Truth of Evil

posted in: Life | 2

I’ve been struggling for about a week now thinking about how to proceed with this blog.  It’s my blog and I can’t say for sure who reads it all the time (aside from family and close friends).  However, I am very conscious about what I want to write about and how to provide content that I think is worth posting and reading.  If I had it my way, I’d love to stick to writing tips, movie/tv reviews, etc.  That would be fun and hopefully entertaining to not just me.  Unfortunately, I am very present in the happenings of the world and cannot continue to keep those things from my thoughts and furthermore from my blog.

Now, I have stated in the past that I have no interest in debating or converting based on my personal views.  They are “my” personal views based on my experiences, beliefs, and understanding.  This also means I do not think I cannot learn more and have these views changed based on evidence and conviction.  Let’s jump in the heap!

Evil is very real.  In fantasy, we have great extremes manifested in forms like Sauron, Voldemort, and for you Wheel of Time fans, the Dark One.  All of these represent the deepest of antagonists to our literary heroes: Frodo, Harry Potter, and Rand al’Thor (again, Wheel of Time reference.  I am purposely avoiding the Game of Thrones example, ha!).  These forces represent the main conflict and must be destroyed in order to assure peace to not only our heroes but the world they live in.  This puts a lot of weight on the story and we as readers only want to see the evils defeated by the end.

A common element in fantasy right now is the use of grey characters who have both vice and virtues equally.  These are men and women we can both trust and revile depending on the situation.  Part of me enjoys these characters because I think they are complex and better represent real life people.  No one can say they are completely good, having no drop of selfishness, anger, hate, etc.  And while these kinds of characters can be fresh and enjoyable to read due to their unpredictability, I personally expect to see consequences for their choices.  Otherwise, we’ve run into another issue entirely.  Consequences whether good or bad represent reality and realism should be woven throughout the tapestry of the story (even more so in fantasy).

Coming back to the reason I am writing this post, I do not think I should be silent on the evil seen in the last weeks of various independent acts throughout the States.  Las Vegas, New York, and Sutherland, TX.  I am not going to go into the details of each situation.  If you’ve paid attention even a little bit, then you know the basics: men took it upon themselves to kill innocents.

My heart is broken at the moment.  I take days to process the full weight of these things because I don’t find it healthy to react instantly.  My heart breaks for those affected.  Families and friends have lost loved ones unexpectedly and for reasons they cannot fathom as they grieve.  There’s been a lot of hubbub about people offering prayers and thoughts to these people whose worlds have been turned over. I sincerely say and express these words because I sincerely believe there is power in prayer and thought directed at the healing of pain and grief.  If you don’t, that’s fine.  I would not hold that against you and would hope you would not hold my beliefs against me.

What we’ve witnessed is evil (plain and simple) and if we can draw anything from these recent horrifying events, it’s that no matter the method or tool used, evil will find a way to exact its violence and chaos.  I’ve been asking myself what can be done to keep these things from happening but after days of contemplation I am truly not convinced legislation cannot stop it.  So long as evil’s influence and madness can burn in the hearts of people, methods and tools can be improvised upon (gun, knife, vehicle, they all do damage).

For myself, at this moment in time, I come to a place where I think more than ever, we need to be vigilant about being aware of evil.  How?  By the signs it effuses.  If you’ve ever taken any kind of Active Shooter Training for a workplace environment, then you are told what to look for.  Changes in behavior are often there.  Now, I know there are likely outliers (there always are) but all too often, evil and its signs can be seen and recognized.  But we have to be willing to pay attention and speak up when noticed.  More and more, after these horrifying acts of evil and violence, we learn after the fact that there were “red flags” and yet no one acted.

I understand that many will say this is not enough and that legislation needs to be implemented to prevent further incidents but I am not convinced of that yet.  I’m not saying some legislation could not help because I think it could, but I have to posit the question: can legislation prevent evil from being enacted?  No.  It just can’t.  Time and time again, those who wish to do others harm will do so in any which way that they can.  History testifies to this.  Good standing citizens, however, can and are more than capable of interceding and preventing evil if we are willing to pay attention to those within our communities.

I am demanding this of myself.  It’s obvious safe places no longer exist.  Churches, concerts, sidewalks.  If these horrible acts of evil can teach us anything, it’s that we need to be paying attention to the world around us more.  Take an interest in your family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.  I have to hope that doing so will in some way prevent more evil from being carried out.

Call to Action:  Don’t react out of emotion when these horrible acts of evil happen.  I only say this because I see it every day.  So many react without taking a moment to ask questions.  Reach out and talk to someone you trust and work through whatever emotions have stirred up.  Adding to the vitriol does nothing to propel us forward, instead setting us back.

No Dragons, Dwarves/Elves, or Dreams/Prophecies: Access Denied

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0
Something I continually encounter when telling people I’m a writer and they ask, “What do you write?”, is I have this sense that they have preconceived ideas when I answer, “Fantasy”.  I can see it in their eyes.  “Oh, so dragons, elves and magic.”  Not a question but a definite statement.  To which I silently in my head respond, “I should have said fiction…”

I don’t blame people for this assumption.  I get it.  All you have to do is look at the main cultural references we have in our society.  Lords of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and most recent, Game of Thrones.  These big ones have set the stage and have planted the seeds one would expect from fantasy.  (Wizards, dragons, and elves, oh my!)

Unfortunately, I do not have the means or assignment to correct people on how vast and wide the fantasy genre has come since Tolkien laid the modern foundation.  I wish I could have that job, trust me! (King of Correction!  Hear me!)  Alas, I do not have that honorable title, but thankfully, I have a blog and I can voice my knowledge and experience in the genre to better help people who may not be big nerds like myself.

Three tropes or elements you will not find in my writing: dragons, dwarves/elves, or dreams/prophecies.

I’m going to dissect each of these somewhat quickly.  These are not tropes like my previous blog posts on magic but rather ones I have intentionally avoided because I choose not to employ their function in any of my stories.  None of these are intrinsically overdone in the genre and I often enjoy them when done in a new way in the books I read.

Magical creatures and or races in the traditional sense simply do not play any significant role in the worlds I’ve created.  If you’ve read any of the series I recommended in my fantasy reader’s guide post, then you know that I have a preference for worlds and stories that read more “human” in nature.  This does not mean there are not other kinds of races in these books (Stephen Eriksons Malazan series is chalk full of different races that are awesomely imagined) but there’s a bit more creativity and imagination involved.  For myself, I’ve created races that seem familiar to the reader but in the end are their own.

I’m actually not big on books or stories involving dragons as major characters and/or plot elements.  There are plenty out there but I’ve truly never been a fan.  Smaug in my mind is one of the best examples of a dragon in fantasy.  Robert Jordan does not use dragons but actually calls his savior-of-the-world main character, The Dragon, which I really liked because it called to the fantasy element instead of including it in the Wheel of Time series.

Dreams and prophecies are elements I have avoided on purpose.  I could easily throw these into the narrative of the Ravanguard series but I consciously did not because I did not like the idea of using them as a crutch, which I think some series utilize to that advantage.  These are seemingly always used as a means of foreshadowing and installing the hero as the savior to all mankind (again, a bit overdone in the genre).  I prefer to use foreshadowing without these because I find that it’s more difficult and a challenge.

George R.R. Martin actually does this very well despite his use of dreams and prophecies.  He explores foreshadowing by use of language and visuals, which is what I have tried to emulate in my own way.  In fact, if I were ever to use dreams or prophecies as a literary device, I’d probably try to do it in a way that has not been done before.

For anyone who is looking forward to reading my stories, I hope this is helpful and lays out what to expect or in this case “not expect”.  Fantasy is not restricted to these few common/popular elements.  If that’s what you like, there’s plenty of options out there!  Trust me.  The vast coffer that is the fantasy genre overflows with different worlds and subgenres that have their own mix of devoted fans.  Sometimes, I wish there was another way to describe what I write but my use of limited technology, magic and swords kind of puts me in the barrel.  That’s probably why enjoy the genre so much: it’s not constricted but goes as far as the writer’s imagination can stretch.

Call to Action: I admit, there is one series of books that involve dragons that I am interested in reading.  Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series is an alternate history fantasy that has dragons in the Napoleonic Wars.  That just sounds like a fun read.  If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!  If not, then it may be worth exploring.

On This Day: The Eye of the World is Published

posted in: On This Day | 1

Hello friends!  Let me start this off by saying this is the first of a monthly blog post focused on literary figures, books, authors, artists, film, etc. that have greatly inspired me as a writer.  These will be posted on the anniversary of said honoree.

(Edit: While I know this is the day we celebrate and honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I’m making this little edit at this time to say he was truly inspirational and a man filled with vision and love who could see beyond to what we as a people could and should be as citizens of the United States.  Take a moment today and honor him in any way you can.)

It’s only fitting that the first post of this series honors the late Robert Jordan and his introduction to the world I fell in love with after the first page.

Granted, I know not everyone who reads this post will be in agreement or even having read The Eye of the World (Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series).  No worries!  My mission is not to convert anyone to become a follower of the Dragon (first in book reference).

As I’ve stated before, I first came across this book back in the fall of 1999 (dear lord, that makes me feel old).  The book was published back on January 16th, 1990.  I still remember going to the library before school started (yes, my friends and I were those Freshmen), sitting at the table and noticing a book one of my friends was reading.  See the image below (how could you not be intrigued?!).  For whatever reason, this book caught my eye.  I was not an avid reader to say the least.  I barely read comic books.  Yet, it was this book that captivated me and set my course to this day more than 17 years later.

 

For those uninitiated in the world of epic fantasy (sorry, if you only watch Game of Thrones, I don’t count you as a fellow fantasy nerd.  But there’s still hope!), The Eye of the World takes the reader on an adventure filled to the brim with a colorful, complex world where there are Aes Sedai, Trollocs, Gleemen, and Forsaken.  Are you looking at that list and thinking, “Uh… what?”  Obviously not if you’ve delved beyond this first of fourteen tome.

I will not be providing an Amazon worthy critique exactly or even a vast, droning summary.  No, I’d rather share how this book thrust me forward as a writer.

The Eye of the World (I’ve read it at least five times) has continued to teach me how to write an epic fantasy novel.  Robert Jordan is notorious for details.  Every person and place was vividly described in a way that once I got ten books in drove me crazy.  At that point, you know the world so well, you don’t care what color and style clothes Rand al’Thor is wearing as he sits in some manor house with its rugs and tapestries in Tear (stay with me!).  You just want the story to move forward.  As a reader, that’s frustrating but as a writer, I learned the invaluable treasure of providing details in my own writing that lends to the realism of the world I’ve created.

Now, I admit, I do not write to the level of detail Robert Jordan does in his books.  I have my own style and approach to world building but I cannot stress how much his books inspired me more than any other.  I’m so thankful for his level and commitment to detail because I learned to appreciate it as I set out to write my own books, starting back in 2003.  That’s nearly fourteen years where I learned and realized that I wanted to include details!

Stories need details.  The best ones out there include details that appeal to the senses.  If the reader cannot only see the scene on the page but hear, smell and even taste the acrid smoke on the battlefield where charred wood and bodies choke the lungs of the wailing wounded, then as a writer, I have failed to immerse my reader in the hell that’s presented.  The goal of the scene should be to make the reader’s stomach twist slightly, pulling them into the mess and chaos of a battle’s aftermath.  Even if you’ve never been involved in such a horrible place in real life, you should be able to tap into your imagination and be there.

Robert Jordan’s writing taught me far more than just the importance of detail in writing.  Setting, foreshadowing, theme, characterization, etc.  These are all areas I gained more knowledge of each time I revisited his world.  I am forever thankful for such a writer and book offered to the literary community.

Call to Action: Buy or go to your local library and find the Eye of the World (pst, you can just click on the pic above).  I encourage everyone to experience this great novel even if you’re not a fantasy aficionado like myself.  It’s worth reading just to immerse yourself in the great detailed writing.