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Topics - Yora

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My biggest beef with contemporary fantasy is that it seems that every single protagonist is a teenage assassin. This is obviously not true, but I was wondering how many books there actually are in which the protagonists are assassins or call themselves assassins, or something to that effect.

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Writers' Corner / What makes a good story if its not the plot?
« on: February 11, 2020, 08:36:00 PM »
I saw a question of someone who seems to have the same problem as me with coming up with good plot ideas, and while thinking about it I realized that even though there are many great books, stories, and movies that I really like a lot, I don't really like any of them because of their great plot. It's not like the antagonist have mind blowing original motives or plans, and the plot twists don't carry a full story by themselves. So perhaps I can't find any really great plots that I want to write about at a great length because there really aren't any great plots.

But if plots aren't what makes a story good, interesting, and entertaining, what is? Wordcraft can be nice, but there are very entertaining stories that are really unimpressive in that regard.

What is a story worth reading if it's not an original plot?

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Writers' Corner / Episodic Explorations of the Supernatural
« on: January 22, 2020, 12:07:26 PM »
I've been coming back to an old concept that I was never able to get into a form that felt like it would work. I think I originally started with drawing way too many red lines about things that I considered implausible and overdone, and ruling them out before considering how to use them better.

I always wanted to write episodic adventures, and the thing that I always found the most compelling in fantasy were the vague hints at a higher reality and supernatural forces at work in the world. Stuff like "The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force" or "I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.". Or weird worlds like in The Dark Crystal, Morrowind, or Planescape, and the obscure otherworldliness of Dark Souls. I just love all this.

My new idea is to have the adventures (all/most/some?) centered around a protagonist who wants to understand how the world really is, what magic really is, and some kind of enlightenment. She is bright and resourceful, but is also impulsive and has no patience, and no real ambitions regarding wealth or status. So she isn't interested in becoming a priestess and perform rites and ceremonies whose true meaning is known only to the gods who don't explain themselves, or to spend decades mastering the casting of spells as a sorceress. She doesn't want power, she needs answers. And she needs them now. And somewhere out there, there has to be someone who understands the true nature of the world and can give her the answers she seeks. But of course they can't, because she doesn't even know what her question is. And since I can't come up with something so amazing that it will blow everyone's mind, she's never going to get there. Perhaps the best closure she can get eventually is to understand that it's futile to search for an answer to everything because there isn't any.

But along the way she picks up a lot of small bits and pieces of knowledge about magic, spirits, and the supernatural. Not exactly the ability to cast spells, but knowledge on how to see the presence and influence of spirits, how to counter magic and break curses, avoiding supernatural dangers and the right way how to communicate with spirits. Using a concept from game design, her character progression is not an increase in strength, but an increase in options. She doesn't become amazing with a sword so she can fight dragons or monsters, get supernatural toughness to ignore the attacks of enemies, or become a super powerful sorceress who wipes out armies with fireballs. Instead, in each adventure she learns one new thing that normal people can do to avoid or counter supernatural dangers, that convinces spirits to be cooperative, or to make use of magical objects and phenomenons. With the increase of option she gains to deal with things, the range of obstacles she can't overcome and has to flee from goes down, and the risks for her go down. Things that used to be overwhelming in the past can be dealt with in the future. And since she can deal with things faster and more reliably, she can also handle more things at the same time.
Being able to dance around things that previously were a huge pain do deal with is extremely rewarding in games, and when you see characters doing it in books and movies it also often makes for very great scenes and character moments.

Making the character interested in learning obscure supernatural knowledge also solves one of the big obstacles I've been struggling with in the past. I'm not really that interested in mercenary characters who do what they do for the money, but I am also very often not happy with characters who constantly risk their lives against all kinds of enemies simply "because they are heroes". This kind of works if the characters are superheroic and at no real risk of serious injury or death, but it feels unbelievable when the protagonist is a fairly ordinary human who lacks superhuman power or durability. Coming to people's help when you see them in danger is one thing, but traveling the world in search for people who need help against monsters and dark wizards because that's what heroes do just doesn't feel believable.
But having the protagonist trying to get into hard to reach places and past dangerous creatures because she is looking for something that might give her answers to her big questions seems like a solid motivation that is both personal and not based on greed. She never intends to get into any fights or serious danger. The plan is to completely avoid all of that and just get the scroll or the enchanted idol, or find the ancient carving or drink from the magic waters. But being impulsive and compassionate, it often does not turn out that way.

I feel this is already looking pretty solid for a collection of fantasy adventure tales. But it also occurred to me that if the long-term character development is about her learning new thing about magic and discovering strange things in the otherworld, and I also want to create the same excitement and wonder in the readers, perhaps there should be no initial exposition of what what magic exactly is, how it works, what it can actually do, what spirits are, what they want, and what they do. The magic system I've refined over the past months is very subtle and invisible, and can even be quite abstract and indirect. And the setting has most people knowing only that spirits are unpredictable and dangerous, and that the safest thing is to stay clear of them. Only shamans and sorcerers really interact with spirits and they also tell people to just stay where its safe and call them if there's any trouble.
So it makes perfect sense for the protagonist to basically know nothing about the supernatural, and also keep it undisclosed from the readers. There won't be any one moment where readers are given a full picture that systematically lays out the basics. Just more fragments coming with no specific order as the protagonist gets them. And you're never going to get all of them. More information will pile up and patterns emerge, but the full picture will never be complete or in sharp focus. Which I think is really important because ambiguity is fascinating, while full explanations are rarely that mind-blowing. It's the same thing with horror movie monsters. Some vague shapes in the shadow and weird noises can be super creepy, but when you have the full monster in the light, it's just a man in a suit.
The Dark Souls games do something quite similar and are hugely popular and famous for their obscure worldbuilding. And they don't even have any plot. My idea is to make this only a supplementary aspect in addition to the adventure plot of "hero goes to a strange place and barely escapes from a weird thing". I think having this constant expectation to get a few more fragments of supernatural knowledge along the way can make a fairly unspectacular plot still very interesting and exciting.

What do you think about making this work? Is there anything you think I should watch out for in both the way snippets of worldbuilding and the magic system are handed out, and in how they should be designed to make it all rewarding for readers?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« on: January 10, 2020, 09:52:19 AM »
I'm a big whiner who always complains that contemporary fantasy just isn't really doing it for me. Somehow, at some point, new works no longer gave me what I am looking for. That was the whole reason I got interested in writing myself and every so often I go poking around trying to find if other people have been feeling something similar.

This led me to this recent article The Dark Crystal and the Resurgence of Sincerity, which then led down a rabbit hole of culture criticism of the last 30 years. I always thought it terribly pretentious when people were quoting David Foster Wallace, who seemed like a pretentious weirdo himself, that irony ruining our culture.
But after years of frustration with finding new great fantasy, I think I am now starting to understand what's the idea behind all this.

I thought fantasy was at its best in the 90s and was losing something important in the 2000s, but apparently this seems to be somewhat distorted by being only 15 in 1999 and entertainment aimed at children being somewhat different, and also a lot of 80s entertainment still being very recent and in the common cultural conscience. The claim made by many people is that in the 90s, culture shifted towards a detached irony. Everything seemed suspicious and dubious, and people were weary of anyone who seemed to be too comited to any ideals. If someone wants to sell you on any ideal, he's either trying to scam you or a fanatic. As the popular catchphrase went in the 90s TV show X-files: "Trust no one!"
The irony in this isn't in any way meant to be humorous. It's the concept of saying something, but not actually meaning it. A lack of sincerity and conviction. When you say you like something and someone else says it's stupid, the reply is "Yeah, but its a bit entertaining. I don't say it's really great or anything, but its trivial fun you can chuckle at."

Now I don't really know what went on in the adult entertainment culture of the 90s except for a couple of movies that have stuck in our cultural memory (on grounds of being exceptionally good). But I think that trend has continued to this day, and might perhaps even have increased. There is a lot of really great entertainment today, which is very cool and spectacular. But most examples I can think of also seem to be works were you chuckle at the awful things done by terrible people, or is simply silly antics. It can be very fun, exciting, and engaging. But does any of it feel like it's the creators representing their own ideals with conviction? Does it feel like anyone really has something to say that they fully believe in, other than "Yeah, people are actually really shitty"?

Most fantasy books that I read is from the 30s or the 70s. Most books from recent years that I tried reading I did not finish because they didn't feel rewarding to me.I think 90% of all really great adventuere and movies that you can rewatch over and over are from the 80s. The greatest fantasy movies I can think of are The Last Unicorn, Conan the Barbarian, The Empire Strikes Back, and Princess Mononoke.
Are all these works a bit cheesy and silly. Well, yes. But they also all feel very sincere. These are fantasy stories that feel like the creators are convinced they have something to say and they absolutely mean it and stand fully behind it. To my shame, I've never watched The Dark Crystal yet. And less shamefully I never watched Hercules and Xena. But from the snippets I've seen, they look really fun and committed to the silliness of it all. And all these days I've been thinking about this, I could never come up with a more iconic example that embodies this combination of stupidity and  sincerity like He-Man. It's a really dumb kids show from the 80s and a corporate product as pure as you can think of. But even when I look at it today, it feels utterly and unwavering sincere in its depiction of heroism and goodness. The only good examples from more recent years I can think of are the TV shows Avatar and perhaps the first season of True Detective (which is a crime show, but with strong deliberate allusions to horror and supernatural mystery). And while I've only seen some fragments and a good number of reviews, the Star Wars show The Mandalorian also sounds like this. The things that people praise about it all seem to relate to the sense of sincerity, even if they don't use that term specifically. In contrast to that, the recent Star Wars movies got a lot of bashing for constantly making silly jokes at completely inappropriate moments that show the creators don't want us to think they are taking anything of the drama seriously.
Sure, it can seem dorky, pretentious, cheesy, or silly. But as one of the thing's I've read recently said "Nothing is cheesy when it's done with conviction." Realism is commendable and some skepticism is a good thing. But our entertainment has been dominated for decades by messages that you can't trust anyone or become too attached to anything. Everything is out to betray or disappoint you. But we still need something that we can be for. Only being against everything is not fulfilling. There's been announcements for a "New Sincerity" since the 90s, and it still does not seem to have really come to pass.

Perhaps when people are talking of escapism and longing for the days of their childhood, might it really be a caving for more sincerity? When I think that fantasy was much better in the 80s and 90s, I think that's not just pure nostalgia speaking. Many of my favorite works from that period I never encountered before I was in my late 20s. I think there really is something elemental missing from most modern fantasy, at least the types I am exposed to. What I want, what I always wanted, is fantasy stories that feel sincere and written with conviction.

That's today's rambling from the grumpy snob.

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Writers' Corner / Who is writing?
« on: December 24, 2019, 08:54:20 AM »
I noticed there has been very little activity here since summer. Are few people currently writing or do they take their questions somewhere else? (I did.)

Who is currently writing, and what are you working on?

I recently started a book about a group of mercenaries who go on an expedition into the unexplored wilderness to search for a friend who was taken by fey years before, after finally getting some information where she was taken to. Chances that she's still there seem slim, and they are not sure what to do if they run into the fey.
Also magic is mostly mystic telepathy and they ride on dinosaurs.  8)

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While my quest of becoming a Sword & Sorcery writer with aspirations to bring the forgotten niche style back from the mists of time is crawling along slowly (but steadily), I do find myself turning more and more into an art critic. :D
I was originally motivated by just wanting to give the world a few more fun adventure stories, but I've always also been thinking about why I really have this urge to create such tales and what exactly I could be offering that readers would actually thirst for. I fully admit that I am not a frequent reader myself and have little first hand experience with the fantasy literature from the last two decades. I've also not seen a huge number of movies either. But this isn't out of a lack of craving for new fantasy, but because I find little appeal in what I hear about current fantasy, adventure, and action entertainment. I also don't follow the current conversation about representation, diversity, and respect in mainstream entertainment very closely because it really doesn't sound any fun to get myself worked up over it. But obviously there's a huge drawn out fight going on for years now in which one side is upset about discrimination anywhere, the other side complaining about thought police ruining their beloved thing, and every is just completely outraged all the time,

When we talk about mainstream movies, music, books, TV, and so on, we usually refer to it as entertainment which is not considered to be are by elite critics. But I think that the fighting over idea in contemporary entertainment is exactly the same thing that went on about fighting over ideas in art in previous generations.

Something I figured out in my research of the Sword & Sorcery style of fantasy that had two strong periods in the 30s and 70s is that it's a form of storytelling and associated visual art that is both visceral and sensual and very passionate in the spirit of 18th century Romanticism that arose as a counter-culture to the Enlightenment. Not too sure about the history of Romanticism in the English and French language spheres, but here in Germany this movement is most prominently represented by Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, the two immortal titans of German literature to this day. In the culture of "Poets and Thinkers", these are the poets in whose lights all German intellectual art is still basking to this day.

All this got me thinking and led to perhaps not exactly a hypothesis, but at least an impression about today's cultural sphere and it's conflicts:
The issue that is central to everything going on is the wish to transform our entertainment (and we really can replace that term with art) to one that is free of discrimination and in which all artists are given space to express themselves regardless of their demographic background. So we have developed a very critical eye to constantly look out for work that stereotype and marginalize underprivileged minorities and perpetuate the convention that the characters who really matter are white, men, and heterosexual. Frankly speaking, there really are people in our world who take offense even at that basic idea and who really want white heterosexual men to be privileged and everyone else to be subservient to them. Those people are idiots and just so plain wrong that there's no point to even consider arguing their viewpoints. But particularly in recent years it always seems to me that in the fervent effort to push them out to the side where they belong, the middle ground where real social progress could be made becomes a casualty.

One of the effects that I am sensing is that our contemporary art (read: entertainment) has become rather gun shy when it comes to passion. I would say the biggest movies that are getting the most people super excited these days are superhero movies. Yes, there is a passion and emotional investment, but superheroes are very safe and clean. There is big action, but it usually seems very detached and even abstract. When people praise great stories these days, they are praising the characters' wits, their clever schemes and trickery, and the ability to ultimately outsmart their enemies by exploiting their blind spots. Think Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. We got narrative art that is all smirking and scowling.

I feel like contemporary art, particularly narrative art, has an aversion to passion. The only big emotion we see in the action, adventure, and fantasy genres seem to be anger. When characters are actually allowed to abandon reason and give in to their emotions, it always seem to be letting themselves get overtaken by anger to crush the injustices they are suffering. When stories go from the rational to the emotional, the only way that seems to be culturally accepted now is through violence. Violence is fine, violence we understand.
But I really feel that pretty much all we have today really shies away from positive passions. That too macho! That's degrading to women! Too flamboyant! Insensitive! In today's art we are purging the things that have negative connotations, but we are not engaging with them to transform them into something more wholesome. All the discussion seems to be around negativity, but I feel like there's a complete lack of any mainstream attempts for positivity. Like a fear that any attempt to make something sensual will automatically be rejected as being sleazy. Nobody wants to stand for something out of fear of being rejected. So everyone only stands against something. Usually lots of things.

I think our culture could really use some more art that is transgressive and deviant, and that isn't shy of embarrassing itself. Art that is willing to risk being called trashy or sleazy, but also takes a stance for the acceptance of things that don't have universal appeal to everyone. This is not something that could come down from the top. The big industries build their entire business concept on mass appeal and being acceptable for everyone. It also might not make any money. But I still really would love to see more artists offering to take us along on a ride to experience things that they are deeply passionate about and that are foreign to us.

Some rambling from me. I was making this up as I went.

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Writers' Corner / The mental state of witches and shamans
« on: November 12, 2019, 07:59:41 PM »
So I've been thinking again about how the traditions of people being able to talk with spirits is most probably linked to certain neurological conditions that humans have always had, but which are differently interpreted in different times and places. That people hear voices that tell them to do evil things is apparently much more common in Christian cultures, while in cultures that have old animistic traditions those voices often give helpful or encouraging advice. The cultural expectations of what supernatural beings are like has a significant impact on the hallucinations people perceive. This also extends to magic in a broader sense. People believed that magic works because they expected magic to be the working mechanism between two separate events that have no apparent connection.
I very strongly believe that this is the reason why magicians were often seen as strange, creepy, dangerous, or even evil. The neurological conditions that made many of them convinced to be seeing supernatural things would also have made ordinary social interactions difficult. Just because you believe that they have real magic powers does not mean you're comfortable interacting with them.

I had created a magic system some time back that is pretty strongly connected to spirits, and I also had the idea that sorcerers and priests are considered a bit strange by regular people because they turn their heads to things nobody else can see or hear, or walk around obstacles when there doesn't seem to be anything there. I thought that was a neat little detail.

But now I've seriously started to consider the idea that the ability to sense the supernatural and to use magic is directly connected to a neurological condition that also manifests itself in other traits that can cause social difficulties. Obviously, the issue here is that such an approach could easily turn out as shameless exploitation, and I would expect that to a lot of people this would sound intuitively offensive. It certainly is something that can be implemented very poorly, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a general discussion about it.

Probably the worst possible approach to this would be to portray a mental disability as a superpower as in The Predator. Whatever you do, don't do that.
My intention with this idea is to acknowledge and interpret the ambiguous status that witches and shamans often had and have in their societies. Obviously they provide extremely important services to their community and are often shown great reverence, but they are often simultaneously distrusted and feared. I think there is real value in having that aspect in a fantasy setting. Since its fantasy, these people have actual magic powers and are not delusional, but that wouldn't really change their personal situation in society since in either case the rest of the population believe in their magic powers as well.
What I feel is important is to not get in the situation of "I'm getting repressed because I am powerful". There really is a huge load of that in speculative fiction and it's  really bad misrepresentation of repression and ostracization. People don't get targeted because they are strong, but because they are vulnerable. I think this does kind of demand that the magic has very limited defensive potential. You don't get burned at the stake when you can make people burn where they stand. I think it's important to make it clear that it's not the magic powers that are causing problems, but the social impairments. How much difficulties characters have with their status as magicians should be correlated to their social abilities, not their magical abilities.

Now one argument that could be made is "don't put people with neurological issues that cause problems with social integration into your work for entertainment reasons". But the same could be said for characters who have problems with social integration because of their sexuality, and we've all come to an agreement a good time ago that such characters absolutely need more representation, not less.
Now with my own condition of ADD causing me personally no problems with social integration, I certainly don't see myself in any position to explain to audiences the experience of life with schizophrenia and psychosis. I would be absolutely terrible at that and spread more misconceptions than do any good. I think in such circumstances the best approach probably is to avoid basing the descriptions on any specific pathological profile. Though I can also see that some people might notice one aspect about the magicians, recognize it as a symptom of a specific condition, and then complain about the rest of the condition being completely misrepresented. But I really can't see any way to prevent it other than being outright non-inclusive, so I would file that under occupational hazards.

Obviously a big can of worms, so feel free to latch on to any of these aspects you want to say something about.

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Writers' Corner / Your writing screen
« on: November 01, 2019, 06:42:15 PM »
Since it's November I finally kicked myself to sit down and start to actually write something again. Has been way too long now.

And I realized that just for writing a manuscript, I don't really need a big screen full of buttons for fancy text formatting. A simple txt file will do. So this is how I set up my computer for writing:

Spoiler for Hiden:

(Putting large images in spoiler tags should help avoiding making this thread a total mess. Or just use a link.)

That background image has been on my computers for most of the last 15 years or so and has always been my primary reference for what my ideal fantasy environment looks like, so I don't mind having it occupy most of the screen.

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Writers' Corner / "I want to write a story in which..."
« on: October 30, 2019, 07:05:34 PM »
Every story has to be about a protagonist wanting to do something. That's what makes it a story. Everything else builds upon and supports the protagonist's path to get to this goal.

How did you get to the point where you said "this is going to be my goal I write a story around"?

Looked at in a vacuum without the setting and supporting characters, the goals of most stories sound very bland and interchangeable. Do your ideas start with a goal, or is that something that comes later when you have already decided various other things about the story? When I think of possible bare-bones goals, none of them ever seem to be worth writing about without context. Where do you start with this process?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Shrug of the Author
« on: October 21, 2019, 09:02:23 AM »
This has been something I've been thinking about for a while, and I just got reminded of it again:


What about Novel Series Never Finished Because Author is Scumbag? ;D

That'd be Evil Evil, which is pretty much what George R. R. Martin is.  ;D

I was thinking about Rothfuss ;D

I think everyone in fantasy knows the story of the Wheel of Time series and its writer Robert Jordan dying after having completed 11 books in what turned out to be a 14 book series. These things happen, are unavoidable, and you can't blame anyone for it. In this case, the conclusion of the series had been sufficiently laid out and a fitting writer was found who was able to write further books based on that which were considered satisfying.
But to me it does bring up questions of how good an idea it is to plan really long series that will take decades to create.

When a writer actually dies, or has to bow out for health reasons and the series remains unfinished, that's a sad thing, but nothing you can blame them for. But I think in recent years we've been having more and more cases of creators planning their new works as long series right from the start and ending up putting a lot more on their plates than they can handle and the series eventually getting abandoned.

Famous example being of course A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin. I've recently seen the statement that he might have made a deliberate decision to wait out the end of the TV show before continuing to write, to not have two competing versions at the same time. Which does sound plausible, but I still can't shake the feeling that the spark for the story has left him and he doesn't really know how to continue it.
The other example that was mentioned is the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. Four years to write the second book (which is totally fine), and left hanging for the eight years since. I am not familiar with the series and have no idea how much of a cliffhanger the last book had, but apparently fans are still upset.

And it's not just limited to books. In videogames, there is the very famous example of Half-Life 3. The last entry in the series had the biggest cliffhanger in the series so far, and that was in 2007. Since then the boss of the development company has said that he simply isn't interested in going back to the series. So that's that. There also recently was the game Anthem, which was announced as the first entry in a 10 year long series, but it tanked so hard that nobody expects there to ever by any new entries. Now what?

I might even bring up the Disney Star Wars movies. The first one raised lots of questions with no answers. Then it turned out that they didn't really have any answers planned and intended to fill that in as they go. (Since the first movie was by JJ Abrams, that really should not have been a surprise to anyone!) Then the second movie really didn't deliver on any of the promises of the first one, and now nobody seems to really care of whatever they throw together in the third. (Apparently they are still filming new scenes two months before release.)

I don't have anything against long running series in principle. They are great things when they work. But I feel that much too often creators have this shining idea of making the big epic hit with 10 entries over the next 20 years or so and biting off much more than they can chew. I think it's much more sensible to simply write one book at a time. Start a story, finish the story, release the story. Then start a new story. When you use the same setting or even the same characters, fans will love it. But I really think you need to have regular exit points where it's completely okay to not continue and have no major threads left hanging.
Releasing the first part of a continuous story without having written the ending yet just seems very irresponsible to me.

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Writers' Corner / Always on the move
« on: September 16, 2019, 10:42:31 AM »
In the five years that I have been dabbling in writing on and off, I always only created fragments for short stories, but have never been able to put together a complete narrative that I found satisfying enough to develop fully. The typical 3x400 pages quest to confront and defeat the evil tyrant or stop the demon lord just isn't doing it for me, and it's hard to think of fantasy works that don't follow this template. Neither can I get excited for the vagabond who constantly looks for opportunities to refill his purse by killing things for other people. It's just not things I can relate to or that feel meaningful to me.

When I came back to it recently to give it another try and collected my thoughts on which works I know that have structures I find compelling, I found that several of them follow a pattern of protagonists searching for something that is always somewhere beyond the horizon, with very little sense of progress, and encountering various local conflicts they are forced to interact with before they can continue on their way.
Examples are the movies Fury Road, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the Riddick series, and my all time favorite movie The Empire Strikes back. But I really became aware of the pattern when I played the game Metro Exodus last month. It's about a group of soldiers who are forced to flee their ruined city and cross the post-apocalyptic wastelands to search for a place they can live, and perhaps even be a new home for the other survivors they left behind in the burned out ruins. There is no main villain or threat to the world to be stopped, just the fact that they have to keep moving and can't go back. Along the way they run into various groups that block their path, which forces them to get involved with the local conflicts before they can be on their way. But the aspect that I find most interesting here is that they don't win the conflicts for one group or solve their problems, but only help making just enough progress to be able to get moving again. (Most of the movies I mentioned do have the tyrany overthrown at the end, but otherwise are quite similar.)

There are several things I quite like about that narrative approach. Most importantly, it allows for pretty self contained plots that are individually not that big, so it's not such a huge commitment to complete one huge work or be left with nothing to show for. But you also could continue it basically indefinitely if you want to. At the same time you can have continuity and ongoing character development among the group of protagonists.
But it also appeals to me thematically. By having characters stay only relatively briefly and wanting to move on before all loose ends are tied up, you avoid Destined Saviour protagonists, which just always feel a bit wrong to me. It also avoids that notion that everything can be fixed and will be alright with a single dramatic action, which just isn't how the world works. I find it much more meaningful to have stories about how small accomplishments make real believable differences within their limited space, instead of a narrative that things can only be made better by big heroic victories that only exist in fantasy. Or you even can have the protagonists fail and it isn't the end of the story. Instead they continue, having developed further from the experience.

I think this sounds pretty good. Maybe this could work for me?  I am still early in investigating this approach, looking for more examples and what exactly they do. Do you have any thoughts what aspects are central to making such a structure work and what possible points of failure to look out for?

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« on: May 10, 2018, 03:40:05 PM »
When I look at all the stories I really like, almost all of them are at least somewhat grim and bleak, though often with a bit of hope at the end (that often feels somewhat out of place at that point). Yet I am not at all a grim or bleak person and see myself as unusually cheery and optimistic compared to other people. Something doesn't seem to fit together there. But probably, it actually does. Somehow.

Why is it that stories that seem relevant and meaningful tend to fall into a somewhat bleak category? Where is the space for fun in these works? Or is there actually space for both?

No really specific question here, but the relationship between fun and meaning strikes me as an odd one, that probably holds some very useful insight for writers.

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Sci-Fi, Horror, YA & Urban Fantasy Books / Supernatural Space Opera
« on: May 01, 2018, 09:15:31 PM »
Has there been anything good in recent years? I am thinking of stuff that is basically epic fantasy set in space, like Dune or Star Wars. Something older that isn't that well known would also be appreciated.

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Writers' Corner / The Episodic Series Format
« on: April 30, 2018, 08:56:36 PM »
The format of an episodic series has a great appeal for me, primarily because of practical considerations than narrative ones. It allows the author to add new episodes at whatever pace, lets you get from planning to release fairy quickly, and does not tie you into obligations to give a answers to questions left open in the previous episodes. Planning a series of three, five, or ten books is a commitment I am not able to take. I'd most probably end up never releasing a single chapter.
Being able to write one story at a time, and if I feel like it, write another one whenever I want, seems to me like the only realistic way to get my big vision on the page.

But I am also very much struggling with this format as my concept becomes more concrete.Making the stories not build on each other makes it very difficult to have the events having a meaningful impact on the character.There are three works that are using this format that made me become interested in. The Conan and Kane stories and the Indian Jones movies. I think Conan and Kane are both characters who don't really learn anything or grow in meaningful ways. Conan has a slightly different temperament in his youth than in his age, but that's about it.
He doesn't really want anything but to show of his prowress. Once he impressed or intimidated people in one place, he goes in search of adventure somewhere else where he can show off. And Kane is an unrepentant evil immortal who has been at the same game of refusing to escape his eternal torture in death for houndreds or even thousands of years. Refusing to change is the essence of his character. I enjoy reading both character's stories a lot, but when you try to define them they are really shallow and I always have a hard time to figure out the real stakes.
Indiana Jone is different. The movies don't much build on each other and the character doesn't show any sign of change, but the two movies that are universally regarded as the best by far are really carried by their subplots of Indy trying to salvage his broken relationships with Marion and his father. The main plots about snatching a magic artifact before the Nazis do neer have any real stakes that would be interesting. But how often can you pull that off? The movies did it twice but then the formula is worn out.

In a strictly eoisodic series, how can you integrate peronal stakes and make events impactful to the protagonist?

15
Writers' Corner / Are you an Artist?
« on: April 15, 2018, 08:24:57 PM »
With a capital A. Do you regard your writing not so much as an attempt to master expert craftsmanship in storytelling, but more as an expression of abstract ideas and ideals?

We don't have to make this about great artists, or even good artists. I certainly don't  see myself as one yet. But on some days I find myself being drawn deeply into stuff that I usually regard as pretentious bullshitting. Like the limited perception of reality and our distorted mental images of it, the meaning of faith, searching for subjective morality, the relationships between text, audience, and author, or how the medium of literature affects the message and can manipulate the reader. And I get really excited about working it into writing.  ;D

Anyone else making such considerations, or are you fully pushing this away into literary BS?

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