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Fight Scenes... OK... so three questions:

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?
2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?
3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

January 27, 2011, 04:41:47 AM
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Re: Finished - thoughts Finished the book this week and posted my thoughts on my blog at richardmbray.wordpress.com:

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been as thoroughly disappointed by a book as I was by TOME OF THE UNDERGATES.

Part of this was because of my expectations. The good people at Fantasy-Faction.com gave Sykes’ Aegons’ Gate series glowing recommendations, describing the book as a cross between Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch. Lynch’s ‘Gentlemen Bastards’ series has a chance to become one of my favorite fantasy series of all-time, so that’s pretty high praise. ‘Gentlemen Bastards’ is the funniest fantasy series I’ve ever read, and the first book in the series is simply tremendous with a plot twist that still knocks me on my ass more than a year after I read the book. Abercrombie’s ‘First Law’ series is just a notch below ‘Gentlemen Bastards’ in my eyes, with painstaking character development mixed in with all the action so that the books — and the series itself — become a character study of the protagonists. It’s really unlike anything else I’ve read in fantasy.

So when the forum members at Fantasy-Faction.com, who to the best of my knowledge have no reason to lie to me, tell me it’s a cross between these two fantastic authors, it was enough to convince me to go ahead and order the first two books in the series.

Now, in ordering these books one of the first things that stood out to me was that in every blurb I saw reviewing or previewing the book, Sam Sykes wasn’t merely referred to as Sam Sykes, he became “25-year-old Sam Sykes,” so we were all aware that he was a young phenom with a long future in the publishing industry. But after reading the first 400 pages, I had no reason to believe that this book was actually written by a 25-year-old. Maybe a 14-year-old. Maybe.

Through the first 400 pages, the plot goes like this — our five antihero companions are all on a boat that gets attacked by pirates and a sea monster. These five companions, who all come from different races and backgrounds, hate each other, and they bicker constantly. They don’t trade witty insults like the characters from Scott Lynch’s novels, and they aren’t charming antiheros like Nicomo Cosca from Joe Abercrombie’s books. They just bicker like 12-year-olds, with most of the insults centered around racist comments and criticisms of one another’s intelligence, courage and personal hygiene. And it goes on and on. The plot continues so that the sea demon steals the Tome of the Undergates and the priest onboard hires them to get it back. So the five antiheros go to the island where the sea creature is hiding, find a whole army of demons hiding in the caves on the island, and decide to sneak into the caves to try to get it back.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, ‘But that doesn’t sound like 500 pages’ worth of plot.’ Well, that’s because it’s not. The rest of the book is filled with the five main characters arguing amongst themselves. Occasionally Sykes makes reference to some dark past in each characters’ backstory, but mostly they just argue unimaginatively as Sykes hops from perspective to perspective within the same scene, a pet peeve of mine.

The main character, who, by the way, seems to be a Legend of Zelda rip-off (he’s a long-haired, lithe young lad named Lenk), spends most of his time either lusting after one of his companions (despite the fact that through 487 pages there is not a single tender moment between the two — they’re constantly fighting, both verbally and physically, and in the final scene between the two she climbs on top of him to stab him in his sleep, but instead they have sex) or talking to a murderous voice inside his head. He gets separated from his companions and then (I’m not making this up), gets bitten by a demon shark. As he struggles to free himself, his hand miraculously touches the satchel containing the Tome of the Undergates and he grabs it. He also grabs a sword while he’s under the water getting his leg bitten by a shark, and he kills it. For the next 50 pages or so he seems to forget that a shark was chewing on his leg as he fights more bad guys, then at the end he remembers again and everyone decides to hang out on the island for a few more days. Miraculously, despite a huge battle, none of the main characters are killed.

Strangely enough, after the bulk of the book is totally preposterous with no attention to character development whatsoever, Sykes spends the final 50 pages developing each of the characters and setting things up for what could possibly be a decent second book. To be honest, if I hadn’t already bought it (It’s called BLACK HALO), I probably would have just skipped it altogether, but I do hate to have an unread book on my shelf, so I’ll probably get around to it eventually. I’m just not holding out much hope. The first 400 pages had already burned me out.

September 28, 2011, 06:47:26 PM
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Creating a Religion This month's writing contest topic reminded me I never got around to posting this (and that I need to get back to work at worldbuilding...)

I was curious as to how you guys worldbuild the religions for your stories. Religion is obviously a highly important aspect of culture and characters within that culture - even the lack of it has implications. But when I went to look up articles and posts to help generate some ideas, I ended up not finding much that was actually helpful. A lot of posts on how to create pantheons - with the assumptions that  a) the world is polytheistic and b) that the gods are real/characters in their own right - and not a lot on how to think about creating a religion as an actual belief-system.

So! What do you guys do? How do you start? Do you think it's important to work out if the god or gods actually exist? Any books or posts to recommend to help generate thoughts and ideas, or novels that pull off a believably organic and complicated religious aspect?

June 14, 2014, 02:59:49 AM
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Re: Creating a Religion I read those articles ages back, actually! While pretty useful as a series of broad overviews (and way more balanced than a lot of other articles), they weren't quite what I was after. Hence posting this ;)

But thanks for going and finding those links anyway :)

June 15, 2014, 12:06:49 PM
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Re: Your Favourite Opening Line(s) "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."
by D.Adams ("Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy")

October 24, 2014, 01:13:41 PM
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Fantasy-Faction Writing Group Hey guys,

In the past Fantasy-Faction have run some very good writing groups. The great thing about Fantasy-Faction is that we have a really strong community and those who write do so very well :)

With the recent success of a number of authors who were part of writing groups, and openly say that being a member of the group was a big part of them getting published, I think it would be great if Fantasy-Faction could get a truly serious writing group or two going.

The aim would be to forge strong mini-communities that would see their members get serious feedback on their novels and, hopefully, lead to a number of its members getting published.

To make this worth while I think it would work best if there were 4-6 members in each group. The goal would be for each of these members to really get to know each others work.

In the past the problem we've had is that things start off really well but then fizzle out. In someways this is because we've opened groups to too many people, other times it is because we've given little incentive to carry on. What I am thinking is that to make this work there needs to be a vetting process where only very serious people are let in (people who can commit) and that there should be some incentive for people to stay involved in the group (I am not sure what that is yet).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this idea. Personally I'd love to one day see award winners mentioning Fantasy-Faction's writing groups as a place they grew as authors :)

February 10, 2015, 12:47:41 PM
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Re: Explaining technical terms The best model here is science fiction. That genre has to deal with this challenge constantly.

FWIW, I don't use a pilum when a spear will do. If the point (*ahem*) of the scene is the type of weapon being used, then I'll go ahead and be precise and work the description in however it seems to fit; otherwise, there's no more reason to describe the weapon than it is to describe what a mountain ash is just because the character happens to be standing next to one.

If, however, the thing must be described, then you can either make a point of it, inviting the reader to revel in the details (e.g, describing Stormbringer) or you can just slip details into narrative or even dialog. In the former case, though, I'd say to return to the details (again, see Stormbringer) more than once in the book. Very often this is the case with a magical weapon, where it's not only the appearance but the weapon's behavior that's relevant.

Idea for small bit of amusement. Instead of a magic sword, the character inherits a magic trebuchet.  *chortle*

Anyway, either be unobtrusive and minimalist, or wave your arms and make a production. But in all cases, only if the story needs it! This is personal taste, of course, but I have little patience for technical description for its own sake.


March 14, 2015, 04:19:15 PM
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Re: We are not using the Z-Word

However, how do you justify using the word "witches"? It comes from the old English "Wicca" the pagan religion. If the concept of Wicca isn't present in the work, the word becomes as tricky as 'zombie' no?


Witch is fine, as there was no historical 'Wicca' pagan religion (Wicca only being established last century) but instead is a generic term that refers to practitioners of a variety of sorcerous practices, divinations etc. (some of which were no doubt adherents of a variety of different pagan beliefs)

March 16, 2015, 12:23:04 PM
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Re: Your favorite book titles Not a full length-book, but I love the title of Sanderson's Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell.
March 27, 2015, 07:53:40 PM
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Re: Your favorite book titles I've got a few:

The City of Silk and Steel
A Drink Before We Die
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth (if that doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will)
The Quantum Thief (even though it sticks to the cliche "3 Word + 'the' stereotype")

March 27, 2015, 08:42:52 PM
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