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Now that switched from Fantasy to Science Fiction, I need an idea that breaches the divide. Well, I don’t have to have a smooth transition between topics, but it’s best if I try.

Luckily one thing that many a Science Fiction story shares with Fantasy is the Feudal System.

Our descendants in the far future will recognize what a pain in the ass democracy is and will choose to live under the benevolent hand of interplanetary royalty.

Of course everything is better with a princess, or two (thank you Disney!)

It allows to transfer all the Ye Olde Tropes from Yore to the far future. Much easier for a writer to deal with one Evil Chancellor as opposed to thousand of scummy, faceless politicians arguing in whatever governing body lies at a center of a galactic democracy.

It also explains why you have a Galactic Empire, although more often than not said Empire rises from the ashes of an earlier Republic. Then again, depending on the author the current system might be better, worse or about the same as its predecessor.

Then again interplanetary kingdom of sorts, whether controlling a single planet, system, sector or galaxy is a recognition that space is really, really, oh so really fucking big! In order to control a galaxy wide Empire you would need to be able to travel/communicate at multiples of the speed of light. Therefore breaking down the known universe into more manageable chunks under the control of military officials (spoils system) or members of your family (system of the spoiled) makes more sense than spending years on the space telephone while traveling around the galaxy checking up on millions (if not billions) of your subjects.

Finally, royalty tropes, whether a long time ago and/or in a place far, far away (in Star Wars you get both with loads of of Princesses and Lords to boot) appeal to a time in our lives when our parents where the absolute (benevolent ?) rulers over us and knew better. It also stimulates the authoritarian/totalitarian node in our brain. After all, a successful king/emperor is just a dictator/conqueror who managed to transfer not only acquire political power but also transmit said power to his descendants and that is not that far away from our own experience.

And now to show you a bit of the Feudal Future:

Oh boy!

Yep, I think I’m about to change directions. I am not giving up on NaNo, at least not yet, but I am throwing the idea of a fantasy WIP away and reviving an old idea of mine. How old? How about decades in the making? At least 10 maybe 15 years old.

It’s not first time it happens. Last summer (08) I thought I had the perfect idea for NaNo (mecha-based sci-fi) only to abandon it for Sturm und Drang (urban fantasy) . What sounded like a great idea months ago now has come undone.

It never gelled properly in my, which is where I do most of my organizing and planning. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made.

Then a single image struck me.

A young man walking down rain slick stone stairs.

That was image I could use. But that meant abandoning a recent story for a older one, one waiting to be rescued from the muck of half-forgotten memories.

It seems after a long time, its time has come.

And this is what inspired it:

nano_09_blk_participant_100x100_1.png

I was going to write about something else, and the draft is on this blog post folder, but  I decided to “borrow” a meme from Bejamin Solah about NaNo:

When and how did you find about NaNoWriMo? How did it go?

I heard of it a couple of years ago from a gaming/RPG forum I’m a member of. I tried to participate a few times but I would always quit before it even started.

How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?’

Once, last year (2008).

How many times have you won? If you haven’t won, what was your best result?

I won last year, by something like 39 words. So I’m 1:1 when it comes to NaNo.

How did it go last year?

Stressful. I tried to write at least 2,000 words a day, but kept falling behind.  The stress can be terrific, but it is also a great motivator. Once I was done I realized that I had only about a third to half of the story done so after a short break I continued to write and finished the first draft in February of this year (2009).

Where do you write and with what do you write?

I write whenever and wherever I can. Pen and legal pad (white). Although for NaNo I usually do it as a series of blog posts which remain in draft form (wordpress rules) which then I cut and paste to Word.

How do you find time to write?

You got to make the time. I usually work an hour or so before my bedtime. Knock out a few hundred to thousand words and then hit the hay.

Are your partners, friends and allies or enemies?

I keep most of my writing to myself. Most of my online friends are allies, but the people around me hardly know what I’m working on.

What are your strengths and what do you use to help you get to the end?

Excitement, Stress, Dedication and Caffeine, although do to resent events I’ve abandoned the last one.  Of all of those factors, excitement is what keeps me going. Once I’m into a story I like to see it through to the end.  That and the more I write the (hopefully) better I get.

What are your weaknesses, obstacles, and challenges that hinder you from finishing?

Laziness and an obsession with perfection. Self-motivation is hard to come by sometimes and also I’m a stickler for internal consistency. I hate getting “lost” not knowing where to go next in the story. Mind you I do not outline as that simply kills the whole writing experience for me, but I do write notes while I write, which helps me keep track of things (characters, locations, plot points).

Do you plot/outline/plan or do you write by the seat of your pants? How much do you plot or how unprepared are you?

I don’t do outlines. Writing an outline feels like I already wrote the story, but without any of the important parts. I do brainstorm about genre, title and the like. I write down a few basic notes and go from there. Everything else happens at the point of the pen or the tip of the fingers as I write.

Do you participate in the real life community, go to write ins and meets ups in your area?

No, I don’t know any NaNo groups so I don’t participate. Besides I think that would make it even more stressful that it already is.  I like to focus my energies on my story.

What are your writing aids? Special snacks, music, totems, reward or punishments?

I set up a themed songlist to play on my iPod or computer while I write, that’s about it. Failure is punishment enough.

Well those are my answers to the meme. I hope you enjoyed them.

I already talked about the villain in fantasy, but what about the heroes?

Instead of focusing on the types of heroes I’ll talk about motivation(s). They come in different flavors, such as:

  1. Honor & Duty
  2. Can’t Fight Fate
  3. It’s Personal
  4. For the Greater Good

Honor and Duty means that it is the heroes job to be, well, heroic (or at least he thinks he is). Whether he is the Captain of the City Watch or the Crown Prince the hero call to adventure comes in the way of legal, familial or societal duty. Pretty mundane as motivations go and to the modern reader it may sound a bit thin but at least it gives a hero a reason to be in the story and a day job. Useful when you have a band of heroes and you need to inject some purpose to a secondary character.

Other heroes get their call via stone tablet or star sign. A long time ago (or last week on a Tuesday afternoon) somebody, somewhere predicted that The Chosen On will rise from the gibbering masses too save the day. Easy way to start your story. If anyone asks just show them the highlighted text. Usually the story then revolves around one of two things: can the hero live up to the hype (prophecy) or is that thing they said about him so many years ago is even worth listening too. Averted, subverted and play straight so many times, I’ve lost count.

Then there is the Mel Gibson favorite for when the hero refuses the call, make…it…personal! The villain razed the heroes village to the ground, killed his parents and kidnapped his significant other. Oh hells no! It’s on! Leads the hero onto a roaring rampage of revenge with the added bonus that the hero has nothing to hold him back.

And last but not least you have the true hero, the one that does what needs to be done, for the greater good. Restore Peace to the Land, usher an gleaming Utopia, that sort of thing. The hero is the epitome of altruism. Could be the way he was raised or that he is a fervent believer in a philosophy/religion that encourages that kind of thought. Paragons of absolute virtue seem a tad outdated in the cynical world we live in, but there is nothing stopping the author from playing up the darker side of this motivation.

So there you have it. Four common heroic motivations. I hope you found them useful.

Every story needs them, and in fantasy tales they come in two varieties:

The Complete Monster variety with no redeeming qualities who serve as the very definition of all things evil and destroyer of worlds (yes, plural, he/she/it/they is THAT evil).

or

The lying, scheming, conniving usurper type out to pervert, despoil and corrupt all that is good in the world from within.

If you want a foe that your heroes can slay without a second thought go with #1, but if you’re looking for some court intrigue and delicious backstabbing, #2 is the way to go.

Plot driven stories prefer the first option as well. You don’t have to worry about the motivations of the Big Bad who is a murdering fount of madness. Of course you have to be careful that you don’t stumble over unfortunate implications if your evil race shares too many cultural markers with real world religion or ethnicity.Easily avoided by making them monstrous or outerworldy.

Character driven stories rely on #2 because the villain’s motivation(s) lie at the heart of the conflict. The heroes must play a cat and mouse game to uncover the plotters plans before it is too late.

Of course the evil prince might turn into a complete monster once he gets the throne and the unspeakable horror might have a few words to say after all.

Plus, you can have both in the same story. Either #1 plays the Dragon to #2 or #2 plays the role of the inside man for #1. The evil mastermind has someone to do their dirty work for them (and someone to blame if things go wrong) while the Unspeakable Horror has an agent on the inside easing their path to victory.

The specifics are left to each author, of course. But whatever Big Bad shows up will shape the character of your story. After all, it is the challenge that the Heroes must overcome.

Here is a trailer from Dragon Age to show you what I mean by Unspeakable Horror. Enjoy! 😀

The countdown has begun (at least my countdown).Just 31 days until November 1st and the official start of National Novel Writing Month. And since my NaNo entry will be a Dark Age Fantasy story, all the posts between now and October 31st will deal with Fantasy related tropes, themes, and ideas, specifically those involving my story.

So saddle up folks, it will be a wild and crazy ride!

The NaNo Winner is ME!

The NaNo Winner is ME!

That’s right! I just crossed the finished line with 50,019 words. I have to confess that I did cheat a bit (just a bit!). I did the old “pad the manuscript with song lyrics” trick. Underhanded I know. But these where not random lyrics. Mine fit the story. Of course this is my first time and the story is heavy on action, shallow on character development. Its also supposed to be the first of a trilogy (of novellas, why not). Maybe I’ll go back and hack the hell out of it and hope it reaches a decent agent/publisher. Will see. But for now, allow me to savor the moment!

Oh and see you all next year!

Well, the course is set and we are lock and loaded. As of midnight we start sliding down the crazy chute to NaNoville!

Here is a hint of what my novel will be about:

Enjoy the ride!

Yes, what was once just another WIP has become my NaNo project. Expect updates and press releases as well as much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Enjoy!