Category Archives: Fantasy

Killing Your (fictional) Babies.

Unknown

We’ve all heard the advice to kill your babies. And, it’s exactly what writers should do. This has not been the case, especially in the world of fantasy. The usual fantasy has an unlikely hero that will always pull through in the end (this is also seen in superhero movies/comics, and while they are slightly different, the same notion can be applied to them). Things are beginning to change (and this is a good thing!). The best example of this sweeping change comes from the leader of the new movement dedicated to killing off their babies, George R.R. Martin. *NOTE* SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE TV SHOW AND BOOOKS. Once again, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!

images-1

Not too long ago, you may have noticed a slew of reaction videos on youtube thanks to the Red Wedding. While I won’t go into great detail about it, I am going to talk about why an event that kills of numerous loved characters is the best thing to happen to the fantasy genre. Confused? Then keeping reading.

As I mentioned above, the usual fantasy trope has the main hero, the guy you cheer for, the one who, in the end, will find a way to win. You can see this from Frodo in the Lord of the Rings to something more modern like the Terry Brook’s Shannara books (modern and old at the same time considering how many there are) to someone like Terry Goodkind (a run of Terry’s) and his long running Sword of Truth series. All of these examples have the main hero, who of course gets in dangerous situations, but will always make it in the end (you are probably rattling off exceptions to this rule here, but do remember, an exception cannot make a rule). Why is this bad though? People buy the books, they like them, so what’s the harm?

There isn’t harm if you like them (and a lot of people do). I’m not coming here to say any of these books are bad, in fact, they are pretty good. With that being said, as more and more and more of these kind of books are published things tend to grow dull. As you are reading the book, you know the character will make it in the end and the only thing you are reading for is to see HOW they make it in the end (it can be argued that this is a main reason we read). That can be exciting, but imagine a book where any character, even main POV characters, can die at any second. WOAH! Now you REALLY have to pay attention to what is happening. Every page could be your favorite character’s last. Not only does this make the book more exciting, but it also makes it more real.

Let’s hop to that Red Wedding scenario and we can see why killing off some beloved characters makes the book more real and intense. At the Red Wedding (like I said SPOILERS), Robb Stark, one of the most popular characters in the book after his father was killed, is brutally murdered along with his mother and troops at what is supposed to be a celebration (there is a lot that goes into this, but writing out the details would take some time). No one, except maybe a handful, expected that to happen. After all, Robb was one of their favorite characters. He was supposed to make everything right again. In the normal fantasy trope, he WOULD make everything right again. But, is that closer to reality? Does it give us suspense? No to both. In the real world, people who are loved make mistakes and die. ANYONE can die at ANY time. Most fantasy strips this from their books and only gives the illusion that anyone can die at any time.

Adding this gritty realness to fantasy books opens up the genre. For the good old fashioned books, now the reader can’t be sure what will happen. And for the books like Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, there will still be the roller coaster ride we have come to expect. In both cases, the fantasy genre comes out ahead. Everything has gained a reality the genre was missing, adding in suspension and pulling the reader into the world (because in our world, ANYONE can die. When that happens in the book you are reading, you feel a deeper connection with the people there. Empathy is a strong emotion).

In the end, killing your babies is the best advice that any writer can take up. It was lost for a while in the fantasy genre, but lately we have seen a resurgence of it. Because of this, fantasy in general has gained a new intensity and realness it had lost before. So, cheers to killing off your (fictional) babies, it makes the books that much better.

images

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Fantasy

Powers in Fantasy

Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about magical powers in Fantasy and the different strength levels magic can have. So, let’s begin!

One of the things I think about when writing a fantasy that has magic (and this could also be applied to non magic, for example how good a marksman someone is, how well they perform on tests, how strong a fighter they are, etc), is the power levels of the magic. Why? There is a big problem when you give a character too many powers. At first you are probably saying, “Well wait, that’s kinda cool! My character should have this and this and this and this…” Pretty soon your character can do everything. Then we have a big problem: there is no conflict. For there to be conflict, we need to believe your character can be beaten, but if they are too strong, how can this happen? Let’s look at an example of a cool superhero who I believe is insanely difficult to write about: Superman.

Unknown

Superman is a fun character. He has a body of steel that can’t be broken (except if a rare piece of kryptonite hits it), can fly, has x-ray vision, has super run speed, has laser eyes, can spin the world around and turn back time…now do you see the problem? Superman has almost EVERY POWER YOU CAN THINK OF. Superman has basically become this:

Unknown-1

And how do you go around beating that? Honestly, you don’t. Now, you have little to no conflict. If Superman can’t be beat, why pay attention to his story? If we know he is so strong he will always win, then I’ll just go take a nap and and you can wake me when the movie is over. At this point, Superman has been written into a corner. Kryptonite had to be thrown in to give something, ANYTHING, that can make Superman vulnerable, and frankly, that is poor power level development.

There is still hope for Superman. Hints from the new movie (Man of Steel) show other people from Superman’s home world coming to Earth. Ahhhh, now we have someone that can legitimately beat him (let’s hope it stays that way in the movie).

As you can see from the example, a character that starts off too strong makes for a boring character (not to mention one extremely difficult to write about). For a character to be interesting, you need to start them off with some power, but not all of it. That power can develop over time, but there always needs to be a threat that can defeat your character. Next time we tackle this subject, we’ll look at the other end of the spectrum: villains that are too strong.

3 Comments

Filed under Fantasy

Making a World

Today, I thought it would be fun to peek inside my head (ok, maybe not) and see how I handle some of the fantasy processes. It’s time to make a world!

images

I talked before about how everyone makes their own fantasy worlds (whether it is just in thinking about a job they don’t have or one with dragons and unicorns), but making those worlds come to life is a whole different subject. Everything I do starts with one idea or image. For this discussion, let’s say I had the idea that elves existed and were so good at infusing magic into technology, they slowly became the rulers of the world (so think same world we are in, but what if there had always been elves that, etc, etc). Well good, so now I have a world. But what are these elves like? What kind of magic do they do? What are the limits of the magic? Is some of it more powerful than others? How did they get this magic? What about the humans? And the questions go on and on. If I were to jump into writing the story right after I came up with the idea, it would be weak and confusing. Instead, I let the idea germinate. The answers come, but more importantly, scenes that show the answers come. Month by month, even year by year, the world fleshes out and changes and takes a life of its own. I let it settle some more. I make sure I’m not really excited about the idea anymore. Then I can write. By that time, the world has developed and grown so much, all the answers about what kind of laws and limits this or that has are all answered.

It may seem like an odd process, if you have an idea, shouldn’t you just start writing? I’m sure others do and it works out well for them. Not for me. I believe if I really want to write about that new world, I need to have lived in it for a while (you can’t write about visiting France without, you know, actually going there, right?). I don’t know if it cuts down on editing or turns out to be better than any other process. And I don’t care. That time spent in that world, thinking about what could happen, watching scenes unfold, is the most fun I could possible have.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fantasy

Game of Thrones

I’m taking a break from talking about myself and the random things I decide to post in order to discuss one of my favorite shows (and book series), Game of Thrones.

Unknown

Now if you don’t know about the show or books (and if you do, this song will already be playing in your head), listen to this song while reading the rest of this short post. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7L2PVdrb_8 I think many, if not most people, can agree The Song of Ice and Fire series (just game of thrones if you stick to tv) is a masterpiece. There are well developed characters and more plot twists than you can imagine…or be prepared for. In a genre that was starting to become bland and predictable, Martin took it up a notch. It is a great thing for fantasy loves, and for non-fantasy people as well. Anytime there is great writing or tv, it helps improve the quality of everything else. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the new history channel shows, The Bible and Vikings. While Vikings is heavily taking from Game of Thrones, the Bible takes some of its stylistic elements as well. And in the end, that helped improve both of those shows. The same can be said of writing. Fantasy writers now have to steer away from the generic plot that has been used since Tolkien. It has made for some fantastic books with deeper plots and richer characters.

I really don’t know what else to say about Game of Thrones besides: read it, watch it, love it. Once you do, you’ll see some great fantasy and will instantly be drawn into the genre. If you are already a fan like me, then tomorrow is season 3! Let’s get ready for some good fantasy!!

2 Comments

Filed under Fantasy

Talking about Fantasy

Despite the name of this blog, it seems I have never once talked about fantasy. I thought that was due for a change, after all, I write fantasy, the blog says I live in other worlds, so…yeah…here we go!

Unknown

I think fantasy is fun (obviously) and I will go out on a limb and say every single in this person in this world has created a fantasy world. Ever thought about being able to freeze time? You have a fantasy world. Ever thought about getting that great job? While possibly a future reality, if you don’t have it, then that is still a world of fantasy. What do I mean? Let’s look at the job example. By thinking of yourself in that awesome job, thinking of what would happen, thinking of the house you don’t have but would get, thinking of all the great stuff that would happen, you have created a fantasy world (i.e. one that currently does not exist). Ah but wait, there’s no dragons!!!

Unknown-1

Well add some in…or don’t, it really doesn’t matter. Fantasy is a closer to all of us then some would like to think. But, that’s fine, in fact, it’s needed. The world is brutal. We all need something to keep us going, and imagining a different world, whether it is one full of dragons and magic or simply one with a better job, helps us get through the tough times. So enjoy those worlds, whether they are your creation or not. And if you are wondering how they are created, then you have a good question! We’ll be taking a look at that in the future and see what I do when I create a new fantasy world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fantasy