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Author Topic: How realistic do you want your fantasy?  (Read 6357 times)

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2016, 12:44:22 PM »
Bumblebees? Dragons? Oh my!
As far as the story goes, I want it to be realistic. I love knowing how the magic system works. Of course there has to be some mystery to it, but explanations are cool. And I hate it when events take place because they have to. Main character can't die, so I'm going to come up with a cheap way to get him out of this situation. No, he's dead. If you don't want him dead, put him in a different situation where he has a better chance of survival.
I like things  to be revealed as the story goes along. If an author dumped everything in my lap at the beginning, or spent the first half of the book world building and only included pieces of the main conflict, I get bored and put the book down.

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2016, 12:46:18 PM »
Can't help but notice that the question in the title and the question in your post seem to be pretty different things. Ah well, I'll answer both.

For the title question, I'll be honest, unless the writer's doing something really galling and stupid, I could utterly care less about realism in fantasy. Especially since, nowadays, a lot of people seem to automatically assume 'realism' makes something better (same goes for 'adult', 'dark' and 'serious'). It doesn't. It, like everything else in writing, is a tool that can add or subtract from the quality of a work depending on how you use it. Personally, I'd like to see more works that are less afraid to throw 'realism' to the curb and fully embrace the insane fantastical elements of their world.

As for the question in your post, I prefer to learn things about the world as they become relevant. If you throw everything at us at once, unless it's very well handled, chances are I'm going to end up skimming over important bits. It's better to break stuff up and feed it to us when we need to know it.

Especially when they go overboard and make things less realistic than they intended to.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2016, 12:56:23 PM »
I prefer the exact rules of supernatural phenomenons being outside the knowledge and understanding of normal people. Otherwise it's just fictional physics. Magic being real and magic actually working is good, but it's only magical if there are considerable amounts of uncertainty involved.

Especially when people that can wield magic or supernatural power are trying to explain something abstract to a person who has no real comprehension. If you were to describe a universal phenomenon related to physics to the average person you wouldn't start talking about formulas, you'd try and explain it in simple terms.

You can give plenty of detail without cracking open the official theory of magic encyclopedia, volumes 1-100.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline Yora

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2016, 12:58:08 PM »
That's more a matter of presentation. I strongly prefer it when even the expects in the field can't break magic down to numbers.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Online Rostum

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2016, 11:20:39 PM »
Quote
I strongly prefer it when even the expects in the field can't break magic down to numbers.

but everything is numbers

Offline magisensei

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2016, 11:53:20 PM »
What do you mean by realism in fantasy? Do you mean that the laws of physics and thermodynamics etc should all work the same? For example, can't cast a lightning spell - since you'd really just electrocute yourself and lets not say anything about making a fireball, summoning demons/gods, teleporting or for that matter flying. 

There is already a degree of realism in fantasy - the motives behind characters - are all relatable otherwise we (the readers) wouldn't be able to really enjoy and empathize with the characters.  Or do you want realism in terms like the bad guys winning and interesting characters losing or even dying - as we see in games of thrones -  good writing does this already - so there is already a degree of realism.  Or do you mean a bit darker realism like in grim fantasy - where heroism is not that heroic? Or do you mean realism as in the writer and characters showing the struggles of a quest - like dealing with weather and finding food?

For me, there should be a balance of realism - magic cannot solve everything although like technology it should be useful to some extent (otherwise whats the point in making a magical world) - there should be struggles and hardship - pain and disasters and some hope all mixed in - in order to make the story that much more interesting and engaging. 

As for your second question - it depends on context - I really don't need paragraph long explanations "Blah blah blah" about why this creature is this way or why that works or doesn't work -- unless the information is critical to the story most long winded explanations (for example - there was one series that went on and on about faeries and why and how they acted) is for me at least not needed. 


Offline Eclipse

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Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2016, 07:49:57 AM »
Yes I meant fireball and lightning spells originally but I'm also interested in the other thoughts you brought up and what the other posters have brought up as well, thank you for explaining it better then me.

If you reading about a wizard in a fantasy setting do we really need to know how he cast fireballs shouldn't you just go with the flow as it isn't historical fiction it's fantasy or do we need the magic explained.we don't seem to question dragons flying, immortals,magic swords from ancient times,talking animals the reader just believes mostly.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2016, 08:25:00 AM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

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Offline ArhiX

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2016, 08:50:33 AM »
There must be some kind of mystery - at least at the beginning. What's the point of the story, if there is no mystery at all, and everything is given...

And to the point of realism and stuff... I'm kind of a person, who was creating one race for few months, only tu justify their ability of flight. And I hate dragons. Especially those fat, armored, ultra fast, fire breathing, bat winged, flying kind of dragons. They brake too many laws of aerodynamics (and many other) and explaining something as 'they fly because magic' is... neeeeh.

Bumble bees shouldn't be able to fly I've heard , there must have magical wings.

Small things acts different, than large ones. You can make a small, paper plane, and it will fly really well. Try to make it too big, and the paper will start to crush and fold, under it's own weight. Just like with volume/area law.
"The world is full of stories, and from time to time, they permit themselves to be told."

Offline magisensei

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2016, 04:24:17 PM »
Yes I meant fireball and lightning spells originally but I'm also interested in the other thoughts you brought up and what the other posters have brought up as well, thank you for explaining it better then me.

If you reading about a wizard in a fantasy setting do we really need to know how he cast fireballs shouldn't you just go with the flow as it isn't historical fiction it's fantasy or do we need the magic explained.we don't seem to question dragons flying, immortals,magic swords from ancient times,talking animals the reader just believes mostly.

As a reader do I need to know the mechanics behind lets say a fireball.  No, not really - I am more concerned with the difficulty of learning the spell and the amount of studying one has to do in order to become a wizard.  If the story does not need an explanation then writing about the physics/metaphysics behind it might put a lot of readers to sleep.  That is not to say some understanding is not helpful or interesting as in the case of the Mistborn world where Sanderson explains his magical system or for that matter in Hogwarts with Harry Potter - what was more interesting the hows of magic or the struggle of the students attempting to control flying the first time -- really the physics of a flying broom is nuts.

I think that for readers and authors as long as magic/metaphysics are governed in some way that makes sense then readers will except it.  For example, why isn't everyone a wizard - since you can do so much - like fly and teleport - build castles - and get rich and powerful -- as long as the author explains it in such a way that it makes sense as to why everyone is not a wizard/warrior/thief or cleric (or whatever class character) then understanding the metaphysics behind why a fireball really should not work is less important then the apprentice wizard struggling to figure out how to combine "bat guano" with other ingredients to make a fireball. 

Compare it to science fiction for a moment - do we need to really know how space ships travel faster than light or have unlimited energy (as force shields are really an impossibility without limitless energy).  Explanations are easily given through super science without readers really asking most of the time - can anti-matter really exist  - although science fiction does add a bit more of the techno-babble to its story when it explains things - really "dilithium cyrtals" to power the Enterprise.  How much realism is needed - sometimes less is better - there was one book that explained how Jedi's got their powers - and it was horribly done - sometimes less is better as it took away from the uniqueness and mysticism of the Jedi.  Although there was one chapter I recall that explained the building of lightsaber - that was somewhat interesting and explained the rarity of the crystals used to build it - explaining why lightsabers weren't used by the common soldier - as its really an incredible weapon even if you are only using it to cut down doors - much more effective than a blaster. 

I think saying magic exist in this world is usually enough to explain why dragons fly (magic as part of nature ie natural to the world; or a byproduct of a magical god) is enough for readers - the minute details of spell casting might also be interesting - "why can't I cast this bleeping fireball" - is more interesting than the metaphysics as to why it happens - assuming anyone would be interested - although it might make an interesting appendix into the metaphysics of a magical world as to why 'bat poop' is needed to make a fireball - here is a simple metaphysical explaining of how a fireball might work:

..... hmmm... lets see poop contains methane when it breaks down so using another ingredient (lets say a bit of mold as a metaphysical metaphor for bacteria) it makes the guano break down faster (concentrated breakdown instead of natural) and this concentrated breaking down of guano causes a large amount of methane to be released all at once (explaining why a fireball causes such a huge explosion) - which is then controlled by another ingredient (lets say a ring to hold the gas in place) then using the bird feather to push the methane outwards (ie throw the potential fireball) - then using static electricity from a rod and wool being rubbed together it ignites the methane which causes the methane to explode....  and you get a fireball... wow

I recall reading a book where a writer explained the physics of superpowers (eg superman or spiderman) and it was an interesting read - but it really was just a book about superpower physics and how it worked - interesting and fun to read to some degree but you couldn't really put an entire metaphysical explanation in your own novel - wouldn't be really practical.   

Back to realism in fantasy - how much the author puts in and how much the reader need I think depends on the structure of the story.  Too much realism I think takes away from the story - do I really need to know the nuts and bolts of a journey - no not really (not unless it adds to the story - eg more "military" fantasy might get into it a bit more explaining how much mules an army needs to travel in order to feed the soldiers as its not practical for soldiers to really forge every night) - but as a reader I would like some realism - for example for a newbie adventurer what he/she thinks of sleeping outside with trolls and whatever roaming the darkness - eating cold food - or even lighting a fire that first time (if they forgot to bring flint or doesn't have a firespell handy) - I think these things would add to the atmosphere of the story.  I think of magic sort of like tech - it's useful - nothing like a handy fire spell on a cold night or a ward (to protect from the things that bump in the night) but really wards are just a glorified alarm system or trap but magic should not make a journey too easy - otherwise why would the quest journey be such fun to read. I think we read in part to see the character sort of stumble and suffer and grow and overcome obstacles on their journey as much as we read for the adventure of the story. 

Do I need to know all the grittiness of a battle or looting - no - but some of it might be interesting especially if it adds to character growth or to the story ( you can imagine a story where a main character seeks revenge for a past sacking of a city where his/her family dies or is injured in some way and are seeking vengeance against a kingdom/emperor etc - and the journey they have to go on to achieve this.)
« Last Edit: February 25, 2016, 04:56:15 PM by magisensei »

Offline Eclipse

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Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #24 on: February 25, 2016, 04:49:44 PM »
That was an awesome post magisensi to read thank you.
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #25 on: February 25, 2016, 05:23:19 PM »
For me the moral/ethical implications of using magic is as interesting as the magic itself. If it can be weaponized then you have differing viewpoints on when it should be used, or if it ever should be used, kind of like the atom bomb.

The potential destructive power of magic is one of the main reasons why I'm not going to create any ultra-powerful sorcerer's that can cast spells that could the planet into space dust. The reason for this is that you end up creating one of two types of characters. Either a villain who has the world at his/her mercy and any kind of martial attempt to defeat the sorcerer would be futile; or you have the benevolent wizard who never uses it for evil and basically has a way to thwart any would be bad guys. It just reduces the number of ways you can work with the plot.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2016, 07:30:57 PM »
For me the moral/ethical implications of using magic is as interesting as the magic itself. If it can be weaponized then you have differing viewpoints on when it should be used, or if it ever should be used, kind of like the atom bomb.

The potential destructive power of magic is one of the main reasons why I'm not going to create any ultra-powerful sorcerer's that can cast spells that could the planet into space dust. The reason for this is that you end up creating one of two types of characters. Either a villain who has the world at his/her mercy and any kind of martial attempt to defeat the sorcerer would be futile; or you have the benevolent wizard who never uses it for evil and basically has a way to thwart any would be bad guys. It just reduces the number of ways you can work with the plot.
If you want to see a third option, take a look at Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. Really good books, and in them the magic is incredibly powerful, but it works perfectly. It's used both as a way to gain an economic advantage and as a military deterrent similar to nuclear weapons.  ;)
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline Yora

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2016, 08:13:11 PM »
One aspect of realness is a fantasy world that I appreciate very much is that when you have a protagonist step out of a door, there is an actual comunity of people with a diverse culture going on with their daily lives. Societies that exist even when no protagonist is there to see them. And not just a mass of peasants who get up in the morning, work the day in the fields, have a beer in the tavern in the evening, and go to sleep.
What I often see is writers describing in words a snapshot of a street scene with merchants selling their wares and children playing with a dog on the floor. And that never works for me. What I mean is that the protagonist is interacting with people in ways that let you see the different relationships between the social classes, the role of public buildings, religious observances, superstitions and prejudices, and the observance of cultural customs regarding dress, greetings, or interactions with animals. All too often you have a character take a bath by having a tub brought to their room in the inn and servants bringing buckets with warm water. Why not instead have the character go to a bath house and show us how people in this society behave in a situation where it's culturally accepted to share a room with lots of nude strangers? When a character enters a temple, spare half a sentence to mention that the character washes his hands or takes off his shoes. Or maybe just removes his hat. These are things that are not relevant to the story and the characters themselves might just as well not even realize that they did it. (I always take of my hat when talking to a receptionist or buying a train ticket, but not when I am paying in a supermarket or buying in a bakery. I do it automatically without thinking about it, based on a logic I can't explain and don't understand myself.)
It's completely irrelevant to the plot, but goes a long way in creating a sense of realness. The Desert of Souls does it a lot and I it's great.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline magisensei

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2016, 08:54:51 PM »
What I mean is that the protagonist is interacting with people in ways that let you see the different relationships between the social classes, the role of public buildings, religious observances, superstitions and prejudices, and the observance of cultural customs regarding dress, greetings, or interactions with animals. All too often you have a character take a bath by having a tub brought to their room in the inn and servants bringing buckets with warm water. Why not instead have the character go to a bath house and show us how people in this society behave in a situation where it's culturally accepted to share a room with lots of nude strangers? When a character enters a temple, spare half a sentence to mention that the character washes his hands or takes off his shoes. Or maybe just removes his hat. These are things that are not relevant to the story and the characters themselves might just as well not even realize that they did it. (I always take of my hat when talking to a receptionist or buying a train ticket, but not when I am paying in a supermarket or buying in a bakery. I do it automatically without thinking about it, based on a logic I can't explain and don't understand myself.)
It's completely irrelevant to the plot, but goes a long way in creating a sense of realness. The Desert of Souls does it a lot and I it's great.

I like the idea of interaction between the main character and the city and/or community that they happen to be visiting in order to really experience the world that the author is creating.  You can get a real sense of the world that the author is attempting to create rather than just a place for the main character to rest and find the next clue in their journey.  It would be interesting to see the different social and cultural context of the world and community and diversity of small things like eating instruments, greetings and taking off of hats in doors - it would add to the world building and flesh it out with these tiny details -- imagine a character not realizing that taking off their hat was a social no-no or that  burping was considered a polite way of saying that the meal was delicious and then offered an apology for burping.  The question of how much of the small things you wanted to add to your world - yes it would flesh it out and make it much more interesting - but it might also bog down your story with minor details as the character moved from community to community if the story had the character traveling in a large area. 

One comment you made about baths - nice idea but a lot depends on the cultural world that the author is re-creating to some degree.  Has the author taken inspiration for their world from lets says ancient Rome, Japan, China or Turkey where bath houses were common and therefore going to one and sharing it would be a part of the story.  If the story was less Roman or Persian and more Medieval Western European where communal bath houses didn't really exist (and even bathing almost didn't happen) at all then having one in the story might be odd - unless the character happen to be going to that part of the world -- i.e. a person from a non-Roman community going to a Roman community (of the same time period) where bath houses existed - this would make it interesting and insightful - can you imagine a character who has never bathed communally suddenly going to an inn and asking for a bath only to be redirected to a bath house where everyone bathed together. 

Offline shadowkat678

Re: How realistic do you want your fantasy?
« Reply #29 on: March 25, 2016, 11:11:02 PM »
Oh, now I can get going! Hope you can understand this jumble I'm about to spew. I can't promise organization here, but maybe it'll make some sense. Maybe not. Who knows? If not, I apologize. Will likely go back and edit at some point. ;D

Now, you don't include all the world building in your story, of course. You certainly don't info dump it, or provide the unnecessary. What you do put should be spread out naturally and not crammed in just to put it out there.

 That said, I do like making it as realistic as possible, and often go into a whole lot of detail. Even if no one else knows, I think I should, because it just makes me understand what I'm creating on a deeper level. Yes, I have walking cats and lizards, a bunch of fantasy creatures, etc, but still. If we have a marsh, I better not be seeing an oak tree or sunflowers over there. If there are creatures, they should be ones that have adapted to the environment. You don't have to tell the reader they adapted to it, or how, but you wouldn't see an elephant there. It would sink in the bog. In a place where there's few food sources, you don't need giant creatures who can't sustain themselves, unless you make it where they gather nutrients by photosynthesis, because they have plants growing on their back as some kind of symbiotic relationship.

And if your city is in the middle of a desert, there better be an oasis or have water imported somehow, savvy? People miss that so much. I don't know how, but it's missed far too often for my taste.

I don't want it to be like our world, but you better give me the impression you care enough about what you're building to make it seem real to me. I want to be immersed, and if I see something that makes no sense in relation to everything else you have, even in fantasy, I'm taken out of it. Even Wonderland deems to follow it's own crazy rules.

My main character is a wood elf, and I've done a lot of research into what I want Wood Elf culture to be like, because even though she was a child when she had to leave and integrated into another society, it still has an impact on her. I know they were hunters, so they adapted to be shorter than the high elves and snow elves, and about the size of the dark elves, but slightly larger than the deep elves. They don't have the frailty of the high elves, who resort more to magic, but are muscular and lean, perfect for the necessary running, climbing, and agility of living in their wild home. I know they work together to hunt and are extremely close nit. I looked up nomadic cultures, and took the idea from one where all the children of one generation are siblings, not as if they're born from the same parents, but consider themselves brothers and sisters. All the parents are mother and father. So on and so on. They learn to shoot as soon as they can hold a bow, and use every part of the animals they kill.

In case you can't tell, I've done a lot of research for this, and I've done it for all my other races (those so far planned). It bugs me how you could have humans who've adapted to their environments, such as how our ancestor's skin became darker the closer you are to the equator, but elves are all the same except dark, high, and wood. Even then, they share a whole lot of the same characteristics. If there are elves that live in a snowy, mountainous region, they'll be paler and not as skinny, because they need to stay warmer and take in sunlight. And why do they all speak the same if they've been divided by geological barriers? They would develop their own customs, religions, mythology, edicit, etc. A good thing to do is look at existing cultures in our world. There's a reason people who live in the desert ware such covering clothes, despite it being so hot. Without them, sand would sting their skin and they'd be burned with all the time spent outside. Tribal people often are more lenient on sexual activity, because they don't have the birth rate more of us do. Lots of biology to that.

I know there's one scene where my main character is at a setting where all the landscaping has been done purposely, to enhance the looks. While one character might call it beautiful, all she could think about was how artificial it was. She grew up in a place where everything from the inhabitants, to the animals, to the plants were wild. Then she lived where things were never constant, rules subject to change, life unpredictable, but thrilling. All this orderliness and seemed like a lie, a facade made to flaunt superiority and status. She hated it. She loathed it. It had so much to do with the cultures she grew up in, and so it was important to know for me.

There's so much to consider about how it all works together.

And magic. Magic, magic, magic. Without rules to it, what's keeping it from solving every problem the world has? In my world, they have healing potions, but the ingredients and cost keep them from handing them out to the sick. Same with the spells. They use up energy, take time to learn, and there aren't enough wizards to go around, because it takes years of training to become proficient. Greed also. There's always greed. Another thing about magic I've had to think about is if there's magicians in armies, how would castles shield themselves? What kind of defensive magic and wards would be used to counter? Are people born with a higher aptitude for magic, or do they all train starting more or less at the same level? How long does it take to learn a single spell considering those variables? Would the elves be more superior in this, because they can live a max of 1,000 years (At least for High Elves. There are other factors, of course. The Wood Elves aren't the only hunters in their home, for example.), and have much more time to become well rounded in all their abilities? Or would this make them less appreciative, and they'd slack off and do things at a slower rate?

And the character emotions. Too often I see anger treated the same way, sadness, happiness.

Do they feel cold anger, or hot anger? Do they have a calm rage that scares the bejesus out of you, with those frigid eyes and soft smile, the head tilt and suddenly more fluid movement, or do they explode? Do they take jabs with words or fists? Do they do neither, and stand in silence with a defiant stare, hands clenched? How does background impact this? Current person they deal with? It certainly wouldn't be the same reaction to everyone, or everything, that bugs them. There are different levels they'll feel, and triggers.

And character, they have to be even more logical than anything else in fantasy. How they act more than what they look like, of course. They have to grow and learn and evolve realistically. If not and they're a static character, at least be three dimensional. For example, Hagrid from Harry Potter is static, but he also feels real do to his habits, speech, backstory, actions, etc.

I want things to be real, because it makes it that much easier to connect, to feel as if you could be there yourself, understand how things are woven together. Everything affects everything else. The type of plants in the correct area will affect if you're character can get that counter ingredient they learned of before their friend dies of poison. It will affect how others will react. My wood elves can't leave anything behind of their kills, and this includes enemies. Yep, that means cannibalism, but it's not as if they hunt Elves and humans and such. But if they make a kill, it's in their laws they can't let it go to waste, or that would be disrespectful to the life given. However, that would spread many stories, racism against them. They'd be seen as savage, barbaric. Everything leads to everything else, and I find it beyond important to make sure things connect.

Food is something I see messed up a bit. You wouldn't find fish where there is no water, and certainly not that kind. Those of a poorer class couldn't afford much meat, and relied on a lot of veggies, or really whatever they could find. Would some of the food be considered unclean by a society?

Ugh, there's just so much there. And yeah, I can't not think about it. An arrow won't instantly kill you. This weapon is slashing, and not meant for stabbing. One handed swords only weighed 1 to 4 pounds. The two handers rarely exceeded ten. The heavier swords were ceremonial, and unless it's enchanted for balance and able to keep hitting without getting nicks you'll have to repair, decoration will severely mess with how a sword feels in your hands, and how effective it is to wield. rapier is stabbing, scimitar slashing, you can in fact use a bow at closer range (if nothing else, stab their eye out with an arrow if that's all you have on hand. Though that shouldn't be all that's on hand), and it's very smart to have more than one weapon if your character often gets into fights. Also, dude, use your environment! Feel free to bash someone's head in with a rock or tree branch! Throw dirt in their eye! Lead them into a slippery mud patch!

Details matter so, so, so much for me, because otherwise I just sit there shaking my head at how badly that thing they did would actually turn out. A slender high elf would not wield a giant battle axe. Magic, swords, bows, daggers, spears yes. But a slender character would likely be better relying on speed with how they're built.

So, so, so much goes into the dynamics of a world and everything in it. I'm obsessive about it. Greatly so. I hope this is readable, considering how carried away I was. I type pretty fast when I'm excited about a subject I'm replying to.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2016, 04:14:16 AM by shadowkat678 »
Be not a writer, but a Storyweaver. For that, my friend, is how you'll truly leave your mark.