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The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones

Here is one of my favorite cliché checkers. Diana Wynne Jones put together this magnificent and quite entertaining guide for the world of Fantasy. She has gone through, defined and commented on every aspect of Fantasy that needs to need to be considered when writing the genre. For all those who are very familiar with all the aspects of this type of writing, it’s quite a hilarious read and very useful to help keep your writing fresh in a very pervasive genre.

It’s written a bit like an encyclopedia with picture coding, cross references and sections headed with quotes from Gnomic Utterances that poke fun of the various made up literary references that head chapters of many fantasy novels ( Example: “Doras II was somewhat an absent minded king. It is said that when Death came to summon him, Doras granted Death the usual formal audience and then dismissed him from  his presence. Death was too embarrassed to return until many years later. –Ka’a Orto’o, Gnomic Utterances, LIV iii (Jones 49).

One of my favorite entries from this book is the one on Princesses, because I have found many fantasy novels contain one of these two types:

PRINCESSES come in two main kinds:

1. Wimps

2. Spirited and willful. A spirited Princess will be detectable by the scattering of freckles across the bridge of her somewhat tiptilted nose (OMT). Spirited Princesses will often disguise themselves as boys and invariably marry commoners of sterling worth. With surprising frequency these commoners turn out to be long-lost heirs to Kingdoms (See PRINCES)” (Jones 150).

All of the entries follow this format and tone to help readers better identify and spice up overdone aspects of Fantasy, and lemmie tell ya, it made finding my own clichés a lot easier!

Happy reading!

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Research Can Be Fun!

For most people, the word “research” is a swear word. Those who have written research papers (or any kind of academic paper for that matter) know how painful research can be. But I am here to tell you that as my title states, research can be fun!

One of the things I have been really focusing on over the past couple weeks with my writing is doing research on things that would help enhance the worlds I’m building and make them more real. I’m the type of person who loves to read things that have that faint touch of reality; I try to write that way as well. But in return, that means I need to do a lot of research on those things I don’t know about. I probably haven’t won you over yet, but bear with me.

The fun part of research comes in when you are looking up things you are actually interested in, for example, your book. My story temporarily called Disconnect takes place in a futuristic society completely integrated with computers. They are so essential to their function in daily life that the computers themselves are implanted in everyone’s brains and their social life/human interaction take place entirely in virtual reality. Now, because I am dealing with a society of this nature and I’m no computer geek, I have to make sure I’m getting my research done.

For example, on the Internet I’ve created (called the Mainframe) everything takes on a physical representation. Websites show up as businesses with advertisements and buildings that people can interact with. Because computers and computer viruses, worms, spyware, and malware are synonymous I have to do research on them to figure out their functions so I can give them the appropriate physical representation when my characters run into them throughout the story. It’s been really interesting to go through and read about all the different types of viruses a computer can contract like Trojans, ILOVEYOU viruses, and other things. Quite honestly, it’s made me a little paranoid.

I’ve also been experimenting with the interaction that my characters have with this internet I created. I realized it is so large and expanding so fast that there is no way these characters would be able to find their favorite “sites”. I needed to put an address to each place on the Mainframe, soI spent one of my daily writing sessions researching the Domain Name System, how it works, what makes a domain and a subdomain and all that jazz. At the end of the session I ended up with a URL system that directly parallels our own, is different, and allows the characters to find the places they like to frequent.

Additionally, I’m dealing a little bit with hacking because my main character is a genius computer hacker. One of my good friends knows a lot about hacking, and I’ve sat down and talked to him about all the different types of hacking one can do, the way they work, and the weaknesses and strengths of each method. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’d like to learn some tricks myself to get the feel of what hacking feels like, so to speak.

As an example not related to Disconnect,  for my novel Legend I am dealing with a lot of sword fighting, battle styles, armor, weapons and an extensive amount of geography, all of which I have only a limited knowledge on. The research for this book has been admittedly more fun than for Disconnect because it forces me to get out there and experience things. I’ve another friend who is big into weapons and fighting styles, and he’s offered to give me lessons on how to use different knives and bows. It’s been so interesting to go look at the different weapon types and to learn about their different functions so that I can create my own weapons system for Legend.

See, the idea here is that you write about something that really interests you, otherwise you wouldn’t write it, right? The fun in research comes when you want to do it and genuinely desire to know more about whatever it is you’re researching. Research helps give you credibility to your readers, because they’ll believe that you actually know what you are talking about, and the great thing is you do!

Please keep in mind to make sure you are doing the right kind of research. It’s really hard to filter out the stuff that will help you and the stuff that just gets in the way. It’s like those annoying story problems in math class; you have to filter out the useless junk. There is a plethora of databases you can go to–libraries, bookstores, neighbors, friends–but really you don’t need to consult them all. Thoreau put it quite nicely when he said “It is necessary to find out exactly what books to read on a given subject. Though there may be a thousand books written upon it, it is only important to read three or four; they will contain all that is essential, and a few pages will show which they are.” The same goes for outside resources. You only need to know enough to be able to sound like you know what you are doing.

Alrighty I sure hope this helps all of you out there! My apologies for my extended silence, but good news! Disconnect is a few pages longer!

Happy writing!

ACE

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in On Writing

 

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