Hello, guys, just here to inform you that I’ll be out camping until July 25. I know it’s a bit jarring to just mention a hiatus so shortly after a previous hiatus, but after this it should be a while before I have to stop again.
No, I’m not doing this because I’m getting lazy. I happen to be in the Boy Scouts, and as a result I’ll need to go to camps every now and then. I’ll likely come back exhausted by the 24th, which is why I like to take an extra day off.
Again, I’m sorry for this being the case, but don’t start crying for God’s sake! I’ll be back before you know it!
This is the Questing Author’s brief message. And to all my current readers, keep writing.
Every author is a deity in their own right. Just think about it.
Writer’s pontificate over the creation of people, events, timelines, histories, objects, and even whole new worlds! And in our own weird way, we actually manage to bring these into existence. Take it metaphorically or not, we often think of our creations as being real lives of their own. It’s awkward to admit it, but the antisocial freak that spends an hour a day slamming his keyboard is the closest thing that a human being can get to a god!
And sure, we might deny this to say that we just take pleasure in crafting stories and nothing else. But don’t tell me that you haven’t had one of those days.
Those days were you rub your hands together like some sinister Saturday morning cartoon villain while you gaze down at your creation. Don’t tell me that you haven’t had moments were you relished forcing your characters to do something just because you thought it was cool. Of course you’ll say that he had to do it for him to grow as a character, but I know that all writers can attest to using that as a pretense.
Love it or not, there’s some sick part of us that takes pleasure in controlling every aspect of our character’s lives. That’s why we feel like breaking our computer when that one scene you’d been planning out for days just doesn’t work the way you wanted it to and it’s the same reason why we always hate our first drafts. Its all because we want characters to do stuff and nothing in the plot that you’re making would rationally need them to do those things!
Authors are gods that love spectating the lives of their creations! And we’re not even the benevolent kind!
We enjoy seeing our main characters go through harsh situations. It gets to the point where we even look forward to see them lose that fight against the big bad or watch that love interest die before their very eyes. And we have no moral justification in doing so, we just do it to add drama! Deep down, just like we have an inner perfectionist, we have an inner control freak.
And that’s fine. In fact, it might even be justifiable. Think about it, we slave ourselves for days on end working on a story that we might even be bored of at this point! There are some people that spend years, years, just creating the world that a story takes place in. When you devote such a massive chunk of your energy to something, you want to make sure that everything works perfectly.
But as with all things, those wonderful people that live inside of our minds just love to turn it all up a notch. On many occasions, we just want to take up our characters and make sure that they do our exact bidding and we’ll be disappointed if they don’t. We treat our characters like little children that we wish to grow up in the exact way that we desire them to. In a sense, our characters are our children. And the problem comes through the fact that hand-holding a child is no way to raise it.
Children that are not given space to act in their own way and make their own mistakes
run the risk of acting in a fashion that’s not genuine. And unless your character’s motif is that they act the way that other’s want them to, this is not a good way to treat your babies. In many cases it can remove agency from the actions that your character takes during the course of his or her narrative. This is what I call Puppetmaster’s Syndrome.
Maybe if you’re the type of person that creates extensive outlines detailing how your characters will look, act, or feel on various situations you have this disease. Maybe your outlines are far too extensive to allow room for creative growth in your writing. Maybe you just have some sick fetish for controlling people. The point is that you shouldn’t keep going this way.
Some people like planning other people like pantsing, but in either case there’s going to be at least an element of spontaneity involved in creating their characters. This is because human being’s are one massive Christmas gift. You can never know what’s inside until you tear through the wrapping. You might have a vague idea of what your parents bought for you, but you’ll never know for sure until you open up the gift (Don’t apply this advice literally on human beings).
Writers, being the gods that we are, need to learn to give space for us to explore our own characters. The sad fact is that it doesn’t matter how much time you spent outlining Little Jimmy in your upcoming Young Adult Novel, you don’t know how he’s going to react when love interest #1 rejects him, and you won’t how he’ll react when lover #2 accepts him! Hell, you probably don’t even have the slightest idea about how your character wakes up in the morning, let alone how he acts around other people! Unless, of course, you’ve already started writing you character.
If there’s a forced moral lesson to be found in this post, it’s that writing should not be the equivalent of creating a character from nothing (despite the fact that that’s actually what you’re doing). We should think of characters as strangers that have already been living for a great deal of years before we got to know them. Writing characters is the act of engaging with other human beings that live, breath, fear, cry, laugh, smile, and do everything in between. It’s just that they only exist inside of your word processor.
So to all you manic OCD writer’s out there, give your babies a little space if you find that you’re growing frustrated in the way that they act. Don’t think about how you can make Johnny do something, think about what Johnny would do in the situation you place him in. And as always, this was the QuestingAuthor, and I leave you this nugget of advice. Keep writing, my friends.
So, as with fartoo many of my previous posts, this is another rant on common writing advice. Now before I start, let me make one general statement with regard to cliches. Nothing has been used so many times that it will never be useful ever again. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just go and write some generic Tolkien Fantasy World (unless you want to do that same thing in your own style.)
But with that PSA out of the way, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this article. There are a lot of cliches that people think have grown entirely tired in fantasy. The Dark Lord, Evil Sorcerer, Farmboy Hero, etc. and among these is the Evil Empire of Evil.
Yes, you know the one.
Those despotic monarchies with an overly decorated and decadent ruler sitting at the top of everything important in their nation. Those elite military forces that are trained to track down magicians in the name of a religion that resembles the Catholic Church. The one were they all blindly worship the leader and living conditions just plain suck. It’s always been there, and people like to poke fun at it whenever they see it being used. Which can prove to be rather hilarious.
Yet what I find confusing is that some people like to argue that it’s unrealistic that the empire is always evil. Which might hold some truth to it, as empires were not evil all of the time. But when you get down to it, it would be foolish to say that just having empire as the name of your nation doesn’t give negative connotations. In fact, it gives horrible connotations. Before I get down to my over-analytic breakdown, let’s define how empires gain their power.
Acquisition of Imperial Political Structures according to Wikipedia: i.) As a territorial empire of direct conquest and control with force. ii.) Hegemonic empire of indirect conquest and control with power.
Now traditionally, empires are made up of multi-ethnic nationalities being ruled under one dominant authority. And considering the fact that in either definitions Empires are acquired through some means of conquest, I think that there’s an assumption to be made here. And one that makes a great deal of sense if I might add.
Empires come about through conquest in one way or another. Conquest is usually considered something bad. Actually, scratch that. Conquest is usually implied as being evil. Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘We’re talking about empires that practically worships demons’ or ‘We mean empires that are Evil in the stereotypical sense’ and yes I know that!
But just think for a moment dear reader. Push that brain which you’ve neglected all this time to do some work will you? An empire is to be the most likely candidate to be considered an evil political entity out of all existing political systems. I mean, if Senator Palpatine ruled over a democracy during the original Star Wars Trilogy, he wouldn’t really be that menacing. Sure, you could say that maybe if he ruled a fradulent democracy, but that just isn’t as scary as empire.
Empire. That word already has you fearing that Stormtroopers are going to raid your homes the second that you utter it.
There’s just something about absolute power that makes it usually scarier than fear of a tyrannical democracy. With that notion of absolutism comes an element of unpredictability, as the state would be centered around just one individual. One individual that isn’t supervised by anyone else. One individual that could be insane and not monitored by anyone else. And if you’re still not convinced, then answer me this question. What is more likely to be the case, that a King that rules over only people of his nationality is evil, or that an emperor that has conquered various peoples is bound to be evil?
I mean, honestly, it’s a no-brainer! I get that people want to see more evil kingdoms and duchies, but at the same time you need to understand where the writer is coming from. Making the Empire evil only makes sense. There really is a higher chance that an Emperor is more likely to eat puppies for breakfast than for a king to do the same thing!
But who knows, maybe I’m just the only crazy bastard that actually wants any of these changes. Maybe I’m just like those old people that complain about modern music while putting the music of their generation on a pedestal. Either way, my friends, don’t be afraid to put Evil Empires in your story just because people say that it’s cliche. And as always, keep writing.
After a rather long cruise, I have returned to grace the world with my attempts at witty and comical writing. The only Your favorite Questing Author has returned to the scene! But this time I’m in a more pensive mood than I usually am when working on this site. Finding that the current topic is one that distresses me on a daily basis, I’ll tone down the sarcasm to a minimum. Maybe.
But as I’ve stated previously and will gladly state again, I have returned. A good thanks to those of you that have enjoyed my content so far and even greater thanks to those of you that were patient enough to wait for my return. But enough stalling, let’s break down my topic. A brief anecdote should serve as a place to start.
During my time at the high seas, when I wasn’t gorging myself with all manner of unhealthy perishables and foodstuffs, I would slink out of my room to have writing sessions.
This was nothing new, as I had no intentions of stopping my writing just to rest at the cruise, but I was able to start getting close to the end of my first arc’s climax. While I was perusing through the conflicts that I had been writing piece by piece in my tale, I found something that was rather interesting. Or uninteresting, depending on which side of this debate you take part in.
My story followed in the tradition of classic Good versus Evil. And this gained strange reactions from me.
At first I was brought back to the time that I started working on my first novel (A failure as with most early projects of writers) and I was dead set on emulating the grey morality that is so prevalent in modern adult fantasy.
I recall that in the first chapter my protagonist had enslaved a family of children. He spoke in tones that made him sound like a saturday morning villain. He literally picked up the ashes of a deceased member of that family and he smashed them on the ground! And that was just because he was in a bad mood!
What baffles me is that I can look back on that now and laugh, but I seriously thought that was some professional tier writing back then.
I was a novice back then, in many ways I still am, but the point was that I didn’t know how to
properly write dark fantasy. I thought this was how “Grimdark” or “Realistic” fantasy was actually supposed to be written.
I found the very idea of absolute morality in fantasy to be a childish plot device which the writing community had grown out of. I thought that characters that could be clearly defined as either being good or evil were automatically less complex than characters that found themselves in a grey zone.
And this is not to say that I loathe all kinds of fantasy that take the grimdark approach to their morality. The fantasy tales that got me sold on the genre were the stories of Elric of Melnibone. To this day the albino swordsman has remained one of my favorite characters in fantasy, and he’s the very epitome of a morally grey character!
It’s just that when I wrote in that style, I limited my ideas just because I wanted to make a morally gray character. I wanted to write morally grey fiction in the beginning because that had been all that I read for a while, but I found that I didn’t enjoy writing that kind of story. There was just a certain sense of wonder that was lost once I took the notions of Good and Evil in my fiction out of the story.
Yet it all seemed like the right thing to do.
I mean, almost everyone that was successful in that time practiced this kind of morality in their fantasy worlds. Everywhere I looked I was told that characters that were hard to pin down on a moral compass were objectively more complex than characters that could be described as just Good or Evil. I believed that somehow making a villain that was just evil by his very nature was a bad thing to do when writing, or that a hero that was a genuinely good person needed an ulterior motive if he wanted to be a good character. And to a certain extent, I can’t blame people for thinking this way.
The time period after the Lord of the Rings had ended was rife with stories of Good and Evil. Everywhere that you looked you had a humble boy rising up from his humble origins to stop a Dark Lord that wanted to destroy the world. You had Dragonlance, The Belgariad, The Wheel of Time, Sword of Shannara, Sword of Truth, etc. And independent of
what you think with regards to the quality of the books that I mentioned, all of us can agree to the fact that Good and Evil had been saturated.
Of course, this all changed once every one got fed up with it. Now our heroes could not really be called heroes. Now our villains that were just villains to be villains were no longer viable characters. And heroes had to have at least one disgusting flaw for them to be worthy of writing. And I feel that this mindset has gotten just as saturated as classic morality in fantasy.
Perhaps the decline of Good and Evil storylines is not as good for us as we might have thought it was. I enjoy some of the morally confused characters of today but even then I’ll always prefer heroes that I can actually care for. Heroes that can truly be said to be heroes.
I remember struggling to find a story with main characters that I genuinely admired back when I returned to reading. I had to go back to books that were written at least 7-10 years ago to find these characters. And it wasn’t just characters that I could relate to, but characters that I could respect.
But apparently now there’s no such thing as a genuinely good or evil person. Current fantasists try to preach the same messages like ‘Heroes are never as simple as we used to think they were’ or ‘Villains can’t just be evil’. And like I’ve been saying, that’s fine, but it’s getting to a point where everyone is just trying to say the same damn things.
And the worst part of it is that mainstream media still praises them as being original!
I’m not trying to make a concise statement with how opinion currently stands. Right now, my opinion on this matter is sure on its core, but I have yet to organize them into completely coherent thoughts.
This won’t be the last that you hear of this which is why I called this article My Thoughts on Good and Evil in Fantasy. It’s just been something that’s been ringing in my head for a while and I needed to bring it up.
Be sure that in the future I’ll discuss this in a more organized fashion but as it stands I have yet to fully vocalize my opinion into words. Once again I’m glad if you have read this far and I hope to gain some rest in the coming hours. If you’re wondering why I was gone, go to this post. But that’s all for today my friends, keep writing.
At the current moment I am in a cruise and I just want to inform you all that I might not be updating during this time. As you can see by the title, the cruise ends in July 10th. So no, this is NOT the end of my content. If there are updates (it’s a possibility, not a likely one however) they would probably be infrequent and irregular until July 10th. I won’t have access to WiFi for most of the trip, so this is farewell for couple of days. It’s been very fun writing here and I hope to get back at it as soon as I return!