Monday, August 2, 2010

Questions I am asking

Over vacation, I spent no time writing but a great deal of time thinking about Emergent. Much of my thought was prompted by an excellent book I chanced across - How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. I make no bones about Card being one of my favorite authors, and while I have read everything he has posted at Uncle Orson's Writing Class, I thought there might be some things of value in a book written specifically on SciFi and Fantasy. I was not wrong in this assumption and strongly encourage anyone wishing to write in either genre to look at both resources.

One of the things that most challenged me were the comments about the clich├ęs in the genre. Most fantasy novels - which is how I mentally classify Emergent - are set in a quasi-Medieval world. There isn't really anything wrong with this in and of itself, but I personally feel it's important to have as many unique aspects as possible in a story for it to be a cut above the rest. And even then, it's truly difficult if not downright impossible to achieve anything really new or unique.

With all of that in mind, I am leaning towards the following changes to overall format:

I am considering taking the setting of the book away from the quasi-Medieval setting into either a Victorian Era (but a less traditional Victorian era and with more of a Steampunk twist) or Ancient Rome. Clearly I have some issues. Maybe I'll attempt to mix them both. How? I've no idea.

Going back to the overall question of voice and POV, I am considering moving away from Jeyne as a character viewpoint at all and going solely to Mr. No-Name as a first person and primary (if not sole) character viewpoint. This might be indicative of my hating myself. I'm not sure.

Lastly, I need to narrow my focus somewhat. So far, this story has been about an odd love triangle (which isn't really a triangle because I like things to be complicated), the emergence of magic into a world (hopefully without it being too similar to X-Men), and the toppling of an empire. Not to mention all the smaller stray ideas I've had. I think there's room for everything in the story, but I need to really sit down and mentally trace each path and then work out how to weave everything together - and work out which ideas need to be abandoned and which need to be explored further.

Most of all, I need to sit down and write and make some forward progress. That's totally going to happen.  



  1. I've not read the book you mention, but I'm always a bit leery of writing guides in general.

    Some thoughts.

    On quasi-medieval worlds:

    It's true that 99% of fantasy is set in quasi-medieval worlds, but it might be worth pointing out a couple of things:

    Firstly, a big part of the reason fantasy worlds are "quasi-medieval" is that "quasi-medieval" covers pretty much all of European history from the iron age to the Industrial revolution. Look at the Lord of the Rings, it's set in a "quasi medieval" setting which includes Rohan (Anglo Saxons, circa eighth century) Gondor (high Medieval, circa fourteenth century) and the Shire (rural England, circa twentieth century).

    Or look at Azeroth. Is that "quasi medieval"? It's got Steampunk technology and firearms, but also has kings and knights and tournaments.

    Secondly, people write in and read about quasi-medieval fantasy settings because they *like* them, and there is nothing wrong with writing about what you *like*.

    On Cliches in general:

    To be glib for a moment, the biggest cliche is worrying about cliches. You should absolutely never, under any circumstances, not write about something you want to write about, just because it's cliche (unless it's an offensive cliche, which is a different matter).

    If you want to write about a fantasy world that looks like medieval Europe, go for it. If making your world look like Victorian England or Ancient Rome won't affect the story, why bother to change it? I'd argue that there's actually a positive *advantage* in having a fantasy world that looks like every other fantasy world, because it means that your readers can fill in the details for themselves, and anything you *do* do differently will be more interesting because of it.

    "Different for the sake of it" isn't any better than "just like everything else."

    I'd also add that "Magic returns to the world in a quasi-victorian setting" will feel a lot like /Johnathon Strange and Mister Norrel/.

    On Viewpoint Characters:

    I'm not sure why dropping Jeyne as a viewpoint character means you hate yourself, unless she was originally intended to be based strongly on you, in which case moving her away from the centre of the book is actually arguably a good idea. If you've got a character who you've created entirely from scratch, you'll understand them better than one who you're just using as a general stand-in for the reader, which is probably a good thing.

    Hope that's all helpful.

  2. *poke*

    Just checking in to make sure you're carrying on with this.

  3. I am. Real life has been a bit crazy lately, but I've been mulling over more things and even managed a bit of actual writing. Go me.

    I am going to take a moment and reply to your first comment about this. I meant to do so earlier, but the aforementioned real life derailed that.

    One of the biggest reasons I want to move away from the typical quasi-medieval setting is because I don't like the limitations that are automatically placed upon that setting.

    Azeroth is actually a good example of what I think I ought to aim for. Sure there's a lot of the medieval flavor, but as you pointed out, there is also the Steampunk technology and firearms. To my current thinking, why not add a coliseum and, I don't know, modern plumbing? (Random examples, mind you. Obviously there would be at least a minor need for those things to have *some* bearing on the story I want to tell.)

    My comment about moving away from Jeyne as a POV character and the subsequent self-hatred was not because I was basing her on myself. The idea of going with my nameless, naked dude is both attractive and daunting. Daunting because I don't want half the book to be him stopping and saying things like, "[This] seemed familiar to me, but as usual, I couldn't figure out why." Attractive because I personally like the voice he has thus far.

    As a side note/update, I've also recently read Terry Brooks' book on writing, mainly because a friend really wanted me to do so. While I think a lot of it was self-congratulatory BS, there was an idea in there for effective outlining which gave me some good input on how to do on paper what I am trying to do in my head.

    I have hopes that much of the planning stage is over and I might be able to settle into my goal of writing some 3-5000 words per week. Once I do, I'll be posting more excerpts and tracking how I do on meeting that goal. If I have no one and nothing to hold me accountable to that, I find the actual writing gets very sporadic.

  4. Just checking in again to see how this is going (sorry, been meaning to comment for a while).

    All your points about technology are well made - certainly there's no reason to restrict yourself to pseudo-medieval just because it's the default.

    Anyway, consider this me nagging you to sit down and write something.

  5. Nag!

    I mean, thanks! I am writing. It's just coming along slowly and there's nothing I really want to share here quite yet. Hopefully I'll get some distraction- and interruption-free time here soon.


Constructive criticism welcome. However, I am not looking to have anyone point out every grammatical error. I know they exist and I just can't care about those while trying to write.