October 24, 2020, 09:33:28 PM

Author Topic: Nonhuman peoples  (Read 17357 times)

Offline TBM

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #60 on: January 16, 2015, 03:13:15 PM »
Most fantasy books are human centered statistically, but what matters is a character's principles, actions and flaws. Not what species they are.   Humans are thus easily replacable. As replacable as any fantasy species.

Offline Yora

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #61 on: December 11, 2015, 04:48:52 PM »
I've recently been thinking again on why I don't want everyone in my stories to be human, so that I might become able to make active use of the presence of nonhumans instead of them just being there and not really adding anything.
And I think one big reason why I want to have elves (but no dwarves and goblins) is because readers will recognize them. I think the preexisting knowledge that readers will have will actually help me establishing the wider context. When you have elves, they always come with a lot of baggage attached. But some of that can be very useful. When I introduce the setting and establish the mood, I don't have to start from nothing. Simply by stating that the characters are elves, I also make a strong implication that readers can expect a lot of other things about the world and the mood. Half of them or so will then turn out to not be the case and working somewhat different than the conventional stereotype, but you do have a foundation of common ground to build on.

The other peoples I have created are not as clearly taken from an established archetype, but I expect readers to recognize them as "orc-like, but less evil" or "dwarf-like, but not grumpy", and again that creates a rough basis that allows readers a quick entry into the cultures. Even if the specific facts don't match up, you can still draw directly on the mood that already exists in the heads of the audience.

The very original thought that started the whole work process years ago was "What about the society of elves before their decline?" I could attempt to do that with just humans and start with nothing, but I think it would be very difficult to communicate it to the readers what my intentions with that world are. By simply having a world in which elves live in small groups but are in the process of creating large civilizations, I think most readers will get that idea very quickly.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Lanko

  • Sherlanko Holmes, Jiin Wei and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2901
  • Total likes: 1979
  • Gender: Male
    • Lanko's Goodreads
Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #62 on: December 11, 2015, 07:37:36 PM »
The biggest problem I have with different species is that every person tends to be generalized. Even when huge efforts are made to differentiate this.

Example: In Mass Effect, all Krogans (male at least) are warriors, mercenaries and brutes. All Salarians are super intelligent, be it as a scientist or a con artist. Every Vorcha acts and thinks the same way. The Trurian are highly militarized. The Rachni are a hive. The Geth all think/act the same. One side wanting to join the Reapers is not enough.

I think the Quarians and Asari were the most freshed out. I thought it was possible to see the individuals behind the species culture/situation/etc. But the Asari the most. They had criminals, philosophers, scientists, military, mercenaries, civilians, political leaders.
Never saw a Quarian criminal, for example. Or even a mercenary, considering their huge ability with electronics. I think they were too focused, too chained to their Fleet. If they are compared to Israel, there are jews who don't feel the same.

Elves are probably even harder, as like you said, they come with a huge baggage of preconceived things. They walked too much on the "wise, isolated, peaceful tree-loving folk", then somewhere some switched to the other extreme "dark, racist, perfectionist, beauty-obsessed".
Slow and steady wins the race.

Lanko's Year in Books 2019

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #63 on: December 14, 2015, 04:59:59 PM »
The WIP I am working on now will center around non-human characters through at least 75% of the book. In fact, humans won't be mentioned until an attack takes place on a human city in the very late chapters, which is more of an afterthought, as it is not directly related to the overall story.

I have been tossing the idea of including a human POV as an interlude. The human character I have in mind wouldn't be relevant until a second book, and I don't want to get ahead of myself with that. I want a standalone first book without having to commit to another books afterwards. I wonder how many complaints there would be with a book with no human characters in it? I'm sure there are plenty that ignore humans all together, but I am not a tenured fantasy ready just yet.

Offline Raptori

  • Barbarian who does not use the Oxford comma and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4054
  • Total likes: 2111
  • the prettiest kitty cat in the world
Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #64 on: December 14, 2015, 05:17:19 PM »
The biggest problem I have with the nonhuman species in most fantasy is that they're just humans with an atypical culture and an exaggerated or slightly weird appearance. In most cases they can even breed with humans and produce fertile offspring. That means that they are not a different species; the term 'race' fits better. Few authors really think through the implications and baggage that comes with clearly delineated races, and as a result end up with some painfully racist overtones in their writing (such as the issues Lanko outlined).

It might be interesting to see a realistic treatment of elves/dwarves/goblins either as separate species (in which case interbreeding would be as repellant an idea as breeding with other primates is in the real world) or as races (in which case the real defining features would be cultural only, and their appearance would exist as a spectrum rather than binary), but to be honest I'd prefer more variety than that.

There's a whole world of possible non-human species out there that you can use as characters in your stories; it seems like such a waste to stick to tall humans with pointy ears or short humans with hairy feet. Examples: armoured bears and mulefa from His Dark Materials, wit-beasts in Farseer, cats in Cinder Spires. All of those are far more memorable and interesting than any treatment of elves or dwarves.  :P
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline Yora

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #65 on: December 14, 2015, 05:51:35 PM »
I believe there are people who will automatically refuse to read anything that does not have any humans. But I also suspect that these are mostly the same people who don't want to read stories that have anything other than humans either. If you already have a strong nonhuman presence, I think the absence of humans won't make much of a difference.

But I think that such a story needs to show the readers why it makes a difference to have nonhuman characters. Or at least that it makes a difference. As a writer you should be able to explain to yourself why you want to do the story with nonhumans instead of having everyone just be human. If you add nonhumans just because it's the proper thing to do for a fantasy story, then it's very easy to end up only repeating a cliche. There needs to be a purpose to any such choices.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline SarahW

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #66 on: December 15, 2015, 08:45:38 AM »
If you will forgive the gross out factor, I have skull-fairies in my novella Uploaded Fairy. In a sense they are what remained of humanity after a long fantasy war I have in the back story after The Wizard Voreth's last stand holding off the purple slime invasion.

The non-humans entities are human, just with wing like mutations, whose role has changed somewhat to be a kind of living version of the Grim Reaper.

So when I have MCs beheaded, well human characters are really executed, they just have mutations that make them look somewhat otherworldly.

This is an alternative universe broken off from our own that is strictly realistic fiction. Where virtual reality, and the collective subconcious births a new reality.

This same kind of 'mutation' phenominon extends to clothing choices, where the only clothes they can wear are things left over after the ruins.

Hence the references to old and dry wooden clogs.

Offline J.R. Darewood

  • aka Duckly Breadgood
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2565
  • Total likes: 1533
  • Gender: Male
  • Zork. And it was all downhill from there.
    • Nerd Empire
Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #67 on: December 15, 2015, 06:12:27 PM »
For some reasons, nonhuman peoples seem to have really gotten out of favor. They never were really popular with Sword & Sorcery and in Epic Fantasy they only get very little roles, if they even exist at all. Maybe it's because of the stuff I've been reading recently, but it appears that nonhuman peoples really only show up in fiction based on roleplaying games or strongly inspired by Tolkien. Both segments of the market that are not particularly high in regard.
I am working on a story idea, and I almost feel like struggling to find away to have elves but trying to cover up that fact that they are elves.

How are you approaching this?

I guess I'm jumping into the convo late.

Some people want elves others don't (I have to say I'm losing my sh*t with excitement over seeing elves on MTV next month, but that's me).  Going with Tolkien-esque tropes might turn some people off, but it's fair to say that it's a huge draw for some people, especially as fantasy becomes more mainstream.

The way I started to deal with it in my WIP was to go back before Tolkien and D&D to the source material-- legends and shit like that.  I'm not sure it really worked because I modified the names.  I think it would have worked better if I had stayed closer to my legendary sources and went for a bit more cultural cohesion instead of just making my own sewn-together amalgamation.

My Ogiers are O'gog, (derived from the biblical story of Gog and Magog), with their legendary history of descending from a series of First Children like Gog, Danu (think Tuatha de Dannan), and Tehemat (a fusion of Tiamat and the Hindu goddess Kali).  Magog are my substitute for minotaurs-- they're just like 7-8ft tall humans (usually jacked) whose warriors bolt steel horns (1-3) into their skulls as a badge of accomplishment in battle.

My elves (influenced by Irish and germanic aelfish stories but human-ized) just have elongated ears and they're called A'elfar.  My version of Dark Elves are the A'elfar who are branded exiled to the Fell (a place that was plunged into my version of hell like 1000 years ago) so if you are born there, you're eyes are black b/c of the way the Fell interfere's with the soul's connection to the body. So Dae'elfar either have a big brand or their eyes are black-- not exactly like Drow but there are some similarities. They live in caves b/c they have to hide from the crazy awful shit that roams around in the fell.

I guess the point in mentioning all that is that there is sort of a middle ground between the full-on magical realists and the Tolkien tropes.  Maybe.  I'm not sure if it worked, tbh, but I"m trying it out.

Offline shadowkat678

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #68 on: March 26, 2016, 04:04:10 AM »
What I don't understand is why they have to be so nonhuman. I mean, look at animals. They're nonhuman, but you see similarities, right? There are very intelligent animals that obviously show emotions, are smart and ambush like the gnomes mentioned back there, etc. Why not make it where Elves and Humans branched off from each other at one point? Same as a lot of other humanoid species? That's what horses and Zebras did, and they're far enough apart they can't make a fertile offspring. Yet they still look pretty close, correct?

So why do they have to act so inhuman?
Be not a writer, but a Storyweaver. For that, my friend, is how you'll truly leave your mark.

Offline TBM

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #69 on: March 26, 2016, 08:35:17 AM »
Elves don't act human or inhuman. Humans act like elves, or don't. Rare is the story where elves come after humans

There's arrogance in thinking that another sentient species that acts like us, is acting "human".

PS I hate half elves and the idea that elves and humans can produce offspring is so unnecessary.

Offline Yora

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #70 on: March 26, 2016, 10:32:35 AM »
Europeans are the descendants of half-neanderthals, though. So there's that.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline shadowkat678

Re: Nonhuman peoples
« Reply #71 on: March 26, 2016, 01:46:58 PM »
True, they are.

What if there were a Narnia like thing, where you find out the world hadn't had humans at first, but some found their way in and started spreading? And what about changing things up? I think I've done a pretty good job at that, but people won't really know any of this information unless they start reading. They own't know that orcs and elves and dwarves and halflings are just as ethnically diverse as humans,  or that dwarves are actually a subtype of elves, or that orcs aren't all evil, though they have a reputation among other races that isn't always nice. Yes, my antagonist and protagonist are elves, but I needed that for plot sake, and I needed them to live longer. They don't know that yet. They just pick up the book and see elves. Even if you do diverge, how do you get more people to start with open minds?
Be not a writer, but a Storyweaver. For that, my friend, is how you'll truly leave your mark.