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Why I Like The Dark Cloud

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Ankari, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I want to preface everything below with the obvious: we are all entitled to our unique tastes.

    When I was a wee lad of 11, the first book I read was the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony. Then came Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time Series. It wasn't until I picked up ASOIF that I realized I was missing something: the contrast of darkness versus light. Some people state that books like ASOIF, The Black Company, White-Luck Warrior and Aspect Emporer, Joe Abercrombie's Trilogy, and the Malazan Book of the Fallen are too dark. Characters are introduced only to have their necks bared for the sudden razor cut. The view and tone of the world is dark, nihilistic, and too gritty.

    My response is the poetically cliche "without dark, how do you recognize the light?" I love the grit of the above worlds because you appreciate the happy moments, the light, the victories to a greater level precisely because the world is dark and gritty.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I dunno, maybe with Game of Thrones but Song of Ice and Fire gets pretty dark as the series continues. It's hard to talk about appreciating the light when for so many characters it just isn't there.
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I personally am a fan of the types of novels you listed above. I hope to not think of this as a trend and more of an indicator of future fiction in the genre. Even though a lot of these novels are darker thematically and have gray characters, it's not just that, but I think it's easier to connect with the characters due to their realism. Will the pendulum swing back to more light vs. dark type of fantasy? Maybe, but for now I hope we continue to get all types of fantasy for those of us that enjoy variety.

    I think these type of novels do make the happy moments stand out more due to the darker tones. These type of novels aren't all doom and gloom, so it's good to have more realistic characters and realistic events happening. I tend to lean towards these type of stories whether they are fantasy or not.

    Hope is sort of the "light" in some of these stories. Even when things get progressively darker, the hope that it'll get better is what I think keeps people reading.
     
  4. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

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    I just love the darkness. I find it more realistic, especially after being a history buff for a few years, but mostly I love it because it makes for more interesting characters.
     
  5. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    You also have to appreciate the underdog effect. I'm constantly cheering for Jon Snow (my favorite character), Daenerys and Tyrion.
     
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I've found myself always rooting for Tyrion, but since seeing the TV show, I really like Sandor a lot. I wish I cared about Daenerys more. She's been through a lot and I am interested to see what happens next with her. There is a point when as a reader you might say "Really? Geez, give the poor woman a break!" But I think that's why people like her and other characters. That hope I mentioned before.
     
  7. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    If I want saccharine, I'll watch animated Disney movies. I like the dark.
     
  8. FireBird

    FireBird Troubadour

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    I absolutely love dark and gritty fantasy like ASoIaF because of the realism that comes with it. I love not knowing if the chapter I'm reading will be that character's last. When characters triumph or fail it just seems more real because the stakes are so damn high. I'm rarely ever thinking, "Well this character is in trouble but I know he will make it out ok."
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I like all of those you mentioned, Ankari.

    But I'm happy to read a light, happy fantasy as well. I don't know why so many people say "I only like X or Y and not Z." This is just a general observation and not related to any specific person. I've found that any style and genre can be done well, light, dark, cynical, innocent, whatever. It's about whether or not it is a good book,
     
  10. Agran Velion

    Agran Velion Minstrel

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    I love darker stuff. While I'm not willing to say that dark necessary equals realism (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy anyone?), I think that the vast majority of darker things does seem to be a bit more realistic. I think the key isn't necessarily the shade of the world, but the shade of the characters. For example in the first Harry Potter, the characters are kids in a magical world, everything is bright and colorful (even when going up against the evil character), but by the end, the main characters are older and have seen too much to be as happy and lighthearted as they were before.

    So, it might be important to have your characters realistic. Even in the Magical Land of Joy and Happiness where everything is made of gumdrops and chocolate, you can be realistic by having unicorn hunting be a good choice to someone down on his luck, or have a man with a happy family commit genocide on the Dryad forest in order to provide for his loved ones.

    Then the sugar elves can go to war with the rock candy dwarves over the rising taxes of the glucose king and the cupcake plains end up covered in transfat free blood.
     
  11. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

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    I suppose. The only problem I find with "light" fantasy is that, to me, some of the emotions end up feeling shoe horned in. Like, the hero never really doubts his quest, or people fall instantly and deeply in love without any problems. Stuff like that sucks me out of the story.

    But that's just me.
     
  12. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I try to appreciate each story for what it is. Sometimes I want to watch the Princess Bride. Sometimes I want to watch the Last Unicorn (dark and melancholy long before it was hip to be like that). Sometimes I want to Game of Thrones. It all depends on what I'm in the mood for. I refuse to discount a story just because its subject matter or approach may contain darker elements so long as it's purpose is to tell a legitimate story truthfully. (Disclaimer: I do not like films/books where the purpose of the story is to shock and gross out eg. stuff like the Human Centipede movie.)

    As an aspiring writer, I think it's to my advantage to read widely and give different styles and approaches a genuine shot at winning me over. At the very least, I think I should try to understand them at least a little even if I don't necessarily like them. I write fantasy and scifi but some the books I consider to have influenced me greatly aren't from that genre, they're contemporary novels. I gleaned tons from them that I apply to all my writing, light, dark, or gray.

    IMHO to limit the scope of what one reads is to limit ones knowledge. There's nothing wrong with that. Nobody can know everything, but as writers, the more you know and understand, especially about writing and all it's forms, the better off you are in your own writing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  13. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Jesu Otaku's entire review of Madoka Magica is relevant here, but particularly one segment.

    This is not a criticism of dark stories, as she goes on to examine the elements of tragedy and how Madoka uses them brilliantly. It's just a word of caution.

    (Personally, I'll read comedy or tragedy, as she defines them, so long as their protagonists are likeable. I'd rather not read happy stories in which the ending is earned without struggle, or sad stories in which there was never any possible win condition for the protagonists, and I also stop reading if I can't sympathize with the protagonist on any level.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I reject your poetically cliche metaphor. We measure darkness by lack of light, not the other way around. Being clean is normative. We don't appreciate being clean simply because we're not dirty, rather being dirty is a reviled state because it robs us of cleanliness.

    To be more clear, your argument sounds dangerously similar to "until you've tasted evil, you won't know what good is!" Goodness is self sufficient, evil is parasitic. The yin-yang philosophy does not hold here.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    If that's true Mindfire, then the problem of evil becomes all the more troublesome. Why allow evil to exist if there is in fact no necessity for it whatsoever?
     
  16. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    And yet, we have major faiths telling us that all human kind is marred by sin. Each book of these religions teach of what is good and what is evil. (I don't want to delve into religion too much).

    It is the same of human law. We are told what is wrong and right, even though, under your assumption, we have a natural propensity towards light (as you state it). Laws and divine scripture, by their existence, confirms that we (humans) are not guided by an internal light.

    I'm going to step away from those hot button items and focus on colors. If all the world was a certain shade of red, how would we know that this is the case? If we had two colors, white and red, we know that one is the dominate color (red) and white is the other.

    Same for height. If everyone stood five feet, would we know what short and tall is? The moment someone grows to 6 feet, we know that person is the other. Once we have more occurrences of 6 feet tall people, we'll develop the word "tall."

    I don't believe in the Yin-Yang relationship. I just believe in the ability to tell that white is white because black is black.
     
  17. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Your comment confuses me. I'm not sure what point you're making.
     
  18. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I don't think you understood me. I don't subscribe to Rousseau or tabular rasa thinking. But I DO believe that good preexists evil and that evil is defined in opposition to it, not vice versa. To put it another way, good is the great cosmic standard. Evil is an aberration. A disease. We know something is evil because it is not good. Not the other way around. Study the genuine and the counterfeit will be obvious.
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It is an age old philosophical problem.
     
  20. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    You mean why a loving God would permit the existence of evil?
     
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