Fantasy Creation

Lacedaemonian

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Magic is very dangerous ground. Gods? Well they just ruin the book from the start. Not many decent fantasy books have gods in them in the physical sense. I mean most fantasy novels mention some god or other but they don't make an appearance. Eddings did it with some success and with abject failure. The introduction of magic and/or gods often makes a fantasy work childish, and requires too much suspension of belief. Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves etc etc etc. The best fantasy writers use the super natural, the miraculous, the achievement of possibility, the supreme human spirit etc etc to achieve a feel of magic. A fricken mage is just laughable!!
 

Hypes

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Yes, two years of obligatory military service.

I must say I am inclined to disagree with you, Lacedaemonian; well implemented magic can be very believeable if it suits the context of the book. Magic is very common in ancient mythology - and I'd be hardpressed to call it all childish.
 

Brian G Turner

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I think that's a point being made. After all, it can really undermine a plotline if the hero can ultimately deal with all adversity with a mere twitch of his little magic nose - but doesn't so as to not ruin the story. :)
 

Dead Riverdragon

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Ah, but Brian-in that sense magic is no different from any other potential plot element, in that bad magic is a bad thing, while magic implemented with skill will not result in that problem. After all, most fantasy (good or bad) has a magical element in it, but magic doesn't necessarily equal unlimited power (this is a topic of hot conversation over at the www.hatrack.com forums). What I find completely untenable is the idea that 'miracle' is a superior plot device: given that it is little removed from magic except that it suffers from a more profound divorce from the human agent, so is no more than the rightly condemned deus-ex-machina, miracle (unless Lacedaemonian refers to something I'm completely missing) is in no way less 'laughable' than magic, which at least retains a level of humanity.
 

Esioul

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I like it for magic to be quite, well, un-over-done. (Sorry, it's 7am in the morning, I'm still too sleepy to use a proper word). I think Diana Wynne Jones often manages it. what exactly do you mean by miracles, Brian?

And I don't think it's that childish to use magic and gods. Homer and Virgil aren't childish, are they?
 

Brian G Turner

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Dead Riverdragon said:
Ah, but Brian-in that sense magic is no different from any other potential plot element, in that bad magic is a bad thing, while magic implemented with skill will not result in that problem.
Indeed, quite right DeadRiverDragon - quite right. :)
 

Lacedaemonian

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I won't defend my last statement, though it was made after I had just come off a 12 hour night shift. Magic is an important device in fantasy. In fact the absence of magic from a fantsy novel begs the question, is it a fantasy novel? I love ancient history and mythology, but I don't like to see fantasy writers butcher it and simply replace names with ones of there own etc etc. Let's face it you might as well just read your ancient histories/mythologies, as they are better written and original. The point I was making, was simply that the use of gods in their physical form is extremely dangerous territory. The use of magic is less dangerous territory, but needs to be handled with great care. The poor construction of magic has spoilt a fair few would be good novels. My opinion. The parameters that the author puts into place for his/her magic is vital. However, the authors need to explain these parameters can also spoil the novel. It is this 'need to explain' that has not allowed me to enjoy the science fiction genre. "How does the machine operate?" Don't know, don 't care! Most fantasy books are childish. Saying that, I love the Narnia works, Harry Potter and so on. If somebody can name one fantasy novel which uses gods in their physical form with success, then by all means let me know. Homer and Virgil are not childish, but they are a little outdated..... Fancy throwing that at me. tut tut tut. Why not throw the bible at me?
 

Esioul

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People still read Homer and Virgil, and they've been generally accepted for years longer than Happy Potter, and probably will continue to be read for years longer. The gods really are represented in Homer and Virgil, so it is possible, although I'm not saying I always like these representations.

And is it really true that all ancient histories are better reads than reworked novels of them? After trawling though some terribly dull Latin constructions, I can't possibly agree.
 

Lacedaemonian

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I concede that Harry Potter is total crap, although I did enjoy reading them. Homer's use of gods was based on the mythology of the time. Not much more to say on that matter. Civilisation has moved on somewhat since then. Do you believe in god? The people in ancient times believed in the existance of various gods. So we, as the reader, would allow ourselves to believe in their gods within the limits of their world. Personally, I don't believe in a god. I believe in the human spirit and the energies of nature. Perhaps this colours my view of the use of physical gods in fantasy. Who knows? I do love the use of physical gods in Norse mythology. What comparisons should we be drawing between mythology and fantasy? It is one thing that fantasy sometimes borrows heavily from mythology but it is another to judge them both by the same rules. I hope that makes sense. Please don't draw me on my agnostic beliefs.
 

Lacedaemonian

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The latin jibe was funny too. Latin is an awful language. I simply meant that people should read the stories not necessarily in their original form. You were also quite quick to dive down the Romantic route. When I was writing that, I was thinking about the Germanic sagas. Cheap plagiarism has no place by the Lake of Daemons. Quality plagiarism is always welcome!
 

Lacedaemonian

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What rules? What do you mean? I am saying that they should be judged independently. They should not be judged as a collective genre. Obviously due to the 'borrowing' they are similar, but their origin is not.
 

Michael

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Considering that I have only written three books, and only one is even close to publication, I may be overstepping my bounds--but I'll try anyway. Personally, I want to do something different with every (excuse me, unrelated) story. I like alternate universes with strong similarities to our own, worlds of my own creation, and the real world (I'm not sure yet of my abilities to do a "real-world" fanatasy, but I'll let you know as soon I am). I like as many different kinds of worlds as my weird brain can possibly conjure up (or yours, for that matter).

I also like to outline rules for how each universe works--how magic works. In some cases, I want to be detailed but vague, while in others I might want to be more specific.

No matter what, I still love LOTR. There isn't much for "rules of magic" in Tolkien's work, except when it comes to language. The use of language in the story is enough to stimulate my mind.

Don't get me wrong--I want a story to entertain me too. That's why I like a lot of (sigh) Mercedes Lackey's work, and Dave Duncan's. In Duncan's A Man of His Word the rules were specific and simple, but they were there--and the story blew me away.:)
 

Michael

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Judge by rules? I guess. I look for certain things in a fantasy, but they don't necessarily have to be there as long as the story entertains me. Okay, I'll be honest: if the story is both intellectually stimulating and provokes an emotional response I like that more.
 

Michael

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I would (throw the Bible at you, that is), Lacedaemonian, but what's the point? You make a very good point that I hope to remember in my own work. Too much explanation can spoil a story, I think. Although I read all of Heinlein's Number of the Beast, I was still a bit disappointed with it. On the other hand, Starship Troopers was excellent.
 
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Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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I think that the very difficulties of creating imaginary gods, religions, cultures and magic systems are what challenges us to keep trying. :) Incidentally, I am personally an atheist but that does not stop me from having a very great interest in religion and myth. I believe a good writer does not restrict himself to only that knowledge which is consistent with his own belief system or lack thereof, if he (or she, sorry!) has any pretension to truly be a storyteller.
 

Michael

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knivesout said:
I think that the very difficulties of creating imaginary gods, religions, cultures and magic systems are what challenges us to keep trying. :) Incidentally, I am personally an atheist but that does not stop me from having a very great interest in religion and myth. I believe a good writer does not restrict himself to only that knowledge which is consistent with his own belief system or lack thereof, if he (or she, sorry!) has any pretension to truly be a storyteller.
I don't know, knivesout. I kind of like the Tolkein and Lewis approach, although I do have ideas for stories that have nothing to do with my spiritual belief. (But I definitely agree about the challenge. That's part of the fun!)
 

WarlikeMenelaos

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I surely hope Gods in fantasy stories aren't that outdated since what I am writing doesn't really feature the Gods but they have a huge impact on the story.

World building to me comes rather easy cause I study a lot of history. When you understand why civilisations have evolved the way they have, why we do certain things, what has influenced development and what has hindered it you can start applying what you've learnt on a fictional world.

My greatest achievement in my own works his architecture, I have written history of my world that explains why things are built in certain ways and religion plays a heavy part in that.

For example, one of my early races build large temples based on the 'homes of the Gods'. Because they believe the sun is the home of the Gods they display most of their artwork on the outside of their buildings instead of on the inside.

And since the moon is what they believe is where you go in the afterlife, night is revered as a time to remember the dead and the cult of the moon Gods presides over all funerals. Tombs are decorated (outside) with images of these lunar deities. Inside the tombs they place a silver disk (to represent the moon) and also a small gold disk (representing the sun and life reborn...like the sun rises)

Another thing I have is the change of materials for weapons, my people use bronze swords but they later develop into using iron swords. Governments change and even beliefs in the Gods are 'altered' new gods are added and some are taken away.

I've probably bored you all with this stuff but I have tonnes more that I've included in the background of my works. There is a reason behind everything us humans do, once you work out what they are you can write it yourself.

I apologise if that last bit sounded egotistical, I am not a great writer, I'm not even a good writer. I do believe however, that I'm a good world builder.
 

Michael

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Actually, it sounds interesting.

So far, I don't have a lot of that going on myself, but Gods do play a strong role in my current WIP.
 

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