Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Plan

Hero of A Thousand Faces was very helpful. Can't follow it rote for rote of course, but it helps reduce to the core of the thing what it is I'm looking for. I'm taking a break for a week (Birthday etc). Then as of Feb 1, I'm going to create my own mythology. An attempt at epic poetry, or at least quasi poetry to describe the creation of the world and the six ages leading up to the current age. That will go on during Feb. After that, in March, I will create the physical world and then begin to create the history of the current age with any lingering remnants of the current world.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


It appears that maps have gone out of style as far as most modern day Fantasy novels are concerned, which is a shame, because I think it helps give a sense of immersion to the reader. I guess it is a cost cutting measure, since, after all, someone has to pay for the maps, but still. A map helps establish the realm to which you invite your reader as a PLACE, helping instill what they speak of in fantastic literature as a "Suspension of Disbelief." This 'suspension of disbelief' allows you to, for a few moments, believe in things like magic, and jedi and the Force or Elves and Hobbits.

A map helps bridge that gap between our world and the realm of the Non Existent.

Even if my map making skills are not superior...I'm going to have a map.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I think different 'generations' of Gods is also an interesting idea. Its certainly done in Mythology, though the question would be just how much out of it the early history really was. I don't want to spend TOO long on it of course since it is the later history that matters, still having a good solid background can make a big deal.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Great Game

I picture in my mind a great bowl, through which the two great powers, Destiny and Prophesy (and obviously we'll have to give them better names than that) gaze down upon the world, one at a time to see all but to have limits in how they take their actions.

I'm thinking that the first crack at the world was primitive and didn't work, so they started over again, which happened multiple times. But I'm thinking that when they start over, they keep some of the original world and they grow more attached to their creations, thus taking steps to limit their own power lest they be tempted to screw it up again or some such thing.

Of course, that also invites the idea of powers within the world itself.

This is highly useful in the creation of the world, but following the "Hobbit before LOTR", most of this stuff should be entirely in the background, but its very useful right now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Traditional Vs. Mixed

We just got done watching Eragon and I found it interesting how the movie reflected traditional formulas. Specifically, it rather obviously borrowed from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings...and it did so rather heavily. But both of those works also borrowed from others. Furthermore, as I read, "Hero of a Thousand Faces" I begin to see the merit of the formula. And you have to have the formula pretty down pat before you can break it.

I'm not entirely sure how much of the 'formula' and how much originality I'll put in. I know I completely broke the mold with Gemini: Mask of Three Peoples (No more Time Travel EVER!) and I kind of broke the mold with Micronation. The truth is, I am good at breaking the mold. Originality is my strong point, but too much and quite frankly the audience can't connect with it.

It might be formulaic, but some of my favorite stories include Magician: Apprentice, which starts with two simple peasant boys who become the greatest hero and the greatest wizard in their universe. Ender's Game begins with a small boy who becomes the greatest military mind in History. The peasant that rises to greatness is a foil that is worthy of study, but there are many who hate this kind of thing; some because it has been done BADLY by so many, and some because of what it says. It says that you have to be BORN to greatness, not that you make it on your own.

It certainly is true of fantasy or fantastic science fiction (ie Space Opera) that birthright is a vital component of what makes most heroes special. So how do I bow to the concept of birthright without necessarily emulating it? I don't know, but I do like very much how it matches with the idea of Destiny vs Prophesy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Great Forces

First, the thought occurs to me that I really have this image in my head of two 'Gods' Destiny and Prophesy fighting this war or game over a world with competing and yet matching agendas. But there has to be a bad guy 'force' for it to really be high Fantasy. Is it Destiny or Prophesy? The other thought that occurs to me, is (and I still have work to do on this part) if they emerge 'from chaos' as described by many mythos (particularly Greek and Norse), what of their failed experiments before they get to the story world itself? After all, while it might be nice to think that such powerful beings could just spontaneously think of things like Cheese and Bricks and Marmosets all at once, I imagine a more logical expression is things like sentience, emotions, and communication, so getting around to actually making a world and such would take a whole lot of time. Time, of course, in such circumstances, being entirely relative.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Unstoppable Force Vs. Immobile Object

One thing that I'm heavily considering including (ie pretty much am) is the idea of a clash between Destiny and Prophesy. The two are always mixed heavily, and I'd like them to actually have tangible mechanics (as known by me).

One idea that occurs to me is that one of the two is omniscient and the other is omnipotent. Now of course, I think I'll have to put a few more limits on this. Absolutes, while interesting, can get acutely ridiculous. For example, technically if one is all powerful, one is all knowing (unless they're a moron) and if someone is all knowing, generally speaking, they're all powerful (at least in my opinion). So the key is a limitation, so that one being would be ALMOST all knowing but only somewhat powerful and the other one would be ALMOST all powerful but only somewhat all knowing.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Time and Its Perception

There are two things about Fantasy that have always bothered me, one because of my nature and one because of something pointed out to me by my brother.

The first is that in Fantasy, the Past is almost always better than the Future. Indeed, the very success of the genre is because we want to escape to another realm, that feeling of nostalgia that somehow in days of yesteryear, things were better and more simple. The feeling goes that if we could only turn back the clock to those years, things would be so much better.

After reading the book "Hero of a Thousand Faces" I have become convinced that this 'proto myth' is indeed powerful stuff, but I also think 'inspired by' rather than 'steal' is more appropriate here. There are indeed myths where the future holds promise, and while it often comes apart at the end, Camelot comes to mind as a fantasy where, until the end, the future holds great promise despite the fall of the past. Note, there is still a past, the 'glorious' Roman empire, and Arthur is restoring civilization, but there is more to it than that. The Round Table is something more, something new, and something unique. Of course, it still has the nostalgia of the past, but contemporary to itself, it is very bright about the future.

The second tendency my brother pointed out about Birthrights. I mean, I am proud of my heritage, but I am more proud of my actions as an individual. So often, even the greatest of heroes, has their greatness reduced a notch or two because they happened to be born under a lucky star. Now the truth is, that birthright really does help, and many heroes of the real world have managed to do amazing things, in part, because of relatives, resources or biological enhancements that their birth gave to them. But the more impressive heroes to me are the ones that started out with nothing, and somehow managed to carve a niche of greatness in the world.

Friday, January 4, 2008

What Questions?

So it is to be a match up of questions which determines world and world that determines questions. That is to say, I think I want to determine at a fairly high level the kind of story I want to do, and some of the questions I want to answer, and then create a world, and then rework the questions and the story based on what I come up with. While it is true that you have to start somewhere, I think this time I will focus on the story first, followed by consistent world laws, followed by a modification to the story.

Of course, when I say 'story' I really mean broad questions. Some people think that theme should never be in the story, and that wasn't really my intention in my last two novels, but since this is High Fantasy (with dashes of other genres), I really have to be asking big questions....

And I think the first big one is, what is Good and what is Evil? I also like the idea of exploring Destiny, Freewill and Heroism.

One example I can think of is a character I created for a script that this blog is named after, "Tossing Grenades at Windmills." Frank Noble is a flawed character. He isn't sane. He's annoying and he's often oblvious to the world around him, but at the same time, he really doesn't waver in his desire to do what is right. Having tested this character somewhat, there has been an occasional response that such a concept was unrealistic. No one would do things for selfless reasons.

And yet, I see thousands of aid workers who literally risk life and limb every day in countries that I have absolutely no desire to travel to.

Cynics argue that these people have messiah complexes. I will grant you that sometimes there appears to be a disconnect from reality sometimes, but it is this kind of vision that truly changes the world.

Sometimes, when you dream big enough, the world changes you, you change the world instead.

I think that the argument made by most realists is that this is a fairly rare occurance, and that is the sad truth. That is part of the point of the journey in heroic fiction; to justify the exceptional nature of the hero and thus the corresponding change to the world.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Research, Themes and Questions

Right now I am reading "Hero of a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Campell's work on Mythology had a very heavy influence on George Lucas when he created Star Wars. And when I say Star Wars, I mean Star Wars IV, the movie that changed everything, the movie that Lucas had something to prove with. Myth also had a heavy influence upon Tolkien, who actually wrote the novel because he wanted something to use for this nifty Elven language he had created.

Gifted authors do research. They learn about the world around them, and they mine the greatest source of fantasy; reality. Having said that, the more I think about it, the more determined I am that I want to create my own world. Mainly because I like making worlds, but I do also think that I should go to the original source as an inspiration. The rules for creating an amazing world and an amazing story aren't identical. There is a lot of overlap, but the best stories have already been told a thousand times. THIS time, I am not going to deliberately break convention by doing something bizarre. THIS time I am going to follow the 'formula' of 'greatness'.

Understand, that this does not mean that I'm going to use a cookie cutter. I think the quote goes, "Stupid authors steal, Great authors are inspired by." As a matter of fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm entirely sure it is a misquote of the original material, but its close enough for you to get the idea. I'm deranaged. I think outside the box. Indeed, as one sibling put it, I destroy the box.

So this time, I'm going to let that subconcious nature work for me and try a more mainstream and sane approach, allowing my unorthydoxy to fill in the details. Still, the key to telling a story from a fresh perspective is IN the details.

I have to find a story that people can relate to (have in this case meaning 'To meet my goal of making it a story people can relate to') without deliberately cramming a moral lesson down their throat. The problem is...I'm a moral person, or at least I try to be. I am DEFINITELY a preach person, and that will come across in anything I write.

Many great novels start with a question. Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite authors, who also happens to be an annoying putz sometimes, is still a master at his craft. He gives a workshop called "1000 ideas in an hour" and the long and the short of it is that you ask lots of questions and then go from there.

This is clearly a good way of doing things, since Ender's Game (which is still my favorite book) came from asking two questions, "What would humanity do if it really ran into Bug Eyed Monsters?" and "What if their response was to look for the next Napoleon when he was only 5?" Followed by, "How far would they be willing to push him and how would he respond?"

Of course, given some of his lackluster stuff in his later years, questions clearly aren't enough. Though I think the real key is, when the inertia of your thinking influences your work to heavily (ie you get to preachy, and to conscious of what you are doing) you end up with the Spruce Goose.

Not all of his later stuff is lackluster. Enchanted is quite brilliant.

Of course, the other voice inside me says, "You only wish you were Orson Scott Card." To which I blithely reply, "Well, not really, but I'd like to have his level of talent."

I'm working on it.

We'll see if this novel gets me closer.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Bigger Picture - Why Am I Writing and For Whom

So I studied the sundry sub genres of Fantasy, and found that are indeed, a large number of them. I think the most interesting revelation to me is that the things that seem to separate most of them are setting and story. The story axiom is either nitty and gritty (anti heroes or the threat of immediate physical threat) or broad and world shattering. I know which of those two kinds of story I write better. I'm a 'blow up the planet' kind of guy.

The setting tends to be "real world" vs "historical" vs "completely made up." Now, Historical has the caveat that it can be a historical period with the serial numbers filed off. For example, a Song of Ice and Fire is (according to the website anyway) based largely upon the War of the Roses.

I can see the appeal. One of the reasons I made Gemini a copy of Earth in "Manifesto of Three Peoples" was because making an entirely new world is HARD. This is especially true if just one person is doing it. There are so many things that make up a world; religion, politics, geography, geology, economics, culture, war, peace and on and on. The closer you base your world on the real world, the more reality you have to draw from.

And that brings the central point I realized that I had to ask....WHY am I writing this?

The first novel I wrote because I simply wanted to write one. It was a life goal, and I am glad I completed it. I used the setting I gave to my mother when I was 15-16, because I'd always felt it wasn't being used and I was tired of giving her lame birthday presents.

The second novel was written largely because there was a plot I always had had in mind, and I wanted to write a near future novel, and at the same time write something with Narcoleptics in it.

This novel I want to write entirely for my own enjoyment. But I also firmly believe the greatest art is the kind that has deep meaning and is enjoyed by a lot of people. Norman Rockwell was not well respected by art critics of his time, but it enjoys a timeless quality about it, in part because it has become part of the popular culture and in part because it is really really good and in part because it speaks to so many people.

I want my novel to be something that anyone can enjoy, even though I'm writing it for me.

Which means some aspect of the novel has to connect with the real world. I'm not entirely opposed to the 'transplant from earth' model, but I'm not doing that with this novel.

The more I reflect upon the kind of story I'm really itching to tell, I think it has to be High Fantasy, but the advances made in the last 10-15 years in the 'historical' and 'urban' fantasy genres is such that I really don't want to ignore them...which tells me of a story that starts small and gets very very big before it is done.

Only I have to do this in a way that doesn't seem too rushed. Galb's suggestion that I do something more like 'The Hobbit' for my Gemini setting was a good one
, which means that while High Fantasy might be in the background, it also has to really be just a tiny fraction of the larger puzzle.

It's a place to start at least.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

On Genre

One of the things that I need to decide when putting the book together is what Genre I'm going to make it. I've decided I'm going to write up to seven novels before I 'give up' and then self publish, and so far I've nearly finished my second. The first was sci fi and the second was near future Sci Fi. While there are a wide range of genres out there, I have to admit I've always wanted to write a fantasy, which is another reason for my wanting to use the "Tolkien" school of writing and preparation.

But "Fantasy" covers an incredibly wide range of sub genres. What kind of story am I looking to tell?

If you look at the Wikipedia article on the subject you find out that there are more genres about Fantasy than you would ever have imagined.

Personally, since I also recently watched an interesting Nova about the way sleep helps us determine the best way, to do things, I'm going to sleep on it.