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Re: Is Tar Valon a vagina? Fantasy is full of sexual imagery - how else do you explain dark lords living in high towers protuding from shrubbery in the ground?  Small penis complex clearly. 

If you are getting really sick minded though - how about those wizards leading young boys off on quests?  Camping out under the stars, huddled together for warmth at night ....(okay, that's me banned!)

February 22, 2011, 09:23:45 AM
Re: Brandon Sanderson
Apparently he's got a 36 book series planned  :o. The 6 that he's written that aren't Wot novels are part of it. The man is a writing machine.

The man is actually an AI.  (we have discussed before haven't we?  I remember someone posting that George RR Martin had been locked in a basement with a bowl of chicken wings while Sanderson finished ADWD for him.)

February 19, 2012, 11:42:05 PM
Re: What is Literature? A) I think there's a difference between literature and literary fiction.

Literature I would define as the collective body of works that a given culture considers its canon. It's a fluid category and varies with time, i.e. what was considered "literature" in 2014 is not the same thing as what was considered literature in 1950 and certainly not 1850 (take a look at Shelley's contemporaries' reviews of Frankenstein sometime...).

A lot of people consider literary fiction to be that which tells one story on the surface of the plot events and a second story beneath them. Others consider it to be fiction that is experimental in some way. I don't think either of these is necessarily incorrect, but I tend to think of it as a category rather than a genre, sort of like young adult or women's fiction; in other words, that it says less about the book itself than it does its audience and who it is marketed to.

B) I think there's lots of fantasy both in literature and literary fiction. In literature, just off the top of my head, there's a couple of plays by Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest), the huge majority of epics: from Beowulf to The Odyssey to Sundiata, most works by Chaucer, Dante's Divine Comedy, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Milton's Paradise Lost, Don Juan by Lord Byron, Spenser's The Faerie Queene...

As far as literary fiction is concerned, Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for literature and a decent portion of what he writes is fantasy (based on Middle Eastern legends and folklore); Karen Lord won a literary prize for Redemption in Indigo; Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Hoffman, and Toni Morrison are all considered literary fiction writers and write what could be considered fantasy (it's magical realism anyway). Virginia Woolf and Eudora Welty each wrote a fantasy novel. Just off the top of my head.

C) But literary fiction readers just don't think in terms of genre. My husband has a PhD in English, and a lot of our friends are literature academics. You should see their faces when I tell them that Kurt Vonnegut totally wrote sci-fi. Or that Margaret Atwood does (she was even surprised to discover this herself). Minds = blown.

So I don't think it's correct or incorrect, but a matter of two different perspectives. Likewise, I suspect that many fantasy fans didn't realize at the time that their favorite required readings in high school and college classes were totally SF/F (I didn't).


June 03, 2014, 10:11:57 PM
Re: Violence in fantasy Sure. And the old adage:

"Put your characters in a tree.
Set the tree on fire.
Get them out of the tree."

But burned.

Or, Lois McMaster Bujold's line: "I invent characters I love, and then I think of the worst possible things I could do  to them."

BTW, I really do like the notion of: "She's dying; crap, how do I do the dishes, anyway?" Mixed with the right other set of emotions, that would be very human.

July 17, 2015, 04:04:38 PM
Re: Violence in fantasy
So recently I finished to outline a story that happens in my world, and the first thing that came into my mind was - "Man. This world is brutal. It's entire story is brutal. Dude. WTF?".
My goal was to create a story when everyone is hurt in some way (physically and mentally) and where painfull but quick death is actually a blessing. And to forestall - I don't use violence just for the sake of using it, but still it's a key component of my world, and i made sure it's justified (most of the times).

What do you think about it? What is the thick red line that separates "grim/dark fantasy" from "butcher's fairytale" (this is how one of my friend reffers to it)? How not to turn a story into a parody? How far can one walk into a Mordor of description?
Do you often use violence in your writing. Or maybe in other way: Do you LIKE to use violence in your writing.
I also want to say is that I never read any of GoT books, and never even watched a second of it's TV series. But as far as I know - it's a hurtfest/killfest/rapefest/tearsofreadersfest/cutthedongfest.

Maybe it's a time to read it? Or do you know other authors that like to "play" with their characters in this way? Or maybe even better?

Stephen Lawhead, specifically Pendragon Cycle and Song of Albion, is really good at walking that line of violence-but-not-overly-done, I think. He'll leave you chilled for days without overdoing it.  Dan Wells writes YA serial killer novels...that might be another good middle-ground (not as dark, but, well, I did say YA serial killer).    I actually thought Hunger Games towed the line, especially when you consider how much could have happened to Katniss that didn't, and how much was implied but not shown. Ender's Game is another.

I tend to write pretty brutal worlds and/or characters with brutal backgrounds, myself, so these are my thoughts. First, read through your own manuscript yourself. If it's too much for you, then I suggest finding another way to convey it. I've come to prefer a less-is-more approach for the really nasty stuff (if this is what he's showing me, dear Lord what's this over here he's *not* showing me?), but I do think the first line on this is whether or not you yourself are comfortable with it.

Second, show it to someone whose judgment you trust who is either also a writer or is at least an avid reader in your genre. Pay attention when this person reacts, and ask them to be specific with their reactions. (Ex: I showed one friend a scene I was having trouble with. Because it was him,  since *he* said one character reacted too violently for the situation, I scaled it back. )

Third, having done this, look the thing over again. You said your goal was to keep the violence focused on driving plot and character. So, in this pass, is there anything distracting from that? (Ex: Scene 12 is the really important violent scene, but Scenes 4 and 7 have the same level of intensity. Since you want to emphasize 12, don't put 4&7 on the same level. I don't think this is something you can do until you have a full draft. Or, since your outline is done, mark the ones that really need the emphasis, and make some notes on ideas of how to not be as intense on scenes around it. So the violence is there, but you're making sure the reader doesn't make Level 10 of intensity into Level 1.

July 17, 2015, 06:22:36 PM
Re: Violence in fantasy
Second, show it to someone whose judgment you trust who is either also a writer or is at least an avid reader in your genre. Pay attention when this person reacts, and ask them to be specific with their reactions. (Ex: I showed one friend a scene I was having trouble with. Because it was him,  since *he* said one character reacted too violently for the situation, I scaled it back. )

Yeah, this is excellent advice. Run it by your target audience (ideally, multiple folks within that group) and see what they say about it.

I recently finished a military sci-fi novel, and in it, my POV character gets captured by a despicable crime lord and tortured in a pretty brutal manner (probably on par with what you'd see on 24, or a bit worse). The scene was only a page long, but it was brutal enough that it really bothered about 80% of my advance readers (I was lucky enough to have 10 or 11 opinions). Since 8 out of 11 people told me the scene made them want to put the book down, I scaled it back.

Ultimately, I wanted to keep the book accessible, and that scene limited my audience. After I sat back and looked at the book as a whole, it wasn't really necessary to move the plot forward. I was able to do everything I wanted in a different way while keeping the book palatable to a larger audience.

Also, sometimes it's not the violence that's the problem, but the type of violence. Certain topics will bother certain people more than others. For example (spoiler for Prince of Thorns):

Spoiler for Hiden:
In the first chapter, the POV character placates his grumpy crew (who aren't finding the loot they wanted in a village they've just slaughtered) by saying something like "Sorry there's no treasure. But hey, there's some underage girls hiding in that barn. So if you're bored, go rape them a few times and then burn them alive when you're done."

The POV character is intended to be a total bastard, but man, I couldn't get past my disgust for him after that scene. It might be because I have a good friend who's been raped, or just because I find the subject distasteful, but that tanked the book for me. And the majority of violence doesn't bother me at all!

I wish you luck with figuring it out. Also, another good topic might be measuring the violence (and types of violence) in your book to other books to which you'd like it compared. If you're about even with those, you're probably okay.

July 20, 2015, 04:37:04 PM
Re: Violence in fantasy
And with "if it disturbes you - you should rethink adding it" - I have a high "boiling point" and I'm not easily disturbed - especially by fiction. Becuase of that it's hard for me to get how "hot" my story actually is. Someone may feel compfortable, someone can be burned by it.

Looks like I might need to rethink my writing. My story isn't purely run on blood, tears and other body fluids, but still many legs of little girls are broken, many throats cut in sleep, and villages pillaged. Someone is being shot by ballista's arrow (it's actually humorous part).

I wouldn't rethink anything regarding your novel yet. I'd gather more data first! Really, you shouldn't be trying to publish anything without getting as much outside (and unbiased) feedback as you can before doing so. So it's something you'll already be doing.

I should clarify that I made the decision to scale back the torture scene in my recent book because I had a cross-section of readers (most of whom did *not* read military sci-fi or grimdark) remark that it made them want to put down the book. I scaled it back because I wanted to make sure I didn't turn off that wider audience, specifically. If I *was* targeting a "grimdark" audience, I probably wouldn't have changed it at all!

You just need to decide who you're writing for. If you're targeting the grimdark crowd, I bet they'll be game for grisly, sometimes horrific violence, so long as it serves the story and the book is well-written - that's why the call the genre grimdark! It all comes down to knowing your audience and writing your story to appeal to them.

July 20, 2015, 09:54:37 PM
Re: Calling All Maps! This is the cloth version of the map for my Redwald/Wulfwald setting . . .

It's from the back of the book . . .

I don't have decent digital version at the moment only these crappy pictures I took.

September 09, 2015, 10:15:48 AM
Re: Favorite Tropes?? Can't go wrong with a good Big Damn Heroes moment.

I also really enjoy the trope where the main hero and villain are forced to work together against another threat. You can get so many great moments and interactions between the two if done right.

September 10, 2015, 11:33:07 PM
Explain your magic systems Having some rules for how magic works in a fantasy world, be they rough or very precise, is often a major part of the worldbuilding and can have a very big impact on the feel of the world and the development of the plot and characters.

What kinds of systems of how magic works, what it does, and who uses it have you created for your works? I'd really like to hear more about what other people here are doing in this regard. However brief or elaborate you think necessary to explain what you have.

Spoiler for Magic in the Ancient Lands:
The Source of Magic
The Ancient Lands consists of two world that exist side by side. The material world and the Spiritworld. They both look very similar and feel almost the same to touch, but the material world is the world of things while the Spiritworld is the world of energy. Almost everything exist in both worlds at the same time. While the body of a mountain rests in the material world, the essence or spirit of the mountain resides in the Spiritworld. The exception are animals and people whose body and essence are inseperable and always in the same world at any given time.
While things in the material world are changed through work by being moved, broken, bend, or burned, the energy that allows people to move objects or fire to burn things comes from the Spiritworld. While energy can take many different forms, it all is of the same essence and can change from any form to any other. The heat of the fire, the crushing power of water, the force of the wind, and the nourishment inside food is all the same energy, changing from one form to another. It is also the source of strength in animals and people. It is both life energy and the power of nature, and it also is the energy of magic.

The Mechanisms of Magic
Energy from the Spiritworld is at work in all things at all times. By breathing and eating does a person gain energy and by moving the body and other things the energy is released and given to other things. Normally the energy is innert and passive, not doing anything on its own initiative. Everything that is happening in the material world is set into motion by the will of a spirit. For plants and rocks and other inanimate things this spirit resides in the Spiritworld, while for people and animals it exists directly in the physical body. Most people and all animals only know how to use their energy for ordinary things that are necessary for their bodies to function and stay alive, usually without even thinking about it or even knowing that they do. But since all energy is of the same essence, there are almost no limits to how a spirit might use the energy currently contained in it. When the energy is used for things that the body of a person does not usually do, it is magic.
The greatest difficulty in learning the most fundamental basics of using magic is to overcome the natural instinct that ones spirit reaches only as far as ones own body. Being told to extend ones spirit beyond the body and reach out to other things is simple, but actually doing it is an entirely different thing. It's like trying to make your hand into a fist while keeping the third or fourth finger extended. The hand is easily capable of doing it, but it seems almost impossible to use muscles one never even knew existed. In theory everyone is capable of doing magic, and many believe that even the lowest animals have everything needed to do it. But only few people have a natural talent for overcoming their natural instincs and reach beyond the limits of their own bodies, and even then it takes many years of training to do even the most basic of magic. Once this step is done, a witch or shaman has to think of objects around them as part of themselves, like another arm or hand. If succesful, they gain control over it just like all people have control over their bodies.
One of the things that often seems very strange to most people is that magic is very inefficient. Even the best sorcerers expend a lot more energy by doing something with magic than if they would just use their hands or legs. Instead of using their own life energy, which would quickly be lethal, energy is taken from the air and the ground, as well as plants, animals, and even other people nearby, like taking a deep breath. This generally does't cause any harm as all living and nonliving things nearby lose only very small amounts of energy each, but watching several people using a lot of magic up close can be a bit tiring. The power of anyone using magic depends largely on their ability to keep drawing in energy without becoming exhausted. But like physical stamina, it can be improved by practice and training. (Stories of uncontroled young witches destroying villages or saving them from enemies by accident are therefor untrue. A newborn has the same muscles as the strongest man, but they lack the strength to lift an anvil or wrestle a boar. It's the very experienced but reckless sorcerers who cause the most trouble.)

What Magic can do
Potentially the possibilities of magic seem endless. But manipulating the physical world with magic does not only require the ability to take hold of a thing and exerting mental force on it, but also overcoming the resistance of the target to keep behaving in its usual ways. Everything that is not a person or an animal has a spirit in the Spiritworld. And like the minds of these spirits are constantly competing with each other over what shape things should have in the Spiritworld, they also don't give up control over their physical counterpart in the material world willingly. Magic is always easiest when one attempts to make things behave in ways that are very close to their ordinary behavior. Everything resists being manipulated in ways that go against their nature, but most plants and inanimate things submit easily to slight nudges that don't contradict what they would usually be doing. Diverting a river is much easier than making it flow uphill, trees are easier to bend than having them move to a different place. It's almost impossible to make fire burn stone, but almost trivial to make it spread in a specific direction. It would be spreading anyway with very little preference where to go first.
The same rules apply to people and animals. Taking control over their bodies is quite difficult, but magic can also be used to affect their minds. And they also resist much less when made to do things that match their nature rather than going against it. Magic that affects the mind is generally used to make people more willing to talk or not pay attention to something. An ordinary man being in a place he's not supposed to is easier to hide from the minds of guards than the same man in the same place dragging a corpse behind him.
As a result, people who use magic prefer to make it subtle, working with the natural inclination of their target instead of against it. While very extreme displays of magic are possible, they are very difficult, very exhausting, and often have a considerable chance of going wrong and either not working at all or other than intended.
Some things are believed to be outright impossible, except perhaps for the most powerful spirits with the powers of gods. Once the spirit of a person or an animal has left the body and dissolved into pure energy it is impossible to put it back together. Resoring a corpse is possible, and there are even ways to give it life again, but it would be a new creation and nothing like what it was before. It also is not possible to manipulate time or to have things disappear and reappear in a different place. All physical things have to be moved in physical ways, though it is possible to change their form to let them travel at great speeds or through spaces impossible for normal creatures to pass.

How magic is used
Most people who use magic fall into two groups. Witches and shamans. The ways in which they are using magic is mostly the same, the main difference between them is their role in society and what they are using it for. Shamans are priests whose role is one of being mediators between their mortal kin and the spirits of the Spiritworld. Even without the use of magic, spirits are not willing to tollerate anything done by farmers and woodsmen on their land. The duty of the shamans is to commune with the spirits of valeys, forests, rivers, and lakes to negotiate where their people are allowed to go and what to take from the land and in which ways they can repay the spirits for these previleges. They always have a very high social status and in many places the head shaman is also the local chief or king. In addition to using magic to communicate with the spirit whose minds and thoughts are too strange for ordinary people to understand, shamans also generally become skilled with using magic in other ways that relate to maintaining the order and safety of the village, such as healing people and animals and giving strength and courage to the warriors in battle.
Most people who use magic but are not shamans are considered witches. They are a much more diverse group with a wide range of interest. When people turn to witches for help, it is usually for personal services instead for help with matters that concern the community. They enchant charms and talismans and perform divinations on questions which the shamans would not approve of, as well as providing magical help for all other kinds of problems that people would rather keep secret. While shamans are almost always highly respected and revered, the reputation of witches is often much lower. While many people have need of their services, they know many dangerous things and could bring trouble as much as help. They are all dangerous, but whether they are considered a threat depends on their relationship to the people they live close to.
Magic is rarely used for battle, even between people who both know how to use it. Some have learned to hurl fire or cause paralyzing pain with a touch, but most have very little experience with combat and know how quickly magic could potentially kill when used by someone who knows what he is doing. But even then magic can not protect against a dagger in the back or an arrow in the eye if it is not seen coming, and so most people who know magic either avoid getting close to fights entirely or do it the old fashioned way with armor and blades. While magic can be used in construction to move very heavy loads, it quickly becomes exhausting and most of the times it's much easier to simply get a hundred workers to do it the regular way than having a mage attempting it. Magic that replicates results that could be achieved by manual work is used most efficently when there is a relatively small amount of work that needs to be done very quickly, such as sealing the wounds of a man who's bleeding out or blasting open a gate for soldiers to rush through. If it can wait for a while, it's usually easier to the it the normal way.

Silver is a metal with special properties when it comes to magic. It has a unique relationship with the Spiritworld and resists magic manipulation more than anything else. Not only is it useful in wards that protect against magic and spirits, silver shackles even disrupt the ability of people or magical creatures to effectively use magic at all. Even more so, silver plated blades cut any spirit in just the same way as bronze and iron cut living creatures.

While magic generally works best when used to nudge things into behaving in ways that don't contradict their nature, some people have discovered a source of primordial chaotic energies from a realm outside of creation. This energy can completely ignore the natural laws and instincts inherent to all things and could potentially do anything imaginable. While the potentials of sorcery are endless, most people see the infinite potential for distruction more than anything else and sorcerers are considered very dangerous at best or complete madmen with unlimited power at worst. While great things could be accomplished with sorcery, every use of it also comes with a kind of magical polution that corrupt the life energy in all living things nearby and makes them weak and sickly. Highly corrupted creatures or objects can even spread it to others and it takes centuries for the lairs of sorcerers to return to normal after they ended their work in these places.

Blood Magic
Usually people draw energy from the environment around them to cast spells, but this has very little effect on plants, animals, and people as the amount is miniscule compared to the entire energy within living things. Very early on witches have discovered that all life energy is also magic energy and that people die very quickly when losing a lot of blood. The connection was made that it is blood that carries the life energy through the body and the amounts of energy within the blood of a living person or even animal are enormous. Blood magic is the skill of not drawing in energy from the outside world but directly from the blood to make the magic much more powerful. Most witches and shamans never attempt to learn this skill as the process is incredibly painful and often horrifying to watch.

September 18, 2015, 02:39:29 PM