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Re: Inception and how you write a great story Very perceptive of you, Yora!

I really have to watch that one again, since the first time most of the plot twists went over my head. ???

Quote from: Morpheus
How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

Well, you spin a top and watch whether it keeps spinning or not, obviously.  ;)

March 16, 2015, 05:21:28 PM
Re: Who do you write like?
I'm not sure at all who I write like, really. Five stories on F-F and some many aborted starts doesn't tell me much. Especially since the story contest encourages, for me, trying on different voices.

I think I'm aiming for CJ Cherryh or Lois McMaster Bujold. Very different writers, but ones I feel I have a shot at emulating. A mix of modern and classic feel, great characterization, exciting action, deep emotion.

At the moment, I ain't even in the ball park.   :P

Try your text on this website : it'll analyze your work and say who you're supposedly writing like.

On my normal main work it told me Douglas Adams (and that's ok)
But I posted the short I just added to the March contest it told me I write like STEPHENIE MEYER and I'll be hanging off a beam, if you're looking for me.

March 17, 2015, 11:04:54 AM
Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
It's unlikely that a common speech would be more than a relatively local phenomenon - it wouldn't be something that spread all over a world, unless communications were as least as good as the modern RW.
It's simple to justify:
(1) Humans didn't disperse until after they had a written language with well-established rules. And there are plenty of opportunities for barriers to dispersion in a fantasy world.
(2) Language was a gift of the gods.
Well, if you wanted to have a world like that, fine, but I was thinking of a world that's developed in a more natural way. It's certainly not the kind of set-up that could be considered standard, just an option you could justify if you really wanted to. Personally I don't.
The problem is that we only have our own world as a reference. Sure, our world is what's "natural" to us when it comes to languages, cultures, history, and whatnot, but who knows if that's the only way. What I'm trying to say (and failing?) is that it's called FANTASY for a reason. Fantasy worlds don't have to (or even shouldn't) be realistic in the same way that the world we live in is. In fantasy the writer should imagine a world with its own realism. After that, it's very much a matter of opinion (of the readers), of course, what makes sense in that world.

Alternate history is an altogether different beast, but since it doesn't really pertain to the topic (Other Worlds), I won't go there.

In any case, thinking of it globally, which common tongue do you represent by English? If you were approaching our mediaeval era on that basis, you might use Arabic for the Middle East, Chinese for East Asia, Mayan for Central America etc. You couldn't represent them all by English.
The common tongue that is the most prominent in your story, I would say. At least that would seem to me like the most sensible thing to do in a fantasy book for English audiences.

Opinions differ, but that's (more or less) mine.

March 17, 2015, 11:38:55 AM
Re: Here there be Monsters Hearing how you love monsters it reminded me of a cool sketch by a French comic artist. It's been translated on his English blog check it out :


March 17, 2015, 11:40:54 AM
Magic treasures Long before I even started to consider serious fiction writing, I've been running roleplaying games for years. And in most games, things like magic swords, magic boots, and flying carpets are a pretty big deal. And when you look at many classic "proto-fantasy" stories and the Lord of the Rings, magic items are everywhere. Every halfway decent god or hero had two or three magic items he acquired over his many adventures by stealing them from villains he defeated.

I am not terribly well read in contemporary fantasy books, but it seems to me that magic items are almost absent these days. And in the Sword & Sorcery of Howard and Leiber they appear to be almost nonexistent. (Moorcock being an exception here, with a prominent magic sword being almost a character in its own right.)

Like monsters, I like magic items, as unfashionable they may be right now. But unlike monsters, I don't really see how I would include magic items in my stories. So this made me thought that it might be an interesting topic to talk about. Just to share some thoughts and preferences and see what other people are thinking about it.

It's not that I can't get magic items to fit into the world, but that with all my characters and villains, I just don't see any actual use for them. A normal sword, a normal armor is good enough; as is a normal rope with a grappling hook and you can sneak around just fine without boots of sneakiness or an obscuring cloak.
The one point where I really do like "magic items" is when it comes to alchemy. Potions, poisons, smoke bombs and the like are wonderful stuff. These are quite different from regular magic items in two ways: They can be made by craftsmen and may only be borderline magical, and they are also used up once you use them. After that, you need to get new ones if you want to use them again. Which, again, isn't that particularly difficult as they are relatively easy to make.
But I think it's not primarily the "mundanity" of potions and bombs that makes them so much more interesting to me, but rather that they actively do something in a noticable way that makes a lot of difference. Take our default example for half of all fantasy discussions: Frodo Baggins. Frodo has a lot of magic items. A magic sword, magic armor, a magic cloak, a magic light, and of course a magic ring. The armors special ability comes into play only once in the entire story, when Frodo gets hit by a troll. But everything Frodo did was "not die". His sword is a magic sword, but its most interesting ability is not that it's super durable, super sharp, and super harmful to monsters or anything like that, but that it glows when orcs are nearby. That this magic item of orc detection is shaped like a sword is really just coincidence that doesn't actually affect its usefulness. The one time Frodo uses his magic stuff actively is his light. And this is not the item that makes him fight harder, survive longer, and hide better, but the one item that he turns on and aims at an enemy. It's a much more interesting weapon than his sword really.
And that's what I like about alchemical items. Any time a character uses one, you really see something dramatic happen. In a story, you probably wouldn't mention a character taking a sip from a magic potion to heal some bruises and small cuts. Healing potions are for when the character would die without it. Smoke bombs, flash powder, liguid fire, and metal eating acid are things that really change the situation a lot. A potion that protects against fire or cold allows a character to survive in otherwise deadly conditions. They don't just improve the odds, they enable the character to do completely new things he couldn't normally do.

Those few ideas I have for genuinely enchanted items go into a similar direction. A magic lantern that shows the way to a magically hidden place for example, or a magic gem that glows in the dark. These are also items that you turn on when you need them to do their thing, but don't keep running the whole time. I think making a magic item being active makes it a lot more interesting than the item just being sligtly better manufactured than mundane gear.

March 17, 2015, 06:33:20 PM
Universe Sandbox This is probably the grestest game I've ever seen.

Also possibly the nerdiest thing ever made. And I absolutely NEED it! Going to wait for Universe Sandbox 2 that will run on Linux, though.

It allows you to mess around with everything in the solar system or make your own systems from scratch. See what would happen if the Sun was bigger or smaller, or if there were two suns. Take away Jupiter or replace it with a brown dwarf. Or build your own Nibiru and throw it right at Earth! It even works on galaxy scale and you can make whole galaxies crash into each other.

This seems like the perfect tool to figure out how you could have an Earth-like planet in a system with six stars (they really exist), and it probably could answer how the sky would like from a planet near the center of the Galaxy or in the Magellanic Clouds.
All things that would most people in the world and history not would not even understand as a question, and that perhaps nobody else needed to know before. But I do, and this looks really great.  ;D

March 17, 2015, 10:12:20 PM
Re: Scene & Chapter Length most scenes: 250 to 3000 words
most chapters 1500 to 7500 words.

some longer for each.

March 18, 2015, 02:10:55 AM
Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding Hello all!

I'm starting this thread hoping it could evolve in a sort of experience and source sharing. I hope this isn't a thing already...

My idea here is that Fantasy, and fiction in most its genres, is a type of story that strongly benefits from solid and realistic world building (as we all know and thrive to achieve) and the best example for us all is our real world.
While we all benefit from reading other fantasy writers and see how they managed to hook us with their worlds or with the underlying themes they chose, I personally think that my own world and ideas benefit from a lot of my non-fiction reading.
After all, good sourcing and research is how we avoid cliche and weak themes. But maybe by sharing more personal discoveries we could help each other out?
After all some of the greatest stories and movies out there were picked out of philosophy problems for example.

Well, i guess I'll make more sense if I just give my own examples. Worse come to worse it'll just be me throwing out a bunch of links and yaking my face off! :D

I apologize for the length of this post, but believe passion about reading or writing ought to be taken seriously and I shall fart in your general direction.

In the personal experience area :

Spoiler for Hiden:
I'm too lazy to make any researches concerning english speaking countries laws, but let me share mine.
In France, for centuries every citizen has benefited from a right, which is called "Glanage". It is still valid today, and allows anyone to walk on a farmer's land after the harvest and pick up whatever was left behind. It is also legal in orchads, where you can pick up fruits off the ground.
A famous painting is dedicated solely to that concept, called "Les glaneuses", by Jean Francois Millet :

Contrarily to what first comes to mind these women are not harvesting, this is probably not their field, and it won't go to the farmer. They are picking left over for themselves.
If you search around you'll find more paintings showing how popular a thing that was :

The laws surrounding the propriety of goods is a very useful knowledge. We have two types of "goods without owners". All "immobile" goods (buildings) without owners pertain to the state (which would lead to fascinating discussions about squats), so only "mobile" goods are detailed:

> Res Derelictae : objects voluntarily abandoned by former proprietors, the first person to put their hands on it becomes the new owner. This applies from objects left on the street to the content of bins (and is why I've got such a hard time with aussie and nz laws regarding bags left at charity's doorsteps. To me those are anyone's stuff until the shop takes them in).
The only nuance is that it does not include lost objects. So you're not technically the legal owner of a watch you found on the street!

> Res Nullius : Fish, game, and wild animals.

In France a "glaneuse" is what I called myself, while you would call me a dumpster diver or a freegan.
I was forced to learn more about the law, as you can be yelled at by people thinking themselves righteous in annoying you (this can apply to policemen who can be fairly pushy until you show that you explicitly know your rights).

I think anyone wishing to write about medieval times, or characters evolving in rural areas should know about this. More modern settings are worse. While older times had very organized recycling systems where little was wasted, we've got the stark opposite nowadays.

Take my word as a real-life bum for it : you need to try REALLY hard to go hungry in a city.
I'm attaching here a handful of pictures I've taken while dumpster-diving in Australia or France:

(note the mental haul in the last picture? It's one trip, all I could carry by myself in a cardboard, off a Melbourne's Coles back alley)
I've spent months of my life buying no food but the rare essential I would miss.
I've also never, ever been sick due to eating food taken off the bins. Bakeries dump fresh food every night. Markets are insane, with the smallest defect on a produce leading to it been binned.
The gold mines are in large supermarket bins.
A can with a scratched paper? Bin. Boxes of goon cracked open but perfectly fine inner bag? Bin. 12 pack of glass bottled beer, one broken? 11 in the bin. Products didn't sell on the last discount but is still perfectly fine? Bin. This includes new clothing, candles, beach chairs, but also consoles, watches, shoes, good bike parts and house keeping products.
In Adelaide I lived several weeks with only 20$ in my pocket.

End of the line, any type of character struggling through a city to find food will earn my immediate disbelief. A great depiction of the "underworld" of a large city would also widely benefit from research on that. Most people who shop for their food every day don't really realize how wasteful most systems are.
Every french speaker will have a funny time reading "Le guide du zonard" on the internet, where people filled a wiki with tips on "traveling by train for free", "fixing the soles of your shoes", "getting the coins out of a parking machine", "get free toilet paper off Mac Donalds", "having 87 postal addresses", "screwing a punk chick without getting a hepatitis" or "Still passing for an artist".
I wish there was an english equivalent!
Check out trash wiki for a peak in the freeman life. Some places have google maps with bins located and notes about staff attitude and common hauls.

Non-fiction reading I found very helpful and why :

Spoiler for Hiden:
For people who want to write extensively about war and its consequences, even if the subject is very often mentioned in fantasy and sci-fi, I owe a lot to these :

Guns, germs, and steel : the fates of human societies by Jared M. Diamond
This is proper history focused on war, epic read. Quite the thick book but worth the effort. His style is very easy to follow.

In philosophy, the following texts are short essays you'll find online (your philosophy Ethic classes could have asked you to find and read them) :

Cecile Fabre, Guns, food and liability to attack in war.
Jeff MacMahan, Ethics of Killing in War - where the author works his way toward the concept of "Just war" and "Just war" being the only time where a soldier ought to participate. Such concept is still open to debate, like everything else in philosophy.
But also Torture in Principle and in Practice
Samuel Scheffler, Is Terrorism Morally Distinctive -
Coady, terrorism, Morality, and Supreme Emergency
(a lot are public publications and if you struggle finding them you can PM me, I'll send them to you)

All those are short essays, and though the style is more dense because it's directed at people who enjoy a good mindf***, there is a lot of benefits you can take out of listening to these people.
For one, characters who questions themselves or the general situation in their story in terms other than "good and evil and where do I stand in this" are too rare to my taste.
Reading MacMahan could flesh out dialogs between warriors, reading Coady could add dimension to hostage situations or dialogs in terrorist attacks, whatever the side of the acts your POV follows.

Personally I find my work extremely influenced by a french historian called Philippe Aries who wrote mainly on "daily life" through history, and the evolution of behaviors in societies.

People who want to write about feudal systems, or other historical settings would benefit from reading him.
I found his writings fascinating. The bold is deserved. As you go through his books you realize how incredibly deformed our vision of history is.
While we all go and learn about facts and dates and events, classes never really paint the way life was back then. How ALIEN it could be to us.
Did you know for example that in christian medieval France, when all the family slept in one big bed, it was a rather banal practice to smother an infant to death, because you couldn't well afford this new mouth? Or that romans barely had a concept of "private life" and the entire depended fully on slavery, and how complex it was?
My favorite work of his remains the one he did on the change of attitude of the western world towards death. It's so well written and a topic that is still so strong for us all and since the dawn of times!

The hour of our death or Western attitudes towards death: from the middle ages to the present depending on edition.
Centuries of childhood: a social history of family life
A history of private life - covers in 5 books from the roman times to the modern times. Pick the time you're setting in and read the associated book. Well worth the time, fascinating discoveries.

He wrote more on the history of sexuality in occident and the history of french populations but not sure those got translated.
His works on death I use fully in my own works, as I have a futuristic setting but the mentalities towards death made a big leap backward.

Special mention for people who'd be interested in survival/makeshift medicine. There are two books fully free online you can read called

Where there is no doctor and Where there is no dentist

Besides personal benefits, I learnt some very vivid tricks in there that go beyond the tooth pulled with pliers and the gangrene limb sawed off and cauterized in fire! :D

Alright, I hope I got some of you interested in some stuff… Was well worth trying anyway.
If that makes your bells ring and you do have sources or ideas to share, because you've got a solution for things you find often wanting in fantasy, or just a specific quirky story that could benefit us…
Or just questions and topics you'd like to dig and would like to know if anyone can recommend you anything!


March 18, 2015, 04:05:33 AM
Re: Scene & Chapter Length Contrary to what some have said here, I do think chapter length matters. I'm less sure about scene length, so I'll ignore that one.

If chapters 1, 2, 3 and on up to 10 are all about the same length, then I'm expecting 11 to follow suit. It can, of course, be dramatically shorter or longer, but that's the expectation. Sometimes using a shorter chapter can be done deliberately for effect, and I'm fine with that.

But if chapter 1 is a thousand words and chapter 2 is five thousand and chapter 3 is two thousand and chapter 4 is eleven thousand and chapter 5 is eight hundred, and so on, then the book becomes jerky. I'll almost guarantee the pacing within chapters will likewise not be smooth.

So, chapter length *does* matter. It's not something the author can get away with not caring about. (hey, two phrases ending in prepositions in the same sentence; achievement!)

March 18, 2015, 05:15:31 AM
Re: Miscellaneous Musings It was also rather amusing when Scott had his back to the room and we all burst out laughing because Pat Rothfuss was standing behind him, dancing about and making faces. As soon as Scott realised he chased Rothfuss across the room and threatened to shave his beard off!
March 18, 2015, 05:37:16 AM