kippurbird: (Fantasy writers)
I have been rereading Terry Pratchett’s Nightwatch. In it Samuel Vimes ends up going back in time to when he first joined the Watch and ends up having to mentor himself by accident. There is in the book one part where Vimes goes into one of the watch house’s jail room and finds that it’s been pretty much turned into a torture chamber. He finds people in there that have been hurt so badly that they just aren’t there any more and he puts them out of their misery.

While reading this there is one point where Vimes, contemplating the horror before him, finds and picks up a tooth. I immediately flashed back to Eldest when Eragon is walking amongst the fallen in the battle field and picks idly picks up a tooth and bouncing it around in his hand with his typical blandness.

The differences between the two scenes, though they have a similar action - that of the tooth in the midst of appalling things - their reactions are completely different.

Vimes is actively disturbed at what he finds. He’s fighting back the rage to do things to the few people he’s found in charge.

In a strange kind of dream, he walked across the floor and bent down to pick something that gleamed in the torchlight. It was a tooth.

He stood up again.

A closed wooden door led off on one side of the cellar; on the other, a wider tunnel almost certainly led to the cells. Vimes took a torch out of its holder, handed it to Sam, and pointed along the tunnel -

There were footsteps accompanied by a jingle of keys, heading toward the door, and a light grown brighter underneath it.

The beast tensed...

Vimes dragged the largest club out of the rack and stepped swiftly to the wall beside the door. Someone was coming, someone who knew about this room, someone who called themselves a copper...

He doesn’t bash the guy coming in with the club. The sight of his younger self - Sam- stops him. But still there’s a certain anger that you can see in these words. Vimes lives and breathes being a watchman. It is what he is deep down to the bone and these men have violated this. There’s a certain tenseness in the language and the tooth encapsulates what it is that is wrong here. But he doesn’t play with the tooth. It’s a symbol here, not something to be held and played with.

In Eldest, on the other hand, the tooth is picked up and used much like you would hold a pebble contemplating something. He finds the tooth and no significance is attached to it. It’s just a tooth, much like a pebble would be a pebble in a stream. It’s put there as an action for Eragon to do, but there’s no reason that it has to be a tooth.

He bent and plucked a tooth, a molar, from the dirt. Bouncing it on his palm, he and Saphira slowly made a circuit through the trampled plain. They stopped at its edge when they noticed Jormundur - Ajihad’s second in command in the Varden - hurrying toward them from Tronjheim. When he came near, Jormundur bowed, a gesture Eragon knew he would have never made just days before.

Now honestly, you really could swap out “tooth” with “stone” and there wouldn’t be any difference in the paragraph’s impact. (Also, looking at the sentence I have to wonder why “in the Varden” has to be there. Is Ajihad in charge of other things that require second in commands?) There is no reason that this has to be a tooth. There’s no reason it should be a tooth.

The tooth in Nightwatch is symbolic of what has happened there and what Vimes is going to face. The tooth in Eragon is nothing but an object found in the battlefield but has no significance placed upon it. Which, as a tooth belonging to a human - at least I think it is a human - should at least bring some comment beyond the fact that it is a molar.

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kippurbird: (Witic)
Why Oromis’ statement that Galbatorix’s confidence would be shaken learning that he’s still around won’t work, but Paolini thinks it might because this is what happened in Star Wars.

Long title.

In our chapter entitled Leave Taking, Oromis says that Galbatorix might believe that there are other dragon Riders still alive when he learns of his existence. This comes, likely, from the idea in Star Wars where after Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi are dead, other Jedi come out of the woodwork once the Empire is defeated. Also there have been smaller resistances of Jedi in various places during the war, it’s just for their own safety they had to remain hidden.

This is possible for one reason: the Star Wars universe takes place in an entire Galaxy. Galaxy which means hundreds of thousands of planets and hundreds of billions of people. Trying to find several thousand Jedi who may have survived the purge is like trying to find a needle in a haystack the size of Montana. Not all Jedi would have been working on the front lines with the Clone Troopers when Order 66 went down. Some Jedi might have survived the attacks, like Yoda did. The thing is, when you get down to it, there’s no real way to know who lived and who died with any certainty. Especially when you consider “I am not the Jedi you are looking for” at their disposal.

With a galaxy so large, the Jedi were able to hide away from the Empire as long as they were smart about it.

Now lets look at Eragon’s empire. For starters it’s only on one continent. Not even an entire continent. Varying sizes exist, but it can’t be more than the size of North America. This makes it a much smaller territory to explore and try to find people in it. The second part is that the Riders have... you know... dragons.

Dragons are big. They can get to the size of a mountain big. Or so we’re told. In any case they’re pretty hard to hide. That’s why Saphira couldn’t leave the Varden. People would notice she was missing. There are only so many places that a dragon could hide in safety where they can be taken care of and their riders can be taken care of. Remember, they require lots of food to eat. As we’re told by Oromis that he’s the only one with the elves, the Riders would have to live else where.

Where exactly would you hide a dragon?

Admittedly, they could have also hidden with the elves, but then that leaves us with this problem. If they were hiding with the elves, then why? Shouldn’t they still be out fighting the evil empire? After all there’s now only Galby and he’s just one man. If Eragon, not even quarter trained as he is, is supposedly capable enough of destroying Galbatorix with maybe six months at the most training, what could three or four dragon Riders who have had full training be able to do?

If Galbatorix had half a brain, he’d be able to figure this out rather quickly.

But for some reason, if the dragons decided to hide, where would they hide. If you had a bunch of dragons with the elves, their territory isn’t large enough to support them. They would need cattle or other domesticated animals because the native forest life like deer wouldn’t be enough to feed them. The domesticated animals would be noticeable because they need a place to graze. Forests don’t have good grazing grounds. Forests aren’t grazing grounds, if they were we wouldn’t need to deforest things. It’d make life a lot easier.

So, the dragons couldn’t have hidden with the elves. They most certainly wouldn’t have been welcomed with the dwarves. That leaves... well, very few places to hide where they wouldn’t be seen and Galby’s men would have picked them out. If the dragons attacked the men, then it would get back that hey there’s something eating the men over that way. Again, not good for hiding.

Therefore they couldn’t have been lazing about hiding somewhere in safety.

Then why even mention it?

Because that’s what happened in Star Wars. There were Jedi in hiding and the Emperor knew about it. That’s why he had Jedi hunting squads like the Inquisitors and his Hands. He had people searching out young Force Sensitives so that he could bend them to his will and change them to the Dark Side. There was always a possibility for there to be more Jedi to be turned against him. Case in point: Luke Skywalker.

Even though, in Paolini’s world it’s impossible for there to be more Riders, the idea must be brought up for that’s what happened in Star Wars, the Inheritance novel’s template. While it may bring some moral bonuses to the common folk, (I think I’d be more pissed off that they were hiding a Rider all this time) it shouldn’t do any harm to Galbatorix’s confidence.

At least, it shouldn’t if these books were written in some sort of logical manner. However, we’ll never know for certain, I don’t think, because we never see Galbatorix’s point of view.
kippurbird: (What goes on in Kippur's head)
My brain is so weird sometimes.

I woke up this morning with an essay idea. How the death of Morgan in Turn Coat signals a shift of focus in the Dresden Files.

Some people get fan fiction ideas, I get fan essay ideas.

Wrist is tentatively feeling better. I'm going to try and get some note type things done and work on the cat in the goblin market story.

In regards to the twitter/facebook thing. I think I'm going to get a twitter and not the Facebook because, well, Facebook scares me. But twitter is kinda fun. I shall call it twitter sporkings and twitter while I spork. Though I don't know how entertaining "MUST KILL" would be.
kippurbird: (Mostly Harmless)
As I'm doing the various chapters in the Inheritance series I notice that I put in a lot of "What the Hell Hero" moments. I've started to wonder if I'm being fair to Paolini and Eragon, after all there is no law that says that the Hero has to be perfect. In fact, I'd like it if they weren't and isn't that what Eragon is doing? Being highly imperfect? My own protagonists are far from perfect, even if they aren't as blood thirsty as Eragon they've got their own flaws. At least, I hope they do. So, I wonder, am I being hypocritical in my writings?

And then I think back to the fact that Eragon is supposed to be the Traditional Hero. The standards that I'm using to judge him by are those of the Traditional Hero. Sure, he should of course have flaws, but he's supposed to be a paragon of moral virtue. The one who doesn't want to kill. Harry Potter, Rand Al'Thor, Harry Dresden, Spider-Man, Captain America, Superman, these are all Heroes. Yes, I know, I listed Rand there. See, despite the whole angsty life that Rand leads, he is a Traditional hero. I never got a WTF hero moment from him. Just in regards to the plot. The Never Ending Plot. WHY WON'T IT END?! Soon it'll have more books than the bible!

I digress.

The standards that I hold my characters up to are different than the ones that I am holding up to Eragon. The protagonist verses the Hero.
kippurbird: (Default)
The Lonely Trickster: the Tenth Doctor from reactive helper to proactive interferer.

Feminization of the Hero: Eragon's transformation from farm boy to elf prince.

Modern Sex Goddess: Anita Blake and the Aurdur (or whatever it was called)

Modern Olympians: Grant Morrison's JLA

Common Knowledge: Do Sparkle-Pires still count as vampires?

Designated Love Interests: Keeping the homoerotic in the subtext.
kippurbird: (Default)

1. Abstract for Comics Arts Conference that happens at San Diego Comic Con paper dealing with the nature of Hal Jordan's fall and return to grace and the making of Parallax a separate entity.

2. Short story to abyss and apex.

Currently, hoping more that 1 gets accepted than 2. Cause speaking at Comic Con would be Awesome Sauce.

Also, cat has absconded with Yellow Lantern power ring. This is probably Not. Good.

And, got in injected with radioactive things today for the bone scan. Initial results? They found a spot on my skull and think that the doctor might want to get it X-Ray'd. A spot like I smacked it good sort of spot.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
kippurbird: (Sylar stole Spock's brain.)
Pacifism in story telling.

Okay, it needs a better title than that, but it sort of gets to what I've been thinking about the last couple of days. A couple days ago I finished reading Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. It was an ARC I got at Comic Con, the actual book coming out on September first. I say that because it is a good read. I enjoyed the story, the world and the characters. The basic plot in one sentence is: an urban fantasy where a changling (half fairy in this world) tries to solve the murder of one of the full blood fairies. While I have my nitpicks and things about the book, those are not going to be discussed here. I don't think it's fair to criticize a book when people can't read it for themselves yet. I did notice one particular thing though that really bothered me and which I'd like to look at a bit more. The main character, October Daye was passive.

What do I mean by passive? She solved the mystery not by actively searching things out but more like following leads that people gave her. "Go here" or "Do this" she was told instead of "I bet if I go here..." or "Maybe I should do this". In essence she was lead around and pointed in the right directions after talking to people about what happened to her instead of coming up with the realizations on what to do on her own. This didn't detract from the story as I was reading it, but it did occur to me later in a Fridge Logic moment. (Aren't you glad I didn't link to TvTropes?)

As I started to think about it I noticed that other people like Eragon, Tristan and Bella also had this passive hero trait.

In Brisingr recently Nasuada told Eragon that he must go to the dwarves and make them pick their king sooner than later. He is told to do this and then he goes. It makes him feel like an errand boy. But wouldn't it be much better if he went to her and said, "I need to go to the dwarves to make sure they pick the right king" and she tried to convince him not to? There would be active conflict instead of him saying "I think that's a bad idea". It is, I think, better if the protagonist is the start of the conflict as opposed to the one who is given the conflict. I don't mean starting a fight so much as making a decision to do something which at the time might not seem wise but later will play out to be... whatever. At least the protagonist decided to do something instead of have something done to them.

Tristan basically stands around like an idiot for the entire book unless someone hits him. Really what did he initiate? Nothing. Wigg basically took him around and told him stuff that he needed to do. Sure there was the Prophecy that said pretty much anything Tristan does is the right thing, but it is for most of the book, Earwig saying "we need to do this to stop the great big evil and here's how" and not Tristan saying, "Okay these people killed my parents, kidnapped my sister and destroyed my country we need to stop them and you're going to help me".

Twilight, with Bella, has a different form of passiveness. She does go out and do things to discover who/what Edward is, but in her relationship with Edward she doesn't do anything. She lets him set the rules. She doesn't say no to him. Anything he wants to do to her is okay. She never says no. Which in this sort of novel, one that focuses more on romance than killing things, is an important part in defining their relationship. The fact that she doesn't say no to anything renders her blank with no preferences to anything in how she sees the world or how she wants a relationship to go. The only thing she has is "I want" which isn't very deep.

On the active side of things, Peter David's King Arthur series comes to mind. These books are about King Arthur in modern times. In the first book he decides that the best thing he can do to help people as a king, is to run for mayor of New York city. And he does. He takes the initiative, even though Merlin thinks it's a bad idea and is constantly calling him an idiot, and goes for it. He tries. Even with his faults of being scrupulously honest and never lying. Refusing to lie even if it might make him look like a total crackpot. Despite the risks, he does something about a problem he sees.

Imagine if Tristan did that. If he was eager or at least willing to take on the throne. If he was willing to throw himself out to protect his people, his family, instead of just standing around with his thumb up his ass. He would forced Wig to tell him about those evil sorceress and who they were and what they wanted. Or if Eragon decided that they needed to go to the Varden instead of Brom saying they should go.

Stories should be about people doing things. Having adventures, falling in love, making choices. Choices are what should drive the plot instead of events happening that make them react. Then it just feels like a series of events. Which is the biggest problem with books like the Inheritance Trilogy and the Twilight Saga. The protagonist never decides to do anything. They never have any wants or desires. The never do anything. Sure they move and talk and do things, but the things they do are just reactions to being told to do something. And who wants to read that?
kippurbird: (Ew)
I got an email for an anthology looking for submissions. It's an erotic anthology with the theme being different cities. Not my usual gig, but I decided to look at it anyway, trying to figure out if I could write anything according to the rules.

All seemed well until I got to what the editor was looking for.

My preference is for the sex to be of a heterosexual nature, or at any rate principally feature it, although bisexuality is quite acceptable; exclusively gay or lesbian stories would truly have to surprise me by their originality and power to make the grade.

Bolding mine.

The editor, to me, is saying that I could send in some horribly cliche and dull heterosexual story and it would have a better chance of getting into the anthology than a well written but not exceptionally brilliant story featuring gay and lesbian characters. The G&L stories have to be surprisingly original. The heterosexual ones do not. Bisexuality is just another way of saying heterosexual even if the character has had sex with the same gender in the past.

This is exceptionally offensive. The editor is saying that s/he doesn't consider G&L fiction to be anywhere as good as the worst heterosexual fiction. Or even that it makes them squicky. It's implied at least. I feel like I could write a gay story and then just switch the genders around and (maybe) not even change the body parts and it would be acceptable to the editor.

Larry pushed into Simon, feeling the tightness all around his velvet sheath.

Larry pushed into Sarah, feeling the tightness all around his velvet sheath.

Both sentences are the same but because the first one has Larry and Simon it's automatically worse than Larry and Sarah.

What would even make my gay story original? I mean isn't that what you're supposed to be doing when you write in the first place. You want to write something that's powerful and catches the editor's eye in any thing you submit.

The editor would have been better off saying no gay and lesbian stories than only if they're really original. It takes away the illusion of a chance. A chance I don't think really exists if the editor has already expressed a bias towards heterosexuality and puts the extra condition on the less desirable stories.

At this point it feels like I could send in a Mary Sue story and it would have a better chance of being accepted than one of my well written stories with Alec and Jono.
kippurbird: (Hippie elves)
My thoughts on Paolini's answers to some Q&A

May 2009 Monthly Q&A with Christopher Paolini
(Interview released on July 18th, 2009)

Several people have asked: Was Vrael an elf or human?

An elf.

Vrael was the leader of the Dragon Riders who got kicked in the nuts. The fact that fans have to ask this question as to his race is bad writing on Paolini's part. Brom was the one who told Eragon the story and so it probably should have been mentioned at the time. After all, the fact that elves were the first dragon riders was important. This is one of those important details, because if Galby can defeat an elf in single combat...

More gobltiy gook below )

I got a cheese egg!

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kippurbird: (Not afraid of the night)
This may seem a bit random, but it's something I've been thinking about.

I don't think that a two state solution is going to work. For one reason it reminds me of when they pacified Germany by giving them a bit of France and a bit of Czechoslovakia after they were taken over. They shook their fingers and said we'll give you these countries but no more making war. This is sort of what the United States and the other countries are doing. We'll give you your own country but you'll have to stop trying to destroy Israel.

Which is highly unlikely.

The Palestinians cry constantly that they want their own state but they don't do anything to make the territories that they have livable and they don't do anything to make peace with the Israelis. They constantly attack Israel and then cry foul when Israel tries to protect themselves from getting attacked. If they'd stop attacking then I'm sure Israel would be more willing to negotiate.

Negotiating with them now is negotiating with terrorists. They haven't done anything to prove themselves safe and decent. Giving into them now would just show that their behaviour is acceptable.

So... yeah.
kippurbird: (Plot What Plot?)
Good quote I heard:

I was attending a class on antique books in a library. It was a free class and I'd come with my parents. My dad thought it was going to be like the Antique Road show and was going to hopefully have some books appraised. It was not.

Still, it was interesting.

At one point, one of the people asked what the teacher what he thought about the new Ebooks after all you can get hundreds of them down in one little reader thing and stuff. He picked up a book about Thomas Aquinus and said, "This book is over 600 years old. We can still feel it, read it and see the craftsmanship put into it just like someone could when it was first made. Where will your ebook be in 600 years?"

I like that. I've always liked the feel of a book in my hands. It gives it more weight and excitement to opening it up and wondering what I'll find inside. Like opening a package. Pointing and clicking seems so sterile and mechanical. The screens are so distant, you can't really run your finger across the page when you turn it. You can't hold it and give it to someone wrapped up for a present. Perhaps books are more expensive and things, but there's a certain warm feeling that I get looking at my overflowing bookshelf; the ability to go over to it and choose the book. Physically take it and then sit curled up on my bed to try and read it. Try because, of course, the cat will always try to put a stop to it.


Speaking of books. I picked up Eats, Shoots and Leaves from a used bookstore in Santa Barbara. (It has a coffee stain on the paper cover, which gives it personality, I think.) It's a book about punctuation and it's a FUN read! Actually it's a book about how people use punctuation and how it evolved over time. Which I'm finding to be utterly fascinating.

One thing that came out of this is that I've found a good format to mimic for my fantasy writing book. Not completely, of course, but good enough.

Adopt one today!

two styles

Mar. 23rd, 2009 07:44 pm
kippurbird: (Fantasy writers)
I have been reading the Obsidian Trilogy by Lackey and Mallory. In reading it, I've noticed that it's similar to the Inheritance Trilogy. Except that it's what the Inheritance Trilogy should be. Both stories are about a young boy who is if not destined the only one of his kind that the Forces of Good have to fight the Forces of Evil. The Evil is Evil with no real redeeming value (at least according to what the text says in Eragon's case). The Good are Good with no chances for falling into Evil. There are the Elves which are Perfect. Huge armies gathering to stop the Evil Overlord. All the traditional cliches that makes up good fluff reading. After all one of Mercedes Lackey's traits is Good is Good and Evil is Evil.

However this is where things stop being the same.

The Hero of the Obsidian Trilogy is Kellen a fifteen year old boy banished from his home city for practicing forbidden magic. He discovers a sister he didn't know existed and that he is what is known as a Mage Knight. A type of wild mage, the forbidden magic he was practicing, that is "created" for battle. Because of this special magical ability he's able to quickly learn how to fight and use a sword as well as other weapons.

The city Kellen came from is extremely xenophobic and ridged. They don't allow change and non-citizens to enter the city. Things that they aren't allowed to change include things for example like ribbons for women's hair, the patterns and colors have to be approved and books written mustn't be too disturbing. Nothing that is too drastic a change is allowed because then the people of the city might not be "content". The city is ruled by mages and it is they who control what can and can't be allowed. They have what is called High Magic which is very structured and nothing at all like wild magic which can pretty much be done on the spot.

The villains are demons who like to torture for entertainment and are generally evil. The queen and her son are even lovers. The Queen has started her plans to Take Over the World and stopping her is what the books are about.

And here we have one of the biggest differences. The Queen hasn't taken over yet. She's not passively sitting in her throne room doing nothing. She does things. And not only that we see her do things. We see her plots in motion, we see her slowly thinning the armies down and taking control of the mage city. Half way done with the final book and I don't know how they're going to stop her. She seems to have them blocked at every turn.

This is exciting! I want to know how they'll triumph. I know they will, but I don't know how! The Good Guys are stuck in a horrid winter, the elves have had to evacuate three of their cities and that's putting a strain on the other cities resources. One of the cities has been seriously infected with a plague and the King among them. The heir is only five years old and he and his mother are in a fortress that is protecting all the pregnant women and the children. A fortress that may run out of supplies before spring. There are shadow elves which can bring the demon's monsters pass the elf wards into their lands. All of this is happening at one time!

What is happening in the Inheritance trilogy? Eragon is going around talking to people and Nasuada is playing emo chicken. There is no threat hanging over their heads. Galby's army isn't bearing down on them. There is no rush. Nothing for them to fight against, nothing for them to stop. It's static and frozen. The army just sits there twiddling their thumbs.

Kellen and Eragon are two completely different creatures as well. For starters, Kellen appears to have a soul. He has emotional responses to things. He gets frightened and worried. At times even feels despair. The first time he killed people he threw up and was traumatized. He frets about the nameless people under his command, fearing sending them to their deaths. Eragon has no reactions. He's always blank. He doesn't get satisfied or angry. He's accepting of what happens. He allows things to happen to him. Just like the rest of the book, he's completely static. His reactions never linger and never connect to anything else. Eragon doesn't wonder about what the enemy will do next. Kellen is constantly trying to out think them.

The elves are also different. Sure they are both perfect but their cultures are completely different. Paloini's elves are free from what could be considered our societal restraints. They're free to have sex with whomever they want with no commitments. They don't eat meat because they care for all living things (except for plants) and don't want to see them suffer. They seem to do what they want and don't have any real organization. It's practically anarchy! Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it feels like a hippie commune. On the other hand Lackey's elves are bound by traditions. They put great stock in polite society. They don't ask questions because a person might not want to answer them. They never discuss what they were coming to talk to a person about right away because it would be rude. They talk a lot about tea and the weather. They drink a lot of tea. Also they don't see themselves as better than humans. Just different. The elves have had many years to perfect their crafts, but they don't have magic like humans do and they realize this.

I had more to say... but my brain fried. Perhaps more later. When I finish the book.


Feb. 25th, 2009 01:27 pm
kippurbird: (Heroes)
Today's question: What makes something epic?

It occurs to me to ask this question because of Paolini's assertions that he is trying to write an epic like Beowulf and the Lord of the Rings. However his work is clearly not epic. But why then? What makes something epic?

The dictionary definition isn't very helpful.

One definition is thus:


A long narrative poem written in elevated style, in which heroes of great historical or legendary importance perform valorous deeds. The setting is vast in scope, covering great nations, the world, or the universe, and the action is important to the history of a nation or people. The Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid are some great epics from world literature, and two great epics in English are Beowulf and Paradise Lost.

Most of the other definitions refer to poetry as well. But something can be teased out of this. "The setting is vast in scope covering great nations, the world, or the universe and the action is important to he history of a nation or people." An epic is supposed to be huge. Not in the number of pages but in the scope. In the What Is At Stake.

Some examples that could be considered epic in today's fantasy writing are Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. While Mercedes Lacky on the other hand has written more books, they tend to fall into more personal stories. There is not the "end of the world" urgency in them like there is for Goodkind's and Jordan's books.

If, for example, Richard Rahl, in the Sword of Truth, doesn't stop the Evil Emperor Jagang all of magic will be destroyed and their freedom and way of life will be ground into a bloody mess. In Lord of the Rings, if Frodo doesn't get rid of the One Ring then Sauron will be able to take over the world and enslave everyone.

However in the Inheritance Cycle there is not this urgency. There is no urgency. Three books in and there is nothing to stop. Eragon doesn't have to stop Galbatorix from taking over, he's already done so. He doesn't have to stop the emperor from doing anything to destroy the world. Galbatorix is a completely passive figure in this books. Everything Eragon does is small things. Nothing he does will stop Galbatorix from gaining more power.

Eragon is not a threat.

What does he do? He destroys some minions, the Ra'zac and Durza. But Galbatorix has more and it could be said that Murtagh and Thorn are even more effective than the Ra'zac because he's a dragon rider. He has access to more power. He fights off an army, but it's not a battle for anything. There's nothing at stake.

And this is why it's not epic. This is what makes something have the potential to be epic. The stakes.

The bigger the stakes the more dangerous the challenge that the heroes have to overcome and the harder it is for them.

If something is to be epic in scope then it has to include things that are more than personal trials. It's not one life at risk. It's entire cities at risk.

Admittedly a lot of times it seems like only the Chosen One can stop the Great Evil or End of the World, but that's part of what makes it epic. The overwhelming forces against the one person. There are the armies to help, but it's only the One who can stop the Evil Overlord.

Using the definition the Harry Potter books could be considered an epic. It's Harry, a teenage boy vs. Voldemort, a man who wishes to enslave the non-magical population. The battle fields are small, but the stakes are high.

Again back to the Inheritance Cycle. What is the problem Eragon has to solve to stop Galbatorix in Eragon or Eldest or Brisingr? What does he have to do to stop Galbatorix from gaining more power. In Eragon he got the dragon but that doesn't stop Galbatorix, he has two more eggs. In Eldest he gets magic training but that doesn't prove a threat to Galbatorix he has Murtagh, someone who wasn't even revealed until the very end of the book. Eragon never has to try and get training so he can best Murtagh. And in Brisingr? He gets a shiny sword. Which... is a shiny sword, but not an issue for Galbatorix. These are small and personal problems.

The language is the language of a would-be-epic, written in an "elevated style". But even that isn't done well. It's trying for epic. Paolini gets too wrapped up in describing things in interesting metaphors that he forgets the bigger picture of things. He's "fallen in love with the fly" as Natalie Goldberg says in her book, Writing Down the Bones[2]. He lovingly describes an arrow wound which stalls the story instead of giving it more depth. His lyricism is that of un-rhyming poetry, jolting and haphazard. Images appear but aren't connected to anything. The point of the elevated style is to create a fully painted image of the world and the people that live there.

What happens ultimately is that Paolini tries for epic, but because there are no stakes ultimately he has a hollow story. A story that is a mere shadow of what an epic could be but with no substance.



Goldberg, Natalie; Writing Down the Bones. Shambhala Publications; 1986

kippurbird: (Please Stand By)
I think I have an existential crisis on knowing if I exist or not. I realized this last night.

I've always craved attention, which is normal, of course. Thinking about it last night though, I think I've wanted it so I know I exist. If people pay attention to me, obviously I must be there, right?

These thoughts began about a week ago when I was looking at some webcams wondering if I should get one. My mom, who was there at the time, didn't think I should. She said I should have some privacy and if I did this, I wouldn't have any left. My thought was but I have nothing private. I don't mind sharing things about my life. It doesn't bother me. Descartes' "I think there for I am" doesn't seem to apply to me.

Some more on that. I have no internal reality. What I see outside I believe exists. If something has changed - like recently with the construction here at the university a tree had been cut down - I will doubt my memory. I will wonder if I remembered seeing the tree and if the tree existed at all. After all the tree is not there, so how could it exist? How do I know my memory is correct? Memory is a fuzzy thing and subjective. There is nothing that confirms what I think is correct except the outside world. The outside world is reality. I exist as part of reality, but I don't exist inside my head.

If I'm in my room alone, I have the tree in the forest conundrum. If I'm by myself and no one is around to see me, how do I know I'm there? Really? What proof do I have? Myself isn't proof, there's just me and how do I know I'm right? Of course I believe I'm right, but I have no outside proof.

However! If more people know about me and pay attention to me then I must exist. People don't pay attention to things that aren't there. I'm reminded, perhaps to explain this better, of a story my mom told me. She said that as long as a person is remember then they're still alive. And this is why Jews name people after dead loved ones. As long as their name exists, their memory exists and they're still alive and with us.

The more people that know about me the more assurance I have that I exist. I think this is why I want to be famous, so that I have validation of my existence. If I'm in a history book somewhere then the likelihood of my existence being false is downgraded significantly. Admittedly I won't be around to see it, but if I do things that would put me in the books! Ah then I know I exist.

I have no idea if the previous made any sense or not, but this is something that I've been thinking about the past couple of days.
kippurbird: (:D)
Another article published! That's three! WOoo!

Fire Stories: Blessings counted in time of disaster )

Adopt one today!
kippurbird: (Not afraid of the night)
This post is in response to the comments given here. To my readers and the commenter let me make clear, in no uncertain terms: I am NOT mocking the comments. This was a fair and decent review where the commenter was trying to give me critical advice in regards to the story I posted up. However, the way my mind works, is that I find it easier to post up the comments in a large format and go through them one by one answering and rebutting the points made. As I feel it's only fair.

Thank you.


The comments )
kippurbird: (Awakward Roran)
You can tell I'm bored, can't you. ^_^ Can't work on my NaNo here. From anti-Shurtugal's posting of an interview with Paolini on his thoughts of Brisingr and the up-coming fourth novel Rocks Fall, Everyone dies. Okay, maybe I'm being a wee bit too wistful on that last part. The interview was posted Here. There's a second part that I shall do later.

Q&A )
kippurbird: (Fantasy writers)
I was kindly directed to Meyer's FAQ for Breaking Dawn in which Meyer's discusses things like Feminism and other things when writing her book.

Some Highlights and my own personal opinions follow.

Why the big build-up for a fight that didn't happen?

I'm not the kind of person who writes a Hamlet ending. If the fight had happened, it would have ended with 90% of the combatants, Cullen and Volturi alike, destroyed. There was simply no other outcome once the fight got started, given the abilities and numbers of the opposing sides. Because I would never finish Bella's story on such a downer—Everybody dies!—I knew that the real battle would be mental. It was a game of maneuvering, with the champion winning not by destroying the other side, but by being able to walk away. This was another reason I liked the chess metaphor on the cover—it really fit the feel of that final game. I put a clue into the manuscript as well. Alice tore a page from The Merchant of Venice because the end of Breaking Dawn was going to be somewhat similar: bloodshed appears inevitable, doom approaches, and then the power is reversed and the game is won by some clever verbal strategies; no blood is shed, and the romantic pairings all have a happily ever after.

No. I'm sorry. You do not do that. If you are setting up your readers for the Big Fight then you deliver the Big Fight. This is not setting up a twist ending but instead pulling the rug from under your reader's legs and giving the a completely different story. If you don't want to have the Big Fight, you should hint through out the story that it may not happen. Not only that, just because there's a Big Climatic Battle doesn't mean that everyone has to die. Look at the Lord of the Rings. They have a HUGE Epic Battle, and not one of the remaining Fellowship dies. If you want it to be a battle of wits, then you make it a battle of wits from the very beginning, even if you are hinting at bloodshed. Hinting at both is probably the best way to do this as it allows the reader to wonder which way is it going to go! How will it be resolved. Finally bloodshed =/= romantic pairings being unable to live happily ever after. Though, happily ever after kinda sounds boring.

More Fun to Follow! )
kippurbird: (Vampire! Oogah Boogah!)
Something had really been bothering me about the Chapter from Twilight last night. And I finally figured out what it was. Bella does not act like the Heroine when confronted by James, but instead the Damsel in Distress. She's tied up, essentially and being used as bait for the real interest, Edward. She's just a means to and end.

While this itself isn't necessarily bad There is no reason why Bella can't be kidnapped to be used as the damsel in distress, it's just that she acts like one. When she is in Jame's clutches she doesn't try to do anything to stop him. She just stands around and lets him monologue. Then she continues to be passive, letting James beat her to a pulp. She never tries to run. She never tries to protect herself. She is completely passive, just like she has been through the entire book. She waits for Edward to rescue her.

Even though she has told Edward through the letter not to come to her rescue and appears to be acting in a non-passive manner, she still allows James to dictate her actions. He says to tell no one and she tells no one. There is no reason why she shouldn't tell anyone and create a plan to help and protect Bella and her mother. Edward could have read James' mind and they would have discovered that her mother wasn't there. Bella could have called her mother in Florida and learned that her mother was still there. There are hundreds of things that could have been done that wouldn't require Bella walking into the lion's den like a drugged sheep. There are ways that this could of been handled by where Bella isn't passive.

But instead, Meyers has removed Bella from the action, letting her sit in her castle with her guards while Edward goes out to try and stop the bad guys. We hear only third hand, Bella getting her information only from Alice, and who knows how much she edited, what is going on. And by that time it has been considerably watered down. It could be argued that by doing this, more tension is created because we know what is happening but are helpless do anything. But in this case, it doesn't work. Mostly because we aren't given this information. Instead Bella exists in an empty hole, unable to give suggestions and only able to worry about Edward. Only able to angst about Edward. She doesn't even worry about herself.

She is much more vulnerable to James than Edward could be. Edward is a vampire with vampire backup. Bella is only a squishy human. Her thoughts aren't "What will happen to me if Edward doesn't stop James?" but instead, "What if Edward is hurt? What if he dies trying to protect me? How will I live with myself?"

Another problem that helps with Bella's passivity is the fact that the vampires don't have any weaknesses. The only way to kill them is by tearing them apart and setting them on fire. There's no way for an ordinary human to fight them. To kill them. One of the things that work with the vampires in other stories is that humans have a fighting chance. It may not be a good chance, but they can still protect themselves from the vampires.

For example, in the Buffy-verse, there is the Slayer, the Chosen One who is Supposed to fight vampires. She has the inherent knowledge and skills, the strength and the training to successfully hunt and kill vampires. But ordinary humans can also kill vampires, even if the odds are stacked in the vampire's favor. Stakes, garlic, fire, magic and others are all possible weapons to hunt and kill them. Had Meyers vampires not been made of marble, then Bella could have been more proactive. Even if it was stabbing James with a kitchen knife she took from her house. At least she would be doing something. She may not have been successful, but she could still have tried. And it would have made her less passive. She wasn't waiting for her knight to rescue her, but instead trying to rescue herself.

But since the Meyers vampires are completely untouchable by human hands (unless, I imagine you are Oddjob with his razor hat that can take off marble statues' heads) the human protagonists can do nothing. Thus rendering them helpless and unimportant. They can do nothing but stand passively by and wait for rescue.

As this book is told from the human's point of view, it is uninteresting. We don't get to participate in the action, but instead watch it like we were watching a movie. We are too to detached. And being so, rendered as helpless and passive as our heroine, Bella.
kippurbird: (What goes on in Kippur's head)
Thought about an essay. About Twilight's use of the Other and it's encouragement for complacency in potentially abusive relationships. Dunno.

Also a different kind of vampire story by [ profile] jeriendhal Go Read! Give lavish praise!

February 2016

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