Fantasy Creation

aftermath

Alex Cy'ane or Xir?
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When you write fantasy, how do you create your gods/magic/world. I've noticed that some my my friends in their writing, use hte same concepts continually for how they create these things. I myself, try to use a different concepts for each of my short stories. EX: one story the magic comes from gems that were created with the Earth. These gems are 'tapped'. there are different kinds. (sound fimilar? lol) another is a vampire that has to kill normal people. not wizards, for the wizards are in tune with the earth, and that is apparnently too much magic for the vampire. but anyway, the vapmire uses hte small amounts he takes from others for his magic.




So, how do you go about creating a world with magic and Gods if you use them... I don't really put too much into the Gods, because they normally don't play an important role. Do you use a single style or try to fan out? Also, maybe we could help each refine our ideas... just a thought
 

Brian G Turner

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I actually don;t like the ideas of magic and gods in the story - it can really threaten an imbalance in the story - ie, why should the humans/elves/dwarfs join together in the world if there's a couple of mages who could do the job alone anyway?

Magic is definitely something to be careful using - enough to feed the imagination, but not the critic. :0

Personally, I just love realism - I want to see hard everyday realism in fantasy - but that's just me. :)
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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I think the important thing is to stay away from D&D style world building. That sort of thing is OK for RPing but not for serious writing.


I agree with Brian on realism. I think the thing to do is to figure out what sort of conflicts or issues you want to explore in your story and then create a world that would reasonably contain these sorts of elements. If magic is an essential part of this, then include it by all means, but not otherwise.

One of the greatest world builders in the business is Jack Vance. Try reading his books for a feel of how creates his worlds and the cultures in them especially. Or don't - that is just a suggestion, its up to you figure out what you want to be influenced by!
 

Chefo

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For my story I tried to create my own world, world that has its own geography, Gods, races etc. Truth be told, if I start writing just the history of that world (like Tolkien with the Silmarillion) I can probably write another 300 pages or so...

But the point is, it needs to be original. For example, the elves should not always be nimble and slender, humans brute and unsophisticated etc. Furthermore, I truly despise the division between good and evil, which is the plotline most fantasy authors use. There is usually the One, Greatest, Baddest Evil and of course the half a dozen fearless heroes that will eventually defeat it. The problem is not the division itself rather that it is spelled out from the very beginning so that the reader knows who the good guys are, who the bad guys are and how the story is going to end... That does not make for a pleasant read, at least in my opinion.

What I try to do in my writing is demonstrate that prejudice, ignorance and lack of understanding are far more destructive elements than anything else... Thus, there is no single evil, but rather different points of view.

As for realism, that is what I personally enjoy most:)... though not always. For example, despite the fact that George RR Martin blends magic and realism, I think he is the most successful author that I have come across in explaining why people do the things that they do... I can't wait for 'a Feast For Crows' to come out;).

Chefo
 

aftermath

Alex Cy'ane or Xir?
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Chefo, that's kind of the way I write. I normally always use an Elf for a main character, but he is not the tpye that you normally find. He's is a self cnetered prick who cares more for his horse than the rest of man kind. Humans and Elves mingle completely, there isn't much in the line of hatred there, but some of the other races are picked on. But my Gods, are mentioned just to explain how some things work. And the magic is pretty strong, its just that others can counter if they have the time or speed. Realism, I take and throw out the window. I write a world where when the people except everything, and if they can do that so can the reader, i find... maybe im just crazy :p All my worlds are different, and my races are different. I try different things with each set of stroies to try to expand my writing skills. My world would be my Listener world. I have three stories set there and a fourth on the way.

Anyways, do you write a single evil force with apparent good and bad, or do you blur the lines between the both? I love blurring the lines. I also love writing the evil side of things, where the character does what he does to further himself only. :>
 

Esioul

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Well, I've sort of been using the same world for years, so I can't quite remember how I did that one! I find when I want to do a weird, interesting kind of place I think about things we find normal today, maybe in society or the environment and change it round totally.
 

Brian G Turner

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I have to admit, I also like a blurring of moral lines. One of my pivotal moral dilemmas in my main writing is: "Would you kill one person to save a million people? If so, how many people would you kill to save the entire human race?"
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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There's much more to moral conflicts than a simple good vs. evil, that's for sure.

The thing I find missing in some of what I read is an understanding of what drives evil, and what defines good, apart from resisting the forces of destruction or chaos.

If I may wander into religion for an example (I feel that the myths and legends associated with most religions are perhaps among the most compelling stories we have), the devil in the major monotheist religions, Satan, has a clearly defined motivation for his stance. Overwheening ambition, being cast out of heaven - the resulting thirst for vengeance...there's a very convincing evil force!

Coming to more historical examples, it's interesting to look at people who have been called evil and trace their motivation. Hitler was, apparently, driven by a deep sense of patriotism and a desire to raise his country up from the beaten state it was in. Stalin knew that the fledgling USSR did not have the sort of big guns to easily resist its enemies, so he imposed a stern internal discipline, focussing all energies on the war and brutally dealing with all dissent. On their own these seem like reasonable enough motivations - its the way that they are carried out that defines what may call good or evil.

Evil is rarely an inbuilt stance - it is usually a series of decisions. It's interesting to explore why those decisions were made the way they were, in fiction or in a study of history.

Now good is again rather hard to define. Looking at the past half century I see several wars in our recent past that were aimed at enemies who were definitely not benevolent, good people - but on the other hand, I would be hard pressed to label these wars or the people who masterminded them, as necessarily forces of 'good'.

Good and evil are not carved in stone either - LE Modessit Jr. actually played this idea out in his Recluce series, where his adversaries are forces of Order and Chaos. The 'villains' are not necessarily from one side or the other, but forces within each group who take either Order or Chaos to extremes. Ultimately, the 'heroes' are those who strive to balance the two.

So I'd say that while it's true that writing fiction is essentially an act of pure creation, being aware of the sort of things I've just talked about, and thinking about them, can actually help you work out more ideas for your stories.

Of course, everything I've just said applies to world-building itself. The more you learn about different cultures, about the history of civilization, the more you learn about cosmology and planetology (on the sf side), the more vivid and well-realised your imaginary worlds will be.

I'm certainly not suggesting that it's just about researching and then playing around with strictly extrapolated variables - but more knowledge can only provide more fuel for imagination.

Foo - that was long.
 
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Brian G Turner

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Absolutely - moral position is often a matter of perspective. To distract a little - in "Dune" by Frank Herbert the Atreides were originally horrified by how callously the Fremen dealt with water issues, especially with regards to the treatment of the dead, and the living - yet when Jessica and Paul had to take refuge with the Fremen, the complete necessity of it all made their position quite understandable.

I love moral ambiguities. :)

I am old-fashioned enough, though, to presume that there should (normally!) be less moral ambiguity among protagonists. At some point as a writer you really want the readers to associate with the protagonists. To myself, the antagonists take issues of moral quandary into areas that would perhaps be illogical to the read.

How many people would you kill to save the human race? A protagonist would seek to sacrifice as few as possible - the antagonist sees no issue with numbers*, and thus justifies genocide to himself. Thus is how you make some form of moral distinction among conundrums.

* "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is just a statistic" - Stalin
 

littlemissattitude

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I guess I'm coming to this discussion a little late. But I've been thinking about what you all have been posting.

I haven't ever tried to build a world in my writing, to be honest. I prefer fantasy that takes place pretty much in the world as we know it, perhaps with slight tweaks or additions. Probably why I like Tim Powers's work so much. He plays with what the world gives him to work with, and manages to write some pretty fantastic stuff. Not that I don't like to read fantasy in created worlds - it's just somehow not quite as much fun for me as playing with "what if" in the so-called real world.

This is what Powers does. In fact, in one of his novels ("Declare", which takes place against the Cold War and uses historical personages as some of its characters), he researched the time period, the parts of the world in which his story takes place, and the lives of the real people he drops in as characters and claims - and is successful as far as I can see - in writing a true fantasy that does not contradict any known, recorded fact about the time, place, or people he writes about. And he managed to write a really good story out of it. That, to me, is at least as much of an accomplishment as building a world from scratch.

Now, as far as the insertion of moral ambiguity into a story - the world is morally ambiguous. There aren't that many examples in history of pure good or pure evil. Everyone has a dark side, even though most of us keep it pretty well submerged most of the time. So, of course, there must be some moral ambiguity in any story, in my opinion. But I do think that in most cases, it is part of the author's job to define the "good guys" from the "bad guys" in some way. This is not to say that the good has to be all good and the bad has to be all bad. But I don't think I've read too many successful stories where the reader has to decide who to root for without any clues from the writer.
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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I don't think it's old-fashioned to have a protagonist that you clearly do see to be on the better end of the moral spectrum. Unless you're purposefully creating a portrait of a dark character (as in Patrick Susskind's masterfully ghoulish novel, Perfume). Even in such a case, there is a moral delineation - this is the story of a monster.

Still, it's important to be sure that, in the maze of ambiguities around, you know why your 'heroes' are heroic and be sure to remain consistent in that.

Brian's point about genocide is a case in point - for Brian, this is clearly a defining choice. In his stories, the characters who choose to end many lives for some cause would probably turn out to be the antagonists. It's important to know what are the ideals and choices that your forces of 'good' and 'evil' hold to, and play those out consistently.

Again, I'm wandering more into the moral overtones than world-buiding as such, but I guess that's natural - I think a lot of fictional world building is done to provide an arena for these sorts of conflicts?

In some ways, an author like TIm Powers has it harder than a writer who sets his works in a purely fictional milieu. Real-world elements are very powerful symbols, with a lot of baggage already attached - using them to drive your story without getting lost in the backwash of pre-conceptions can be quite a task. At least, that's what I've experienced - what do you think?
 

aftermath

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knivesout... you have completely lost me, but thats not much of a task to do..:p

that whole last paragraph, is like whoosh, right over my head. I don't really like reality so i try to not put any in my writing.

I like the genocide example. The main character in, "untitled" (since im horribly slack when it comes to titles) just killed more than half a race to attmept to kill a man that was tormentng him. When he realized what happened and he destroyed his horse, he almost lost it.

I don't like writing one side good, one evil. I like to make character relate with what the character is doing. If he has to kill a child, and the chracter think that the killing of the child has to occur, I wanth the reader to agree with the characters judgement. I'm not sure if any of what I wrote made any sense...but yeah, knivesout, i'm stil lost.
 

littlemissattitude

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knivesout said:
In some ways, an author like TIm Powers has it harder than a writer who sets his works in a purely fictional milieu. Real-world elements are very powerful symbols, with a lot of baggage already attached - using them to drive your story without getting lost in the backwash of pre-conceptions can be quite a task. At least, that's what I've experienced - what do you think?
I think you are right about the baggage problem when a fantasy author works in the "real world". However, I think that if an author can make that work for him or her (as I think Powers does), it can make the work more powerful in that there are connections already there, so that the reader doesn't have to figure out what the implications of things are from scratch. Certainly, it is a fine line to walk, and it takes a special talent to do so successfully.

I know, I have a fairly low tolerance for fantasy set in completely created worlds. The story tends to need to be immediately involving and very compelling for me to stick with it. I think that is because I end up spending a lot of the energy I could use enjoying the story trying to figure out cultural associations and making the connections that the author wants me to make, that are different from connections in the real world. Perhaps I'm dense, or too rooted in the real world, or just lack imagination, but I have trouble with making those connections sometimes. Or maybe I just really enjoy seeing the real world turned sideways and played with.:)
 

dwndrgn

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littlemissattitude said:
I know, I have a fairly low tolerance for fantasy set in completely created worlds. The story tends to need to be immediately involving and very compelling for me to stick with it. I think that is because I end up spending a lot of the energy I could use enjoying the story trying to figure out cultural associations and making the connections that the author wants me to make, that are different from connections in the real world. Perhaps I'm dense, or too rooted in the real world, or just lack imagination, but I have trouble with making those connections sometimes. Or maybe I just really enjoy seeing the real world turned sideways and played with.:)
Not being a writer I stay out of these discussions as much as possible. However, sometimes I can't help myself and must interject my thoughts...please pardon the interruption...

Regarding your difficulty with fantasy set in completely created worlds, I would say that you need to read some fantasy that has been better written. If the reader is spending too much time figuring out the world and not just seamlessly feeling the story then the author has made some missteps. The author has to give the reader subtle clues without jarring lectures so that it all plays out like a film on the screen...in any case, that's the way I feel :).
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Good points, dwndrgn. There are authors who map out their imaginary world in a very smooth way, allowing you to slowly feel as much at home there as in our own world, and not just because they are using familiar genre tropes. Moorcock always gives me that sense of total immersion.

aftermath: Don't worry. I get kinda obscure at times!:p

Seriously though, I may not love every aspect of this 'real world' that we live in, but I do think that even purely imaginative writing needs to illuminate our own experience in some way.
 

Vodstok

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I tend to homegrow my own worlds from nothing, generally trying to avoid anything that has been lain down in the past. I have a fantasy world that actually grows from science-fiction roots. Rather than pure good vs evil in the usual fantasy sense, the conflict is built more around racism and a snense of superiority than a cut-and-dry good guys and their gods vs bad guys and their devils.

On the flipside, I have a sci-fi world that draws more from a fantasy background that traditional sci-fi (but trust me, i bears no resemblance to a certain popular space opera with knights and wookies ;) :p )
 

Vodstok

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Hey, go nuts. I have a sci-fi world that would take 20 pages + just to give the basic, background ideas that define the various cultures, struggles and characters that are importan to the overall plot. Show me yours and I'll show you mine ;)
 

Myla Starchild

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Alrighty, here goes :( Don't say I didn't warn ya!


Let's start off by introducing the story and giving an overview, then I'll start going through all the back story for my world, then I'll (try to) explain the philosophy behind it.

------------

War Tiger (said project :cool: ) works on the classic (more flattering than cliched...oh get on with it! :mad: ) theme of Light vs Dark - but in a way you've never seen before (I don't think :confused: ). What it all boils down to in the end is that there is no Light and Dark, no such thing as good and evil, only a very convincing and powerful idea, passed down by enough people over a long enough length of time, until it's so firmly ingrained in the mind and society, nobody can accept any other way of looking at things.
 

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