April 21, 2018, 04:54:31 AM

Author Topic: A breath of fresh air  (Read 2741 times)

Offline Rascaltravels

A breath of fresh air
« on: November 15, 2014, 05:43:33 AM »
I am going to preface this by saying. I want to write a book that I would love to read.

So I would like to ask an opinion, or many. The reason why I decided to write a novel isn't all that important, we all have our reasons. However, I know it will be a task to be done over a few years and yet I'm still not turned off from the idea.

Sure, it is quite a stereotypical thing for an author (wishful for me at the moment) to want to write a trilogy in the fantasy genre, possibly even more than a trilogy. With elves, dwarves, magic, prophecy, and an evil overlord to defeat or artifact to save the world.

However, to even think that I could write something with content as such and it be exciting or new would be just blowing steam up my own ass.

My novel which I am still in the brainstorming phase of creating characters, settings, species, races part. I want it to be such a deep world (without info dumping pages on the reader). I want many things to play a big part in my novel including politics, religion, currency, social class, language, shaky alliances, magical law, magical social hierarchy and governing, guilds, less explored branches of magic (alchemy playing a more utility and far more important role than fireballs), death and betrayal.

I have been a game lover and fantasy bibliophile for many years, and have taken inspiration from various series. Game of Thrones having a massive focus on politics, and Lord of the Rings having magic as a minimalistic part of the lore. These are two good examples of how a different take on the genre can be successful. I have my own ideas, however what I would like to know are as follows:

What would you consider as a breath of fresh air within the genre. What kind of story would you like to read?

What themes, concepts, and ideas within the genre do you consider unexplored, but definitely should be?

What books did you think were absolutely fantastic and I should definitely read?


Perhaps my most important question. Is it VITAL that the grand quest/big issue is explained early on, or even at all early on. Or even before the characters have been developed. In Lord of the Rings we know the plot, or a good chunk of it before the characters have been touched on too much.

Does the main goal (saving the princess, destroying the ring, pulling the sword out the rock) need to be revealed earlier on, or can things gradually become clear throughout the book. Opinions on this?

Thanks very much!

Offline stevenpoore

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2014, 09:58:18 AM »
My advice, I'm afraid, is that you shouldn't try to write what other people want to read. That way lies madness and soft foods. Just write. See what comes out. See if it's any good. See if you can rework it. Write it and - whether it's a short story, novella, full-length novel, whatever - finish it.

There's no way you'll write a 100% perfect novel (or whatever) on the first attempt. Don't even try. Who was it who said "the first million words are just practice"? Write, finish, improve, repeat.

Oh, and don't do it in isolation. Book clubs, writers' groups, conventions, forums such as this - you may not discover "what people want", but you will find out what works and what doesn't, and who knows? That's where your idea may be waiting...
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Offline Yora

Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2014, 11:49:33 AM »
We are having pretty much this discussion in another part of the forum. Might be some things of interest to you.
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Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2014, 01:45:40 PM »
Originality doesn't usually lie in using themes, character-types and plots no-one ever has before.  Occasionally that might happen, but usually it's using old ideas with your own particular twist and perspective that creates an original work.

Tell the story you need to tell - the one that won't let you get to sleep because it's yelling in your ear "Tell me NOW."  If it fascinates you that much, there's a much better chance of it fascinating others too than if you try to create an identikit story.

Offline Rascaltravels

Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2014, 09:31:47 PM »
I believe my questions were taken the wrong way. I don't intend to try to get in the head of people and try to please everyone. I know that i'm not going to please everyone, to try would make it an incredibly chaotic and unnecessarily long novel. I will still write the kind of novel I have wondered why nobody has written yet (to my knowledge). But I was interested in what concepts perhaps should be better explored? More monsters? Underground organisations?

I'm still having trouble with the grand scheme but right now it is smack in the middle of a revolution. Similar to that of possibly the European Industrial revolution. A steampunk-esque universe. Uprisings and unrest as change happens widespread across multiple areas and the resistance to change in others. Alliances made, and alliances broken.

The big focus of the first part/first book will be the main character trying to survive and find his place in a changing world that seems like chaos. Two factions or branches of magic (if you will) take the hotseat. The Achemists, and the Shapers. The Alchemists are what you might call the revolutionists, they want to move forward with technology because they have a long standing hate for those blessed with magic (the shapers). They hate how the lives of the Shapers are far easier because of their magic.  The Shapers are the opposite and believe the change will lead to political and military grabs for power, with the countries that advance quicker dominating the less technologically advanced countries/regions.

Alchemists are broken into mixers and breakers. Mixers tend to favour bombs and performance enhancers. They also are known to make various potions and lotions to aid themselves, or hinder their enemies. Breakers are either children (who have yet to understand enough about magic to become shapers) or just those who weren't intelligent or dedicated enough to become shapers and are motivated by their bitterness.

Shapers all have a basic understanding of things and breaking them down. They understand that breaking down organic matter like trees, humans, plants requires you to have a will to break it stronger than it's will to maintain it's shape, therefore it is next to impossible. However man made products like Iron or Steel, or plastic all are far easier. Natural components like stone or wood are somewhere in the middle. Shapers break things down and reconstruct them, shaping them into what they will. They can only shape what they have available, so there would be no shaping water in a desert, or stone in the middle of the sea. Unless ofcourse they brought some with them.

I won't unload all my ideas here, does this sound like a project you would want to hear more of once its been better thought up and fleshed out? Or is the setting, and idea too abstract and unbelievable to make a connection to? I appreciate criticism.  (I apologize for the wall of text)
« Last Edit: November 15, 2014, 09:45:06 PM by Rascaltravels »

Offline AshKB

Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2014, 11:33:10 PM »
Honestly, for me, it depends on how you do it. \ Steampunk and revolution is excellent, although I'm curious about the rest of the make-up of your society. I'm wary of the 'shapers and breakers' - as someone with a learning disability and a mental illness, I'm wondering how much the '~not dedicated enough and bitter' is fact and how much is just societal opinions.

My big thing would be is there hope or is it all going to end in tears? I love the former. There isn't enough of the former. I miss so, so, so much the sense of hope in fiction, where people try and fix things and aren't narratively punished for it. So, it depends what your aim is.

(Note: this is all, obviously, my own opinion - lots of people have very different ones.)

I would, though, love to see more underground revolutionary organisations. We don't get nearly enough of them in all of their amazing messiness. That'd be fascinating.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted - Plutarch

I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow - Woodrow Wilson

Offline stevenpoore

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2014, 11:57:21 PM »
It's not too abstract - you're clearly in the process of planning it out, and that's a good thing. But I'd say you need to write it and get a first draft down before getting outside opinions. Reason being, if you question everything each step of the way, you'll never finish anything. You obviously have a concept - find your lead characters and your plot and write that, then look at it critically.

There's a chap, on a different forum, on a different site, who checks every small detail every time he changes something. He's still stuck. Nothing has progressed. Write it: have confidence that you can make it to the end. Then, and only then, look to reshape and refine it.
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Offline K.S. Crooks

Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2014, 04:25:02 AM »
It seems a little odd to say you want to write something original, but you are asking a lot about what others think. It is my feeling that you should simply write the story you want to read, as you said in the beginning, and see if others like it after.

Have a plan laid out for how you want the main concept of the story to go. However, understand that if you become true engrossed in your story, there will be many parts that write themselves. The characters and themes will take on a life of their own and will lead to areas you did not think of initially. You will have an initial theme for the story and one or two others will surface.

If you make it too technical you will lose the fun. In the end, try not to make feel like you are writing because you need it for your high school English class.
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Offline JMack

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2014, 04:28:31 AM »
Rascal, I'll go to your original question.  What would I consider to be fresh air?

I've been playing with the idea for a while of a story about the "unimportant" people living their lives at the edge of great events.  And rather than having one of them as the great hero hiding in a humble home, the great hero is almost off stage.  I think of this like the sample you give of Tolkien, where the magic is not big and bombastic, but just there.  So the great events are just there, and people still have to live their lives.

Not suggesting you use this for your Alchemists/Shapers revolution, but revolutions need common people.    Maybe someone stumbles into the middle of things, someone with no great power, and they have to figure out how to come out the other side with their skin and soul intact.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Bradley Darewood

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2018, 07:05:09 AM »
Rascal, I'll go to your original question.  What would I consider to be fresh air?

I've been playing with the idea for a while of a story about the "unimportant" people living their lives at the edge of great events.  And rather than having one of them as the great hero hiding in a humble home, the great hero is almost off stage.  I think of this like the sample you give of Tolkien, where the magic is not big and bombastic, but just there.  So the great events are just there, and people still have to live their lives.

Not suggesting you use this for your Alchemists/Shapers revolution, but revolutions need common people.    Maybe someone stumbles into the middle of things, someone with no great power, and they have to figure out how to come out the other side with their skin and soul intact.

I think eclipse loves thread resurrection because he gets to see the big red warning box every time he posts...

I have the exact same sentiment-- I hate when it feels like the world just exists to serve the protagonist and all the unimportant people are... unimportant.  I have a theory about limited third person being a contributing factor in jingoistic megalomania/nationalist exceptionalism :)

I tried this with my first draft of my current WIP-- the heroes are on stage, but the main characters are not the heroes exactly. I didn't quite pull it off.  Many beta readers felt the side characters being way more interesting than my MC, that to make him interesting he needed to be good at something and have some agency.  So yeah there's probably a way to do it, but I wasn't successful.

Offline JMack

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2018, 11:51:52 AM »
Rascal, I'll go to your original question.  What would I consider to be fresh air?

I've been playing with the idea for a while of a story about the "unimportant" people living their lives at the edge of great events.  And rather than having one of them as the great hero hiding in a humble home, the great hero is almost off stage.  I think of this like the sample you give of Tolkien, where the magic is not big and bombastic, but just there.  So the great events are just there, and people still have to live their lives.

Not suggesting you use this for your Alchemists/Shapers revolution, but revolutions need common people.    Maybe someone stumbles into the middle of things, someone with no great power, and they have to figure out how to come out the other side with their skin and soul intact.

I think eclipse loves thread resurrection because he gets to see the big red warning box every time he posts...

I have the exact same sentiment-- I hate when it feels like the world just exists to serve the protagonist and all the unimportant people are... unimportant.  I have a theory about limited third person being a contributing factor in jingoistic megalomania/nationalist exceptionalism :)

I tried this with my first draft of my current WIP-- the heroes are on stage, but the main characters are not the heroes exactly. I didn't quite pull it off.  Many beta readers felt the side characters being way more interesting than my MC, that to make him interesting he needed to be good at something and have some agency.  So yeah there's probably a way to do it, but I wasn't successful.

The approach I think can work is to give the “unimportant” person a challenge and goal that are important to himand compelling to read about, while the big canvas stuff happens in the background or slams into his story in important and frustrating ways. So your MC has agency and is interesting while remaining “unimportant.” You can decided how adventuresome is the MC’s story, how relevant it is to the more global-level conflict, and how critical or just f-ing random are the collisions.

In one story I’ve been thinking about for... oh... 40 years... an innkeeper is trying to survive during the Seibert of his city. A prince of the kingdom is hiding in the city and finds his way to the inn. But the story remains about the innkeeper, and the prince comes in and out of the tale. The innkeeper never knows what’s really happening in the big events; that’s not his story. Until the Seibert and its horrors and conflicts slam into him. Still, he solves nothing large for the Seibert; the focus remains on his own struggles.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2018, 04:17:53 AM »
Personally, I prefer stories that take a lot of the classic fantasy tropes but twist them around a bit. You don't have to completely subvert the trope, but you should find a way to do something a little bit new with it. The familiarity of these common tropes is comfortable for the reader. The slight variations are what make your story different.

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Re: A breath of fresh air
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2018, 04:27:42 AM »
To a certain (and entertaining extent) this was HBO's approach in its series Rome, following two ordinary centurions as they end their service in Caesar's legions. Around them, the politics of Rome surge and swell into the tempest we know from history - but in the foreground are their very real, very recognizable struggles: to fit back into a life they've grown too soldierly to live, to reassemble a marriage divided by years of absence, and to survive turbulent times.

Their goals are always real - and not at all unlike our own, not so much raising the stakes by making them epic as bending them down to what's real: where are my children? what shall I do to make a living? what do I owe my friends? what am I going to do now?
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