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June writing excuses episodes.

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Garren Jacobsen, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. I suppose this should be May, but here is what I got from episode 10.22 of Writing Excuses.

    Be careful with blending the real and the surreal. Caution is necessary because someone is guaranteed to call you out on it, though it may be accurate up until the fake point.

    Walking the periphery could be a chance to see two sides of the fence and be honest to the people of your book.

    Research and goals relationship
    - reality could change the story and should if it's necessary.

    The character of the magic.
    -the can be a character.
    -introducing be twists on magic could indicate magic is deeper and can enhance a story.
    -what are the cultural aspects of the magic?
    -having characters from different cultures interact with each other about magic could reignite the wonder.

    Even in the final book in a series one must keep the tone the same and not change it in order to wrap up the series. It's gotta keep itself honest.

    Anyone else care to share or discuss?
    skip.knox likes this.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Some of the items are too fragmentary for me to understand, but I like the one about cultural aspects of magic. I'll extend that.

    When I teach I often talk about the four-fold division of history: politics, economics, society, culture (which includes religion). So I would take that same observation and extend it to politics and economics and social relations.

    What is the economics of magic? Does it differ by type of magic, or by race? If gnomes can create wheat magically, without the bother of a growing season (or crop failure), then what? If elves can sail a ship through the worst storm without fear of sinking, then what? And so on.

    Some writers do address the social implications of magic. Are magicians a privileged caste? A reviled one? Is there a place for the village wise woman? Does this vary between humans, elves, orcs, dwarves, whatever? What if dragons hated magic? What if the ability to do magic created its own social ties, the way kinship does?

    Politics probably gets treated most often. Even so, we usually get a king *and* a magical counsellor. We don't often get a mage-king. Sometimes, just not often. What if magic were a requirement for ruling? What if elections were vulnerable to magical alteration? What if mages were judges? And so on.

    There is, it seems to me, ample room for exploring the real-world implications of fantastical beings, races, and effects.
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    skip, I think he was referring to the part where they talked about viewing the magic of the book series in question, which was long establish, from a new and different cultural viewpoint making it feel fresh again. In the book they were discussing, characters that had been established in other books set in England moved to Antigua and learned about magic from the point of view of the natives there and so learned new things about it.

    This is definitely something I've thought about a lot in my worldbuildng, how the nature of the world and its "magic" are viewed through different cultures and also different times in those different cultures.

    I listened to a few shows yesterday. Interesting stuff, but I feel like they are definitely limited in their own point of view of fantasy and worldbuilding and magic. They basically all agree on how to go about things. They tend to all espouse a "only what's necessary" approach to worldbuilding. Which is fine, but it would be nice if they had another point of view in there. Because there are a lot of fantasy readers who like worldbuilding for its own sake. They read fantasy to get immersed in the world and a "does this bit of worldbuilding aid the plot? No? Throw it out" approach doesn't satisfy them.

    I thought it telling that it was mentioned at least twice that one of the authors would get "a lot" of people asking them for more detail about a specific worldbuilding element and they just said "but you don't need that". Fine, you don't need that. But obviously you've got fans who want it. Fans who want detailed worlds that feel deep and real. That may not be the approach of the authors here, but it is a valid approach and I wish they had a member who could talk about its value.
    Amanita likes this.
  4. There are other shows earlier on that mention the different approaches to world building. I think they compared Sanderson, who is a fairly broad world builder, to Rothfuss who is fairly comprehensive. They mention that neither is better than another but that the Sandersonian (yes I made that up, no I won't not unmake it up) method allows for greater output than the Rothfussian (same as before) method. I think there is some truth to that. I mean compare Rothfuss's output to Sanderson's. Name of the Wind was published in 2007. (Wikipedia). Since then he's published one other book and nine other works. In that same time period Sanderson has published 17 books (including both his Cosmere Works and his YA/Children's books) and 15 other works. (Wikipedia) That totals 32 works. 32! In books Sanderson is 17 more prolific. And is 1.5 times more productive in short works. I think that indicates the short and "necessary" world building approach allows for more productivity.

    I fall into the Sanderson camp. Sitting down and world building bores me too death. I hate it. I'd rather create characters and stories and do some back filling. Although, I do make exceptions for interesting ideas like my legal magic system, my Harry Potter thought experiment, and a couple of others ideas. However, after I use these world seeds I generally jump into character creation and create a story. Once there I can do some minimal world building that fits within the story and one degree of background information--meaning things that are not in the story but have direct effect on it. Sometimes I do two degrees--which is world building that may or may not be mentioned and has an indirect effect on the story--but this is rare. I never, at least anymore, do three degrees--things that may or may not ben mentioned that have almost no effect save to fill the world. If there is a mentioned third degree world building element it is a name and that is all I know about it. That makes fantasy writing more fun for me. This approach makes more sense to me.

    Of course there are many different approaches, but I do enjoy the deep builders like Rothfuss, Tolkien, and others. In any event, I think with their approach they are also trying to help people avoid world builder's disease, which they have mentioned several times. But that is a topic for another forum and another day.
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I get your points. It's all up to the author and what their personal goal as a writer is in the end. Though I do think "do light worldbuilding, build lots of worlds and write lots of books" or "do deep worldbuilding, build fewer worlds and writer fewer books" is a false dichotomy. Unfortunately, it seems to be the base assumption of most fantasy writers, even though we have Terry Pratchett who built the Discoworld with an incredible amount of detail and wrote 41 novels as well as associated books set there (and no doubt would have written many more if disease hadn't sadly taken him from the world). It's somewhere you could easily live in, if you ever got a portal there, there's so much detail. You could probably navigate Ankh-Morpork easily enough , even though it's Discworld's NYC, based on everything Pratchett told us about it. But he was one of the most prolific fantasy writers.

    Anyway, what really bothered me was the way they so casually dismissed the requests of fans who wanted more as "that just isn't necessary". Of course it's not necessary. Not a single thing in your writing is necessary. It's fantasy, for goodness' sake. You're making it all up. But they're your fans. At least say, "it would be great if I could give the fans all the detail they want, but that would take too long. I hope the fans understand that I need to keep writing new books to make a living." Or something like that. It really rubs me the wrong way when writers act like the fans and their desires are just a side-effect of writing books, instead of the point.
  6. I don't think it's a false dichotomy at all. Pratchett took 30 some odd years to write those 41 books. And even still he is an outlier. Rothfuss, Martin, and Tolkien are three deep world builders. How many books have they written? Not a whole lot when you think about it. If Sanderson continues at his current pace he'll write around 60 or so books within 30 years. That, to me, is just insane. I think there is correlation to world building in this manner and amount of books one writes. This correlation is further strengthened when we consider that time is finite and if it's taken up by world building (or forum posts :p) we're not writing a story.

    Nevertheless I think the characterization they give of themselves is not as stark as it seems. I've been to a couple Sanderson functions. A lot of people ask world building questions and he has answered every single one of them, except one. They asked about some super extraneous detail, and it really was extraneous, to which he said that he never developed that. I think that characterization comes as a kind of frustration vent. Fantasy fans are fairly...nerdy and can be really detail oriented. They often focus on details and can get so fixated on the details that they have burning questions about really strange questions. So much so that they often get in arguments with the author about various points in a story. (See e.g. Rowling v. Fan. This is just one example, but this happens in more passive aggressive ways on fan sites and forums. I think when people ask questions like who was the general in battle x, which battle was mentioned only in passing by a character, I get their reaction.
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I don't think I agree that Rothfuss and Martin have released fewer books because of the level of their worldbuilding. (And I don't think I would necessarily put Rothfuss in the category of a "deep" worldbuilder.) I think they're just slow writers. Tolkien was a slow writer too. But slow writing is not necessarily a result of deep worldbuilding, which seems to be the assumption here. Correlation does not equal causation.

    I think Sanderson is an extreme outlier. He doesn't write a lot of books because he does minimal worldbuilding. He writes a lot of books because he's a workhorse. Now it may be the case that he writes even more books than the average prolific writer because he doesn't spend a lot of time worldbuilding. But that's what makes him an extreme outlier.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
    Martha likes this.
  8. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on this one Mytho. In any event a new episode was posted today and here is what I got from it.

    Tell me how to show

    • Using the right proper words
    o Emotion of the person describing the thing colors the way they are describing something

    o Showing and telling needs to be a balance
    o Showing can get in the way of the action
    o Showing properly creates tension

    o The length of a sentence can create a tone (short choppy sentences indicate a tone of action)

    o Suddenly has the effect of delaying that which is sudden

    o A character should focus on what you are introducing in the new paragraph

    o When sitting down to write know who you are writing for so that you can tailor your prose accordingly

    o You can use the POV characters descriptions to show their history and their culture, and standing within that culture
  9. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Suddenly is one of my crutch words. I keep finding myself using it without thinking even when I'm actively trying not to. I think it's because it's a word so common in conversation whenever you're telling someone about an event. There's so much in our lives that feels like it happens suddenly.

    I really liked that they mentioned how showing can get in the way of the action. I have found this to be true SO often in more recently written fiction. I start reading a book, the story is immediately bogged down in a swamp of actions, the author seeming to try to recreate every single movement a character makes in prose, and I just get so bored I could scream. Interestingly, one of the worst offenders of books I've tried within the last year or so was Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. I could NOT stand the opening scene because it was so tedious in its insistence on showing EVERY move the PoV character made. I hope Mr. Sanderson has gotten better about that since. (Still haven't managed to read any of his books, tried two, got too bored.)
  10. I have to agree with the showing notion that many modern writers do it a bit too much. However, I think showing a lot of motion at the beginning can be very, very helpful to a reader later. Especially with the character you are describing (Szeth). His actions, motivations, and magic are a bit mind bending, but having a lot of action first, even if it is a bit boggy, can pay dividends later when he and another person with similar powers get in a fight in book 2. That way the action is crisp, clean, and dang sexy.

    ****Also if you are behind in the month feel free to discuss whatever you want. Since the month is focuses on a single topic, more or less, anything is fair game at any time. Just make sure you let us know where it's coming from.*****
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2015
  11. Martha

    Martha Banned

    Probably hard to describe different cultures

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