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kassimir funk
March 24th, 2003, 07:12 PM
To any and all,

I would like to know what you folks consider to be the best elements of Fantasy writing. I would also like to know what you would like to see in future works. Pretend you get to tell the author what to put in.
I wanna hear what you like and don't like. Things that authors do that annoy you, things that authors do that delight you.
In short, what would the perfect fantasy story be like?

Da Funk

p.s. I'll pipe in later

kassimir funk
March 24th, 2003, 11:25 PM
I could fill the entire page of this post right now... but I think I'll focus on one thing.

Characters

What makes a good character? I think that a good character should move you one way or another. Either you love them... or you love to hate them.

One thing I have found is that readers are generally attracted to sarcastic personalities. Everyone likes a witty character. Take Martin's Tyrion for example. Ya love to read about him because you know he's going to do or say something clever.

To use the same example(Martin) look at Cersei in contrast. She's a darn good character. I'm sure that I'm not alone here in saying that I can't wait for her to bite it. Good grief I hate her. But that's just it... you love to hate her.

The believability of characters is also something I find very crucial to my enjoyment. I'm tired of reading stories that have characters who are unrealistically good or unrealistically evil. Even the nicest people can be jerks in certain circumstances as can mean people be quite pleasent at times.

What I'm getting at is that there seems to be a lack of diversity within the characters' personalities. Everybody seems to act the same way all the time. I'm sorry, but people just aren't like that.

Believable characters should have layers (like onions) not just be one-dimensional.

ok... that's what I had on my mind right now. If no one pipes in soon... I'm going to ramble on and on and on.

Da Funk

Lucky Joe
March 24th, 2003, 11:48 PM
Ramble away kassimir funk;

I definitely think shades of grey are needed when building characters, you're quite right, nobody is one thing, good or evil, all the time. And to be perfectly honest I find reading about the purer than thou characters incredibly dull. Of course when talking about fantasy I think it's important to remember that we're dealing with things that aren't real, dragons, unicorns, fairies, imps, noble royality *yeah right*, ect so it is quite realistic in this case to have a character who is purely evil, however much more interesting if we have a reason why they do the things they do rather than just falling back on 'well he's a mad bad bastard'

oops I may have taken over the rambling here.

Not sure about the sacrasm though, David Eddings has flogged this to death and in many ways i think it's a simple solution to get around difficult pieces in his writting, rather than talking about emotions or going into depth about a subject, just have one of his many card board cut-outs say something 'wity'.

What really makes a good fantasy novel for me is the writing, I recently read Erikson's Gardens of the Moon and thought that was some of the best fantasy writing i had come across for a long time, Robin Hobb also does very well at this. (imo)

I read fantasy because I want to hear about dragons and magic and things that would basically never happen in the real world, however if a writer isn't able to convince me that these things are real, they don't give me the depth or the emotion or realistic characters that I'm looking for, they're wasting their time.

Erfael
March 25th, 2003, 12:07 AM
Mr. Funk, I thought I would chirp in one or two things. I'll mull over about some more after that and try to come back at you in the next few days. One thing I really like is an interesting -- and I hate to put it this way, but can't come up with a better now -- gimmick. It is in no way crucial to any story, but the way I work, I find I like it when there is something interesting underlying everything else--ah, premise comes to mind. There's one of the words I was looking for.

An example or two:
The Runelords by David Farland -- generally I find this series to be pretty standard fare. He doesn't seem to venture into territory that hasn't been charted before with the exception of one thing, his magic system. In his world, people can use items named forcibles to be granted endowments of strength, wit, grace, etc. from someone, usually a vassal to his lord. By giving this, the vassal goes without it. A man who gives up his strength may not be able to walk, and in some cases his heart will not be strong enough to beat. One who gives an endowment of sight will be blind. This poses some moral problems for the lords who take these endowments. Should they consign their vassals to this fate by force, only take endowments from people offering them freely, offer compensation for them, forego them altogether. It is largely for this system and its implications that I read the series and find it fascinating.

The Age of Unreason by J. Gregory Keyes -- Here his premise was that Sir Isaac Newton discovered Philosopher's Mercury, a substance that can tear into the very ether of the world and be used to manipulate the elements of Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. This completely changes the way science develops over the next few years and the way the world functions. It is an interesting slant on science that intrigued me.



Now, to balance, something I hated:

The Magic of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt. I never finished this book. The main thing that bothered me to no end in this one was his use of sound effects. It is written in first person, and many, many sound effects that go on around the character are written out into the text, not explained, but '60s Batman sort of written out -- Bam! Crack! Whoosh!! -- most of the time I was left wondering what made a gievn sound at a given moment.
In case you don't know the book, an excerpt or two:

Page 336, Tor, US edition:


She turns the horse, starting to edge back towards the dam.

CRUUMMPPP ...the blue-green water surges up perhaps three cubits above the floodgates.

"Is that all? ..."

Creeeaakakkkkk . . . snnaaappp . . . SWUUUUUSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH . . .

As the gates buckle open, the spring's accumulated runoff gushes forth down the narrow gorge, gaining speed, as it drops the nearly one kay toward the narrow valley floor.

" . . . gods have mercy . . . "

. . . wheee . . . eeehuunnn . . .

" . . . easy . . . easy there . . .


Page 362, same edition


They searched each side of the street, moving toward me. In turn, I moved form the shadows into the main street, where they would only look, while they might concentrate and poke into the corners and alcoves.

Click . . .

The second sound came from behind me, from the direction of the Tap Inn.


This goes on throughout the book, and to me it certainly didn't come off as artistic. It came off as "I don't know how to really desribe the dam breaking, so I'll put in a sound and then a token expanation of it," or "Too much effort to describe the sound and how it worked in the street, so 'Click....' will have to do."

Okay, that went on longer than I anticipated. I'll think more on it. Now to ease my tired back. Erf.

kassimir funk
March 25th, 2003, 04:49 AM
lucky joe,


Not sure about the sacrasm though, David Eddings has flogged this to death

Anything when used in excess is usually annoying. I'm going to have to take your word on it though as I haven't read any Eddings yet. Anyhow, you know what I mean.

Depth is definetely something I appreciate and enjoy. It adds to the realism. Everybody has a background. Just hit the dating scene for a while... you'll get the picture. But that's another topic entirely :)

As far as the fantasy element. I tend to agree in some ways. We are dealing with stuff like dragons so some fantastical personality traits are not necessarily out of line. As long as they don't get overused. Ahem... Jordan. (what?)



I read fantasy because I want to hear about dragons and magic and things that would basically never happen in the real world, however if a writer isn't able to convince me that these things are real, they don't give me the depth or the emotion or realistic characters that I'm looking for, they're wasting their time.

Couldn't have said it better myself.


Erfael,

Gimmicks are good. Gotta have a good gimmick. It's almost like a calling card isn't it? The ones you pointed out sound very interesting... I'll have to check those authors out.

Funny you should mention "The magic of Recluse". I didn't care for it myself for reasons including the ones you stated and more. The way the author took you from point A to B just seemed completely random. Oddly enough, that book and Martin's clash of Kings did more to inspire me to write than many before them. I went on a rampage and hammered out a good five hundred plus pages to tack onto my book. Things that annoy me seem to motivate me more. I'm weird like that.

Back to gimmicks...
I too appreciate a good gimmick. So what makes a good gimmick? Innovativeness I think, something that obviously recieved a lot of thought. Like herbert's spice in the dune series. Or actually, Jordan. His magic system, with the threads is pretty cool too. Perhaps the plot in and of itself can be a gimmick. Hmmmmm

Now let me ramble onto something else... endings.

It is the truly rare book that I have read where I was satisfied with the ending. Perhaps it's something of a curse. Some authors put so much effort into building their story up that they make it(I believe) almost impossible to have a good ending. I can name dozens of authors who fit this bill. I'll even make a prediction.... tee hee

Jordan WoT. Now here is a series with a plot as intricate as they come. What is it, nine books now? But I'll tell ya... Jordan's already screwed(pardon my french). The reason I say that is because we've known, as readers, from the very begining what was going to happen. Rand(dragon reborn) will fight the dark one. Now don't overlook the name of the series... The wheel of time. If you go by that then it's reasonable to assume that Rand will fight, die but win as well in the end, and things will pretty much go back to the way they were... and the wheel continues. The author inserts that at the begining of every book for a reason. So Jordan has two choices the way I see it. He can A) stick with his premise of everything continuing in the cycle or B) Break the cycle in the end. But he's toast either way... if he breaks the cycle then he undermines his own premise. If he doesn't then the whole thing was sort of pointless. Those kind of endings always left me with a lack of resolution.
To make things worse... the fight between Rand and the dark one has been building for well over ten thousand pages. How can the ending possibly live up to the road that got you there. At this point, Jordan could resurrect Homer himself and still not come up with an ending that fit that kind of story. Or maybe he can... what do you think? Remember now... Jordan stated long ago that when he began this series he knew only how it would begin and how it would end.

This brings me to my idea... my gimmick :)

In light of this observation, I said to myself, "Self... how are we going to avoid this?" Here's what I came up with...
In my own work I plan to constantly evlove the storyline and the plot. I'm going to change the goals(and the protagonists) book by book. The desired effect of this being the continued interest of the reader and just plain 'ol fun. Throw a curveball when no one's looking.
Here's an example... (note: should anyone steal a specific one of my ideas... I will hunt you down and kill you unless you sign over the rights... cheers)
The first six books will eventually evolve from all out war into a quest by various parties to enter a place called the fallen city. In the process they will discover many things about themselves and just who and what they are. Once the fallen city is infiltrated, many, many bad things start to happen. Thus forcing the goals of all involved parties to adapt to the new circumstances.

Now what I'm trying to accomplish here is almost like creating a whole new plot from an old one. Hopefully, it will be fun to read and interesting. Ideally, someone will pay me to write it as well.

Oh my god! I've still got more to gab about!

I better cut myself off here though.

Thoughts?

Da Funk

Pluvious
March 25th, 2003, 05:18 AM
Some good ones have already been mentioned. Characters are very important of course. I think I will list a few elements of fantasy that I like and give a very brief explanation of why I like them.

1) A new world

I like the idea that I am "discovering" a new world, a world different from our own. Mystery and discovery are powerful factors for me as a reader.

2) The epic story

I love epics. Whether it be movies like Braveheart or books like Game of Thrones, I want to immerse myself in something with "whole world" scope. It just has more power for me. I think it has something to do with finding a "purpose" in life.

3) Conflict/Action

I've always associated fantasy with escalating conflict. I very much enjoy fighting scenes or competition in any form. Fantasy lends itself nicely to power struggles, war, and individual battles.

4) Characters with purpose

If I don't find characters seeking to change themselves or the world I grow bored. I know there are plenty of people that are not motivated or able to change themselves or the world; I just don't want to read about them.

5) Originality (very important in "certain" aspects of fantasy)

Don't be obvious and don't copy without knowing you are copying. If you seek originality but retain logic you are ok in my book.

6) Write well (any genre...but if you don't do it for me here I won't read you)

The dialogue can't be forced. Say something amusing with comedic characters. Capture the purpose of the scene. Build conflict. Make me wonder. Force me to think and marvel every once in awhile. Basically, do the work and have something to say.

juzzza
March 25th, 2003, 06:01 AM
Funk,

Thank you for this thread, very interesting.

I like your idea and it matches your title 'Still evolving'. I think Martin is great at throwing curve balls, no-one is safe within his plots and I love that in a book. James Barclay does this and I like the uncertainty (sp?). Nothing worse than loving a character only to have a character you already hate, betray and kill them!!! BRING ON THE RETRIBUTION!!! Nothing makes me turn a thousand pages like wanting to see the bitch/b@stard PAY FOR WHAT THEY HAVE DONE!!!

Cersei is a great example as is Tyrion to illustrate your points on well loved character types.

One thing I hate is padding in a book, I like flow and the need to stay up until four in the morning because I can't put a book down. I can't stand feeling like I must finish a book because I started it, each sentence hard work. TTT was like this for me, I found it hard work.

A few things I have really enjoyed? Gemmell and Martin's ability to tell the story of multiple characters, slowly bringing the characters and their destinies together. I loved getting to the next chapter in aGoT and thinking "YES, it's about Eddard" it was also great to finish a chapter dying to know more and you know you are going to have to wait a few chapters... Suspense!!!

Matthew Reilly uses an unusual technique to increase the speed of reading. He intentionally (sp?) reduces the number of commas and uses longer sentences. I have read his books in two days!!! They read like action movies.

pcarney
March 25th, 2003, 08:02 AM
For some reason I've always been drawn to the idea of sacrifice. Doing something that you may not want to do because its for the good of many others, or even one other. Time and again, I find this idea popping up in my story ideas.

I think a well built world is also necessary. The author certainly doesn't have to describe the entire place, but you can tell when they've taken the time and really thought out how the place works. And I'm tired of the boilerplate stuff- the gruff dwarves in the ground, the insulated elves, etc. And I come across another race of 'little people', I'm gonna have to stomp them to death! Err, I mean in a novel, of course..:D

Richardb
March 25th, 2003, 10:45 AM
In regards to characterization, I find it important to see growth in a character. Yep, they definately have to be multi-dimensional, but they also have to evolve. Too many authors seem to capture their characters in a certain light and just keep them there. The world is changing around them, they are experiencing monumentous things... and yet their perceptions and basic character stay's unchanged. That is one of the things I like about GRRM, his characters are changed by what they say and do. Tyrion is changed by his relationships, by his fathers actions, by his mariage to Sansa, etc. The characters respond to the world around them and begin to adapt in interesting ways.
I also enjoy an original plot line with an innovative world, magic system, etc. It evokes a sense of wonder that makes a book special. Feist did this well in his early works, Tad Williams does this well.
Finally, I enjoy a story that does not follow the typical great hero overcomes mindless evil and saves the world. I like a twist. I like to see the main characters get thrown for a loop and prove that they are flawed and struggling like everyone else. Stephen Donaldson does this with great expertise.
Fun topic... lots to think on.

Matrim
March 25th, 2003, 12:47 PM
kassimir funk,great topic.


Jordan WoT. Now here is a series with a plot as intricate as they come. What is it, nine books now? But I'll tell ya... Jordan's already screwed(pardon my french). The reason I say that is because we've known, as readers, from the very begining what was going to happen. Rand(dragon reborn) will fight the dark one. Now don't overlook the name of the series... The wheel of time. If you go by that then it's reasonable to assume that Rand will fight, die but win as well in the end, and things will pretty much go back to the way they were... and the wheel continues. The author inserts that at the begining of every book for a reason. So Jordan has two choices the way I see it. He can A) stick with his premise of everything continuing in the cycle or B) Break the cycle in the end. But he's toast either way... if he breaks the cycle then he undermines his own premise. If he doesn't then the whole thing was sort of pointless. Those kind of endings always left me with a lack of resolution.
To make things worse... the fight between Rand and the dark one has been building for well over ten thousand pages. How can the ending possibly live up to the road that got you there. At this point, Jordan could resurrect Homer himself and still not come up with an ending that fit that kind of story. Or maybe he can... what do you think? Remember now... Jordan stated long ago that when he began this series he knew only how it would begin and how it would end.




You are absolutely on taget hrere,except that there are 10 books now.:)

My two cents about characterization - I hate absolutely good or all that bad characters.If someone is needed to be the bad guy for plot reasons at least allow him to have some humanity or explain why the hell he has turned up to be such a jerk.If you describe a good guy ,for God's sake, give him some flaws in character,perfect people are non-existant(and boring too):).
And characters need to evolve ,to change their personality(at least a little) in the course of the book.


I think that a good character should move you one way or another. Either you love them... or you love to hate them.

Not always true.I hate most of Jordan's characters and everyone knows his characterization is quite pathetic.;)

I love fantasy worlds with rich,detailed history.A lot of different nations and fractions is also a good thing because I like political machinations and intrigues,too.