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Messages - Wilson

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Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Beginnings
« on: October 04, 2011, 05:49:36 PM »
I think the problem with most farm boy openings is that they're not, well, farm boy openings.  Most are just a lazy way to create a naive protagonist that allows the reader to discover the world along with the characters.  There's a cliched beginning, and then everything about the character's life before the adventure becomes irrelevant.  The farm grows a hero, but too often the hero doesn't bring enough of what he was before with him; FarmBoy's life essentially starts when MysteriousWizard spirits him away, hilarity ensues when he enters the BigCity and has no clue how to act around FamousPeople, and then he's a GreatHero.  There's a lot of pages slapped in at the beginning without much substance.

I think it could be done well even today, if the author actually gives enough respect to making the character's early life meaningful, rather than spending fifty pages to say "here are the main characters, they come from a simple life.  In practice, it's usually feels like an afterthought added in as a means to make the protagonist innocent and ignorant.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Beginnings
« on: October 04, 2011, 03:45:09 PM »
I think as well, it's fine for the main plot to be slow in developing, as long as the characters and situations are interesting enough to keep you reading.  If there's a world that needs saving, it helps if you care about the world before the characters start saving it, but no matter how well the world's crafted, most readers won't care about your world until they care about some of the people in it.  The conflicts people have in the beginning may seem trivial compared to the magnitude of what lies ahead, but they're not trivial to the people living them at the time they're happening.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Sex
« on: September 28, 2011, 02:50:37 PM »
I think a part of it is that most mature readers have their own sexual experience and fantasies, so by avoiding any real detail, the reader's own memories and imagination can usually fill in the blanks better than the author can, and in a more personal way.  Some authors can write good sex scenes, but many can't, and even a well written one can seem awkward if it misses the target audience or if it's too much of a break from the reader's experience.

With rape, you're creating a horrific experience that most readers, thankfully, have not experienced.  Less can still be more - like with any particularly graphic scenes, it can be more effective to supply only a few details and let the readers build the most horrific version of the scene they can - but it's more akin to other forms of violence in that you can't rely on the reader's experience the way you can with sex.

I think another factor could be that a book with implies sex can still reach a younger audience, whereas rape, whether graphic or implied, raises the maturity level.  That's not a factor if a book has both graphic rape and implied consensual sex, but I could see some situations where the publisher looks at the detail in the sex scenes as a barrier to opening a book to a younger audience, whereas a book with rape in it is more likely to be inappropriate for youth regardless of the detail.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Robert Jordan
« on: September 27, 2011, 03:22:36 PM »
As much as I love the series, I've often wondered how WoT would read with a little bit different organization.  The plot undeniably slows down for a few books.  It reaches a point where there's so many concurrent character arcs that we're following, each lengthy enough that they span several books where it feels like there's very little advancement.  Once these subplots start wrapping themselves up, the pace picks up again. 

Even without changing anything significant, I'm curious as to how the pacing would change if he'd chosen to break up the story differently; if rather than crawling through numerous subplots over four or so books, he'd instead focused on only one or two of the longer subplots in each of these books.

I think it's easier to make a dark hero interesting, because the dark hero has flaws that are build into the reason why he's considered dark.  Does he have a violent temper?  Is she afraid to trust anyone?  Is he motivated by revenge?  Overcoming the guilt of a troubling past?  The character has sympathetic flaws from the moment of conception, and the character's grey moral compass widens the range of reactions that are believable in a given situation.

It takes more work to make a Shining Hero flawed while still being sympathetic.  The first thing that's important is to make a person, not a paragon.  A person with a virtuous heart who strives to always do the right thing can be a sympathetic character if that character's positive values are pitted against one another to create several grey choices or if the character's sense of honor puts him at a disadvantage in a world filled with backstabbing and corruption (think Ned Stark).  A White Knight who see everything in black and white and never questions his own actions will come across as pompous and unsympathetic, whereas one who works hard to maintain an air of confidence but shows the introspection to feel the weight of grey decisions can be sympathetic, because he has the same kind of self-doubt as we all experience.

I think the age of the character plays a role as well, which may be part of the reason why the virtuous hero is more common among YA.  Innocence is believable in a youth character.  Brash confidence and belief in a simplicity of right and wrong feel more acceptable, and can even be endearing flaws in a younger character.  In a more experienced character, to be believable he's seen hardships, fought in wars, done things he regrets.  He may still be a person with a noble heart who's uncorrupted by the darkness he sees, and he may be seen as a paragon of righteousness to those around him, but still he'll have his emotional scars and internal struggles, because he's human.  And unless he's a simpleton or too narcissistic to question himself, a character like that will often put a lot of pressure on himself to do the right thing, so the grey areas will often weigh on him heavily.  His sense of compassion may prevent him from becoming desensitized to the horrors he sees.

Now, it could be that adding greyer layers to a character who's a Shining Hero on the surface will darken him enough to fall outside the definition, but I think if we go with a definition to narrow to allow for shades of grey, we're really just looking at a type of cardboard cutout character.  I think a character who uses the Shiny McPaladin mold, but who's given flaws, scars, meaningful ethical dilemmas with no right answer - that type of character can be very effective.  

A key difference I think is the nature of decisions; for a darker character, the "right" choice can be obvious to the reader, and the character can struggle with the decision he knows to be right and the one that leads to his own external ambitions, whereas a lighter character will typically come to the decision to do right more quickly, so it's important to make sure it's not obvious to the reader which decision is right, and that both choices have consequences.

I generally prefer reading a series in one go if possible.  I usually shift to graphic novels between series as a change of pace to help take myself out of one world before jumping into another.  There can be fatigue after an extended series, so I avoid jumping directly from one epic straight to another, but as long as I give myself a different look in between, I prefer sticking with one series continually.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Where did the elves and dwarfs go?
« on: September 23, 2011, 01:39:50 PM »
If you're going for a race very close to the traditional Tolkien elves and dwarves, there's certainly advantages to simply using elves and dwarves.  If you call a race "dwarf", the reader gets an immediate image - short, stout, strong, bearded, mountain dweller, likes ale, etc. - basically a template for a typical dwarf.  You can shift that template around a bit to suit the specific variant of dwarves you're trying to create, but the starting point is pretty consistent for most readers.  If the dwarves in your world are relatively close to the typical dwarf, you can use those assumptions to give the reader the immediate impression that the clean-shaven, well read dwarf who prefers fine wine to stout ale is unusual.  The template is clear enough already that it's easy to individualize members of the race, whereas if you create a Squarf, the details creating the image of the race may outweigh the details specific to that character, so it may take longer for the reader to get to know your character.

On the other hand, if the typical dwarf in your world is beardless, refined, sober, and pacifistic, you'd probably be better off naming the race something different, even if they share many of the physical characteristics of a traditional dwarf.  If you introduce a character that fits the typical nature of your atypical dwarves before the race is clearly established, it can lead to confusion at first as to whether it's the character or the race that's different.  It's generally better to build an image than to deconstruct an existing image.  If you can differentiate the race by building on existing notions of what a dwarf is like, it makes sense to use the race, but if it means breaking down the reader's idea of a dwarf before building your own, you're often better starting from a blank slate.

Writers' Corner / Re: Describing accents...
« on: September 22, 2011, 01:22:13 PM »
Accents are an area where I prefer to let the reader's mind to most of the work.  The important thing about a particular accent isn't whether the reader distinguishes it as sounding Russian or German, for instance, but rather that the reader sees it as distinct and consistent within the instance of your world created in his or her mind.

You can use general descriptions to tie an accent to a particular region in your setting - e.g. people of Nation A speak so quickly that it's a wonder they find time to breathe, people of Nation B slur their words, and people of Nation C speak with a slow drawl, etc. - which can help show distinctions between accents without laboring the point.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the reader will tend to apply an unaccented voice to the main character/culture, but unaccented is different depending on the reader's perspective.  If as a writer you envision a British accent as the neutral accent but a reader from Texas envisions a Texan accent as neutral, then even if you see a different culture in your world as having a Texan accent, you'd want that reader to create a different and distinct accent for this culture; the accent you envision wouldn't feel foreign to the Texan reader, and the fact that the accent is foreign is more important than the specifics of how it sounds.

Introductions / Re: Say Hi, I'm new thread
« on: September 21, 2011, 07:15:21 PM »
Hi everyone, I'm Chris, from Canada.

I've been lurking for a few weeks, and finally decided to step out from the shadows.  I've been a fan of fantasy for a long time, a writer for a few years (as of yet unpublished).  I like what I see here - it seems a friendly, respectful community with lots of people passionate about the genre. 

I'm looking forward to procrastinating here.

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