Some articles of use

Toby Frost

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#1
The following may be of some interest. Apologies if you've seen them before:

"On Thud and Blunder" - Poul Anderson
On Thud and Blunder

Really pretty vital reading for fantasy writers to my mind. This explains how to introduce plausibility to fantasy without making it dull - and provides loads of possibilities for stories. I am not sure that the points raised are 100% applicable to every society, but this is a very good grounding. Really interesting stuff.

"Epic Pooh" - Michael Moorcock
: RevolutionSF - Epic Pooh : Feature

This should get some hackles rising. Moorcock attacks Tolkein and others for what he sees as excessive conservatism and parochiality (is that a word?). I'm not sure I agree, but it certainly got me thinking.

And a book reccomendation: How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. JN Williamson (pub.1987). This snappily titled volume includes articles by Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell and others. Almost all are quality, although given the publication date no real mention is made of the effects of the internet. But highly reccomended nonetheless.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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#2
I read the Anderson article a long, long time ago, and found it very useful. Just as one example, ever since I first read it, I've remembered to let my characters rest their horses at suitable intervals — and bring extras with them, when possible!
 

Vertigo

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#3
That first article is really interesting. One of my biggest hates with fantasy is the lack of realism. As Poul Anderson says in the article. It's all well and good to have a fantasy in a different world with different laws (magic and such like). That's fine I have no problems with it. But to hold my attention the detail needs to be plausible and so often isn't. I know there are authors out there who do deliver realism in their fantasy but so often they fail, even big names.

As Poul Anderson says lopping off limbs and heads with swords is simply unlikely also two handed swords were pretty rarely used and then dropped and replaced with a more reasonable sized sword once you had lost momentum with it. Shooting five arrows a second from a bow is unrealistic. Leaping on a strange horse that has never met you before is most likely to get you dumped unceremoniously on the ground in short order.

One that is guaranteed to get me going is travel times. Everyone seems to romp across wildnernesses in no time at all. Then when they camp it seems one of the party only has to vanish into the forest for a few minutes and they have rabbit stew on. Many authors seem to treat travel time as a convenient way to synchonise different plot threads. James Barclay is terrible for this in his Raven books. His heroes cover an inch on the map in week and then go on to the next stage of the journey and cover three inches in a couple of days. Drives me bonkers!

Oh well rant over!

IMHO Realism in fantasy is almost more important than in other genres simply because it is fantasy.
 

chopper

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#4
heh. i have a character who spends half a chapter catching rabbits for a stew - irritated the heck out of one member of our writers' groop. i researched the snares though.

but yes, it's an interesting article, and one i've read before. cheers for the links, Toby.
 

The Judge

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#5
Thanks for the links, Toby. I read the Thud and Blunder the other day when you referenced it and found it highly entertaining -- I meant to thank you then!

And congratulations on achieving sub-forum status!
 

Toby Frost

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#7
Here is something else that might be of interest, although I'd advise reading it with a degree of caution. It's certainly well-put-forward, and is the best version I've seen of the arguments it makes, although it is certainly born out of frustration. I think decent points are being made, although it's hard to say to what extent they are true. Also, the writer perhaps doesn't give enough credit to the power of marketing departments in publishing (it was written 8 years ago).

On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile
http://www.kingsfieldpublications.co.uk/rats.PDF

My main issue with the writer's conclusions is his pushing forward of a "pro-am" solution: ie amateur writing at a professional standard. This is all very well, but: (i) writers have a moral right to be paid decently for decent writing, and should not forget that; and (ii) online publishing makes it easier to self-publish anything, and hence much harder to sort the quality from the dross. The fact remains that unless you are lucky, persistent and well-connected, the kudos of having someone else publish your book is that people will at least recognise that another person supports it enough to put time and money into seeing it in print. I can well understand the frustration and the appeal of the writer's conclusions. Hwever, the question of whether or not the industry will change is entirely seperate from the question of whether it ought to.
 

Toby Frost

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#9
Here is a set of articles on writing fantasy by someone called Limyaael. Whilst called "rants", they're actually quite reasonable and perceptive little articles on various fantasy topics. She is very good at spotting things that have been done to death and explaining why they don't work. They'd probably also be pretty useful for writers of historical fiction and SF, and many of the ones on structure and characterisation would be of use to any sort of fiction at all.

http://curiosityquills.com/limyaaels-rants/
 

Brian G Turner

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#10
Here is a set of articles on writing fantasy by someone called Limyaael. Whilst called "rants", they're actually quite reasonable and perceptive little articles on various fantasy topics. She is very good at spotting things that have been done to death and explaining why they don't work. They'd probably also be pretty useful for writers of historical fiction and SF, and many of the ones on structure and characterisation would be of use to any sort of fiction at all.

http://curiosityquills.com/limyaaels-rants/
Superb reference - I think this needs it's own thread. Mind If I move these couple of posts to the General Writing section?

EDIT: Have created it's own thread here:
http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/539902-limyaaels-rants.html
 

J-WO

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#12
Thanks for the links. I've read the first two (while sat here nursing fresh dental work) and I notice that, whereas Moorcock's essay is both brilliant and a milestone of genre criticism, he's gone and eroded its power by tinkering with it; adding Rowling etc. Two separate decades of fantasy publishing are being conflated and the essay loses some of its coherency.

In contrast, Anderson's essay is far more workman-like yet--paradoxically--ages better due to only speaking for its own time (The second to last paragraph, for instance, almost predicts modern day grimdark fantasy). Explaining an essay is old in the introduction is, to my mind, a far better way to go than updating it.
 

Toby Frost

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#15
In my continuing attempts to be useful (I enjoy the novelty), here is the Turkey City Lexicon, compiled by a number of writers including Bruce Sterling. The Lexicon lists a number of common mistakes in writing and is actually quite entertaining. It's always interesting to find out that there's a name for the mistakes you make...

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/
 

Toby Frost

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#17
I thought I would put this here rather than under the Mad Max sections because it's of broader interest. Here are some comments on Fury Road by a writer who has one arm.

My Reaction to Mad Max: Fury Road and the Utter Perfection That Is Imperator Furiosa

I think the bullet points she makes are of particular note. It's notable that Furiosa's missing arm isn't the centre of a revenge plot, or even said to be the result of anyone's villainy. One of the things that I think writers should try to avoid is putting That Sort Of Person (whatever they may be) into a story and then inevitably telling the same story about That Sort Of Person that everyone else does. Sometimes it's hard to avoid, and sometimes it's necessary, but the question always arises: how can I make something good and new out of this?
 

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