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Topics - Eli_Freysson

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Writers' Corner / Making villains pathetic
« on: January 27, 2019, 10:29:24 PM »
Don't get me wrong; a villain needs to be dangerous, or the hero's victory doesn't mean much.

But I'm piecing together a new space opera setting, and I'm thinking about my resident evil sorcerers. I want to avoid the "Evil is Cool" trope. Just look at the Sith in Star Wars. They get to wear all black, cut loose with destructive powers, and have no few apologists among the fans. But I want their opposites to be the cool ones.

Real-life villains, for all the damage that they do, aren't cool or impressive. Aside from the evidence we see every day I used to watch a lot of documentaries about dictators, mobsters and serial killers. None of them impressed me in the slightest. Dictators are paranoid inadequates, mobsters are brutish, semi-literate parasites, and serial killers are disgusting, pathetic morons.

So while my evil sorcerers who have given themselves over to horrible elements may wield all sorts of murderpowers their minds and bodies warp from it. They're not cool and collected, they're petty and angry, their skin and teeth suffer, and they gather various physical ailments as they go further along the path. And rather than wear all-black or cool armour I'm thinking of putting them in really gaudy, ostentatious outfits, because they're ultimately empty narcissists trying and failing to fill themselves.

I'd like to hear some thoughts on this. What do we think of villains who aren't fun, just loathsome? Clarence Boddicker, the Scorpio Killer and Commodus, rather than Hannibal Lecter, the Joker and Hans Gruber?

Writers' Corner / My latest story idea - South America
« on: December 28, 2018, 07:44:00 PM »
Yes, I have yet another story idea. Though thankfully this one fits within a standalone. I'd like to get some opinions on the basic idea, which is another effort of mine to jam a bunch of different things I want to explore into a single book.

The setting is a fantasy counterpart of South America, and fantasy counterparts to Conquistadors are doing their thing: Brutal exploitation, slavery, forced religious conversions and just generally acting with astonishing imperialistic arrogance.

Then they push into the wrong goddamn land. A land inhabited by Amazons with superior weapons, technology and other neat tricks, courtesy of special materials that fell from the sky in ages past. Much of the expedition is slaughtered, while the leader and a few others are taken captive and brought to the capital.

What follows is a meeting with the Amazon queen, and the Conquistadors getting a taste of their own medicine; mocked and mistreated by a superior nation. I only got this whole idea a couple of days ago, but I think the main plot would be about the leader ransoming the lives of his men by being sent on a solo mission deep into the jungle, where he faces terrible horrors.

While there is obviously some wish-fulfilment in play here (since I can't time travel and punch Christopher Rapist Mutilator Slaver Columbus in the face), I'm not planning to portray the Amazons as morally superior or as heading some kind of utopia. They do their own exploitation of surrounding, less developed nations, and in fact take advantage of the chaos created by invaders to spread their influence. Such as offering a cure for smallpox, but at hefty prices and general submission to the queen. Because that's just people for ya.

I'm a bit hesitant to get serious about writing a protagonist who represents several things I despise, but then there is the prospect of having him emerge from jungle hell traumatised and with some actual perspective, and a quest to save his comrades from the sacrificial altar would at least serve as a sympathetic motivation.


Writers' Corner / Social media - I would really appreciate some advice
« on: December 04, 2018, 08:13:13 AM »
I'm... frustrated. I suppose that's just a part of being an indie author, but it's a specific issue this time.

I've come to believe that getting noticed as an indie is largely a matter of blind luck. I've tried basically everything an indie is suppose to do: Goodreads ads, Goodreads Giveaway, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, various forms of paid mass-mails, a paid-for book blog tour, interviews on various blogs, I kept an English-language Facebook page going for a while... NONE of this EVER coincided with a blip on my sales chart. Ever. The only thing that's ever worked a little bit is to an Amazon Kindle Countdown, and mentioning that fact on the r/fantasy page.

I got tired of throwing money out the window, and have long since given up on anything other than the Reddit thing. No one pays attention to "Notice me!" in a field absolutely jam-packed with desperate indies. I do keep an author webpage up; I was for a while not going to renew the fee, except that Romanian guy noticed me through it... due to blind luck.

I'm writing this because I just got yet another rejection from a publisher. There was no mention of the actual quality of the manuscript. They're only complaint was that they require "an established web presence such as a website, social media along with noticeable effort to engage potential readers prior to publication".

Social media. Goddamn social media. I have never gotten into it, as I think it is a weird, depressing activity, I've never really understood how it works and I refuse to get a smartphone. I tried keeping a blog going for a while, but weeks went by without me thinking of anything to say to the faceless hordes of the internet. Apparently a big following is what an indie needs... and now a lack of it is stopping me from becoming a trad as well!

I'm writing these next words with a sense of dread and hopelessness, but maybe I need to at least look into getting involved on social media. I don't have any hope for it. The problem is that I don't care. I don't have the slightest interest in spending hours each day approaching strangers about this and that, and I'm too isolated and weird to have much to say.

But it often seems that I HAVE to, so now I'm asking if anyone here with a better grasp of this awful, proven-to-induce-anxiety activity is willing to advise me.

(Sorry about the negative tone. I just despair at times.)

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Any books on Amazons?
« on: November 29, 2018, 03:10:18 PM »
I find the basic idea of a pre-industrial all-female warrior society interesting, and have done some thinking exercises wondering why such a society would exist and how it would function. However, I'm also a bit vary, as the concept seems ripe for the kind of gender war nonsense that doesn't help anyone.

Can anyone think of an interesting take on Amazons?

(Besides Wonder Woman)

Writers' Corner / What triggers your ideas?
« on: November 14, 2018, 05:41:12 PM »
Do you think long and hard for something to tell a story about, or do ideas just plague you?

I'm asking because... well, it takes so very little to trigger something in me that then proceeds to blow out into an entire narrative. And I honestly don't know if it's a good thing or not. Not all of my ideas endure the test of time and badger me enough for me to eventually write them down, but it does mean that I'm constantly carrying way too many of them around.

I'm writing this post because, since SFF is the realm of speculation, I started thinking about the idea of a specifically engineered servant species. As in, they were created to be servile and really only satisfied when doing someone's bidding. Like really needy pets, kept by the aristocracy as servants, bodyguards and status symbols. I started wondering how in-universe characters might see this practice; some would no doubt look askance at it and feel that creating them in the first place was a really creepy thing to do. But on the other hand the species' basic nature can't be changed.

I got the idea that only 10 percent of births would be male, for the sake of making their population easier to control. I then started wondering whether the aristocrats would use them as sex slaves, or if that would be considered degeneracy. The idea formed that individuals of the species might run away in case of bad treatment or frustration with their own ingrained nature... but would inevitably find a cause, organisation or individual to be slavishly loyal to. I envisioned some good drama that could be built around a character grappling with this: Angry and strong-willed, but unable to cope without something to tether themselves to.

And what started all this?

Yesterday I watches the first episode of the She-Ra reboot. The titular character is best friends with a catgirl alien, which at one point is seen sleeping curled up at the foot of She-Ra's bed, despite being the size of a grown human. And my mind just went off on a tangent, because it seemed oddly servile.

And this is just one example. These sparks come out of nowhere, from any direction. I just wanted to know if this sounds familiar to anyone.

General Discussion / If you could meet ONE historical figure
« on: September 21, 2018, 02:10:43 PM »
I once asked my father this question. If he could have a conversation with one human being from history, what would his choice be? He said "Hitler. I would want to understand how a human being can be this evil."

My own choice is Abraham Lincoln. I would be curious to see how the real man lived up to the legend that has sprung up around him. I would also be curious to see how someone can deal with two dead sons, lifelong depression, public scorn, years of a horrifying war and a lunatic wife, and still keep on functioning.

What about you?

Writers' Corner / Anyone interested in reading my new WIP?
« on: August 24, 2018, 06:12:46 PM »
In between longer novels I'm now making good on an idea I've mention previously, and writing a fantasy novella. It's my chance to explore some ideas I've been wanting to cover, such as mind control and benevolent dictatorship.

In short the story opens with a character being freed from mind control by celestial beings who have taken over a country, and is trying to make it to the border, while reflecting on what was done to her and whether it was good or bad.

I'm already two chapters in, and it all has my trademark fast pace.

Writers' Corner / Idea for a standalone novel. Mind control is fun.
« on: August 11, 2018, 11:59:16 AM »
Because the creative part of my brain never gives me a moment's peace and seems determined to overload my backlog with story ideas, I've recently gotten one for potentially my first ever standalone fantasy novel. It would be my chance to get certain ideas out of my system, such as mind control and the idea of a benevolent dictatorship.

I'd appreciate some first impressions of the basic outline:

During a time of great crisis the mystics of a kingdom summoned helpful entities from another plane of reality. I'm using "Bright Lords" as a placeholder title. Anyway, they are highly magical being with an instinct for order and kindness... but as it turns out not much concern for individual freedoms nor patience for humanity to sort its own problems out.

Rather than leave the Bright Lords stay and take over, establishing a classless society of even distribution and no prejudice of any kind. They are aided in this by humans who have proven strong and resourceful (such as by opposing the Lords), whom they subject to magical slavery. These slaves gain some of their master's power and exist in a constant state of satisfaction, with any thoughts of discontent or anger at their situation being quickly brushed away by the spell.

Meanwhile the Bright Lords do face opposition, such as by the expat ruling class, religious authorities, people who just plain don't want to live under firm control, and neighbouring nations who want more land for themselves.

The story would kick off in the moment one of the slaves is ambushed by a resistance group and freed from the controlling spell, then take off by the group to give advice in dealing with the Bright Lords. This character would be confused, having to deal with the chaos of normal human thought again and the loss of purpose, while being hunted by their former comrades, who want to bring them back into the fold and act genuinely hurt over the escape. The main character would feel quite conflicted.

The general idea is very fresh and therefore vague, but there would be cloak and dagger stuff involving attempts to retake control of the kingdom, as well as musings on whether happiness is worth less when induced. The climax would be about averting war, and the main character having to willingly enter the magic bond again in order to have the power to save innocent lives. They would then reflect on how whether right or wrong their servitude was at least a decision this time, and that it meant something.

As I've mentioned a couple of times I'm in the early stages of planning an epic fantasy series. I'm going to go with an ensemble cast, but the story would ultimately hinge on a hero distantly descended from divine beings (inspired by Aasimar from D&D), touched with certain powers and a painful inability to tolerate other people's suffering.

I started wondering how the other characters would feel about someone with a rigidly black and white definition of right and wrong. As I'm currently picturing it this person would have no tolerance for moral compromise, the allowing of small evils today for the sake of staving off greater ones down the road, and voice a weary exasperation towards humanity for its corruptibility and letting greedy, cruel people get their way.

On the one hand this person would be well-known to be completely trustworthy and reliable, and no one complains about bleeding heart kindness when they're on the receiving end of it. On the other no one likes being moralised at, and then there's the resentment people might feel towards someone with gifts above and beyond the rest of us.

I'm looking forward to doing this character, and experiment with doing a pure good character that still has some depth; such as internal reflection on how, unlike regular people, they don't really have any choice in being "good". There is also the issue of feeling weighed down by people's expectations. But I find I'm having a hard time deciding on whether they'd be treated more with hero worship or frustration at supposed naivety.

Writers' Corner / My query letter
« on: June 19, 2018, 01:20:37 PM »
Oh, God. Query letters. My personal Sauron has returned from the distant past to drive me up the wall.

Anyway, I've decided to give traditional publishing a try, and that's that. I would appreciate thoughts on what I have so far:

The sprawling city of Fluvi is caught in tensions between rich and poor, anarchists and those in power, and the two dominant ethnic groups. Journalist Sam Todd and his team of helpers work to uncover corruption and make calls for peace. Things take a turn for the strange as a seemingly regular investigation starts uncovering annual mass disappearances around the solstice. Odd forces start pressing in on the group as they get closer to an occult secret society. A part of this is Angela Thorn, musician and part-time investigator who finds the dark family secrets her mother supposedly took to the grave suddenly coming for her. Knives lie in wait in the dark and the group finds their worldview breaking little by little, testing their conscience and courage alike. The solstice draws near, and blood will flow.

Writers' Corner / Choosing between my main villains
« on: June 13, 2018, 12:13:13 AM »
Continuing on from my earlier thread, I'm now contemplating my big bad dark lord, the setting's orc expies, and the relationship between the two.

I'd like to hear some thoughts on the two approaches I've come up with.

Option 1: An ancient, primal demon entity, comprised of humanity's uglier aspects. The orcs are essentially tiny aspects of it, and when enough of them are gathered in one unified tribe the demon can manifest in the flesh for brief periods and wreak utter havoc.
This character would be more of a force of nature than a person with complex motives; personality would be left more to his human generals. His sheer simplicity would form much of his persona and dialogue. This is partially inspired by this exchange from Adventure Time:

"You're so evil it's boring! You're basic, man!"
"Yes. While the mortal world doubts and questions, I know exactly what I am."

Of the two, he would be the more powerful, and can't ever really be destroyed for good for as long as humanity remains, well, human. It would be humanity's own fault that he is manifest on Earth in the first place, while other primordial forces are more ethereal.

Option 2: A human from the early days of the world, who sought forbidden, divine power and knowledge, but his basic underlying human frailties caused it to backfire on him and turn him into a twisted abomination in body and spirit. His goal is essentially to drag the whole world down to his level by encouraging mankind's worst instincts of hatred and selfishness. The orcs are contagious; captives he had twisted like himself with dark magic, and are driven by constant rage, paranoia and relentless consumption.

This character seems ripe for dialogue about how he's humanity fully realised, with all the veneers stripped away. However, he'd also be a coward when faced with something that actually poses a threat to him, as he is ALL of our bad aspects cranked up to eleven.

Writers' Corner / Inherently "good"
« on: June 05, 2018, 12:25:54 AM »
I'm cursed with coming up with a new setting/series well before I can actually start working on it. Now I'm 1/3 through my Gothic/Lovecraftian series, and have just gotten the very earliest ideas for my very own Tolkieneque old-style epic fantasy. You know, with lots of travelling, lots of travellers, high stakes and a sense of myth.

Assuming I can pull it off, of course.

I'm currently pondering the basic elements, including the Gifted Hero. In short, I want my next setting to have people gifted with special powers that come with an inclination toward heroics.

I guess I'm going to define "goodness/heroism" as empathy for other people's suffering, and the passion and will to do something about it.

On the empathy thing I think I'll go with them being up-to-eleven sensitive to the suffering of others, possibly to the degree of literally feeling it just by being near them. This would make doing something about it as natural as looking after one's own emotional state. It would also give a "this sucks" angle to the whole thing, and make these people prone to either nervous breakdowns or living as hermits in the middle of nowhere.
I would also make them driven and passionate to the point of often charging in headfirst, and being prone to melodrama and meltdowns. Ie. someone you want leading a charge, but not making plans.

This seems like it would give me characters with a reputation for/tendency towards do-gooderism, while also allowing for a bit of depth.

Any thoughts?

Writers' Corner / Main character without agency
« on: April 07, 2018, 08:25:46 PM »
A little while ago I weathered an idea I had for an enlightened dictatorship, by beings that have a strong sense of compassion but no real concern for stuff like free will or individualism.

The idea has been rolling around in my head for a little while now, and it occurred to me to make the main character a human under their control. Ie, with independent thought but no ability to defy orders. This would be a former hero, one of the party that always brings down the well-intentioned would-be dictators in stories... except this time they failed.

This is still a very young and half-baked idea, but currently I'm thinking of doing a standalone novel, exploring the character reflecting on the situation and whether the takeover is ultimately good or bad, while being put to work in keeping order by the bosses.

I'd love to hear some thoughts on this.

Writers' Corner / Taglines
« on: March 22, 2018, 07:03:06 PM »
My blurbs have gotten some criticisms over time, and it's been suggested that I add a tagline at the start of each one. Something to indicate the general tone and nature of each story to entice people to continue reading. But I don't really know how to approach this. I feel I can't write something like "Fast-paced action thrill ride!" or make a comparison to some pop culture hallmark without coming across as an egotist.

I was hoping some of you folks who have read my books might have something to say:



Writers' Corner / My occult ritual
« on: February 17, 2018, 11:32:02 AM »
I'm piecing together the various aspects of my new series, and the first novel will be about a group kidnapping people for use in a sacrificial ritual.

(yes, I know this is almost as heavily used in fantasy as the comma, but whatever)

I feel that if they could just use anyone things would be too easy and simple for the bad guys, and there would be no pattern for the heroes to investigate. So I need to design the ritual to have some kind of internal logic beyond just bloodshed.

Yesterday the thought occurred that maybe they need eight people: Two kids, two adolescents, two parents, and two old people. They are seeking to appeal to a Lovecraftian entity that sees all and knows all (an expy of Yog-Sothoth), and so the internal logic I have in mind is:

Children for their clean slate and potential.

Adolescents for being the bridge between childhood and adulthood.

Parents in the prime of their lives for being those truly tethered to this world.

Elders for looking back on all of life with experience and wisdom.

And one male, one female of each for the full view.

So.... does this sound workable as the offerings to appease an eldritch god? Also, I was thinking the bad guys would start with the oldest and work their way down, ie starting with wisdom and ending with potential.

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