) while lands occupied by the Elves would have fantastical sounding names that we can assume to be taken from the Elvish language. This could be used to show that a settlement with an Elvish name in the middle of human lands was once an Elvish colony.

MLai
2012-08-15, 04:05 AM
Well, if you have fantasy races, think about why they're there from a human-centric POV first. You have elven nations/ dwarven strongholds... Think about them if this happened on planet Earth, with Earth genetics and population dynamics.

(1) Can they interbreed with humans? If they can, then why aren't everyone half-elves half-dwarves yet?
(2) They remained separate because they're magic? Do you mean Seelie/Unseelie almost-alien-level magic? Because that's the only way they would remain separate. Unless humans have no skill in magic at all.
(3) They remained separate because of war? Must have been a huge civilization-ending level war, then. So who's the enslaved/ displaced/ exterminated culture, humans or the elves/dwarves/orcs?

Through-out history, humans have shown willingness to have sex with anyone and anything. Pretty little thing with pointy ears, and you think there'd be no cross-breeding with humans?

Reasoning out your human-interaction history automatically gives your elves/dwarves/orcs more flesh and less artifice. It's a good starting point because it's something you know. Sapien-Neanderthalensis interaction is a good reference point.

Calemyr
2012-08-15, 04:30 PM
I'm curious about this thread's take on one of the factions in my story: the garuda.

The garuda are avian humanoids, as the name suggests (two legs, two arms, two wings on a very scrawny humanoid frame with a bird's head). They are isolated from humans because the cultures are so different, but keep a garuda "regent" in the region's human government so that their interests and philosophies are represented at court.

Garuda hold to a somewhat manipulative approach to life that translates roughly as "all paths start at the nest", meaning that the most influence you can have over a thing is during its creation. They have an inborn ability to sense the potential someone might have on shaping the future, which they refer to as the "winds of change", and usually try to guide such people to the most beneficial ends. Although they place a natural priority on their race's benefit and survival, they share little in common with humans and thus have few conflicts of interest when helping humans.

Garuda tend to have plumage that resembles a real bird and are very light for their size, but are still too heavy to truly fly. They can glide with ease and even take to the air with great effort, but attempts to fly are rather on par with those of a chicken - a lot of heart, but very little air. Since they put a premium on poise, such flight is often reserved for the most dire situations and only reluctantly even then. They love to glide, however, and therefore favor living in high locations and are excellent climbers.

They have rather human personalities, ranging from gentle to proud to choleric, but have different priorities than a human would.

What do you think of that? Too generic? Too exotic? Weak? Cheesy?

MLai
2012-08-15, 10:23 PM
I'm curious about this thread's take on one of the factions in my story: the garuda. What do you think of that? Too generic? Too exotic? Weak? Cheesy?
There's nothing wrong with non-human civilizations per se. It all depends on context. TBH, you could have written anything in that passage describing a non-human culture of your choice, and it's neither good nor bad.

But, how is your world affected by the inclusion of "birdmen nation(s)", from a human-centric pov?

(1) Human Culture: Are there other "extremely nonhuman" sentient civilizations? Next to a birdman, an elf is practically indisinguishably human. Coexisting with an essentially "alien" civilization would profoundly affect human worldviews, philosophies, religions, etc.
(2) Human technology: With birdmen gliding around, has humans started toying with flight technology early? That's the first thing I think of.
On that note, why are humans and birdmen separate? It seems they would benefit from working together. Birdmen can help humans with anything that is easier with flight/climbing. Cartography, courier service... Humans can do the heavy labor which birdmen may need help with.
(3) Cultural interaction: With any distinctly different civilization, humans have 2 ways of interacting with them... Either they assimilate them through conquest, or they exterminate them through conquest. The only way a human civilization coexists on an equal level with another one, is if they're fundamentally similar and on an equal social and technological level, and so can interact via trade and politics.
I find it difficult to believe that you say birdmen are very dissimilar in culture/worldview to humans, and yet have long-term envoys at human courts. That's like saying a human king has a long-term human envoy at the Seelie Court.

Helanna
2012-08-15, 10:39 PM
I'm curious about this thread's take on one of the factions in my story: the garuda.

Sounds fairly interesting. I'd give it a try.

Although it reminds me of the other thing that really, really bothers me about many fantasy races: Planet of Hats syndrome, where all members of a race share a defining feature or set of traits. Like how all elves are graceful, beautiful, and in tune with nature, or how all dwarves are good craftsmen, or any Always [Alignment] race. This really kind of drives me crazy. How come humans get to be so varied, with different interests and skills, but every elf has to be some variation of Generic Elf 62?

Having a unique and interesting race does nothing if they're all practically the same character. Make sure they all have different characters and motivations and philosophies. Sure, they may all share similar traits due to species or culture, but they're still individuals (unless they're . . . not. Hive species get a pass on this.)

Nothing you said actually resembled this, necessarily, it just reminded me of it for some reason.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-15, 11:14 PM
I'd just say not to use an apostrophe in proper names at all unless there's actually a good reason to do so. Sort of on the same note, it's good to try to keep the names of places and people consistent, like the Giant talks about in one of his worldbuilding articles (Don't have the capital city of the nation of Eagleclaw just be a random jumble of letters, etc., avoid Aerith and Bob). For example, the human lands might all have names in the Common tongue, (Centaur's Leap, Swordsheath, etc. Names like this also give you the opportunity to invent fun histories for them. I used Centaur's Leap for a town in one of my stories that was next to a ravine that a famous centaur had jumped over while being chased by goblins. Lame, I know, but I thought it was terribly clever at the time.) while lands occupied by the Elves would have fantastical sounding names that we can assume to be taken from the Elvish language. This could be used to show that a settlement with an Elvish name in the middle of human lands was once an Elvish colony.
I'm a bit tired of the 'common tongue' trope meself, unless there is a really good reason for it. For example, a recently deceased culturally domineering imperial culture. That could be an interesting twist. Everyone speaks some equivalent of the 'Black Speech' because some Evil Empire ruled for a few generations before being defeated. It's grown a little softer as new words are introduced, but it is still the lingua franca and even birth tongue for much of the former empire.

MLai
2012-08-15, 11:39 PM
I'm a bit tired of the 'common tongue' trope meself, unless there is a really good reason for it. For example, a recently deceased culturally domineering imperial culture. That could be an interesting twist. Everyone speaks some equivalent of the 'Black Speech' because some Evil Empire ruled for a few generations before being defeated..
But then, the Black Speech would be the Common, and you'd still type it in English or whatever language your novel is in. :smalltongue:

Actually, the idea of Black Speech doesn't really make sense, as language by itself isn't evil or good. When I was reading Tolkien, I thought the reason the Black Speech was considered evil was because of its use in dark magic incantations. Y'know, where words have power in the realm of magic.

Calemyr
2012-08-16, 12:05 AM
But, how is your world affected by the inclusion of "birdmen nation(s)", from a human-centric pov?

It is one nation, actually. There are not many garuda, and they do not reproduce rapidly, so they lack the growth rate and need for expansion humans do. Most humans never see a garuda at all, and those that do generally only see the Regent. They are largely regarded as a myth, even by people who know they exist.


(1) Human Culture: Are there other "extremely nonhuman" sentient civilizations? Next to a birdman, an elf is practically indisinguishably human. Coexisting with an essentially "alien" civilization would profoundly affect human worldviews, philosophies, religions, etc.

The garuda are non-human, but not alien. There's an aspect of the setting that turns things into monsters, and garuda are one variation of how this aspect effects humans. As such, they still retain elements of human psyche, albeit warped by a different body and a different upbringing.

Few "monsters" are benign and even fewer of them breed at all, much less breed true. Werewolves are the only other example and they are so self-destructive and insane that a bloodline rarely if ever passes further than one generation. First generation garuda, on the other hand, are extremely rare, and grow increasingly so as the years go by, but are welcomed into the fold readily.

It is a human-only setting, barring these "aberrations".


(2) Human technology: With birdmen gliding around, has humans started toying with flight technology early? That's the first thing I think of.
On that note, why are humans and birdmen separate? It seems they would benefit from working together. Birdmen can help humans with anything that is easier with flight/climbing. Cartography, courier service... Humans can do the heavy labor which birdmen may need help with.

Aberrations are notoriously uncomfortable among humans. Groups of humans anyway. It's a sort of hyper-awareness: the more activity going on around them, the easier it is for them to panic. Garuda are better off than most, as even when panicked they are rarely violent, but they still shy away from anything resembling human society, and Regents have to be prepared nearly from hatching to be able to withstand the the stresses their role will place on them. Even Regents rarely leave the court, with its controlled population, unless it is explicitly in the service of the human ruler.

Humans rarely if ever see gliding garuda and, even among those who did and were inspired by it, only Magi would have the proper education to act on that inspiration. Even among the Magi, there would be few with the talents needed to make practical use of the theory. It is not something that has really come up as of the start of this story.


(3) Cultural interaction: With any distinctly different civilization, humans have 2 ways of interacting with them... Either they assimilate them through conquest, or they exterminate them through conquest. The only way a human civilization coexists on an equal level with another one, is if they're fundamentally similar and on an equal social and technological level, and so can interact via trade and politics.
I find it difficult to believe that you say birdmen are very dissimilar in culture/worldview to humans, and yet have long-term envoys at human courts. That's like saying a human king has a long-term human envoy at the Seelie Court.

The garuda, in keeping with their stated philosophy, initiated their alliance with the humans upon realizing that some form of clash was inevitable. The dense and expansive forests the garuda favor would be made open to humans, the nature-craft of the the garuda would be taught to the humans, and the garuda would maintain a Regent to assist the human rulers, and in trade the sky above the trees would be left to the garuda alone. By opening their arms this way before they were even discovered, the garuda set up a co-existence before the though of conflict even occurred to the humans. Control a thing's beginning, control what it becomes - the garuda way.

The role of Regent is a strange one among the garuda. It is both a death sentence and an honor to them. A regent serves as guardian, caretaker, and tutor to prospective human ruler from near infancy, teaching them everything they need to know to rule wisely and well - to the best of their ability, in any case. The bond between a ruler and their Regent is extremely close, familial, and the ruler's reign is tied to their Regent. If the Regent dies, the ruler loses their throne. If the ruler dies, the Regent goes into exile from both societies. Regents form strong bonds with their rulers, however, and as a result do not long outlive them in any event.

The end result is a nation that is human-dominated but has such deeply ingrained garuda influences that the "birdmen" are not only accepted, but welcomed and protected.

@Helanna: There are a grand total of two garuda that play a part in the story, the Regent to the current ruler and the Regent for the heir to the throne. Both are Regents, and thus are extremely loyal to their human charge and their joint nation, but approach this position in different ways.

The elder one behaves as if she were the mother to her charge and will go to any length to see her charge is given what is needed, even if it is not what is wanted. She does not give trust easily and preaches caution and forethought religiously.

The younger one sees itself as little more than its charge's weapon, throwing himself into conflict in order to ensure that its charge never needs to. He needs to be reminded on multiple occasions that his death would be detrimental to his charge.

MLai
2012-08-16, 12:18 AM
In the case you describe, then, your Garuda birdmen would easily take on a religious tone in your human societies:

1. They were once human, i.e. their psyches and their origins are relatable.
2. They were magically transformed into bird-men, and are rarely seen enough to be considered mythic by ordinary citizens. This means they can easily take on angelic overtones (god's messengers), or as "holy hermits" annointed by divine transformation. The regents can easily be seen as angels who have sacrificed their divinity in order to descend to earth and advise the king, also further cementing the king's "divine right."
3. Either that, or they take on the capacity of Merlin's role. Meaning they're not divinely ordained, but they're acknowledged to possess power and knowledge that rulers value. Courtesans would regard them with a mixture of respect and fear. Kings who don't have such birdmen, would regard them as "dream-readers and sorcerors."

Ravens_cry
2012-08-16, 12:33 AM
But then, the Black Speech would be the Common, and you'd still type it in English or whatever language your novel is in. :smalltongue:

Actually, the idea of Black Speech doesn't really make sense, as language by itself isn't evil or good. When I was reading Tolkien, I thought the reason the Black Speech was considered evil was because of its use in dark magic incantations. Y'know, where words have power in the realm of magic.
Given that Tolkien was a linguist, it makes sense that words would have a kind of power in his worlds.
As for making Black Speech the Common more than just switching the title, alluding to the past and making references to its harsh and guttural sound would help. Another idea would be to have a pidgin rather than a full fledged language that is known to most peoples and is used for trade and such, but isn't spoken as a birth tongue.
It would require a lot of fictional language making, but could still make a fun part of a story.
Personally, I'd like to have more cultures for the non-human species. And not just Good Ones and Evil Ones, but cultural differences.

Calemyr
2012-08-16, 12:37 AM
In the case you describe, then, your Garuda birdmen would easily take on a religious tone in your human societies:

1. They were once human, i.e. their psyches and their origins are relatable.
2. They were magically transformed into bird-men, and are rarely seen enough to be considered mythic by ordinary citizens. This means they can easily take on angelic overtones (god's messengers), or as "holy hermits" annointed by divine transformation. The regents can easily be seen as angels who have sacrificed their divinity in order to descend to earth and advise the king, also further cementing the king's "divine right."
3. Either that, or they take on the capacity of Merlin's role. Meaning they're not divinely ordained, but they're acknowledged to possess power and knowledge that rulers value. Courtesans would regard them with a mixture of respect and fear. Kings who don't have such birdmen, would regard them as "dream-readers and sorcerors."

The garuda would never permit themselves to be painted as anything divine, although they tend towards the dominant religion in the area as well. "Holy hermit" might be acceptable to them, as they tend towards a more ascetic lifestyle than humans would and they like to act like they know more than they're letting on, but the Regents at very least maintain a distinctly down-to-earth nature to them. For the elder Regent, at least, it would be easy to mistake her for some kind of weary clerk if weren't for the wings.

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-16, 01:44 AM
Yeah, I suppose in a more realistic setting, one with the races spread out over the geographic regions, the common tongue is a little difficult to justify. The explanation that it's the language of humans, used as langua franca because the race of Man is so widespread, doesn't work in a setting where humans, along with all the other races, have multiple languages. I guess in a setting like making, as you say, Common pidgin used for trade is the best way to do it... Or even a creole language that evolved from said pidgin, with elements of the languages of all the races that frequently traded with one another.

Still, you have to be careful when making up languages, because it's really easy to do badly. I think it's best to keep the examples of your fictional languages limited to place names, or the rare occasions a magic spell is given in dialogue.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-16, 04:27 AM
Still, you have to be careful when making up languages, because it's really easy to do badly. I think it's best to keep the examples of your fictional languages limited to place names, or the rare occasions a magic spell is given in dialogue.
Well, if you keep the view point close to the characters, you can get away with a lot. Most people wouldn't be able to transcribe with much accuracy a set of sounds of a language they do not know without some repetition.
Instead, describe the sound of the language, how it rises and falls, how guttural, or not, it is, its speed and tempo. To get an idea of what you want, find a foreign language video or audio and just listen to people talk.
Don't try to understand, just listen.
Then, let that peculate through your head a bit before trying to convert that to impressions and descriptions.

The Succubus
2012-08-16, 04:43 AM
One that suprises me abotu fantasy literature and the whole "ancient races" shtick is why no-one's ever tried to turn it on its head.

Why not have human civilisation as the long lost ancient race and perhaps have two evolutionary trees branching off as a result........and I've just realised I'm typing the plot of the Time Traveller. Ignore me. -.-

MLai
2012-08-16, 05:01 AM
but the Regents at very least maintain a distinctly down-to-earth nature to them. For the elder Regent, at least, it would be easy to mistake her for some kind of weary clerk if weren't for the wings.
I know you're trying to make these garuda characters into 3D personalities rather than racial templates, but that doesn't seem to be the right direction to go.
If you're going to make a character act like a homely fat nanny or a homely friar tutor, then why don't you just have a fat nanny or an old friar? Why would you go to the length of having a fantastic bird-man and then make him act like he's of the same species and culture as you?
AFAIC, a mentor who is of a radically different species/culture will act distinctly inhuman, even if he's in the role of being a tutor to the human character. This applies whether this is sci-fi or fantasy.
For example, Merlin is "inhuman/abnormal" by nature of him being the only person in the book who knows magic. He also doesn't act like a normal old man.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-16, 05:05 AM
One that suprises me abotu fantasy literature and the whole "ancient races" shtick is why no-one's ever tried to turn it on its head.

Why not have human civilisation as the long lost ancient race and perhaps have two evolutionary trees branching off as a result........and I've just realised I'm typing the plot of the Time Traveller. Ignore me. -.-
Eloi and Morlocks were practically animals. You are more or less referencing the setting, not the plot exactly. Still, the idea of a fantasy setting without humans could be intriguing.
I've read quite a bit of science fiction that does this, but precious little fantasy.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-16, 09:14 PM
I'm curious what people expect as far as cursing/swearing in fantasy. I've read books with a very explicit and modern diction, while others invent a more colourful vocabulary for their fantasy setting or ignore such language entirely.

I'm hesitant to include or invent profane language as I rarely use such words even in my head. Though, my characters are not me by any stretch and have different standards relating to their own milieu and personalities. The world I'm playing around with at the moment is dreary and populated with poor pragmatic peoples and violent criminals. Unlikely folk to hold their tongue or play coy.

MLai
2012-08-16, 09:30 PM
If your cursing comes from modern American slang, it's the same as you using non-swearing American slang. You would create a dissonance in the reader trying to immerse himself in a medieval fantasy setting.

If you're British, you can go with Cockney accent/slang. Just like how everyone in medieval fantasy speaks Elizabethan English, you can't go wrong with "working class" English to portray the vulgar tongue.

snoopy13a
2012-08-16, 09:34 PM
I'm curious what people expect as far as cursing/swearing in fantasy. I've read books with a very explicit and modern diction, while others invent a more colourful vocabulary for their fantasy setting or ignore such language entirely.

I'm hesitant to include or invent profane language as I rarely use such words even in my head. Though, my characters are not me by any stretch and have different standards relating to their own milieu and personalities. The world I'm playing around with at the moment is dreary and populated with poor pragmatic peoples and violent criminals. Unlikely folk to hold their tongue or play coy.

I think the generic four-letter words can suffice. Your characters aren't actually speaking English so "translating" their profane words for human waste and sexual acts into their modern English translations should be fine. If your setting has some sort of religion, I guess you could invent suitable curses pertaining to that religion.

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-16, 10:04 PM
I think the generic four-letter words can suffice. Your characters aren't actually speaking English so "translating" their profane words for human waste and sexual acts into their modern English translations should be fine. If your setting has some sort of religion, I guess you could invent suitable curses pertaining to that religion.
I think this is the best way to do it.

Winter_Wolf
2012-08-17, 05:11 AM
Two pitfalls I see (and fall into) over and over again:


And the kitchen sink: You saw something cool/had a cool idea, and you added it in. And it kept happening. Now you've got a kind of Eberron thing going, where if it exists anywhere else, it exists in your story. A little focus goes a long way.

A wizard did it, so it doesn't have to make sense: Not just that "it's magic", but that there's not even an internal consistency to it. You've got laws of the universe which are often bent, broken, disregarded, or operate differently at different times. With no rhyme or reason to it, sometimes not even on an individual level.

It's different because I said so: Oh, you're not ripping off an idea or even paying homage to it, you're taking it and tweaking it. Really. But the tweaking is so subtle that no one else can tell the difference.
I personally consider fanfiction a pitfall of fantasy writing, because I'm sure that with a little effort these people could invent their own characters that would be at least as vibrant and interesting. Yeah, I said it, writing fanfiction is laziness. I've been guilty of it in the past, but it's still laziness. Also you have to be REAL CAREFUL if you want to get your writing published. A lot of authors take a dim view of having their creations co-opted (read: stolen) by someone else. On the other hand, if you're only writing for your own amusement and the amusement of a few other fans, it's a handy shortcut because everyone knows generally what the characters are like, and you can skip a lot of little details. As you might suspect, I also have no use for slash fiction or shipping. None.


Provided you can avoid pitfall #2, it's great fun to come up with some crazy random thing and make it an interesting and integral part of your narrative.

Even taking an ordinary situation and going "what if" a few times gets you into some pretty interesting places. Guy goes to the store for some milk. What if on the way he runs into an elf? What if that elf is a combo of a Keebler and a Chucky? What if Keebler Chucky uses children's teeth to make jawbreaker candy? What if that elf starts stalking the guy and Bad Things start happening to children that the guy meets. Okay, my fantasy tends to end up pretty dark. But remember this all started because a guy wanted some milk.

My greatest pleasure in fantasy writing is to be able to write myself OUT of a corner, without resorting to badly done deus ex machina type stuff. It's too easy to get into the corner, but when I can get back out, that's when I know I've got something good going.

factotum
2012-08-17, 05:17 AM
I still believe that the best "How Not to Write Fantasy" book ever produced is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diane Wynne Jones. It's basically a spoof travelogue through every overused trope and cliche in fantasy fiction, and it has the advantage of being an enormously entertaining read!

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-17, 01:14 PM
It it all right to bring up another topic for discussion?

Specifically, I want to talk about magic. The different ways it's interpreted and appears in various fantasy literature. From Lord of the Rings where even something like a ring of invisibility is a powerful and fantastic relic, to Harry Potter where schoolchildren are taught it, to even something like the shounen Fairy Tail where it's a part of everyday life and comes in a wide variety of forms.

Calemyr
2012-08-17, 01:33 PM
It it all right to bring up another topic for discussion?

Specifically, I want to talk about magic. The different ways it's interpreted and appears in various fantasy literature. From Lord of the Rings where even something like a ring of invisibility is a powerful and fantastic relic, to Harry Potter where schoolchildren are taught it, to even something like the shounen Fairy Tail where it's a part of everyday life and comes in a wide variety of forms.

Are we talking about what we like to read on the topic or how we'd want to write it?

For me it's pretty much both (as I imagine it usually is): I favor magic as a sort of science. I favor Terry Pratchett's discworld's approach to it, where magic isn't entirely divorced from the laws of physics, but can warp them in weird ways when concentrated sufficiently.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-17, 05:05 PM
There are three tendencies I see in most modern fantasy.

Magic as an Art -- requires talent and training to develop, and is rarely widespread, affordable, or understood. It's limitations are usually based on the will, emotions, and ineffable personal charisma of the magicians and won't be analyzed heavily for any form of consistency beyond the narrative convention. You get interesting magic-systems which rely on things like song, poetic verse, calligraphy, drawing, painting, sculpting, appealing and appeasing spirits or gods through particular words or rituals, and various other creativity/symbolism = magical effect type convention. By it's whimsical nature, you tend to find this more in classical or conservative societies.

Magic as a Science -- generally focuses on rules and can be understood rationally. Inheritance is a common cause, people who have no aptitude or desire to actually use it can still develop it as genetics is a fairly rational limitation on the spread of such power. Or Magic is treated as a tool which is so absurdly complex that only mathematical or linguistic geniuses can even scratch the surface of it. Magic functions consistently across the world, if it exceeds of fails to meet expectations there's usually a reason based on the existing rational. Magic's power is as well understood, or at least thought to be understood, in the same way as electromagnetism, following laws of entropy and occasionally equivalent exchange. Creatures like the Sidhe and Vampires are often given rational pseudo-biological explanations which comport to the rules established in the fiction's cosmology, and resemble more and more an alien race from science fiction. Such magic may be quite common, and is more likely to appear in a more industrialized or modern setting, as its natural limitations make it incapable of replacing science completely and reshaping society into something unrecognizable from our own. This convention is at its best, in my opinion, when the protagonists discover some flaw or uncovers something new about that world which wasn't recognized at the start of the story.

Magic is Divine --that is to say, like in the Bible, the only beings with supernatural capacities are so complex or inhuman as to make rationalizing their power absurd. The Sidhe can fit into this category, or something like the Gods from heroic epics, how they do what they do is irrelevant. The greater significance to your characters is how they intend to play their games, or avoid being toyed with by beings they're reasonably powerless against.

I think it's important to know first just how committed you are in explaining your world's functional magical system. On the one hand, I've been overwhelmed by authors' attempts to rationalize their magicks with fantastic techno-babble, as I -- personally -- rarely enjoy a pseudo-quantum physics lecture when actual story-telling can be done On the other hand, too little of an explanation of at least the limitations and potency of magic in the world makes it seem pretty generic and hollow. If in the event magic is used at any point, it can feel like a cheap card the author has up his/her sleeve for a dues ex machina type conclusion.

Dante & Vergil
2012-08-19, 04:12 PM
Actually, the idea of Black Speech doesn't really make sense, as language by itself isn't evil or good. When I was reading Tolkien, I thought the reason the Black Speech was considered evil was because of its use in dark magic incantations. Y'know, where words have power in the realm of magic.

That's probably because Tolkien saw power in sound and music, which is probably why the creation of Middle Earth was done in song.

bluewind95
2012-08-19, 11:23 PM
Hm... that sounds a lot like CS Lewis, too...

GenericGuy
2012-08-20, 12:12 AM
Speaking of magic, I never like how it’s handled in most settings in its relation to society. Magic is either “ignored” in that despite individuals seemingly at random being able to destroy a city/country/the world civilization runs pretty much the same as medieval (with some modern ideals so as not to offend modern readers, but that’s a whole other rant) did. No precautions are taken to counterbalance magic persons or objects, for example once a King has been found out to have been under mind control everyone acts surprised, but if mind control is possible in a setting than monarchs should be getting mind controlled all the time (who wouldn’t want the king as their puppet?)

If society does take precautions against magic it is always portrayed as a negative. It’s always seen as tyrannical and gives the magic users (who will be the main characters naturally) “victimhood” for being just sooooo awesome.

Sorry if this comes across as rant, but it’s just so frustrating that whenever I try to plan out a logical society that has magic and ways to curb its influence; most readers will either assume I’m going to have a righteous mage rebellion or call me a fascist for portraying the “muggles” as being in the right.

MLai
2012-08-20, 01:04 AM
Sorry if this comes across as rant, but it’s just so frustrating that whenever I try to plan out a logical society that has magic and ways to curb its influence; most readers will either assume I’m going to have a righteous mage rebellion or call me a fascist for portraying the “muggles” as being in the right.
Have you seen the big thread in the archives where a guy logically plans out a world, in minutiae, where AD&D magic rules are taken to their extreme?

Edit: Right, that's the keyword. Tippyverse.

Anecronwashere
2012-08-20, 02:09 AM
Have you seen the big thread in the archives where a guy logically plans out a world, in minutiae, where AD&D magic rules are taken to their extreme?

I thought the Tippyverse was 3.5?

bluewind95
2012-08-20, 08:17 AM
Personally I portray magic as dangerous. It's a high-magic setting where it's common among humans and non-humans (which are kind of like the Fair Folk, just sharing the human realm). Humans are taught it in a controlled setting and they have many more rules and whatnot. Non-humans have it innately. They are mistrusted, and in small numbers(which really is all they have) may be outright lynched because they are so dangerous. Only one society accepts non-humans, and it's only an awkward kind of acceptance by the less-magically-studied people. This greater acceptance of magic makes this society very dangerous... but it also leads to its downfall. Because magic is dangerous. And while lynching a non-human for being a non-human is not right, having that kind of power running around without the necessary precautions is dangerous and just as bad. Neither side is portrayed as really being in the right.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-20, 08:36 AM
There are three tendencies I see in most modern fantasy.

...

I think it's important to know first just how committed you are in explaining your world's functional magical system. On the one hand, I've been overwhelmed by authors' attempts to rationalize their magicks with fantastic techno-babble, as I -- personally -- rarely enjoy a pseudo-quantum physics lecture when actual story-telling can be done On the other hand, too little of an explanation of at least the limitations and potency of magic in the world makes it seem pretty generic and hollow. If in the event magic is used at any point, it can feel like a cheap card the author has up his/her sleeve for a dues ex machina type conclusion.

Those are all great viewpoints. The setting I'd like to try to write would have those and as many other viewpoints of magic as possible. I already have the basic mechanic behind how magic works.

The society I have in mind so far would have plenty of mages over a sprawling magical metropolis. Magic would be a tool like a hammer or a sword, only something that a fraction of the population could use. Sure you can kill someone with a sword or even a hammer, but that doesn't mean you ban all hammers from the population, just make sure people don't go bludgeoning each other to death. It would be the same with magic. It's all right as long as it's regulated and not one of the forbidden "No really there's no reason you should be learning this stuff" magic.

There would probably be a ban on magic for anyone not either working for the local government or one of several sanctioned guilds for magic-users. (I'm trying to think of a different word other than "guild" because then it just sounds too much like Fairy Tail.)

One other pitfall I have right now is I'm trying to see if I can write a necromancer who's neither evil nor misguided nor naive, to see if I can make necromancy itself not that bad.

MLai
2012-08-20, 09:41 AM
But isn't necromancy inherently bad, because you're trapping wayward souls/spirits in dead bodies, making them suffer and also preventing them from passing on to the afterlife?

If the undead your version of necromancy raises are just golems of rotting flesh, then they wouldn't automatically attack the living and I can see your necromancer being just a scientist of sorts.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-20, 09:52 AM
But isn't necromancy inherently bad, because you're trapping wayward souls/spirits in dead bodies, making them suffer and also preventing them from passing on to the afterlife?

If the undead your version of necromancy raises are just golems of rotting flesh, then they wouldn't automatically attack the living and I can see your necromancer being just a scientist of sorts.

Well, here's what I got so far:
- Necromancy was originally not just "death" or "undeath" magic but "life" magic as well, so I can do something with that.
- Perhaps the undead servants aren't enslaved so much as willingly under a contract of some sort.
- If magic could be used to entirely create a body for the spirit to reside in, there'd be no reason for it to be a half-rotted corpse, especially if healing magic was involved.

oblivion6
2012-08-20, 01:08 PM
in the main kingdom of my own novel, "low-level" mages are fairly common with dozens of them serving in the royal army and elsewhere. however there are only 3 known archmages known in the world, so while low-level magic is common, high-level magic is qite rare.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-20, 01:17 PM
I think, on a basic level, that is what Eberron does.

oblivion6
2012-08-20, 01:34 PM
I think, on a basic level, that is what Eberron does.

i think your right...i had completely forgotten about eberron and all their magewrights.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-20, 03:39 PM
i think your right...i had completely forgotten about eberron and all their magewrights.
Well, as I said in my first post, don't get hung up on originality.
As someone once said, "To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research."
A well trodden but well wrought work is better than something 'original' that barely hangs together.

jseah
2012-08-21, 10:51 AM
I have somewhat recently thought of an idea regarding magic systems and world-shaping powers.

Essentially, the question is "why, if it is possible to do X, has X not already been done?". Replace X with "mind control the king" or "start the industrial revolution" or whatever you want.
I often see magic systems built specifically to stop these things. Why?

The thing is, just because something is possible, doesn't mean it has to happen.
Why did we start the industrial revolution when we did? Why not a hundred years earlier? The same coal and iron mines were still around. We didn't because it wasn't invented yet or the social conditions are not right.
Or simply because no one thought of it. Its amazing what people don't do because we didn't think of it and after the first guy, suddenly everyone has one / is doing it. Half of applied science is thinking of things people didn't think of.

And you DON'T have to restrict your magic system to stop these things. Sure, if it possible to mind control the king, someone is going to (try to) do it. But someone had to do it for the first time. Make that your story! The story starts as the protagonist (a noble of some repute) finds out the king is being mind controlled and kills the interloper. Now all the nobles are freaking out and the power politics is going haywire. Not to mention what will happen when the king proposes using the same tactic on the pesky next door neighbour...
Change is good for stories, it comes with conflict built in.
Also, a story that deals with a setting-changing event or innovation has a much easier time touching on everything else and showing off the world as it comes naturally when the protagonist(s) is dealing with the change.

Liffguard
2012-08-21, 10:59 AM
It it all right to bring up another topic for discussion?

Specifically, I want to talk about magic. The different ways it's interpreted and appears in various fantasy literature. From Lord of the Rings where even something like a ring of invisibility is a powerful and fantastic relic, to Harry Potter where schoolchildren are taught it, to even something like the shounen Fairy Tail where it's a part of everyday life and comes in a wide variety of forms.

I have no preference for what sort of magic authors use in a story so long as they go into at least a little detail about the consequences of that magic on the world around them. One of my favourite series is the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham which is effectively a long study on the effect of extremely high-level magic on a pre-industrial society; and more importantly, how it affects the relations between societies with magic and societies without. It's almost an economic/sociopolitical fantasy.

Another interesting example is The Second Apocalypse series by R. Scott Bakker, which looks at the theological and sociological implications of a world where (like D&D really) the existence of a deity, the afterlife and cosmologically objective morality are well-established facts.

Man on Fire
2012-08-21, 04:43 PM
Essentially, the question is "why, if it is possible to do X, has X not already been done?". Replace X with "mind control the king" or "start the industrial revolution" or whatever you want.

nobody else thought about it before? It happens in real life, people, especially experts of some sort, are so focused on their way of doing things that they tend to dismiss every other way as impossible, if you would tell a Wizard how he can improve the world with magic, he would go on a rant why it won't work, concluding with "if it was possible/necessayr, somebody would do it long time ago". Such thing happened when American Express was born - experts said that if there was market for it, somebody would do it already. And when Bill gates started selling PCs, owners of computer companies told him there is no market for that.

Alo, somebody mentioned Tippyverse here. And I need to bring it up - Tippyverse is worthless. It doesn't examine what would happen if magic war would really erupt, but is wish-fullfilment where wizards are awesome because author says so. And that's what I hate in any form of fantasy - when wizard just magic every problem away. It makes impossible to build any tension when every threat or problem can be dealt with in amount of time it takes to cast one spell.

Anecronwashere
2012-08-21, 04:54 PM
That's a failure of the Magic System, not the fantasy Genre as a whole
And there are numerous settings where magic isnt the Auto-Win button, usually ones where the villains have the same access to Magic as everyone else.

Man on Fire
2012-08-21, 05:27 PM
That's a failure of the Magic System, not the fantasy Genre as a whole

Never said it is failure of the genre.


And there are numerous settings where magic isnt the Auto-Win button, usually ones where the villains have the same access to Magic as everyone else.

Neve implied there aren't any, I'm actually fan of some, like Black Company or Berserk.

jseah
2012-08-21, 06:30 PM
nobody else thought about it before? It happens in real life, people, especially experts of some sort, are so focused on their way of doing things that they tend to dismiss every other way as impossible, if you would tell a Wizard how he can improve the world with magic, he would go on a rant why it won't work, concluding with "if it was possible/necessayr, somebody would do it long time ago". Such thing happened when American Express was born - experts said that if there was market for it, somebody would do it already. And when Bill gates started selling PCs, owners of computer companies told him there is no market for that.
Might like to point out that I come to the exact some reasoning later on in my post?

------------------------------------------------------------------
Another reason that occurs to me is the amount of work/knowledge required to pull it off. Magic might theoretically be able to break the 1st of law of thermodynamics and manufacture entire solar systems from nothing, but if doing so requires the equivalent of a working knowledge of the magic equivalent of quantum mechanics, no one is going to make it happen until they have the right tools/spells to build a theory and those might require a less in-depth theory and its own tools/spells and so on.

Analogous to how science advances, you need better tools to get better theories and you need better theories to get better tools. If it takes thirty years for the leading mages to "think of" a better tool/spell, then it will be multiple generations before society advances far enough to get anything at all like Tippyverse. That is, if war or famine or whatever disaster doesn't set it back.

If you don't like Tippyverse, then just set your story before then... All it takes for the reader to know where along the developmental path you are is a small nod to what the latest theories and spells are.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-22, 12:07 AM
Speaking of magic, I never like how it’s handled in most settings in its relation to society. Magic is either “ignored” in that despite individuals seemingly at random being able to destroy a city/country/the world civilization runs pretty much the same as medieval (with some modern ideals so as not to offend modern readers, but that’s a whole other rant) did. No precautions are taken to counterbalance magic persons or objects, for example once a King has been found out to have been under mind control everyone acts surprised, but if mind control is possible in a setting than monarchs should be getting mind controlled all the time (who wouldn’t want the king as their puppet?)

If society does take precautions against magic it is always portrayed as a negative. It’s always seen as tyrannical and gives the magic users (who will be the main characters naturally) “victimhood” for being just sooooo awesome.

Sorry if this comes across as rant, but it’s just so frustrating that whenever I try to plan out a logical society that has magic and ways to curb its influence; most readers will either assume I’m going to have a righteous mage rebellion or call me a fascist for portraying the “muggles” as being in the right.

I suspect it's because we're firmly grounded in the Knights Templar are jackbooted fanatical thugs and witch hunts are preposterous and barbaric as literary tropes. It's just easy to make witch hunters villains, the trope pretty much writes itself and we've come to expect it.

Though I prefer something of the ambiguity that Wheel of Time has, various cultural and sociological reactions to magic and magic users. Mages as collared slaves to the empire, mages as witches who blaspheme through their existence, mages as axe crazy monsters, mages as acceptable but undesirable, mages as common people, mages as social betters or royalty, mages as demi-gods. .. and more. There isn't a singular perspective which is obviously justified, and the mages themselves aren't easily categorized to allow the reader to make judgments of their own.


Personally I portray magic as dangerous. It's a high-magic setting where it's common among humans and non-humans (which are kind of like the Fair Folk, just sharing the human realm). Humans are taught it in a controlled setting and they have many more rules and whatnot. Non-humans have it innately. They are mistrusted, and in small numbers(which really is all they have) may be outright lynched because they are so dangerous. Only one society accepts non-humans, and it's only an awkward kind of acceptance by the less-magically-studied people. This greater acceptance of magic makes this society very dangerous... but it also leads to its downfall. Because magic is dangerous. And while lynching a non-human for being a non-human is not right, having that kind of power running around without the necessary precautions is dangerous and just as bad. Neither side is portrayed as really being in the right.

That's interesting, you could have it that a human magician commits some devious crime and directs the blame on the nearest suspicious non-human... in a particularly prejudiced setting.


Those are all great viewpoints. The setting I'd like to try to write would have those and as many other viewpoints of magic as possible. I already have the basic mechanic behind how magic works.

The society I have in mind so far would have plenty of mages over a sprawling magical metropolis. Magic would be a tool like a hammer or a sword, only something that a fraction of the population could use. Sure you can kill someone with a sword or even a hammer, but that doesn't mean you ban all hammers from the population, just make sure people don't go bludgeoning each other to death. It would be the same with magic. It's all right as long as it's regulated and not one of the forbidden "No really there's no reason you should be learning this stuff" magic.

There would probably be a ban on magic for anyone not either working for the local government or one of several sanctioned guilds for magic-users. (I'm trying to think of a different word other than "guild" because then it just sounds too much like Fairy Tail.)

One other pitfall I have right now is I'm trying to see if I can write a necromancer who's neither evil nor misguided nor naive, to see if I can make necromancy itself not that bad.

I had a similar idea for a short story I wrote. Magicks are an everyday tool used for everything from mass-transport and architecture to sorting files and directing traffic. Magic doesn't work directly on humans, for good or ill, because humans evolved a metaphysical crystalline shell around themselves to prevent them from being erratically altered by the background chaos. It's like a second skin -- with those who can thin their shell being capable of accessing magic by osmosis. However it comes at a risk, cancerous-like anomalies can appear or surreal birth defect can manifest. One character had a horn like a unicorn, another had his eyes change colour depending on the phases of the moon, one unfortunate girl kept growing coral randomly like acne. The general deterioration of reality leading to environmental madness in some places, along with the interior health problem. This is significant because the plot centres around a man waking up to find the last 5 years of memories had been erased by magic, something which is technically impossible as far as common sense goes.

The main character works at the patent office for thaumaturgy -- sorcerers make huge profits licensing their spells to businesses and circles (corporations or guilds) have monopolies on some fairly important industries through this process. Anyone can use magic freely, but only the limited blue magic which encompasses public domain. Red magic is privately maintained by the patent holders. Green magic limits itself to general governmental use and requires vested authority (police, firefighters, EMS technicians, and so on). Black magic is wholly owned by the military, and has definite laws regarding when it can be used and on whom. While white magic, is so seriously frightening that the state whites it out from existence without even acknowledging that something was there to ban.

I've never dealt with necromancy before, but if you remember that dead people are people too and don't suddenly become eldrich abominations just by being dead it's far less unappealing. A necromancer suddenly becomes just an extrovert with a different idea of company.



I have somewhat recently thought of an idea regarding magic systems and world-shaping powers.

Essentially, the question is "why, if it is possible to do X, has X not already been done?". Replace X with "mind control the king" or "start the industrial revolution" or whatever you want.
I often see magic systems built specifically to stop these things. Why?

The thing is, just because something is possible, doesn't mean it has to happen.
Why did we start the industrial revolution when we did? Why not a hundred years earlier? The same coal and iron mines were still around. We didn't because it wasn't invented yet or the social conditions are not right.
Or simply because no one thought of it. Its amazing what people don't do because we didn't think of it and after the first guy, suddenly everyone has one / is doing it. Half of applied science is thinking of things people didn't think of.

And you DON'T have to restrict your magic system to stop these things. Sure, if it possible to mind control the king, someone is going to (try to) do it. But someone had to do it for the first time. Make that your story! The story starts as the protagonist (a noble of some repute) finds out the king is being mind controlled and kills the interloper. Now all the nobles are freaking out and the power politics is going haywire. Not to mention what will happen when the king proposes using the same tactic on the pesky next door neighbour...
Change is good for stories, it comes with conflict built in.
Also, a story that deals with a setting-changing event or innovation has a much easier time touching on everything else and showing off the world as it comes naturally when the protagonist(s) is dealing with the change.

I like the idea of having flexibility as far as magic is concerned, artificial limitations which stifle creativity just drains your world of awe and wonder, which fantasy readers love... or why would they bother? You just shouldn't be able to settle all your conflicts with a flick of your wand.

I love when the perfectly ordered magic system is thrown into disarray when one of your characters discovers some deviation or hidden secret that throws common sense into question. In Sanderson's Mistborn and Jordan's Wheel of Time this happens a few times, it doesn't break the system as such but widens it beyond their limited preconceptions. Gateways for instance, goes from being a fabled mysterious magic into common application with countless uses almost the instant it's rediscovered.

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-22, 08:13 AM
I had a similar idea for a short story I wrote. Magicks are an everyday tool used for everything from mass-transport and architecture to sorting files and directing traffic. Magic doesn't work directly on humans, for good or ill, because humans evolved a metaphysical crystalline shell around themselves to prevent them from being erratically altered by the background chaos. It's like a second skin -- with those who can thin their shell being capable of accessing magic by osmosis. However it comes at a risk, cancerous-like anomalies can appear or surreal birth defect can manifest. One character had a horn like a unicorn, another had his eyes change colour depending on the phases of the moon, one unfortunate girl kept growing coral randomly like acne. The general deterioration of reality leading to environmental madness in some places, along with the interior health problem. This is significant because the plot centres around a man waking up to find the last 5 years of memories had been erased by magic, something which is technically impossible as far as common sense goes.

The main character works at the patent office for thaumaturgy -- sorcerers make huge profits licensing their spells to businesses and circles (corporations or guilds) have monopolies on some fairly important industries through this process. Anyone can use magic freely, but only the limited blue magic which encompasses public domain. Red magic is privately maintained by the patent holders. Green magic limits itself to general governmental use and requires vested authority (police, firefighters, EMS technicians, and so on). Black magic is wholly owned by the military, and has definite laws regarding when it can be used and on whom. While white magic, is so seriously frightening that the state whites it out from existence without even acknowledging that something was there to ban.
I just want to say that I think this is an awesome idea.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-22, 08:27 AM
I had a similar idea for a short story I wrote. Magicks are an everyday tool used for everything from mass-transport and architecture to sorting files and directing traffic. Magic doesn't work directly on humans, for good or ill, because humans evolved a metaphysical crystalline shell around themselves to prevent them from being erratically altered by the background chaos. It's like a second skin -- with those who can thin their shell being capable of accessing magic by osmosis. However it comes at a risk, cancerous-like anomalies can appear or surreal birth defect can manifest. One character had a horn like a unicorn, another had his eyes change colour depending on the phases of the moon, one unfortunate girl kept growing coral randomly like acne. The general deterioration of reality leading to environmental madness in some places, along with the interior health problem. This is significant because the plot centres around a man waking up to find the last 5 years of memories had been erased by magic, something which is technically impossible as far as common sense goes.

The main character works at the patent office for thaumaturgy -- sorcerers make huge profits licensing their spells to businesses and circles (corporations or guilds) have monopolies on some fairly important industries through this process. Anyone can use magic freely, but only the limited blue magic which encompasses public domain. Red magic is privately maintained by the patent holders. Green magic limits itself to general governmental use and requires vested authority (police, firefighters, EMS technicians, and so on). Black magic is wholly owned by the military, and has definite laws regarding when it can be used and on whom. While white magic, is so seriously frightening that the state whites it out from existence without even acknowledging that something was there to ban.

I've never dealt with necromancy before, but if you remember that dead people are people too and don't suddenly become eldrich abominations just by being dead it's far less unappealing. A necromancer suddenly becomes just an extrovert with a different idea of company.

I'm loving those ideas. It reminds me of one of the magic... er, "schools" for lack of a better term that I came up with for mine:

Bureacramancy - the magic of bureacracy and red tape, able to sift through and manipulate documents, records, and forms at supernatural efficiency. Powered by the order and discipline within one's own organized life.

I have a couple of ideas that basically spring from "prefix" + "mancy" = ???

Ravens_cry
2012-08-22, 10:20 AM
*pet peeve*
The -mancy suffix refers to divination, literally talking with something. Necromancy originally dealt with telling the future by talking to the dead, like the D&D spell 'speak with dead'.
Later it got expanded into that ol' Black Magic, like the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, but assuming the magic involves more than divination, -mancy is not the suffix to use for Dog Latin Prefix magic. I prefer -turge and -urge, like metallurgy and thaumaturgy, it refers to working with or manufacturing the prefix in question.
A fire mage who makes great goats of flame to burn their enemies would be a pyroturge, while a pyromancer watches the flickering flames for hints of the future.

Morph Bark
2012-08-22, 11:27 AM
Well, if you have fantasy races, think about why they're there from a human-centric POV first. You have elven nations/ dwarven strongholds... Think about them if this happened on planet Earth, with Earth genetics and population dynamics.

(1) Can they interbreed with humans? If they can, then why aren't everyone half-elves half-dwarves yet?
(2) They remained separate because they're magic? Do you mean Seelie/Unseelie almost-alien-level magic? Because that's the only way they would remain separate. Unless humans have no skill in magic at all.
(3) They remained separate because of war? Must have been a huge civilization-ending level war, then. So who's the enslaved/ displaced/ exterminated culture, humans or the elves/dwarves/orcs?

Through-out history, humans have shown willingness to have sex with anyone and anything. Pretty little thing with pointy ears, and you think there'd be no cross-breeding with humans?

Reasoning out your human-interaction history automatically gives your elves/dwarves/orcs more flesh and less artifice. It's a good starting point because it's something you know. Sapien-Neanderthalensis interaction is a good reference point.

Or: (4) The result of crossbreeding result in halfbreeds that are infertile, in the same way mules, ligers and tigons are infertile. Thus they exist, but they aren't exactly common.

It's also possible that some of them are fertile, but rare in that. There have been real-world crossbreeds that were fertile.


I'm a bit tired of the 'common tongue' trope meself, unless there is a really good reason for it. For example, a recently deceased culturally domineering imperial culture. That could be an interesting twist. Everyone speaks some equivalent of the 'Black Speech' because some Evil Empire ruled for a few generations before being defeated. It's grown a little softer as new words are introduced, but it is still the lingua franca and even birth tongue for much of the former empire.

I've done the "common tongue" thing myself, but not for the entire world. Rather, parts of the world, like roughly per continent or so, has a lingua franca of its own. One of them is actually a mixture of two, as that continent was dominated by two large countries at some point, and the lingua franca grew up from a mixture of their languages as they traded between one another. Another one is the main language of a large island continent akin to Australia, which actually evolved the other way around, as a trader's pidgin between a kingdom on the continent and the many surrounding islands.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-22, 12:58 PM
*pet peeve*
The -mancy suffix refers to divination, literally talking with something. Necromancy originally dealt with telling the future by talking to the dead, like the D&D spell 'speak with dead'.
Later it got expanded into that ol' Black Magic, like the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, but assuming the magic involves more than divination, -mancy is not the suffix to use for Dog Latin Prefix magic. I prefer -turge and -urge, like metallurgy and thaumaturgy, it refers to working with or manufacturing the prefix in question.
A fire mage who makes great goats of flame to burn their enemies would be a pyroturge, while a pyromancer watches the flickering flames for hints of the future.

Hm... I'm not sure I agree.

Not with the factual stuff, mind you. Just that the "-mancy" suffix sounds more like a school of magic than "-urge."

A "pyromancer" sounds like someone who conjures fireballs.

A "pyroturge" sounds like something one does after eating some bad Taco Bell.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-22, 01:08 PM
Hm... I'm not sure I agree.

Not with the factual stuff, mind you. Just that the "-mancy" suffix sounds more like a school of magic than "-urge."

A "pyromancer" sounds like someone who conjures fireballs.

A "pyroturge" sounds like something one does after eating some bad Taco Bell.

It only sounds like it because the trope is so ubiquitous. See Whatever Mancy on TV tropes.
But dang it, if I am going to use Latin and Greek in my fantasy, I'm going to use it on a an etymologically sound fashion. Some, like necromancy, might have start out as purely divinatory so it works, but all of them? -Kinesis and -kinetic could work in many cases as well, like referring to water bending as hydrokinesis, but not all of them.
Or I'll just use English.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-22, 01:17 PM
It only sounds like it because the trope is so ubiquitous. See Whatever Mancy on TV tropes.
But dang it, if I am going to use Latin and Greek in my fantasy, I'm going to use it on a an etymologically sound fashion. Some, like necromancy, might have start out as purely divinatory so it works, but all of them? -Kinesis and -kinetic could work in many cases as well, like referring to water bending as hydrokinesis, but not all of them.
Or I'll just use English.

"-kinesis" sounds less like magic and more like psionics/psychic powers.

Which depending on the setting can work. I just think less "fantasy novel" and more "superhero comic."

Maybe it's because other things used "mancy" when describing different types of magic and it just sort of sticks?

Ravens_cry
2012-08-22, 01:21 PM
"-kinesis" sounds less like magic and more like psionics/psychic powers.

Which depending on the setting can work. I just think less "fantasy novel" and more "superhero comic."

Maybe it's because other things used "mancy" when describing different types of magic and it just sort of sticks?
We use it because we use it and it rolls off the tongue nicely.
However, in a setting where magic has a scholarly tradition, correctness would be more paramount, and that is the kind of setting where I personally imagine Latin and Greek (or some translated equivalents) would be used.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-22, 08:56 PM
I'm loving those ideas. It reminds me of one of the magic... er, "schools" for lack of a better term that I came up with for mine:

Bureacramancy - the magic of bureacracy and red tape, able to sift through and manipulate documents, records, and forms at supernatural efficiency. Powered by the order and discipline within one's own organized life.

I have a couple of ideas that basically spring from "prefix" + "mancy" = ???

I didn't use -mancy, the story was too short for me to expound much. I did come up with some ideas along those lines though, mostly while sitting around a health clinic waiting to give blood.


the patent office the protagonist works in is an unimpressive single story white building which was a local library prior to its retrofit. When you enter into it, the floor is completely empty but for a help desk manned by a sociable grandmotherly woman and an elevator-looking cube behind her. The office is dissected into thousands of dimensions, each intangible to the other, allowing potentially endless office space -- a feature now widely used in condominium living -- with the "elevator" or rather bridge serving as a space-time intersection between the dimensions. The bridge is one of the greatest leaps forward in magical urban development and general thaumaturgical design theory as it not only keeps the dimensions together like threading a needle through layers of fabric, but it also regulates travel within itself to prevent matter from suddenly appearing in the same space. The complexity and cost of the magic renders multiple bridges impossible thus far.

Of course, inter-dimensional architecture has its flaws. For one thing, the inconsistency of physical laws the further you move from the neutral reality causes a degree of rancour among employees. Two publicized law suits were launched against the city-state. One accusing the management of not providing suitable over-time pay because the subjectively slower temporal physics made the relative work day longer even if the actual time spent working was equivalent to the 8 hour work day, the time lost in neutral chronometrics was closer to 12-15 hours. The second lawsuit was over heart conditions and obesity resulting from different Newtonian physics being applied in different dimensions. As a legal precaution there are now warning signs every couple of feet proclaiming the possible health side-effects of gravity changes.

There are also a number of a rumours and petty gossip of Lovecraftian abominations appearing in the higher or lower dimensions, although these haven't ever been verified. More generally you get complaints about odd amounts of static electricity, unusual smells, odd probability twists (in certain dimensions all coins land on heads, all the time), and odd changes to the light spectrum that causes everything to look blue, green, or red in tint.

Another magical construct is the homunculus, which is cognate for a personal computer. It's a green gelatinous substance with metallic flakes floating in it encased in an ergonomically-crafted spiffy looking flask about the size of a basketball. On it's side there's loosely covered orifice used for putting your hand in. Once your hand is in place the goop suddenly gives off a photo chemical reaction and the metal-bits spin wildly.

While the homunculus doesn't actually think itself, it does store the memories and expand the consciousness of the user. It's linked through a series of wires to a glass tablet which projects images of the users thoughts, often as abstract representations. The longer you use a single homunculus the easier it is to synchronize, until it feels like another part of your own brain.

Of course, issues arise when your thoughts turn fanciful -- having your wildest sexual fantasies and daydreams stored into an external drive can be awkward but... well... it's common. There are obvious issues of about privacy and ownership of homunculi, people have been arrested for some detailed and disturbingly violent visions directed towards their coworkers and boss after having their work-homunculus sift through by their supervisors. (this becomes key to my story, as the cause of my character's amnesia is partly revealed through abstract and embarrassing thoughts stored on his personal homunculus)

Then there are quickie rituals and charms used by office grunts. The Prick a location charm which uses a paperclip folded into the shape of a spell focus and a drop of blood as it's base, has become so widely used that forgetfulness and anemia are jokingly considered synonymous. The Crunch, a famous ritual used most often by students. It reverses causality to a degree, allowing your future lucidity and vitality to be used in the present. There is no deciding when you'll suddenly hit the causality wall and suffer the exhaustion you delayed. Repeated abuses of the ritual have been know to cause comas and even deaths when too much energy is lost at inconvenient moments. It is however, your best friend for getting through exams and meeting deadlines. Lastly The Haze, which transmutes the surrounding air to prevent sound waves from permeating it. It can be applied on the individual level or over an assigned area. This allows for separate conversations to go on uninterrupted and noisy equipment to be tuned out blissfully. It can also have unfortunate consequences, particularly when others are unaware that you're invoking it while telling you something significant.. or find out that you've been actively ignoring them for years. The Haze is particularly egregious when used in social situations.

There are other spells, but I glanced over them as so mundane and business-like that the characters have no interest in them at all. Like communication spells, security wards, and clerical golems.


Actually, I've been thinking about returning to this world. I have this idea about doing a fully developed novel around a Julian Assange-type character. A complicated figure who's both enemy of the state and hero of the discontented masses as he puts together a grassroots social movement attempting to democratize magic, to break it free from the control of corporate and government agencies. The story would be a recounting of his life to a reporter and would-be biographer, about the injustice he experienced in childhood which lead him to his radical viewpoint all the way to when he realizes he's gone too far, after releasing specifics on one of the more uber-awful white magic rituals into the general public. The story would end with him being released from prison and the world having been reshaped, if not revolutionized, by the successors of his cause.

I also wanted to put him under an enchantment which makes him incapable of bad or hurtful thoughts like in Clockwork Orange, just to give the narration an absolutely weird tone to it.

Inglenook
2012-08-22, 09:03 PM
I'm with Ravens_cry on this one: the "-mancy = manipulation" thing is irksome to anyone who knows their word roots, and totally at odds with the idea of magic as a scholarly pursuit.

I always liked the idea of magic being discovered during the 19th or 20th century, when German was the go-to language for scientists. Thus schools of magic and spells would have long-winded, stuffy German compound names.

[I]Flammenarbeiten[/ig] has a very distinguished ring to it, I think. :smallsmile:

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-22, 09:26 PM
I'm with Ravens_cry on this one: the "-mancy = manipulation" thing is irksome to anyone who knows their word roots, and totally at odds with the idea of magic as a scholarly pursuit.

I always liked the idea of magic being discovered during the 19th or 20th century, when German was the go-to language for scientists. Thus schools of magic and spells would have long-winded, stuffy German compound names.

[I]Flammenarbeiten[/ig] has a very distinguished ring to it, I think. :smallsmile:
The -mancy thing has always bothered me too, although necromancy gets a free pass.

And I actually think that sounds really cool.

Geostationary
2012-08-22, 09:31 PM
It only sounds like it because the trope is so ubiquitous. See Whatever Mancy on TV tropes.
But dang it, if I am going to use Latin and Greek in my fantasy, I'm going to use it on a an etymologically sound fashion. Some, like necromancy, might have start out as purely divinatory so it works, but all of them? -Kinesis and -kinetic could work in many cases as well, like referring to water bending as hydrokinesis, but not all of them.
Or I'll just use English.

On the other hand, Bureaucromancy would actually be a very useful application of magic, allowing you to consult the collective documented works of your department both rapidly and without having to search for multiple disparate files that were lost over the years. This is one of the times you can actually use the -mancy suffix correctly!


But isn't necromancy inherently bad, because you're trapping wayward souls/spirits in dead bodies, making them suffer and also preventing them from passing on to the afterlife?

If the undead your version of necromancy raises are just golems of rotting flesh, then they wouldn't automatically attack the living and I can see your necromancer being just a scientist of sorts.
Late to the party, but this would be rather dependent on the setting's cosmology. If the afterlife is a sucky place, or if the spirit is destroyed shortly after death, you may be doing your friend a favor. The dead can easily range from the ravenous undead to great, albeit musty, roommates. It's only inherently bad if the world has objective moral/ethical reasons for it to be so, and this is often not the case.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-22, 10:48 PM
I'm with Ravens_cry on this one: the "-mancy = manipulation" thing is irksome to anyone who knows their word roots, and totally at odds with the idea of magic as a scholarly pursuit.

I always liked the idea of magic being discovered during the 19th or 20th century, when German was the go-to language for scientists. Thus schools of magic and spells would have long-winded, stuffy German compound names.

[I]Flammenarbeiten[/ig] has a very distinguished ring to it, I think. :smallsmile:
That sounds like something out of Girl Genius. German is lovely for its massive compound words that basically form a phrase.


On the other hand, Bureaucromancy would actually be a very useful application of magic, allowing you to consult the collective documented works of your department both rapidly and without having to search for multiple disparate files that were lost over the years. This is one of the times you can actually use the -mancy suffix correctly!
Assuming this is your intended application, for the most part yes.

Xondoure
2012-08-23, 02:00 PM
Well mancy makes perfect sense if words of power are involved. In that case you are literally talking with the forces of the universe to tremendous effect.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-23, 02:17 PM
Well mancy makes perfect sense if words of power are involved. In that case you are literally talking with the forces of the universe to tremendous effect.
I had a similar idea where every object and force had a spirit or daemon or god, take your pick, associated with it. Mancy magic involved bargaining with these spirits to preform a task related to their domain. On the other hand thurgy magic was a more direct channelling and control of the forces involved.
The former was slower and could be less precise, but was much easier on the caster as the spirit was doing the heavy lifting.

Xondoure
2012-08-23, 02:23 PM
I had a similar idea where every object and force had a spirit or daemon or god, take your pick, associated with it. Mancy magic involved bargaining with these spirits to preform a task related to their domain. On the other hand thurgy magic was a more direct channelling and control of the forces involved.
The former was slower and could be less precise, but was much easier on the caster as the spirit was doing the heavy lifting.

I introduced a similar concept in one of the play by post games on these here forums. :smallbiggrin: Great minds and all that.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-23, 04:10 PM
I introduced a similar concept in one of the play by post games on these here forums. :smallbiggrin: Great minds and all that.
"And fools seldom differ" and all that.:smalltongue:
How did you integrate it into the game aspect? Or was it narrative based?

Calemyr
2012-08-23, 04:44 PM
Now I'm tempted to have a guy claim to be a pyromancer - not because he's any good with magic, but because he travels a lot and tends to talk to his campfires.


On a different topic, I'm curious what people favor for the classic big bad evil guy in such stories. Do you prefer well-intentioned extremists? Villians verging on victims? Charismatic showmen who know ham is the ultimate ingredient in a great plan? Intelligent chessmasters who can turn their own assassination (or attempt thereof) to their benefit? Unknowable evils the very names of which require an entirely different keyboard to type? Or gray monsters who bear the world no particular malice but will see it torn down because they also bear it no love?

What villain adds the most to a story?

Ravens_cry
2012-08-23, 06:02 PM
It depends on what kind of story you are trying to tell.

Xondoure
2012-08-23, 06:02 PM
"And fools seldom differ" and all that.:smalltongue:
How did you integrate it into the game aspect? Or was it narrative based?

Narrative based (cooperative world building.) I had a ball detailing the inns and outs of the spiritual beuracracy. Concepts as spirits meant that should a person become enough of an icon their soul would merge with the idolization of them resulting in ascension to greater beings (my example was a queen much like Helen of Troy being so sought after as to transform into a goddess in the vein of Aphrodite.) Meanwhile different material objects each had their own personalities and ambitions that magic users would have to work around to receive help from. If a spirit were to be corrupted or forced by mages powerful enough to command it but without respect for its being, it would become a demon. I had plans to flesh out the varied personalities of most trees, animals, stones, tools, weapons, and concepts. But only got around to the metals before the game wound down.

RE: Villains.

I'm of the opinion that if the characters are well enough written you don't need a villain. However, a good villain can hit all the right notes to make your story pop. So basically, right what you want and as long as the characters are strong it'll be great.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-23, 06:22 PM
Narrative based (cooperative world building.) I had a ball detailing the inns and outs of the spiritual beuracracy. Concepts as spirits meant that should a person become enough of an icon their soul would merge with the idolization of them resulting in ascension to greater beings (my example was a queen much like Helen of Troy being so sought after as to transform into a goddess in the vein of Aphrodite.) Meanwhile different material objects each had their own personalities and ambitions that magic users would have to work around to receive help from. If a spirit were to be corrupted or forced by mages powerful enough to command it but without respect for its being, it would become a demon. I had plans to flesh out the varied personalities of most trees, animals, stones, tools, weapons, and concepts. But only got around to the metals before the game wound down.

Intriguing. My idea for gods in the setting were theorized to 'merely' be spirits with very large domains.
This is, of course, quite heretical to most peoples sensibilities, but often argued on the hot drink shops in the larger towns and cities.
Many dwarves have follow a religion that claims that all the spirits are but aspects of a greater spirit.
The truth in the setting I prefer to leave ambiguous.

JCarter426
2012-08-23, 07:22 PM
Narrative based (cooperative world building.) I had a ball detailing the inns and outs of the spiritual beuracracy. Concepts as spirits meant that should a person become enough of an icon their soul would merge with the idolization of them resulting in ascension to greater beings (my example was a queen much like Helen of Troy being so sought after as to transform into a goddess in the vein of Aphrodite.)
That's similar to something I'm working on, but sort of the other way round. In my story, "spirits" - more like Platonic forms, haven't really decided what to call them yet - are static and unchanging, but try to manifest in the real world via magic. The cost of becoming a god would be you cease to be yourself, at least as you are now; you would end up as a dream or a memory and eventually fade away, while the spirit essentially possesses your body, but on a much more fundamental level. A more traditional apotheosis would be possible, but I'm still working out the details.

MLai
2012-08-23, 08:55 PM
@ Tippyverse:
There's nothing inherently wrong with this verse. So magic appears to be all-powerful here, so what? It's basically the fantasy equivalent of the ST universe (except, better thought out). Also, the verse is extremely internally consistent; the seemingly overwhelming power of magic are based on rules which it follows, and shapes the world accordingly (is not ignored or used to keep it in medieval stasis).

@ Villains:
There's no such thing as a villain. There are only antagonists.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-24, 01:55 AM
That's similar to something I'm working on, but sort of the other way round. In my story, "spirits" - more like Platonic forms, haven't really decided what to call them yet - are static and unchanging, but try to manifest in the real world via magic. The cost of becoming a god would be you cease to be yourself, at least as you are now; you would end up as a dream or a memory and eventually fade away, while the spirit essentially possesses your body, but on a much more fundamental level. A more traditional apotheosis would be possible, but I'm still working out the details.
Platonic ideals were a large inspiration for my idea as well. :smallsmile:
I use spirit for this discussion, but I am thinking of using daemon for the actual story. Anima and fetish are others ideas.

JCarter426
2012-08-24, 02:45 AM
Aha, that explains the similarities. I'm using anima for a sci-fi story and fetish sounds... well, too dirty. :smalltongue: So I still have some thinking to do in that regard. I'm trying to avoid using the traditional terms because the magic system is very... nontraditional. Everyone in the world gets one power for life, and that's it. There's a bit leeway to it in that you can grow stronger in power and gain new sub-abilities, but you can't learn a new power. And it's universal, so there aren't wizards or clerics or sorcerers or warlocks or psions or whatever. Just people with one power and people with another power and so on.

That's one thing I like about fantasy. Even though there are a lot of things I don't like about the typical fantasy elements, there's enough inherent flexibility to change it to something you do like.

DiscipleofBob
2012-08-24, 06:53 AM
Now I'm tempted to have a guy claim to be a pyromancer - not because he's any good with magic, but because he travels a lot and tends to talk to his campfires.


On a different topic, I'm curious what people favor for the classic big bad evil guy in such stories. Do you prefer well-intentioned extremists? Villians verging on victims? Charismatic showmen who know ham is the ultimate ingredient in a great plan? Intelligent chessmasters who can turn their own assassination (or attempt thereof) to their benefit? Unknowable evils the very names of which require an entirely different keyboard to type? Or gray monsters who bear the world no particular malice but will see it torn down because they also bear it no love?

What villain adds the most to a story?

The villain needs to be believable and actually have a motivation for their actions, other than "just because." At the same time, villains who try to shove their philosophy down everyone's throat and convince everyone that they're the righteous ones are just annoying. I think the best villains are the ones that reach a balance between intimidating, sympathetic, and likeable.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-24, 07:04 AM
The villain needs to be believable and actually have a motivation for their actions, other than "just because." At the same time, villains who try to shove their philosophy down everyone's throat and convince everyone that they're the righteous ones are just annoying. I think the best villains are the ones that reach a balance between intimidating, sympathetic, and likeable.
Not always. Sometimes, sometimes 'just because" is the most frightening reason.
Look at, say the Joker. He's pretty much in it for crap and cackles, no real reason but "I want to."
A well done 'Just because' antagonist can feel implacable, inhuman, beyond reason and therefore beyond reasoning.
Done right, it can be very, very chilling.

Man on Fire
2012-08-24, 10:05 AM
Now I'm tempted to have a guy claim to be a pyromancer - not because he's any good with magic, but because he travels a lot and tends to talk to his campfires.


On a different topic, I'm curious what people favor for the classic big bad evil guy in such stories. Do you prefer well-intentioned extremists? Villians verging on victims? Charismatic showmen who know ham is the ultimate ingredient in a great plan? Intelligent chessmasters who can turn their own assassination (or attempt thereof) to their benefit? Unknowable evils the very names of which require an entirely different keyboard to type? Or gray monsters who bear the world no particular malice but will see it torn down because they also bear it no love?

What villain adds the most to a story?

Really, any villain can be good, it really depend what you need them to do. I would only be vary with villains who are pure evil and have no redeeming qualities - one of them is fine, few among varied group can do. But if all your bad guys are liek this, they are pretty boring. It's more interesting to see how other bad guys interact with such monsters and how can they even tolerate them on their side.

Also, I really hate when the story goes out of the way to show that heroes are right by making every enemy a psychopath. Gundam SEED annoyed me with it very much (even through I only know it from Super Robot Wars J) - at the end of it's plot all enemies are crazy maniacs and junkies or people writers hate and every single likable antagonist ends up on good guy's side, with exception of Rau, but even he gets turned into complete psychopath.


There's nothing inherently wrong with this verse.

From role-playing perspective it puts emphais on everything that's wrong with D&D, namely oing in "you are either wizard or you suck his wiener". It also doesn't give players anything to do - everything worth doing was already done by super-cool wizards.

From story perspective it gives you world where ultra-powerful wizards can magic every problem away. Even is series where wizards are extremely powerful, like Earthsea, there are problems that require them to work hard or go to journey of sef-discovery, in Tippyverse it's hardly possible.

And by the way, Dark Sun did it better anyway.


So magic appears to be all-powerful here, so what? It's basically the fantasy equivalent of the ST universe (except, better thought out).

Never liked Star Trek to begin with, call me cynic (which I am), but I just don't buy orderly utopias like that, no matter what genre they are and what source of their greatness is. I preffer worlds where life has both it's pros and cons and civilisation has it's problems and shades of grey in it. And I especially hate utopias whose whole point is to show that writer's views are true and right.


Also, the verse is extremely internally consistent; the seemingly overwhelming power of magic are based on rules which it follows, and shapes the world accordingly (is not ignored or used to keep it in medieval stasis).

Sadly, those rules have no negative backslash and put no responsibility on wizards. I preffer when magic comes with some sort of "price". In Earthsea every time wizard cst a spell, he needs to wary about consequences it may have on the world - summoning rain will cause drought somewhere else, with stronger magic it's even worse. In Black Company anyone who knows wizard's true name can easily bind him, permamently taking all his powers away, which is why wizards are known of murdering all their family and friends. In Berserk powerful magic requires you to travel to astral world and communicate with spirits, which is dangerous to both body (which you leaves lying around, open to any attack) and to soul (as you can get trapped in spiritual world if you won't be careful) and results of communicating with the spirits may be often disasterous. In Earthdawn and Shadowrun magic levels fluctuate - they repeadetly rise and fall over the span of ages and once they're high enough, Horrors, undescribeable monstrorities from other dimension can break in to destroy everything on their path. Hell, even Suburban Knights threw in that bit that magic consumes user's life force. In D&D magic comes with no consequences, no responsibilities, it's just a swiss-army knife to solve all your problems.

You can have magic shaping the world accordingly without it being ultra-powerful way to solve all your problems with no backlash, like Tippyverse. In fact, I'm doing it in a story I'm working on right now.


In this story magic draws power from spiritual realm and then uses it to various effects. But magic levels fluctuate - once almost everybody had acces to magic, but were so dependant on it, that when it started to dissapear from the world, civilization slowly collapsed. So much time has passed since then, that magic civilisation was long forgotten, not even records of it surviving, nothing but few ruins that are so rare hard to find I'm not even sure protaggonists will stumble upon any.

At the time story takes place magic is slowly returnin to the world. And by slowly I mean that the hero and villain are the only two with active magical powers in entire story. It didn't stopped the villain from inventing engine and other technology that draws power from spiritual realm. While no one else is capable of understanding how the hell those things work, it's very easy to duplicate, so industrial revolution quickly follows - think magitechpunk or something like that.

Increasing presence of magical technology had also an effect on levels of magic as whole, quickening the process of their increase. But there is a problem. Wizard's personal level of power faces fluctuation too. As his magic raises, every wizard must face moment when his connection to spiritual world becomes so strong that it starts bearing negative effects on body and mind, until crossing the treshold above which he cannot control it anymore. To avoid this, villain regurally undergoes regenerative process that you can compare to chemotherapy - it helps you fight the problem, but at the cost of heavy damage to your body. Hero doesn't have such luxury.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-24, 07:59 PM
Not always. Sometimes, sometimes 'just because" is the most frightening reason.
Look at, say the Joker. He's pretty much in it for crap and cackles, no real reason but "I want to."
A well done 'Just because' antagonist can feel implacable, inhuman, beyond reason and therefore beyond reasoning.
Done right, it can be very, very chilling.

It's funny, the Joker was such a nuanced figure who's constantly trying to play on the common literary tropes surrounding villains. The "traumatized-into-evil", "anarchistic terrorist", "Nietzsche wannabe", and just "Ax Crazy" motivations simply fail describe his complexity. The fact that he has no name or history to put him in any sort of context leaves you without that closure, that sense that you can summarize him in a few words with a critique.

I think the issue with "just because" is more aimed when the author has the antagonist act just as an engine to move the narrative forward without thought of whether or not its consistent with that character.

For instance, a recent example from a movie I watched last weekend, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The villain was a cardboard cut-out, they spent all of 2 minutes explaining his motivation -- omnicidal nuclear war was a good thing, apparently -- and the guy was just a middle-aged dude in the suit with henchmen who apparently didn't object to his scheme. The threat was melodramatic, irrational, and incomprehensible to me. It was like they were afraid to give him a political identity that could possibly offend anyone so they just left him utterly barren. It was very much "just because", but rather "just because the author says so".

A good antagonist is as interesting as the protagonist -- assuming a story has one. As in, you could tell the story from their perspective, if you wanted, and it would be just as interesting.

Winter_Wolf
2012-08-24, 08:39 PM
A good antagonist is as interesting as the protagonist -- assuming a story has one. As in, you could tell the story from their perspective, if you wanted, and it would be just as interesting.

This reminded me of something: if your protagonist is consistently taking the backseat to the antagonist, you're probably doing something wrong with the protagonist. I am referring, of course, to sheer popularity of characters like Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle vs. Drizzt. I certainly found A.E. and Jarlaxle more interesting than Drizzt. Maybe because the one just seemed more like a rounded out individual, and the other was just more fun.

Good antagonists are essential, but unless they're the stars of the story, you probably want the protagonists to shine a little brighter. Unless you're like G.R.R. Martin and kill everyone, in which case no one's around long enough for it to matter. :smallannoyed: Yeah, I stopped when I realized my favorite character the only character I actually liked was dead, and like a chump to boot.

oblivion6
2012-08-24, 08:52 PM
This reminded me of something: if your protagonist is consistently taking the backseat to the antagonist, you're probably doing something wrong with the protagonist. I am referring, of course, to sheer popularity of characters like Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle vs. Drizzt. I certainly found A.E. and Jarlaxle more interesting than Drizzt. Maybe because the one just seemed more like a rounded out individual, and the other was just more fun.

Good antagonists are essential, but unless they're the stars of the story, you probably want the protagonists to shine a little brighter. Unless you're like G.R.R. Martin and kill everyone, in which case no one's around long enough for it to matter. :smallannoyed: Yeah, I stopped when I realized my favorite character the only character I actually liked was dead, and like a chump to boot.

i agree, artemis is a very interesting character and jarlaxe is my favorite. and i wouldnt exactly call jarlaxe an antagonist so to speak...hes a strange case.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-24, 10:02 PM
It's a symptom of modern fantasy and science fiction epics to introduce so many characters and capture so many perspectives that it causes the plot to drift off in a dozen different directions as each brings their own laundry for washing. My reaction to this is mixed, it can flesh out a world enormously or sink the reader in confusion about who's doing what or why. Martin is a more egregious perpetrator of this, and it caused much in the way of "I don't see how this is important, I want to go back to the main action" type feelings, I have no reason to invest in characters when they may or may not have any significance whatsoever to the story. Although it's nothing on The Darkness Series by Turtledove which required me to consult the enormous appendix every few pages.

I don't think I could write like that if I tried.

Hiro Protagonest
2012-08-24, 10:31 PM
From role-playing perspective it puts emphais on everything that's wrong with D&D, namely oing in "you are either wizard or you suck his wiener". It also doesn't give players anything to do - everything worth doing was already done by super-cool wizards.

From story perspective it gives you world where ultra-powerful wizards can magic every problem away. Even is series where wizards are extremely powerful, like Earthsea, there are problems that require them to work hard or go to journey of sef-discovery, in Tippyverse it's hardly possible.

And by the way, Dark Sun did it better anyway.

Dark Sun is a world where the wizards are despots, and in fact fit your first paragraph better than Tippyverse.

Tippyverse is where wizards and clerics and druids are industrial titans, not mad despots. Have you actually seen the Tippyverse thread, or have you just seen those guys who haven't seen it and therefore sum it up as "wizards rule everything"? Because Tippyverse is a logical extension of 3.5 magic. Create Food and Water traps are like firearms - something powered by a renewable resource that's just better than whatever we had before.

MLai
2012-08-24, 10:39 PM
@ Man On Fire:

Also, I really hate when the story goes out of the way to show that heroes are right by making every enemy a psychopath.
Agreed. Which is why I said "there are no villains, only antagonists." Writers need to stop thinking of certain characters as "villains." When a writer thinks that way, that character is doomed to caricature and causing all the plot space around him to be shallower as well... like a reverse black hole (white hole?).

From role-playing perspective it puts emphais on everything that's wrong with D&D,
The topic and I don't care about the RPG perspective.

From story perspective it gives you world where ultra-powerful wizards can magic every problem away.
It's basically a planet of hats, except the hats are complex. Good stories can come from this trope. Since you don't like ST examples, I'll give you Kino's Journey.
Also, Tippyverse has its own share of problems. You make several incorrect assumptions:

(1) All wizards are all-powerful. Untrue.
--Only a few wizards are all-powerful. The level required for doing "Tippyverse magic" is insane. But geniuses do exist IRL as well. Now imagine if every genius that existed in history, can become immortal as a result of their genius.
(2) Magic resolves all problems. Untrue.
--The premise of Tippyverse is that it's an alien-geometry dystopia precisely because magic (or some type of overpowering innovation) created all these self-perpetuating problems. Not only does this parallel IRL (nuclear armaments), it's also a theme in many good stories (Dune, GATTACA, Matrix, etc).

Man on Fire
2012-08-25, 10:08 AM
Dark Sun is a world where the wizards are despots, and in fact fit your first paragraph better than Tippyverse.

Tippyverse is where wizards and clerics and druids are industrial titans, not mad despots. Have you actually seen the Tippyverse thread, or have you just seen those guys who haven't seen it and therefore sum it up as "wizards rule everything"? Because Tippyverse is a logical extension of 3.5 magic. Create Food and Water traps are like firearms - something powered by a renewable resource that's just better than whatever we had before.

Never said that wizards in tippyverse are mad despots. And yes, I have seen Tippyverse thread, I was even kicked out of it for arguing it's terrible idea. The problem isn't that wizards rule everything, but that...it's logical extension of 3.5 magic, i.e. one of the worst things in entire 3.5. I said it many times - D&D promises me fun playing any kind of fantasy hero, but is build in a way that only makes fun playing casters, because they outshine everybody else. Setting that puts emphasis on that? That makes the casters even more "ohmyodsupercoolawesome" than they already are? Thanks, I'll pass.

Coming back to storytelling perspective, I said it already, I dislike magic as potrayed in Tippyverse and in D&D in general, where it' nothing but an easy way to solve all your problems. Story where people have great power, but do nothing but wave it around with no consequences, limitations or responsibilities is pretty bad story. Tippyverse is build on that, on "munchkin's way to make a bad story". I'm not interested in stories where wizards have everything easy, unles they are killed for being self-centered jerks (sorta like in Asura's Wrath, only with gods).


The topic and I don't care about the RPG perspective.

I mentioned it because Tippyverse is an RPG setting.


It's basically a planet of hats, except the hats are complex. Good stories can come from this trope. Since you don't like ST examples, I'll give you Kino's Journey.

Didn't watched Kino's Journey, but considering tvtropes describes it's central theme as "don't take easy way to solve your problems" I kinda doubt you're doing yourself a favor by bringing it up to defend a setting which is all about taking easy way.


(1) All wizards are all-powerful. Untrue.
--Only a few wizards are all-powerful. The level required for doing "Tippyverse magic" is insane. But geniuses do exist IRL as well. Now imagine if every genius that existed in history, can become immortal as a result of their genius.

Would probably be more interesting than Tippyverse. Geniuses cannot just snap their fingers to do everything.


(2) Magic resolves all problems. Untrue.
--The premise of Tippyverse is that it's an alien-geometry dystopia precisely because magic (or some type of overpowering innovation) created all these self-perpetuating problems. Not only does this parallel IRL (nuclear armaments), it's also a theme in many good stories (Dune, GATTACA, Matrix, etc).

You keep talking about problems, but you don't mention any by name.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-25, 01:35 PM
Didn't watched Kino's Journey, but considering tvtropes describes it's central theme as "don't take easy way to solve your problems" I kinda doubt you're doing yourself a favor by bringing it up to defend a setting which is all about taking easy way.


You should watch the anime or read the novels, they're quite interesting. In the style of Gulliver's Travels.

Kino visits societies where one aspect, technological, social, political, cultural, is exaggerated to ridiculous degrees and stays three days to observe with absolute neutrality the unexpected consequences of these arrangements.

One that I could remember was easily as utopic as the Tippyverse sounds, using machines to do everything. I believe what happened was society-wide existential ennui from humans being made obsolete, and people spending their days doing irrelevant tasks just to feel human.

Actually a number of science fiction stories feature a complicated discourse on post-scarcity, post-war, extremely stable societies in which people feel devoid of meaning, this becoming the root of internal character conflicts and wider social ones. Banks' Culture series, and Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom are two explicit examples. I can't think of any similar motifs in a fantasy setting. Anywhere with humans in it, regardless of how idyllic, is bound to have discontent.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-25, 02:24 PM
I think there would still be farmers in the Tippy-verse, but they'd be like craftsmen producing a much desired but technically unneeded good. See, Create Food and Water produce explicitly "simple fare". It will keep you alive, but it's not terribly exciting.
Even prestidigitation will just make some colour and a different flavour, it does nothing for texture for example. Mush that tastes like a steak is still mush.
People like variety in their meals.
So I see a market for real food made without magic.

hamishspence
2012-08-25, 02:33 PM
Trek (especially DS9) shows that the existence of replicators hasn't made chefs obsolete- same principle probably applies.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-25, 02:50 PM
Trek (especially DS9) shows that the existence of replicators hasn't made chefs obsolete- same principle probably applies.
Or heck, in the Real World™ luxury foods and fine cuisine.

Hiro Protagonest
2012-08-25, 03:05 PM
I think there would still be farmers in the Tippy-verse, but they'd be like craftsmen producing a much desired but technically unneeded good. See, Create Food and Water produce explicitly "simple fare". It will keep you alive, but it's not terribly exciting.
Even prestidigitation will just make some colour and a different flavour, it does nothing for texture for example. Mush that tastes like a steak is still mush.
People like variety in their meals.
So I see a market for real food made without magic.

That, and the spellcasters seem to take a view of monsters similar to the one the Greek gods have.

"Sure, we could go kill them all, butwhy? Our lives are just fine here. Let's leave them for heroes and fools, while we just occasionally go out and kill a few as a vacation."

And MoF, if Tippyverse is the logical conclusion of the 3.5 system, it's not Tippyverse that's bad, it's 3.5.

I barely get why people even play 3.5 anymore. The new players who pick up D&D because it's mainstream are likely to just buy 4e, and only switch to 3.5 because the first group they found plays 3.5, or they learned about it from their friend, who plays 3.5, or they found a webcomic like OotS, which is related to 3.5. Which, y'know, requires people to still be playing 3.5. Spirit of the Century is free, and it's a relatively simple thing to modify it so that it fits a fantasy world, and add or subtract some Fate points so characters are stronger or weaker. Strands of Fate is a well-balanced, rules-moderate system for those who don't like SotC and are willing to shell out some cash. And then there are tons of other systems out there. GURPS, Champions, Anima: Beyond Fantasy, New World of Darkness...

Ravens_cry
2012-08-25, 03:27 PM
I don't think this is the thread to be discussing the relative merits of d20 and its expression in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.

Man on Fire
2012-08-25, 05:13 PM
I think there would still be farmers in the Tippy-verse, but they'd be like craftsmen producing a much desired but technically unneeded good. See, Create Food and Water produce explicitly "simple fare". It will keep you alive, but it's not terribly exciting.
Even prestidigitation will just make some colour and a different flavour, it does nothing for texture for example. Mush that tastes like a steak is still mush.
People like variety in their meals.
So I see a market for real food made without magic.


That, and the spellcasters seem to take a view of monsters similar to the one the Greek gods have.

"Sure, we could go kill them all, butwhy? Our lives are just fine here. Let's leave them for heroes and fools, while we just occasionally go out and kill a few as a vacation."

So the only problems people have in Tippyverse are a)monsters, which isn't anything different from any other fantasy and b) lack of luxury. So you can either run around kill monsters, like in any fantasy or be chief or farmer or some other kind of guy providing luxury to elites? Okay, there are people who may enjoy those kinds of stories, I won't claim there aren't, but...none of that requires existence of wizard power-fantasy Tippyverse is.


And MoF, if Tippyverse is the logical conclusion of the 3.5 system, it's not Tippyverse that's bad, it's 3.5.

Well, guess which guy with goblin in his avatar is quite vocal critic of 3.5. But just like I despise 3.5 rules, I also despise world made on their exploration.

And one more thing - another pet peeve of mine is when it just shows that writer is so enamored by the world he created he cares more about it than story he wants to tell. Sorta related to problems with long-running series, as it may create situations in which status quo cannot be changed in any way and stories are dragged out so author can have more fun in hi precious setting. And sadly, I see this problem in Tippyverse - for all the talk about how 'awesome" it is I have yet to see anyone discuss what kinds of stories they can tell in this setting or what themes they want to explore. Even you guys only bought up ome possibilities not as potential stories but to show that this "awesome" setting isn't an utopia. It's my belief that the world should be shaped accordingly to fit the story or deal with certain themes, not other way around. Which is probably why I consider Dark Sun, which is all about theme of "how far would you go in bleak enoug circumstances?", to be superior to Tippyverse. And before you bring up that's an RPG setting - there are settings which were shaped by the stories first, like Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance, not to mention worlds adapted from stories like Thieve's World or Lankhmar.

Anecronwashere
2012-08-25, 06:39 PM
You seem to have a misinformed idea about what the Tippyverse is.
It is NOT a Playable Setting or the set piece of a story.
It is a worldbuilding exercise about Building a World where Magic (ala 3.5) is real and RAW is the laws of physics

Who cares if it isnt a good setting to have Swordsmen fighting hordes of Orcs or to explore any theme in any story, its not designed for that.
Its like saying Real Life is terrible because it's not like a Joke-A-Day Webcomic. It isnt designed/created/exists for that purpose but for another purpose.

Tippyverse is a logical extension of Crunch makes Fluff over several generations.

Dienekes
2012-08-25, 07:04 PM
Also, as a point of order. Even if you do not like Tippyverse, then don't play in it. Ta da. Problem solved, if someone else enjoys it, let them. I'm really not seeing how someones dislike of a setting can cause this much a stir, especially when the discussion was supposed to be on writing fantasy.

So in any case. I am technically a fantasy writer. I say technically because 1) I suck at it, and 2) I have the habit of looking over what I've written, absolutely hating it and scrapping it to start again. This has left me with after almost 10 years of writing I have a total of 2 chapters that I consider good enough to keep, totaling around 40 pages.

MLai
2012-08-25, 07:53 PM
I will continue the Tippyverse discussion, because it is very relevant to "Writing Fantasy: Fantasy Writers Discuss."

While Tippyverse wasn't created as a storytelling exercise, but rather a worldbuilding exercise... in the verse thread itself, ppl did bring up a few ideas on how to tell stories or roleplay in such a setting.

Tippyverse does not create a homogenous utopia across the realm. It creates a few city-sized "Crystal Spires & Togas" enclosed utopias, surrounded by a realm of abandoned wilderness populated by uncontrolled monsters and barbarian tribes. Why don't the magic cities do something about the wilderness? Again, same thought process as the Greek Gods: "We could, butwhy?" These cities are so self-sufficient, don't think of them as real cities, but rather planets of hats. Or a pantheon of Greek gods (which is the same as planets of hats, LOL).

Now look at this setting. A realm of abandoned wilderness populated by uncontrolled monsters and barbarian tribes. Marginally lorded over and toyed with by near-omnipotent collectives which vie with one another for esoteric goals beyond mortal imagining. The landscape dotted with ruined husks of such cities, vanquished titans of ancient apocalyptic city-wars, hiding forgotten relics of incredible power.

How is this a setting which cannot tell a story?

Hiro Protagonest
2012-08-25, 08:49 PM
How is this a setting which cannot tell a story?

Aye. The only difference from a standard Points of Light setting is that there's safe, instantaneous travel between cities and that farming and cooking provide items of luxury, not necessity.

Winter_Wolf
2012-08-26, 01:03 AM
So in any case. I am technically a fantasy writer. I say technically because 1) I suck at it, and 2) I have the habit of looking over what I've written, absolutely hating it and scrapping it to start again. This has left me with after almost 10 years of writing I have a total of 2 chapters that I consider good enough to keep, totaling around 40 pages.

This brings up a good point (well it helps me, anyway):
Keep your "crap". Unless you're still stuck in the age of typewriters, you're probably using a computer. I suspect that buying a single USB thumb drive is more than enough space for all but the most prolific of writers.

So why keep the crap? Use it as a motivational tool. See what you've done in the past, and if you really hate it, keep it as notes of what NOT to do. Try a different direction, try a different approach, and if worse comes to worst, try a different genre.

I regret that I don't have a copy of my thesis to graduate my major (it's not fiction/fantasy, as such), because when I went back to read it several years later, I was pained by what I had written. I guess my professor/advisor passed me on pity and/or "thesis is just a formality", because I would have failed myself. I do have several samples of fantasy writing and even poetry from many years back. It's lead me to a couple of realizations. One, I am a much better narrative writer now than I was then. Orders of magnitude better. Two, I am (or at least I was) a much better poet than I am a narrative writer. Sadly I dislike poetry in general, and I dislike making it even more. Still, I was quite good at it. I even managed sonnets and ballads that I'm still actually quite proud of.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-26, 01:31 AM
I enjoy when poetry is injected into a fantasy narrative. A song sung or some epic verse quoted can add a lot of flavour to a setting. It's a good skill for fantasy writers to have, I think.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-26, 02:23 AM
I enjoy when poetry is injected into a fantasy narrative. A song sung or some epic verse quoted can add a lot of flavour to a setting. It's a good skill for fantasy writers to have, I think.
It can go overboard, but little snippets and half remembered lyrics can certainly add a feeling of depth to an invented culture, enhancing that very important feeling that life goes on beyond what's happening 'on camera'.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-26, 04:36 AM
You can, and probably will, go overboard. Whether it's in fluff poetry or something else, you will.

That's because certain aspects of writing you enjoy more than others unconsciously or not. It's like if you think you're walking straight across a desert, eventually, over the course of kilos you will veer the way your dominant leg faces all the way back in a huge circle.

Perhaps you're passionate and knowledgeable about art, music, dance, automobiles, the civil war, Korean mythology -- whatever -- and it compels you to write in a certain direction. You might have strong political, philosophic, or cultural beliefs that you wish to expound upon. You might really like cool action scenes, or world building.

I say go for it.

Whatever you write, whatever mad itch you need scratched, you can and should always go back to mark-up, critique, and edit yourself. The important point is to write, to keep your desire to write more alive, and not get bogged down in your internal arguments and all those nauseating concerns about "this being crap". It may be, you might have to go in a whole new direction and take out hours, days, weeks of work from what your final product. This is good, be gratified with this, you're experiencing creativity. Even the best authors can go overboard, I can't think of an author who doesn't have such quirks, being aware of this and investing time to balance your predilections so everything fits reasonably well will let you write what you love without becoming shallow or monomaniacal.

Man on Fire
2012-08-26, 08:03 AM
You seem to have a misinformed idea about what the Tippyverse is.
It is NOT a Playable Setting or the set piece of a story.
It is a worldbuilding exercise about Building a World where Magic (ala 3.5) is real and RAW is the laws of physics

If it's using D&D rules, it's for playing, that's the approach I always take. Which is also why I argue that in Order of the Stick there are players and DM, we just don't see them, word of Giant be damned.


Who cares if it isnt a good setting to have Swordsmen fighting hordes of Orcs or to explore any theme in any story, its not designed for that.
Its like saying Real Life is terrible because it's not like a Joke-A-Day Webcomic. It isnt designed/created/exists for that purpose but for another purpose.


Wise man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Moore) had once said "Life isn't divided into genres. It's a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky." Tippyverse isn't life, don't compare it to it.

he way I look at worldbuilding, it's done to tell stories. You build the world to tell the story, be it by writing, singing or role-playing, and you build said world to fit the stories you want to tell. Building a world just to show how awesome your favorite wizards are is for me pointless.


Tippyverse is a logical extension of Crunch makes Fluff over several generations.

Any world that takes seriously bad ruleset, especially to this level, is worthless for me.


While Tippyverse wasn't created as a storytelling exercise, but rather a worldbuilding exercise... in the verse thread itself, ppl did bring up a few ideas on how to tell stories or roleplay in such a setting.

Tippyverse does not create a homogenous utopia across the realm. It creates a few city-sized "Crystal Spires & Togas" enclosed utopias, surrounded by a realm of abandoned wilderness populated by uncontrolled monsters and barbarian tribes. Why don't the magic cities do something about the wilderness? Again, same thought process as the Greek Gods: "We could, butwhy?" These cities are so self-sufficient, don't think of them as real cities, but rather planets of hats. Or a pantheon of Greek gods (which is the same as planets of hats, LOL).

Now look at this setting. A realm of abandoned wilderness populated by uncontrolled monsters and barbarian tribes. Marginally lorded over and toyed with by near-omnipotent collectives which vie with one another for esoteric goals beyond mortal imagining. The landscape dotted with ruined husks of such cities, vanquished titans of ancient apocalyptic city-wars, hiding forgotten relics of incredible power.

How is this a setting which cannot tell a story?


Aye. The only difference from a standard Points of Light setting is that there's safe, instantaneous travel between cities and that farming and cooking provide items of luxury, not necessity.

So you're telling me, that the only kind of stories you can tell in Tippyverse are the ones you can tell in almost every other standard fantasy setting, only now with entirecities full of people who fill the role of Elves as "supercool guys from utopia who are better than you"? You only took few pitfalls of fantasy and amplified them to ridiculous degree and you're calling that a good story potential? Do the same thing everybody with no imagination in the business do, only with even worse equivalent of Elves? I could think of better stories to tel in that setting, but most of them involve tearing it apart or complaining how bad it is in other way.


Also, as a point of order. Even if you do not like Tippyverse, then don't play in it. Ta da. Problem solved, if someone else enjoys it, let them. I'm really not seeing how someones dislike of a setting can cause this much a stir, especially when the discussion was supposed to be on writing fantasy.

It started when somebody mentioned it as good example of setting shaped accordingly to it's magic. I bought up it's flaws and people jumped to defend it.

MLai
2012-08-26, 09:57 AM
@ Kitten Champion:
+1. I just want to clarify what was said... You can write whatever you want on your rough draft and go wild. But for the sake of pacing and other storyboarding concerns, do know that you'd have to go back later and edit/trim all that.


So you're telling me, that the only kind of stories you can tell in Tippyverse are the ones you can tell in almost every other standard fantasy setting,
-------
only now with entirecities full of people who fill the role of Elves as "supercool guys from utopia who are better than you"?
-------
You only took few pitfalls of fantasy and amplified them to ridiculous degree and you're calling that a good story potential?
-------
Do the same thing everybody with no imagination in the business do, only with even worse equivalent of Elves?
(1) Suddenly, a Tippyverse setting is "almost every other standard fantasy setting"? So a discworld setting is also "almost every other standard fantasy setting"? And Arrakhis is "almost every other standard sci-fi setting"? I can make arguments for each. What exactly are your qualifications?

(2) Actually no, it's better to say Planets Of Hats, as that would be the more appropriate trope. Isolated dystopian/utopian city-states each developing unique cultures due to total self-sufficiency, and each lorded over by a godlike unchanging clique which would certainly develop its own foibles and personalities... these have quite different narrative potentials compared to say, Tolkien elves.

(3) And yes, the good story potential precisely comes from the deconstruction of high fantasy. "What would happen if we take AD&D-like high fantasy magic, stop pretending it wouldn't radically change a medieval-period world, and actually show how it does to its logical extremes?" The same type of thing done in Watchmen.

(4) I would have to conclude that you're the one bereft of imagination. But I know you a teensy bit better than that, so I'd say you're simply blinded by your irrational hatred of a fictional humanoid species (or sub-species, depending on whether they can still produce fertile offspring with humans etc).

Man on Fire
2012-08-26, 11:06 AM
@ Kitten Champion:
[QUOTE](1) Suddenly, a Tippyverse setting is "almost every other standard fantasy setting"? So a discworld setting is also "almost every other standard fantasy setting"? And Arrakhis is "almost every other standard sci-fi setting"? I can make arguments for each. What exactly are your qualifications?

Discworld surerly doesn't do what every other fantasy does, and even if it does what other fantasy does, it parodies it. I don't think you are selling Tippyverse as a parody and yet, when asked about problems it has and it's storytelling potential you come up with the most generic answer "monsters attacking terrified villagers while people who could deal with it do nothing". This is what happens when people think of setting idea but don't think of what stories tell in them - with all that talk about how innovative this is, you are still selling us the most boring, generic story premise.


(2) Actually no, it's better to say Planets Of Hats, as that would be the more appropriate trope. Isolated dystopian/utopian city-states each developing unique cultures due to total self-sufficiency, and each lorded over by a godlike unchanging clique which would certainly develop its own foibles and personalities... these have quite different narrative potentials compared to say, Tolkien elves.

And yet all of them are cities self-centered jerks who doesn't care about people outside their cities being butchered by monsters of all kinds because they are too busy sitting on their arses and contemplating how much fun it is to have everything being given to them at silver plate. They fill the same cliche most writers use elves for and no matter what hat you'll give them, these elements will remain. And yes, some of them may be dystopian, but that doesn't change much in long run, Drows are still Elves.


(3) And yes, the good story potential precisely comes from the deconstruction of high fantasy. "What would happen if we take AD&D-like high fantasy magic, stop pretending it wouldn't radically change a medieval-period world, and actually show how it does to its logical extremes?" The same type of thing done in Watchmen.

Puting "deconstruction" label on something doesn't automatically make it good, especially if it doesn't even do that deconstruction part competently. Order of the Stick and Goblins deconstructs many aspects of D&D. Tippyverse deconstructs the worst of them all, broken and overpowered magic, but instead of going through to the logical conclusion it settles for power fantasy, where wizards are made into super cool awesome guys who rule their own cities and are so cool you cannot touch them, because they have spell for everything and mess like that. And the question it's supposed to answer? We foudn the answer long time ago. It's called Dark Sun.


(4) I would have to conclude that you're the one bereft of imagination. But I know you a teensy bit better than that, so I'd say you're simply blinded by your irrational hatred of a fictional humanoid species (or sub-species, depending on whether they can still produce fertile offspring with humans etc).

Either way you're resorting to ad personam and try to disregard my arguments by simply throwing insults. That's not the good way to participate in a discussion. My feelings about Elves aren't revelant to the discussion at all.

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-26, 11:21 AM
Can we please stop talking about the Tippyverse?

MLai
2012-08-26, 12:25 PM
@ Comedian:
(1) Is it off topic? If you read carefully, this is less a discussion about AD&D rulesets, and more about fantasy writing.
(2) Is it derailing some other interesting topic in this thread? Let me know what this other interesting topic is.

@ Man On Fire:
(1) I guess all of Greek mythology is boring and generic. You might say "They have merit but they're written back when they were innovative." But actually no. As mythology, by their nature they weren't innovative for a long time. Not even when Ancient Greece was around. Quality does not depend on originality, as there is nothing original under the sun. Certainly not in mythology, stories told again and again with the same characters and the same tropes. Guess what high fantasy is a close cousin to?

(2) I have to spell it out. Each city is less like a bunch of elves, and more like a single (different) Greek god. Figuratively speaking. That's my interpretation, and if I were to write a Tippyverse novel that's how I would frame it. Another writer could write it another way. You would, for example, write each city as a bunch of elves (and hating it).

(3) If a particular power/innovation/tool is broken and overpowered, why wouldn't it lead to a power fantasy for a few ppl, and a dystopian environment for the rest? You realize this parallels IRL? Think of the history of robber barons during the growth of new trade systems.
And are you saying Dark Sun sucks? I think you said that, right? As an example of what you hate: wizards being too kick-ass.
So if it sucks so much, why are you using it as evidence for "We already have something like that"? You'd only use an example in that way if it's good.

(4) So, when you said this (before I responded in kind),

You only took few pitfalls of fantasy and amplified them to ridiculous degree and you're calling that a good story potential? Do the same thing everybody with no imagination in the business do,
you weren't "simply throwing insults" at me? Or is it some sort of personal privilege that only you get to act like an ***?
Also, I didn't realize my name is Tippy.

Hiro Protagonest
2012-08-26, 12:39 PM
Tippyverse is 3.5. Someone already said that back when you first mentioned it. I've said that when responding to MoF's posts.

MLai
2012-08-26, 01:01 PM
Tippyverse is 3.5. Someone already said that back when you first mentioned it. I've said that when responding to MoF's posts.
You misunderstand me. I know Tippyverse is a worldbuilding exercise based on ruminations of 3.5 ruleset.
What I'm saying is, currently I'm discussing its particular ramifications on fantasy writing. MoF thinks it's a terrible premise for fantasy writing. I'm challenging his assumptions.
I'm starting to regret having done that. But I'll see if anything else productive comes out of it. Feel free to add to this discussion regarding the pitfalls and pleasures of fantasy writing, if you wish.

Man on Fire
2012-08-26, 01:16 PM
(2) Is it derailing some other interesting topic in this thread? Let me know what this other interesting topic is.

We may always return to discussing way to make world being shaped by it's magic besides Tippyverse.


(1) I guess all of Greek mythology is boring and generic. You might say "They have merit but they're written back when they were innovative." But actually no. As mythology, by their nature they weren't innovative for a long time. Not even when Ancient Greece was around. Quality does not depend on originality, as there is nothing original under the sun. Certainly not in mythology, stories told again and again with the same characters and the same tropes. Guess what high fantasy is a close cousin to?

You are forgetting that stories must also evolve, change with the society. But tippyverse in place of evolution offers another form of power fantasy, something we should get away from - stories are supposed to inspire us to be better, not be escapism for losers, like everybody try to insist. And those super-awesome wizards are that - they take fun concept of the wizard and turn it into mary sue with no flaws whatsoever. I hate this when it's done with Elves, when it's done with humans and when it's done with wizards. Fantasy needs flawed characters, no making specific groups or races to be perfect in every aspect and "oh soo better than everybody else at everything". That's what tippyverse is to me - bunch of cities that are marysuetopias with few threw in to show other lifestyles (represented as planets of hats, with certain aspects extragerrated and other completely ignored because they didn't fit writer's beliefs about said lifestyle) are wrong and how right author is, while disregarding lives of average joes, who are murdered in the wilderness by monsters. Entire thing screams "power fantasy", "Mary Sue" and "your free ticket to be an *******" to me.


(2) I have to spell it out. Each city is less like a bunch of elves, and more like a single (different) Greek god. Figuratively speaking. That's my interpretation, and if I were to write a Tippyverse novel that's how I would frame it. Another writer could write it another way. You would, for example, write each city as a bunch of elves (and hating it).

I would write one city as a bunch of selfish jerks that doesn't care about people outside and have residents of the wildeness raise to overthrow them. Then they would fail and entire thing would be presented as a tragedy. Or I would write a book about how bad life of guy providing the luxury for elites is and how depraved they must be. Or about city falling apart because no magic can defend you against human nature. Except I doubt I would want to write book set in Tippyverse at all, because I can use those ideas in setting worth writing about.


(3) If a particular power/innovation/tool is broken and overpowered, why wouldn't it lead to a power fantasy for a few ppl, and a dystopian environment for the rest? You realize this parallels IRL? Think of the history of robber barons during the growth of new trade systems.

Just because something parallels real life it doesn't necessairly make it good or interesting. And if something is broken and overpowered, especially o nthe level we're talking here about, it would probably lead to something worse than Tippyverse, like apocalypse and end of civilisation altogether.


And are you saying Dark Sun sucks? I think you said that, right? As an example of what you hate: wizards being too kick-ass.
So if it sucks so much, why are you using it as evidence for "We already have something like that"? You'd only use an example in that way if it's good.

In Dark Sun you have people from one city over throws the wizard, so it's not impossible to beat them. Therefore, they aren't too kick-as, as opposed to Tippyverse's wizards being munchkined out to above-the-gods levels.


you weren't "simply throwing insults" at me? Or is it some sort of personal privilege that only you get to act like an ***?
Also, I didn't realize my name is Tippy.

So, where's that insult? I criticisez what you said, not you and didnt said you're lacking imagination, like you think to assume, but that options you have given aren't very imaginative.

EDIT:
I would also like to express my desire to change the topic, can we talk about good ways of writing fantasy instead of tippyverse?

Xondoure
2012-08-26, 01:21 PM
How about this to sway the topics: Monsters. Any favorites people want to share?

In one of my very early attempts I had something called demon of the pot of one thousand souls. Which was the product of mass murder to create a demon which was then bound inside a reinforced ceramic pot. Cults sprung up around them, for they were much like wellsprings for dark energies. Now while this fiend wasn't particularly clever it has a special place as belonging to such an early version of myself.

JCarter426
2012-08-26, 03:08 PM
I don't like monsters in general. I know that makes me strange. But there's something so arbitrary about them that makes the setting feel less real. Especially when you have different types with varying abilities and ways to kill them that don't really make any sense and seem, as I said, very arbitrary... and especially when the monster in question is a common one like vampires, and the author has decided to change the rules just to be different. Werewolf blood is toxic to these vampires, silver is harmful to these vampires, these vampires can be photographed but these can't, these vampires don't cast reflections but these do, these vampires aren't affected by crosses but these are vulnerable to religious symbols of any kind, only wood from a specific tree kills these vampires, these vampires can fly, these vampires come in 13 flavors. I have less of a problem with humanoid monsters, though, as there's at least a hint of where they came from, humans gone bad, and that adds a degree of relatability, so they can make effective villains.

I think succubi are unappreciated. They're usually treated as low level sex demons, even though they have powers that rival that of vampires, without any specific weaknesses, and a rather dark origin story.

Xondoure
2012-08-26, 08:18 PM
I find it amusing you bash on vamps as an example of a bad monster, and then mention humanoid monstrosities being more up your alley. :smalltongue:

JCarter426
2012-08-26, 08:48 PM
Yeah, I was saying that in contrast to what I had previously said. I like vampires as a concept, I just don't... like... them... :smalltongue:

oblivion6
2012-08-26, 08:50 PM
i find vampires extremely overrated. i do agree that succubi are unappreciated though. they are one of my favorite kinds of demon.

i have also always found myself drawn towards illithids and...drow(probably because a drizzt novel was what got me into fantasy in the first place.)

and of curse, like everyone i also enjoy giants.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-26, 08:50 PM
I don't mind monsters as a rule.

Everyone remembers the Minotaur or Medusa. Good monsters can be the most appealing aspect of a story, something Hollywood is aware of. Though in literature, I think it's a generally held opinion that making the major antagonist a mindless monster is somewhat antiquated at this point.

Humans are ultimately the best monsters, in any setting.

I always thought it would be interesting to write a story from the perspective of a futuristic MMORPG mob in a Tolkien-ish setting who acquires genuine sentience as a byproduct of some hacking attempt gone wrong. It's incapable of freeing itself from its assigned role, and isn't aware its universe is digitized, and can't communicate itself in words. Kind of like the main characters from Reboot fighting against the User, who's perfectly unaware of the doom it's bringing down on Mainframe.

JCarter426
2012-08-26, 08:53 PM
I don't mind monsters as a rule.

Everyone remembers the Minotaur or Medusa. Good monsters can be the most appealing aspect of a story, something Hollywood is aware of. Though in literature, I think it's a generally held opinion that making the major antagonist a mindless monster is somewhat antiquated at this point.

Humans are ultimately the best monsters, in any setting.
Yeah, that about sums up my feelings, particularly regarding zombies. Though for me it isn't entirely about the villain's motives or characterization. Sometimes it's just the mechanics of it all that annoys me. In the sense that it feels more like a game mechanic than a story element.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-26, 08:59 PM
I don't mind non human creatures, AKA monsters, but the idea of a particular race or species being Automatically Evil has too many parallels for me to be fully comfortable with it. That is not to say a particular example isn't evil, but the idea 'They are X, and therfore they are Evil' skeevs me out.

jseah
2012-08-26, 09:32 PM
What villain adds the most to a story?

How about this to sway the topics: Monsters. Any favorites people want to share?
These two are basically the same thing.
They are Man vs Man (as my literature class puts it). Or Man vs Monster, but it's nearly the same thing. IMO, these happen FAR too often; why do people write them when the ground has been covered to death?
LoTR, HP, James Bond (and variants thereof) are all that; almost anything with a defined Hero and BBEG (and therefore nearly all D&D games). Horror movies tend towards Man vs Monster, so does Lovecraft (although he gets points for being less Monster and more Man vs Self)

These stories have to work to hold my attention, they have to be well written (which things like LoTR was, and James Bond wasn't; guess which I watched?) or do something new (like Primer and time travel).

The best story ideas I have had (best to me obviously =P) never had a singular villain or monster. I think having a single focal point, one key antagonist, restricts the available conflict too much.

The best stories, I find, are those that involve cultural and social change. There is no Enemy or singular point of conflict, although antagonists are still present by virtue of being people the protagonist opposes (there is nearly always someone to oppose; as the TF2 Sniper puts it: "as long as there are 2 people left on this planet... someone is going to want someone else dead").
Man vs Society. Or even Society vs Society.
Dune, the Culture novels, to some extent Wheel of Time (but not really)

Man vs Nature is also rather rare. Robinson Crusoe is one I can think of, and certainly a study, if only to understand the thinking of his era.


So, what I am essentially trying to say is that I dislike having a defined villain, even if I use them because they are so convenient to have around.
The truly grand epic stories are told with sweeping strokes and tell the story of that period, instead of the story of one man. (or woman or thing)

No matter how much larger than life, one man is still one man. A single hero or villain is nothing beside the tide that is everyone else. (and this is why I dislike superhero stories in general, because in those cases, one man IS the world)

---------

As for a more radical idea, has anyone seen a written story that doesn't have the standard sort of conflict normally found in written fiction?

By conflict, I mean some kind of tension building scene or anything like it. S&S fantasy, "high" fantasy like LoTR, horror, action and superhero genres have obvious conflict in the fist-in-your-face manner.
Romance has tension in the development of a relationship. Hell, even my entire top half of this post assumes some kind of conflict drives the plot.


For an example of what I DO mean (instead of what I do not), Hidamari Sketch is a manga/anime from the genre called Slice of Life. Which can be summarized as "normal people do normal things" with a bit of comedy. (IIRC, there was a chapter where the protagonist goes to school, draws a picture, comes home, goes to sleep, the end)
There is virtually no tension, sometimes not even comedy, but it still manages to be engaging and fun to read/watch.

So, again, any known samples of *written* stories that are not conflict driven?

Lord Raziere
2012-08-26, 09:42 PM
Yea, I try to avoid anything along the lines of "X is ALWAYS evil" when associated with a trait that has nothing to do with negative actions.

a group of cultists sacrificing innocent people to their dark god? probably all evil.

a group of just random green-skinned orcs? probably not. Not unless they prove themselves evil by actually doing something evil in front of you or something like that.

Always make sure there is a reason to fight these enemies….

anyways, I find it better to make magic systems where each individual person has only a few powers at their command, but can use them fluidly and competently, and are all tied together by some theme relating to the character itself. makes characterization much easier.

also, there is nothing inherently wrong about using elves or dwarves as long you like using them and using them the way you want to use them. If only there was a fantasy story that focused on elves Vs. dwarves as its main conflict…….there would be a lot to explore in that I think.

I'm actually surprised that there isn't more stories using magic to do things we will never be able to do with science and exploring the consequences of that.

just saying random thoughts about this based upon my own experiences.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-26, 09:42 PM
Yeah, that about sums up my feelings, particularly regarding zombies. Though for me it isn't entirely about the villain's motives or characterization. Sometimes it's just the mechanics of it all that annoys me. In the sense that it feels more like a game mechanic than a story element.

One of the more delightful things about writers like Pratchett and Gaiman, they make everyone regardless of their monstrous nature, quite human. In Discworld, everything from undead to the boogieman are not always-anything, many are just average people with certain additional problems that stem from their diversity. Most of the people who are incapable of respecting these Others in spite of their similarities usually become his villains.

Gaiman is very much in favour of dark-is-not-evil, and shares many sentiments with Pratchett. With the exception that Gaiman does not try to naturalize his monsters into the setting, he likes the sense of the uncanny. As in, when his main character is chatting up a god, spirit, or the undead, the conversational tone and substance can be quite banal but the overall sensation of weirdness remains dangling over everything.

The undead in fantasy have become archetypal villains, especially in dungeon crawlers, but I honestly don't see why. If I were raised from the dead I'd probably just be mildly curious as to what happened in the world post-mortem, assuming my afterlife was without free cable or satellite. I can't see myself eating anyone's flesh. I'd probably enjoy it, the worst that can happen to me is being rekilled.

JCarter426
2012-08-26, 09:53 PM
Yeah, I'm not a fan of Always Evil either, or Always Anything for that matter. However, it depends on the story... I think you do have to draw the line somewhere. For example, I don't think I could ever take a vampire as a serious monster if there were a Count von Count in the same story.

snoopy13a
2012-08-26, 10:37 PM
What do people prefer as the point-of-view?

It seems that most fantasy these days is either third-person narrative or third-person omniscient with multiple, multiple viewpoints. I realize that this allows the author to present several plotlines during the novel (actually, novels since it seems that every fantasy book is now written to have an open-ended conclusion so that if it sells, a series can be written).

In pondering point-of-views, I realized that many of my favorite works are first-person--The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Catcher in the Rye. Further, I recently read The Hunger Games Trilogy, which is also first-person (I liked it, but it obviously isn't on the same level as the books I mentioned previosly). I realize that none of these books are in the fantasy genre, but I think that first-person can be a refreshing change of pace. Among other things, it allows reader to ponder for themselves the motives and possible goals of characters other than the narrator.

What are some ideas on what you like to write in, and what you prefer in reading?

jseah
2012-08-26, 10:52 PM
Third person no-thoughts is easiest to write (just describe), and third person omniscient is the most flexible.

I think however, that first person has the most emotional impact due to how close the author and reader is to the character. Writing a 1st person story with a highly charged story has just as much if not more impact on the writer as well as the reader; at least in my experience.
Then again, the only times I write 1st person successfully (meaning not just to try it) is when I'm in a really black mood and the stories at definitely not something for reading. I don't think many of them survived the hard disk crash and then the pen-drive-loss... =(

MLai
2012-08-26, 11:14 PM
My guess at why 1st person is seldom found in fantasy writing is:

(1) As you said, the author is typically aiming to write an epic, which will naturally change viewpoints between different key characters.
(2) The author is typically developing a larger-than-life heroic personage (Conan for example). As such, he's not supposed to be relatable as the reader's "avatar" in the story, an everyman.
(3) The internal thoughts of a person from a different time may be more difficult to write correctly.
=========================

Inhuman monsters:

(1) I like them for certain types of stories. The otherness that is their defining feature is only appropriate for certain stories, true. Thankfully they're all story genres I like.
(2) Superheroes... I hate them with a passion. I still watch the Marvel movies, because they're movies. But I hate the comics culture and their IMO fatal weaknesses in storytelling.
(3) Orcs, undead, and other Alway Evils... I don't mind them at all. Because AFAIC they go under the category of Inhuman Monsters. I roll my eyes when some writers tries to pull a Our Monsters Are Different and tries to humanize them, because it's sooooo easy to do badly. When done badly, it leaves the bad aftertaste of PC-endorsed racism. Especially egregious is when the fantasy monster race in question is based on a specific human ethnicity like Native Americans or something.
Perhaps my college major (biology) made me allergic to anthropomorphization.

Anecronwashere
2012-08-26, 11:33 PM
I prefer writing in 1st person changing (2+ separated plotlines and main characters intersecting) or 3rd person Omniscient but I can see the appeal in 3rd person no-thoughts or even 2nd person if done right.

Then again I'm also a fan of Good Vs Good or Grey/Gray Morality where the two seemingly unconnected plotlines turn out to be the opposing sides of a conflict


As for Inhumans, I like it. Alien moralities and priorities, different physical requirements and issues make for good Protags and Antags alike.

Tragic_Comedian
2012-08-26, 11:48 PM
Third person omniscient is the only way I care to write.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-27, 12:07 AM
I don't have a preference towards any specific perspective, though I like to know some of the thoughts of some of the characters.

First person perspective has to be narrated by a character who isn't so boring or annoying that your antipathy towards him/her will simply overshadow the plot, characters, and setting. I couldn't get through The Book of the New Sun for that reason.

So long as I'm not completely dissatisfied with the narrator, the only other issue is the egocentric black-holes they can create. I find this with romantic plots especially, where the sheer amount of ink spent on the narrator obsessing over the target of their affection and themselves could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Winter_Wolf
2012-08-27, 12:16 AM
The truly grand epic stories are told with sweeping strokes and tell the story of that period, instead of the story of one man. (or woman or thing)

I don't disagree as such, but it's hard to identify when you don't have someone to identify with. Ensemble casts are difficult to get behind. As the number of people whose viewpoint I need to follow increases, my appreciation of the story attempting to be told decreases. Then again I have a deep dislike of reading history texts, and broad sweeps are a really common way to write history texts, so it may well just be my personal bias.


For an example of what I DO mean (instead of what I do not), Hidamari Sketch is a manga/anime from the genre called Slice of Life. Which can be summarized as "normal people do normal things" with a bit of comedy. (IIRC, there was a chapter where the protagonist goes to school, draws a picture, comes home, goes to sleep, the end)
There is virtually no tension, sometimes not even comedy, but it still manages to be engaging and fun to read/watch.

So, again, any known samples of *written* stories that are not conflict driven?

A very probable reason you won't see many of these kinds of stories is that your average anyone is more likely to read fantasy to escape from the day-to-day. If I were to hand over money for a story in which it ended up that the author gave me "here's a day in the life of an ordinary shmoe", I'd demand my money back. If it were free, I'd demand my time back. The one is highly unlikely and the other is impossible. I am sure there are people who do like those kinds of stories; I am not one of those people. I dare say (statistically speaking) that I'm pretty representative of people who read fantasy. Unpopular authors (in general) either need to self fund or hope that new people come along to read their work.

MLai
2012-08-27, 06:27 AM
The only possible candidate I can think of is Spice & Wolf, a light novel series and then an anime series. I thought it was very good.
Japan tends to diversify more in their target demographics, I think.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-27, 09:23 AM
Joyce's Ulysses wasn't exactly conflict driven, and you'd literally spend the day following a guy around to no specific end. I seem to recall a long stint of stream of consciousness while in an outhouse. A lot of modernist texts have this style, more thought and character-based than conflict driven with plenty of allegorical subtext.

I have no idea how to write like that, but it's entertaining and oh-so-interesting.

Mr.Silver
2012-08-27, 10:41 AM
The thing about world-building is that it should not be viewed as something in isolation from the rest of the work. If your work is going to be exploring particular themes and ideas then your world should really be something that emphasises them. If it's character piece than it really needs to be something that informs those characters. If you're trying to tell an entertaining story then it needs to facilitate that and provide a suitable backdrop without hogging the spotlight.
It is also worth noting that as far as interesting scenery goes, the closer your world comes to 'Middle-Earth as seen through RPG-tinged lenses number 7002' the harder job it will have of providing that. Trying to impress upon the reader that your world is different because 'there's no elves/people swear/good guys die sometimes' will not do anything to rectify this.

On the subject of settings, you need to be aware that you are writing fantasy and, as such, there is no reason that nearly every human should be white. Even if you want to try and push for some attempted 'historical/cultural accuracy' (which is somewhat problematic anyway unless your story actually takes place on earth) it is very much worth bearing in mind that medieval Europe was nowhere near as racially homogeneous as most fantasy settings of comparable tech-level.
Similar holds true for sexuality. There isn't really a reason that your world should ignore/frown-on everything except heterosexuality.

Quantity is not the same thing as quality. This applies very much to length. Not everything should be epic. Hell, most stories probably don't need to be a trilogy.

Man on Fire
2012-08-27, 01:03 PM
These two are basically the same thing.
They are Man vs Man (as my literature class puts it). Or Man vs Monster, but it's nearly the same thing. IMO, these happen FAR too often; why do people write them when the ground has been covered to death?
LoTR, HP, James Bond (and variants thereof) are all that; almost anything with a defined Hero and BBEG (and therefore nearly all D&D games). Horror movies tend towards Man vs Monster, so does Lovecraft (although he gets points for being less Monster and more Man vs Self)

These stories have to work to hold my attention, they have to be well written (which things like LoTR was, and James Bond wasn't; guess which I watched?) or do something new (like Primer and time travel).

The best story ideas I have had (best to me obviously =P) never had a singular villain or monster. I think having a single focal point, one key antagonist, restricts the available conflict too much.

The best stories, I find, are those that involve cultural and social change. There is no Enemy or singular point of conflict, although antagonists are still present by virtue of being people the protagonist opposes (there is nearly always someone to oppose; as the TF2 Sniper puts it: "as long as there are 2 people left on this planet... someone is going to want someone else dead").
Man vs Society. Or even Society vs Society.
Dune, the Culture novels, to some extent Wheel of Time (but not really)

Man vs Nature is also rather rare. Robinson Crusoe is one I can think of, and certainly a study, if only to understand the thinking of his era.


So, what I am essentially trying to say is that I dislike having a defined villain, even if I use them because they are so convenient to have around.
The truly grand epic stories are told with sweeping strokes and tell the story of that period, instead of the story of one man. (or woman or thing)

No matter how much larger than life, one man is still one man. A single hero or villain is nothing beside the tide that is everyone else. (and this is why I dislike superhero stories in general, because in those cases, one man IS the world)

---------

As for a more radical idea, has anyone seen a written story that doesn't have the standard sort of conflict normally found in written fiction?

By conflict, I mean some kind of tension building scene or anything like it. S&S fantasy, "high" fantasy like LoTR, horror, action and superhero genres have obvious conflict in the fist-in-your-face manner.
Romance has tension in the development of a relationship. Hell, even my entire top half of this post assumes some kind of conflict drives the plot.


For an example of what I DO mean (instead of what I do not), Hidamari Sketch is a manga/anime from the genre called Slice of Life. Which can be summarized as "normal people do normal things" with a bit of comedy. (IIRC, there was a chapter where the protagonist goes to school, draws a picture, comes home, goes to sleep, the end)
There is virtually no tension, sometimes not even comedy, but it still manages to be engaging and fun to read/watch.

So, again, any known samples of *written* stories that are not conflict driven?

What a load of bull. Sorry, but even real life isn't devoid of conflicts, from small to huge ones. People argue with each other, are jealous of each other, lie to each other, are angry at one another...to create a story without conflict, you would have to remove all of that. Which doesn't make your story slice of life, but happy joy-joy land story of boring people doing boring things, parody of life.

Also, what you are describing as "trurly grand epic stories" sounds to me like a convoluded mess of separate shot stories mixed together and jumping from one another at random moments. I preffer stories with single main character or defined cast of those, not one that jumps around hundreds of people to show us how the life looks in the world (which again, sounds more like falling in love with your setting too much). I preffer to see how specific number of people reacts to the events author planned for them, how their personalities are shaped, to wonder if they break apart or become stronger or maybe evolve into completely different people than they were at the begining. What you ae proposing sounds like that amplied to insane and unnecessary levels, which would undermine whatever the theme of the story is and needlessly drag it out. You say no man is larger than life, I say that everyone has their own story. And by focusing on one or few people you show that every story deserves to be told.


I don't like monsters in general. I know that makes me strange. But there's something so arbitrary about them that makes the setting feel less real. Especially when you have different types with varying abilities and ways to kill them that don't really make any sense and seem, as I said, very arbitrary... and especially when the monster in question is a common one like vampires, and the author has decided to change the rules just to be different. Werewolf blood is toxic to these vampires, silver is harmful to these vampires, these vampires can be photographed but these can't, these vampires don't cast reflections but these do, these vampires aren't affected by crosses but these are vulnerable to religious symbols of any kind, only wood from a specific tree kills these vampires, these vampires can fly, these vampires come in 13 flavors.

What's wrong with trying to change things? It would be boring if vampires in every single book would be the same, especially that they're ill-defined concept based on multiple legends told around whole world.


I don't mind non human creatures, AKA monsters, but the idea of a particular race or species being Automatically Evil has too many parallels for me to be fully comfortable with it. That is not to say a particular example isn't evil, but the idea 'They are X, and therfore they are Evil' skeevs me out.

This, I hate this one with passion.


It seems that most fantasy these days is either third-person narrative or third-person omniscient with multiple, multiple viewpoints. I realize that this allows the author to present several plotlines during the novel (actually, novels since it seems that every fantasy book is now written to have an open-ended conclusion so that if it sells, a series can be written).

In pondering point-of-views, I realized that many of my favorite works are first-person--The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Catcher in the Rye. Further, I recently read The Hunger Games Trilogy, which is also first-person (I liked it, but it obviously isn't on the same level as the books I mentioned previosly). I realize that none of these books are in the fantasy genre, but I think that first-person can be a refreshing change of pace. Among other things, it allows reader to ponder for themselves the motives and possible goals of characters other than the narrator.

What are some ideas on what you like to write in, and what you prefer in reading?

1) Writing in first person happens in fantasy, see Chronolicles of the Black Company and Chronolicles of Amber, two of my favorite series ever.
2) Writing in first person doesn't stop the story from being long-running one. Chronolicles of Amber are written completely from perspective of first Corwin and then Merlin and each's adventure takes five books.
3) Writing in first person doesn't stop the story from jumping around. In Black Company narrator writes in first person but story sometimes jump to different people, whose tales are written in third person.

I personally think you should write in first person only if you have suitable character to be the narrator. Black Company is told from perspective of Company's Annalist, we are literally reading his book in the chronolicles. If you don't have character who can provide interesting perspective on the story, don't write it in first person.

snoopy13a
2012-08-27, 01:05 PM
Quantity is not the same thing as quality. This applies very much to length. Not everything should be epic. Hell, most stories probably don't need to be a trilogy.

I agree. But it seems like every fantasy story is a potential trilogy (or more). I alluded to this before, but I think it is for economic reasons. If a publisher buys a fantasy novel that has an openended conclusion then, if it is popular, they can publish future novels in that storyline. If it is a standalone novel, then the storyline is finished.

I think it is limiting because stories don't have to be long. There are classic short stories, novellas, and short novels.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-27, 01:54 PM
I agree. But it seems like every fantasy story is a potential trilogy (or more). I alluded to this before, but I think it is for economic reasons. If a publisher buys a fantasy novel that has an openended conclusion then, if it is popular, they can publish future novels in that storyline. If it is a standalone novel, then the storyline is finished.

I think it is limiting because stories don't have to be long. There are classic short stories, novellas, and short novels.
Indeed, some of my favourite science fiction is in short story and novella format. Short sweet, allowing, practically forcing the author to keep things focused.

Mr.Silver
2012-08-27, 03:02 PM
I agree. But it seems like every fantasy story is a potential trilogy (or more). I alluded to this before, but I think it is for economic reasons. If a publisher buys a fantasy novel that has an openended conclusion then, if it is popular, they can publish future novels in that storyline. If it is a standalone novel, then the storyline is finished.

I think it is limiting because stories don't have to be long. There are classic short stories, novellas, and short novels.

True, but the even a standard length novel is pretty short by comparison to some of the excesses of the fantasy genre. Wheel Of Time is the obvious example, but even in more restrained works there's still an awful lot of trilogies made-up of door-stopper tombs.
While there isn't anything wrong with length in and of itself the fact is it's almost become the norm now, and that's a problem because in practice it can lead to padding and just general pacing problems, as the writer tries to stretch a continuous narrative over multiple books, which can often become almost impossible given just how long some of them get.


The second problem of quantity vs. quality is that of stakes. Specifically, 'high stakes' does not equate to 'big'. Diminishing returns start to kick-in once things have hit 'life-and-death' and things will most likely have lost most of their emotional impact once we enter 'fate of the entire world' territory. For it to matter to the audience comes down to how it hits the characters, not how much destruction can potentially be unleashed.

jseah
2012-08-27, 03:45 PM
Winter Wolf & Man on Fire:
Just because a book is out to tell the story of an era, does not mean that it cannot have a primary protagonist. Indeed, it can even have a hero and evil villain much like a standard fantasy.

It is that the hero and villain do not exist only in relation each other. Some (or alot of) effort should go into showing the world and how both of them fit into it, how they have affected the world (whether in their own small way or in world-shaking manner), and how the world has affected them. The conflict between the hero and the villain should be chosen carefully to show this.

I suppose I have just read too many fantasy stories and played too many D&D games where the protagonist (or party) and the BBEG pretty much exist just for the sole purpose of beating each other to death.
With awesome explosions and so on, which is cool. But I do not often get the sense that there is a world beyond the characters, which perhaps matters more to me than other people or I just demand too much of it.


Re Slice of Life:
To be honest, a slice of life story of someone going about their daily life in a fantasy setting has been something I have been looking for, for some time. (yes, I have seen spice and wolf)

True, real life is not devoid of all conflict and tension, but it is actually pretty nice most of the time; even in less secure times than the modern day. Drama and high emotions tend to not happen all that often, except perhaps in a warzone. That are what I meant by "lack of conflict".
The little stories of normal people are, to me at least, more engaging and charming. The apprentice who worries over getting materials for the magic lantern assignment and whether he can spare the few coins for the beggar, seems more like a real person than the "spy" who foils a plot to cause nuclear war; even if one is in a distinctly non-real fantasy world and the other is in something close to RL.

...
Perhaps I ought to continue that stalled story. Clearly I should just write what I want. >.>

Man on Fire
2012-08-27, 04:10 PM
I agree. But it seems like every fantasy story is a potential trilogy (or more). I alluded to this before, but I think it is for economic reasons. If a publisher buys a fantasy novel that has an openended conclusion then, if it is popular, they can publish future novels in that storyline. If it is a standalone novel, then the storyline is finished.

I think it is limiting because stories don't have to be long. There are classic short stories, novellas, and short novels.

It' not always that people want money, but that they just decided there is another story to tell in the setting and with those characters. Sometimes story that may take multiple books to finish. Or sometime autohrs decide that this and this chapter is a good place to finish the book, don't drag everything to just money.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-27, 04:27 PM
What I dislike about trilogies is you generally need to have read them all in order to get everything. When book stores or libraries don't have one, it can get frustrating been either left hanging or knowing that some vital clues and exposition are missing.

Omergideon
2012-08-27, 04:34 PM
True, real life is not devoid of all conflict and tension, but it is actually pretty nice most of the time; even in less secure times than the modern day. Drama and high emotions tend to not happen all that often, except perhaps in a warzone. That are what I meant by "lack of conflict".
The little stories of normal people are, to me at least, more engaging and charming. The apprentice who worries over getting materials for the magic lantern assignment and whether he can spare the few coins for the beggar, seems more like a real person than the "spy" who foils a plot to cause nuclear war; even if one is in a distinctly non-real fantasy world and the other is in something close to RL.


For me often my favourite bits of fantasy stories and films are the slice of life bits. The characters doing their normal life activities without any of the plot gettin involved. I like that too, but the slice of life seems to make them more real to me. A naturally good thing in fantastical tales.

JCarter426
2012-08-27, 05:03 PM
What's wrong with trying to change things? It would be boring if vampires in every single book would be the same, especially that they're ill-defined concept based on multiple legends told around whole world.
The problem is twofold. First, these differences usually apply to all vampires in the entire setting, with the typical features associated with vampires regarded as folklore, essentially ignoring any of the legends upon which they are based and even pointing it out. Second, the changes often seem arbitrary to me, especially when they aren't based on any actual vampire mythology; they seem to be there just to make that setting's vampires different, regardless of whether they should be... or sometimes it's the opposite, such as getting rid of their inconvenient inability to walk around during the day or making them so vulnerable to wood that a pencil can kill them in order to justify them dying so often. These are contrived plot devices that only go unnoticed because people have come to expect this kind of thing. So I guess that's a third point - it enables lazy writing.

I agree. But it seems like every fantasy story is a potential trilogy (or more). I alluded to this before, but I think it is for economic reasons. If a publisher buys a fantasy novel that has an openended conclusion then, if it is popular, they can publish future novels in that storyline. If it is a standalone novel, then the storyline is finished.

I think it is limiting because stories don't have to be long. There are classic short stories, novellas, and short novels.
Well, that's pretty much any new novel released today, regardless of the format, unless you're talking about an established author. The publishers expect you to crank out a new one every year if they want you to.

Short sci-fi stories by Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and the like were always built around small ideas that worked great for the format but probably would have broken down if you applied the premise on a larger scale. Sometimes you get a full novel or feature film, but rarely anything on the epic level like Asimov's Robot/Empire/Foundation series that's more typical of a lot of sci-fi and fantasy today.The problem with short stories and fantasy is fantasy is usually built around big ideas; that's one of the things that separates it from magical realism, which does often occur in short story format. So when you put a lot of effort into creating a new world, lots of peoples and nations, monsters, magical rules, and such, you generally have a something story in mind. I know I'm almost incapable of writing anything short, especially under those conditions. And I don't read many short stories because for the same reason I would be disappointed if I went to a movie theater and the film was only 20 minutes; it's not that I wouldn't enjoy it, it's just I'd get stressed over having to put so much effort into something that doesn't last all that long.

It might be a different case if you set a bunch of short stories all in the same setting. I think Discworld is an example of this to a certain degree, though truth be told I've only read Mort because I never get around to reading anything these days. Of course, there still are other issues; people get invested in characters more than they used to, and fantasy lends itself to character-driven stories; and if you're going to be using the same setting, the same characters... you might as well just write a trilogy and make more money off of it. :smalltongue:

I also think "reality fantasy" has a certain charm - we get some of it in OOTS from time to time - but I don't think I'd read a whole book about it. Now there's potential for short stories... but again, they would probably lean more towards magical realism.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-27, 05:57 PM
For me often my favourite bits of fantasy stories and films are the slice of life bits. The characters doing their normal life activities without any of the plot gettin involved. I like that too, but the slice of life seems to make them more real to me. A naturally good thing in fantastical tales.
I think that's a part that is often forgotten in much fantasy. Life is in the little moments. Like you say, they help build the reality of the story.
A song is made up as much of silences as it is of sound.

oblivion6
2012-08-27, 06:23 PM
so how does everyone handle combat sequences? i know authors like salvatore actually describe the individual actions of the characters while others, like eddings just basically give a rough overview of the combat.

jseah
2012-08-27, 06:38 PM
so how does everyone handle combat sequences? i know authors like salvatore actually describe the individual actions of the characters while others, like eddings just basically give a rough overview of the combat.
This is also a question I would like to ask as describing any action scene appears to be one of my weak points.

I currently use "describing each individual action" but I find it does not flow well unless there are very few actors and the sides are well drawn. It cannot handle chaotic scenarios.
Or perhaps its just me! Goodness knows I can always use more writing tips.

snoopy13a
2012-08-27, 06:43 PM
This is also a question I would like to ask as describing any action scene appears to be one of my weak points.

I currently use "describing each individual action" but I find it does not flow well unless there are very few actors and the sides are well drawn. It cannot handle chaotic scenarios.
Or perhaps its just me! Goodness knows I can always use more writing tips.

I've never enjoyed anyone's combat sequencing. I guess I just prefer the tension beforehand and, of course, the aftermath.

oblivion6
2012-08-27, 06:45 PM
This is also a question I would like to ask as describing any action scene appears to be one of my weak points.

I currently use "describing each individual action" but I find it does not flow well unless there are very few actors and the sides are well drawn. It cannot handle chaotic scenarios.
Or perhaps its just me! Goodness knows I can always use more writing tips.

yeah, its probably my weakest point. i also have the same problem with the individual actions.

Mr.Silver
2012-08-27, 07:08 PM
so how does everyone handle combat sequences? i know authors like salvatore actually describe the individual actions of the characters while others, like eddings just basically give a rough overview of the combat.
There isn't really a specific 'right way' to do it, from what I've seen. Like dialogue, it's something you kind of get a feel for after a while.

Generally though, it depends on how big/long the fight is and how much focus the events of it require. If you want a fight to have some weight to it then you're going to need to spend some time on what's actually happening, but you also have to balance this with what's actually worth focussing on and not get bogged down in every minute detail - as always, the story comes first.
For example: if one combatant is easily blocking the other's attacks then you don't need to describe every single one of them beyond the first two to establish what's going on, then keep the subsequent blows less detailed until that particular pattern ends. Fight scenes have something of a 'flow' to them, and the amount of detail you go into should reflect this, placing more emphasis on the events that effect this.

In long fights (bearing in mind that a 'long' fight can still be a just matter of minutes - armed duels being excellent examples of a lot happening in a short space of time) it may be worth moving more towards the overview side of things at points. Larger battles generally stand to be given a more 'highlight reel' approach.


Now, in fight situations which haven not had much build-up (e.g. Hero versus mooks) you scale back, since these sort of fights are important not in and of themselves. The only time you want to go into detail is if it's to show something about how a character fights, and even then concision is still your friend.

Ravens_cry
2012-08-27, 08:07 PM
Ah mooks.
Many words have been spoken of the strange morality when dealing with the faceless minion. Somehow, they are worth less on some kind of cosmic scale, their anonymity being, not a shield but an invitation to their slaughter and murder by even otherwise righteous heroes.
It is a strange thing and, as one who often feels rather faceless, rather disturbing.

Lord Raziere
2012-08-27, 10:13 PM
well you can interpret the mooks as a metaphor for soldiers, because y'now how both soldiers and mooks look the same? and how they are both meant to fight until they die in battle for a purpose greater than themselves?

therefore you can see mooks at a metaphor for how war de-humanizes people and makes them slaughter each other as if they are faceless and not worth paying attention.

jseah
2012-08-27, 10:47 PM
^if that's the point of the story, then sure. Otherwise, I don't think that justifies the facelessness of mooks.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-27, 10:49 PM
I like writing about mooks, they're mostly who I empathize with.

As for action scenes, I can do a fairly good blow-by-blow analysis of an individual fight or some physical feat, but have no real eye for big battlefields. In a battle-type situation I don't think it's too lazy to simply state what the main character is about and give some overall reference to the whole battle as he/she perceives it. I've no idea about clever military tactics in any era of warfare, except maybe surprise and high-ground being a good thing, so I won't feign an omniscient understanding of what's happening.

The thing I'm not a fan of is gore. Some books have battles and action scenes becoming blenders, with bits and pieces of everyone flying hither and thither. A solid simile or metaphor has more impact, at least to me, than what can quickly become violence porn in any medium.

jseah
2012-08-28, 01:44 AM
New question:
How does one describe or otherwise introduce the reader into a complex magic system?

Clearly, having a giant exposition dump is most unsatisfactory. So far, I have had exactly two magic systems that could be considered complex, for one of which the explanation wasn't important.
As for the other, I have a pretty in depth (understatement yay!) system that is nice and consistent (yes, it's That one), but no real way to explain it to the reader without actually writing out lecture notes @ Mc magic university (which btw doesn't do lectures, its more of a guild-like structure with apprentices and so on).


EDIT:
so far, I've sort of ignored explanations and just gave the characters chunks of abilities and/or progress at logical points and time skips. But it kinda feels like cheating to describe magic flying around and having characters respond to spells with other spells in specific ways that would all make sense if I could somehow explain why.

Sanderson's First Law of magic and all that.

Xondoure
2012-08-28, 02:13 AM
Naturally woven into the narrative before the spell becomes critically important. In other words: with lots of foreshadowing.

Avilan the Grey
2012-08-28, 04:48 AM
Mainly reading this thread because it is interesting.

This is not really a question as much as an observation about myself and to thank everyone for this interesting topic.

I have started a number of stories over the years, and got very high scores on the occasions the assignment in Swedish Class was "write whatever you want, but at least 10 pages" or similar. My biggest problem now is that I am so tuned into English (my wife is American and we speak (America) English at home, almost all my online friends are English-speaking and in my work I type almost everything in English) that I have a hard time NOT writing in English. At the same time I realize that as skilled as I am in everyday English, I really should write in Swedish, unless I am just writing something for a Fan-fiction page or something.

I have for a long time wanted to write something based in Norse / Swedish traditions. Not Viking, but close to it (think say the first half of the 12th century in Sweden, but in "fantasy mode") but never got around to it.

Anyway, I still have a few ideas, although I am far better at describing events and scenery than people.

Winter_Wolf
2012-08-28, 07:58 AM
Winter Wolf & Man on Fire:
Just because a book is out to tell the story of an era, does not mean that it cannot have a primary protagonist. Indeed, it can even have a hero and evil villain much like a standard fantasy.
Ah, see this is not what I was getting when I read the other post. It sounded like there simply wasn't a primary. Which I despise in books, because I have a hard time relating to ten tertiary characters instead of a single character/small group to become invested in. It's a personal preference.

...
Perhaps I ought to continue that stalled story. Clearly I should just write what I want. >.>

Haha, man I've been telling myself that for years. Here's your membership card, welcome to the fold. :smalltongue:

Man on Fire
2012-08-28, 09:54 AM
Winter Wolf & Man on Fire:
Just because a book is out to tell the story of an era, does not mean that it cannot have a primary protagonist. Indeed, it can even have a hero and evil villain much like a standard fantasy.

It is that the hero and villain do not exist only in relation each other. Some (or alot of) effort should go into showing the world and how both of them fit into it, how they have affected the world (whether in their own small way or in world-shaking manner), and how the world has affected them. The conflict between the hero and the villain should be chosen carefully to show this.

I suppose I have just read too many fantasy stories and played too many D&D games where the protagonist (or party) and the BBEG pretty much exist just for the sole purpose of beating each other to death.
With awesome explosions and so on, which is cool. But I do not often get the sense that there is a world beyond the characters, which perhaps matters more to me than other people or I just demand too much of it.

I think you are going over to the other extreme, assuming on your previous post - we don't need to set people too much into the world, nobody cares who is the servant tying big bad's shoes, we don't need to know the history of every single mook or every maid in queen's castle. I'm all for setting characters strongly into the world, but don't go overload, because they may dissapear. For me it works the best in stories like The Witcher (books not yet published in English), Fables (comics series) or Watchmen - we have main cast but we also have tiny bits here and there showing us fragments from the life of other characters, who mosly interacts with mains at some small points or are affected by their actions at certain points. Witcher novels had a lot of this, adding several events from life of the bunch of medics trying to save wounded during the battle in one book or sorcerresses creating their secert society in another, none of which had much to do with Geralt at this point. Fables in volume titled Sons of the Empire threw in a lot of those, like showing the job of one of Crow brothers, which is cutting Raspunzel's hair three times a day because they grow too fast, or how does her life looks like, how does training in Liliputs army looks like and so on, most of which didn't had anything to do with the plot (most was also in special bonus section for answering fans' questions). But it was a bonus and it worked that way the best - as spices to the main dish, not the main dish itself.

And sometimes the stories just are about relationship between the hero and the villain. Sometimes it's all it is about and writing some pointless stuff would only make your theme less clear. I can think of stories like that, I have even idea for one to do one day, about monster and monster hunter, focusing on their relationship and bound between enemies, dropping fact of life of some random guy there wouldn't work.


Re Slice of Life:
To be honest, a slice of life story of someone going about their daily life in a fantasy setting has been something I have been looking for, for some time. (yes, I have seen spice and wolf)

True, real life is not devoid of all conflict and tension, but it is actually pretty nice most of the time; even in less secure times than the modern day. Drama and high emotions tend to not happen all that often, except perhaps in a warzone. That are what I meant by "lack of conflict".

Sorry, but I'm not seeing it, I never beenn a war zone but I can assure you, people have a lot of reasons for drama and high emotions like divorce, pregnancy...long to list. Not every conflict or drama is about punching people in the face, I would even say that most isn't.


The little stories of normal people are, to me at least, more engaging and charming. The apprentice who worries over getting materials for the magic lantern assignment and whether he can spare the few coins for the beggar, seems more like a real person than the "spy" who foils a plot to cause nuclear war; even if one is in a distinctly non-real fantasy world and the other is in something close to RL.

Good story may have both of them. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy slice of fantastic life, I'm even working on one story like this, but I cannot honestly call it better than other stories. As long as characters are beliveable and interesting and what they're doing is fun to read they can do anything, from eating bananas to punching gods in the face and even puncing gods in the face while eating bananas. That's why for me it's characters who are the most important part of the story.

jseah
2012-08-28, 10:46 AM
I think you are going over to the other extreme, assuming on your previous post - we don't need to set people too much into the world, nobody cares who is the servant tying big bad's shoes, we don't need to know the history of every single mook or every maid in queen's castle.
Well, I suppose that is true. But I still do care about those little people and if I really care about a particular fiction world, I tend to end up wanting to know more about the life of the "man on the ground".

I'm not sure when I last had a story I cared that much about. Probably all the way back to Hidamari Sketch.


Sorry, but I'm not seeing it, I never beenn a war zone but I can assure you, people have a lot of reasons for drama and high emotions like divorce, pregnancy...long to list. Not every conflict or drama is about punching people in the face, I would even say that most isn't.
Most of life isn't made out of that. Most of life isn't dramatic. Take a day in the average life of a... oh, a research student. Go to lab, run experiment, see results (or not), go home. There is some frustration at experiments failing to work (or elation at them working), some cynicism or little craziness to laugh over.

Perhaps there is a developing relationship somewhere in there. But it doesn't go whirlwind fast, just one small step at a time, like everything else.


Good story may have both of them. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy slice of fantastic life, I'm even working on one story like this, but I cannot honestly call it better than other stories. As long as characters are beliveable and interesting and what they're doing is fun to read they can do anything, from eating bananas to punching gods in the face and even puncing gods in the face while eating bananas. That's why for me it's characters who are the most important part of the story.
And yes, of course Slice of Life stories are highly driven by their characters and their character interactions. Which is why I have not written them much because I am not sure I can pull it off.


Naturally woven into the narrative before the spell becomes critically important. In other words: with lots of foreshadowing.
Sometimes this isn't enough. Especially in combinatorial systems, where some things can go with lots of other things.
The reader needs to understand the bits the protagonist uses very well before the clever combinations or interesting applications become accessible and understandable.

Man on Fire
2012-08-28, 11:06 AM
Well, I suppose that is true. But I still do care about those little people and if I really care about a particular fiction world, I tend to end up wanting to know more about the life of the "man on the ground".

But writer should know that there are some parts of the narrative that aren't really important to the story and he should know when to leave them out. Readers probably won't care about little man on the ground as much as you do, especially after you told them that the man character is that completely other person. It may sound interesting to you, you may want to know more about guy's life, but if it doesn't lead to anything, for the readers it will be just pointless padding. Examples I bought up have their place, there showing common folk's life contributes to the story's general themes, help build the mood or just makes the narration more interesting. You have to stay focused - if you'll be jumping from the hero to every little man in his way, your story will become unfocused mess. I think writer should keep only those moments that contribute something more than showing how life of these people looks like. The rest you can always use in your next story.


Most of life isn't made out of that. Most of life isn't dramatic. Take a day in the average life of a... oh, a research student. Go to lab, run experiment, see results (or not), go home. There is some frustration at experiments failing to work (or elation at them working), some cynicism or little craziness to laugh over.

Perhaps there is a developing relationship somewhere in there. But it doesn't go whirlwind fast, just one small step at a time, like everything else.

Or he has a girlfriend, but there is this guy from her job he thinks may be hitting on her and he wonders if she's true to him, he's worried about having enough money to pay the rent, he suspects his neighborhood may be a junkie and wonders if he shouldn't call the police, his father leaves his mother for younger woman and leaves her with no cash, his brother is bullied in high chool...this all, and a lot of other thins, happens quite often and despite what you say, it is drama. People's lives aren't happy and perfect and/or boring, they are full of emotions, you cannot simplify them like that just to fit your definition.

Talanic
2012-08-28, 11:57 AM
New question:
How does one describe or otherwise introduce the reader into a complex magic system?


Apparently, you have a character learn it.

I've got two different characters that explore the magic system. One of them has already learned how, but didn't learn it properly - effectively being a special needs student in that area. The other is a scientist (of sorts, at least) who hasn't encountered magic at all.

This lets me explore it from different angles. The former character learns about magic from the direction of "What can I do with this?" and the latter is trying to figure out "How does this work?"

Now that I think about it, Sanderson does exactly this kind of revelation to his characters as well. Vin learns Allomancy (and learns about - but can't practice - Feruchemy), Kaladin learns Surgebinding, Vivenna learns how to use BioChroma. The character learning about it wouldn't retain everything coming at them all at once, but exploring its limits as a newcomer helps the audience figure out what's going on.

jseah
2012-08-28, 02:21 PM
Examples I bought up have their place, there showing common folk's life contributes to the story's general themes, help build the mood or just makes the narration more interesting. You have to stay focused - if you'll be jumping from the hero to every little man in his way, your story will become unfocused mess. I think writer should keep only those moments that contribute something more than showing how life of these people looks like. The rest you can always use in your next story.
Obviously execution plays a large part in affecting how well it goes over. Like any writing in fact.

The Slice of Life fantasy setting story I have been... well, fantasizing about is essentially purely that, without a major conflict. Just small ones like these (see next section):

Or he has a girlfriend, but there is this guy from her job he thinks may be hitting on her and he wonders if she's true to him, he's worried about having enough money to pay the rent, he suspects his neighborhood may be a junkie and wonders if he shouldn't call the police, his father leaves his mother for younger woman and leaves her with no cash, his brother is bullied in high chool...this all, and a lot of other thins, happens quite often and despite what you say, it is drama. People's lives aren't happy and perfect and/or boring, they are full of emotions, you cannot simplify them like that just to fit your definition.
These things happen true. But not all at once, not to everyone and definitely not common.

Even without them, you can still make an interesting story. Let me pull up Hidamari Sketch again...
Ok, so chapter 19 (book 2 page 45 for those with hard copies) can be summed up as Yuno has a cold and her friends cope with it. That's it. Purely driven by the characters and comedy/charm resulting from it.



Apparently, you have a character learn it.
I suppose that works to some extent, but how does one go about pacing this when you have a complex system?

If you have things that need a character to learn X to understand Y, and then combine them in new and interesting ways, it can get a bit difficult to explain at all without taking three or four chapters just for one thing. Or writing lecture notes.

Kitten Champion
2012-08-28, 05:26 PM
One of the more clever aspects of Stormlight was his introduction to Surgebinding with Szeth, prior to having any perspective as to its significance. Having the reader piecing together what the magic system was from the various examples of the narrative -- from Szeth, to flashbacks and legends about the Knights Radiant, to having Kaladin discover his unique qualities before the climax of the story -- made an infodump exposition significantly less necessary for the reader.

My personal rule, whatever can be demonstrated through action, should be. If you still have matters that need explaining, then you can bring them into words, but nothing surpasses seeing it being done as far as I'm concerned.

Another idea I see used at times, when magic is misunderstood or subject to prejudice as a means of creating opportunities for info-dumps situations. There might be a hyperbolic or erroneous understanding about magic's capabilities your world has that a character can clear up, or some suspicion about its uses or practitioners where laws or limitations can be asserted. They may not choose to explain it, if they're trying for ineffability or are just apathetic to what others think, but they can do an internal monologue about the ignorance of others and how the world really works.

It lets for some character and world-building at the same time.

JCarter426
2012-08-28, 09:53 PM
New question:
How does one describe or otherwise introduce the reader into a complex magic system?
I say break it down to a few basic laws and try to tie them into the main themes of the story. That will help the reader remember them and at the same time make you look super clever.

As far as actually explaining the rules, I can't think of any way that doesn't involve the usual of Mr Wizard explaining something to Mr Totallynottheaudience or Evil Sorcerer looks like he's breaking one of the rules and the Hero remarks that it should be impossible or something along those lines, unless you describe characters' thoughts a lot (e.g. Mr Wizard is being attacked by a fire spell and thinks "Gilgezax's Flame... counterspell!").

Anecronwashere
2012-08-28, 11:04 PM
I suppose that works to some extent, but how does one go about pacing this when you have a complex system?

If you have things that need a character to learn X to understand Y, and then combine them in new and interesting ways, it can get a bit difficult to explain at all without taking three or four chapters just for one thing. Or writing lecture notes.

You can sum it up.
I was working on a Sci-fi loosely based on Star Wars that had 2 main characters (one from the Military, Brute force faction, the other from their opposite, the Manipulative, Force-Multiplier faction) and a few scenes started with "So by channelling more Force into my Crystal in certain ways i can... *Interruption*" or by having "There are a myriad of effects that can be utilized by a force-sensitive, from flight to blast redirection and more."
The first establishes that channeling more Force (or Magic) into a Magic Item (the Crystal) something will happen, foreshadowing if someone does do that later, and letting that compound by someone channeling different effects even after the first reveal.
The second sets the tone, that snippet came from an intro into the Sith Boot Camp and makes a variety of Magical Effects the PCs and NPCs can bust out later (Telekinesis, self and otherwise. Blaster reflection without a saber, powers of that level and less etc.)

The audience doesnt need to know the exact mechanics all at once, but let them explore it via how the PCs and NPCs use their powers. Even if the PC knows how much damage a Fireball can do, or that that Fireball can become an Iceball if he needs it doesn't mean the audience does. But they need to know hints at it, either through saying "Heat and Cold are opposites, one being the addition, the other being the subtraction" (thus rekeying a spell to subtract instead of add temp makes an Iceball) or "The elements are the final step in a spell, the other parameters, such as Length, Power or even Shape are input in the Magical Equation before it" means that any Element is the last layer in making something work, and thus the easiest to fiddle with.

Themrys
2012-08-29, 09:37 AM
EDIT:
so far, I've sort of ignored explanations and just gave the characters chunks of abilities and/or progress at logical points and time skips. But it kinda feels like cheating to describe magic flying around and having characters respond to spells with other spells in specific ways that would all make sense if I could somehow explain why.

Sanderson's First Law of magic and all that.

The reader only needs to know as much as the average citizen of the fantasy world. Which means, if your magic system is really so complicated, you don't have to explain it.
I can hardly imagine a magic system that seems so illogical people wouldn't accept it without explanation. After all, it is magic. If your magic system looks like you're cheating because, for example, your characters always gain the abilities they need at exactly the point of time they need them, then you shouldn't look for explanations, but make it harder for your characters.

jseah
2012-08-29, 10:37 AM
Well, it feels like cheating because the characters progress to new spells whenever, but the new abilities are a result of progress in ones they already have.

It's explaining the links that takes too long. How do you explain that some random fire blast shares the same movement component as a magical clock? And the system allows spells to carry out logical operations, which (can) result in strangely "intelligent" effects that nevertheless follow their built-in rules and have exploitable loopholes.

Themrys
2012-08-29, 12:30 PM
It's explaining the links that takes too long. How do you explain that some random fire blast shares the same movement component as a magical clock?

Show the movement?

Or you just have your characters say things like "Now that I have mastered the difficult magical clock, I will be finally able to kill things with fire" and have the nonmagical characters wonder why, then add something like "She tried to explain it, but it was too complicated."

Just don't have them use the fire blast just when they need it without ever mentioning they can do that/ will soon be able to do that before.

Regarding "intelligent" effects...it's magic. People almost expect that. If you don't want people to think your magic is an intelligent being, just add a footnote stating that, while it might look as if, it is not. We live in a world with computers that are, allegedly, not intelligent, too.

Also, you can add all the explanations you want at the end of the novel, where people who want to know can read them.

Themrys
2012-08-29, 12:42 PM
It's explaining the links that takes too long. How do you explain that some random fire blast shares the same movement component as a magical clock?

Show the movement?

Or you just have your characters say things like "Now that I have mastered the difficult magical clock, I will be finally able to kill things with fire" and have the nonmagical characters wonder why, then add something like "She tried to explain it, but it was too complicated."

Just don't have them use the fire blast just when they need it without ever mentioning they can do that/ will soon be able to do that before.

Regarding "intelligent" effects...it's magic. People almost expect that. If you don't want people to think your magic is an intelligent being, just add a footnote stating that, while it might look as if, it is not. We live in a world with computers that are, allegedly, not intelligent, too.

Also, you can add all the explanations you want at the end of the novel, where people who want to know can read them.

Talanic
2012-08-31, 02:12 PM
Okay. Here's my pitfall.

I've finished my first book. A couple months' writing, a few years' editing. As of this week, it's up on Amazon. For today, it's free to anyone who wants it.

Soo...so what?

I hesitate to create a thread to mention it because I'm halfway sure that it'd count as advertising and I'd get banned from the Playground forums. Honestly I spent the last half hour reading the rules and trying to write a post that I was sure wouldn't bring down the Wrath of Mod.

And yet, of course I want to talk about the stuff I wrote.

I guess my problem is that I'm either really bold or really timid, and usually wind up mixing up when to be which.

oblivion6
2012-08-31, 02:39 PM
whats the book called? im not one to pass up a free book.:smallwink:


Okay. Here's my pitfall.

I've finished my first book. A couple months' writing, a few years' editing. As of this week, it's up on Amazon. For today, it's free to anyone who wants it.

Soo...so what?

I hesitate to create a thread to mention it because I'm halfway sure that it'd count as advertising and I'd get banned from the Playground forums. Honestly I spent the last half hour reading the rules and trying to write a post that I was sure wouldn't bring down the Wrath of Mod.

And yet, of course I want to talk about the stuff I wrote.

I guess my problem is that I'm either really bold or really timid, and usually wind up mixing up when to be which.

Talanic
2012-08-31, 02:45 PM
Chains of Loss. Hero's Chains saga, volume one.

There's actually a link in my signature.

oblivion6
2012-08-31, 02:49 PM
Chains of Loss. Hero's Chains saga, volume one.

There's actually a link in my signature.

just downloaded it onto my kindle. sounds interesting. how long has it been out? theres already a steller review in the kindle store.

Talanic
2012-08-31, 03:23 PM
It's been out about three days. And while the review is heartening, I have to keep this recent XKCD comic in mind:

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/star_ratings.png

Lord Raziere
2012-08-31, 03:33 PM
Bah. one webcomic's joke that explains the writers view on online rating systems, isn't a good way to base any of your judgements upon them. I mean…generalization much? Its true that you need more reviews, but gods above, think for yourself, just because one comic says something, doesn't mean its true…. :smallannoyed:

Talanic
2012-08-31, 03:43 PM
Bah. one webcomic's joke that explains the writers view on online rating systems, isn't a good way to base any of your judgements upon them. I mean…generalization much? Its true that you need more reviews, but gods above, think for yourself, just because one comic says something, doesn't mean its true…. :smallannoyed:

...it was a joke, man. Also, the one review up there is, upon review and consideration, apparently from my own sister. Not mom, which is kind of surprising. But, still.

Xondoure
2012-08-31, 03:55 PM
This is the book you were releasing by chapter yes?

Talanic
2012-08-31, 04:03 PM
Yep. I had to take it down because of Amazon's 90-day exclusivity deal. They might not have made me, actually, but I didn't want it to be an issue and that was an old draft anyway.