Monthly Archives: March 2013

What’s with all the kings and queens in fantasy?

Royalty are more a staple of fantasy stories than dragons, elves and possibly even magic. Royalty appears in some form or another in almost every fantasy franchise set on another world: Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Elantris, Discworld, the Farseer Trilogy, Prince of Thorns. It’s all got royalty in there somewhere. There’s even a king in Howl’s Moving Castle, though his appearance is brief and his impact on the plot minimal.

In a world dominated by politicians, councils, parliaments, senates and so on, a world of democracies and republics, a world where monarchs are figureheads only in the Western world – and the Western world is suspicious of those royalty who are more than figureheads – why is royalty so popular amongst writers and readers of fantasy?

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Review: The Mythic Guide to Characters by Antonio del Drago

The Mythic Guide to Characters is a book which looks at character creation with a different perspective to a lot of writing advice. It looks at various different ways that personality types have been categorised in the context of real people, and examines how this can be applied to fictional characters. In each case, examples from well-known fictional creations, including Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, are used to illustrate how personality types can be applied to fictional characters.

Different facets of character design are examined, from the most internal to the way characters approach challenges and interact with others. The book is well structured and well paced, with the ideas presented logically and fully explained using clear, concise language.

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Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence tells the story of Jorg, a teenaged prince who has left home to run with rogues to take revenge for his mother’s death. Narrator Jorg is hardly the traditional fantasy prince, nor a traditional protagonist; he’s an evil little sadist, but somehow oddly compelling as a protagonist.

I found Prince of Thorns incredibly compelling, difficult to put down – I even took my Kindle to work more than once so I could read it at lunch time. Lawrence has created a strong narrative voice, dripping with Jorg’s personality. There’s some great characterisation too – of Jorg in particular, but his perception of each of the other characters is well established.

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A guide to writing female characters for those who struggle

Occasionally a forlorn male writer posts somewhere on the internet that he struggles with female characters – he just can’t get into their heads, he doesn’t understand women. And occasionally I read a book by a published author for whom this is clearly a problem. You know the type: where the sole female character with more than a line of dialogue is described as sexy and sexual, and sure enough eventually sleeps with the male hero.

But, to be honest, it’s very simple:

You write her like any other character.

Now, if that was all I had to say, this’d be a very short blog post. So I will expand by describing a few ways in which you can write a believable female character, with some tips on how to avoid attracting criticism of female characters.

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Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful hit cinema screens today. It tells the story of Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician who, through events reminiscent of those in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, gets transported to the land of Oz where he is assumed to be the wizard and is tasked with defeating the Wicked Witch, before becoming the wizard of Oz later encountered by Dorothy Gale.

The movie is a fitting tribute to the 1939 film adaptation of L Frank Baum’s novel, the Wizard of Oz. It begins in black and white, mimicking the earlier movie starring Judy Garland, and upon reaching the land of Oz not only achieves full colour, but also widens from a 4:3 aspect to widescreen, a nice trick hinted at in the black and white segment by small, brief elements exceeding the 4:3 aspect frame. The colours thereafter have a brightness that similarly reflects those of the 1939 movie; indeed all the visuals make a very obvious nod to the famous predecessor.

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How to deal with clichés in fiction

The topic of cliché is one I have brushed upon in my earlier article on Mary Sues. In that context, I argued that being cliché doesn’t automatically make a character a Mary Sue. The link between Mary Sues and clichés that has been made by some commentators implies that clichéd Mary Sues are bad because clichés are bad. But this isn’t necessarily so.

There are many sides to the cliché debate. There are those who see clichés as an automatically negative element within a story, like the Rinkworks Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, which implores writers to abandon novels that contain certain cliché elements. There are those who see clichés as tools to construct a story and manage reader expectations. And there are those who believe that whether an element of a story is cliché or not is irrelevant and that the focus should be on how well the author tells the story, not on whether its been done before.

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How Not to Suck: three soulless vampire movies

Vampire movies have been quite popular recently. Well, they’ve always been quite popular. If you only count those with some link to Dracula, there are dozens. Vampires are a staple of horror movies, as well as, increasingly, fantasy action movies, abandoning audience fear in favour of a good villain for the protagonist to fight – or a cool supernatural being for the protagonist to team up with. (Oh, and this is not really a how to article, I just wanted to get as many puns in the title as possible and that’s what I could think of).

Some movies do vampires very well indeed. Some manage well enough. But as with all genres, there are some that are just terrible movies. Just really awful, mind-bogglingly so. And for some reason, I’ve deliberately gone and watched some of these.

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