Veering from the Original

I love the recent Disney movie Tangled.  The plot is fun, the romance is well done, and it has the best Disney horse ever!  However, it doesn’t really stick to the original story of Rapunzel.  There’s no craving for vegetables and theft from the neighboring witch, there’s no loss of eyesight, and the main guy is far from a prince.

Granted, most movies made using fairy tales have a lot of variation.  Even some of my favorite novels are new twists on fairy tales.  (Beauty  by Robin McKinley is fabulous, and I really like Mercedes Lackey’s approach in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series.)  I guess that’s the reality of fairy tales.  They were handed down orally before they were ever recorded, and generations of tellings have created a whole slew of changes, tweaks, and unique interpretations.

Movies based directly on novels irritate me because they make changes, but for some reason movies that are derived from fairy tales are somehow not just acceptable, they’re fun!

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Writing Outside of Your Realm

I am currently reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Mercedes Lackey.  She is a prolific author with a multitude of series and words, but her first and arguably most popular world is that of Valdemar.

The book I’m currently reading is not of Valdemar; in fact, it’s one of her stand-alone books called The Black Swan.  The only other writing that she’s done related to this is a short story about one of the side characters that appears in a collection called Flights of Fantasy.

It’s always interesting to read a work by an author you like that stands free of their usual worlds.  That’s how I feel about Dragon; even if every other story and book I write (at least for a while) is set in the world of Butterflies, I have ventured beyond my created realm to write about other characters.

I write and read fantasy to visit someplace other than the real world.  Going beyond the world I’ve created is another type of freedom.

Through the Reader’s Eyes

I have to admit that tonight I feel a little like a zombie version of myself.  Two long days at work left my brain basically useless.  Due to this, I was planning to write a “cheater” blog; maybe a teaser for With Honor, or something short and/or inane.

As I was contemplating this, I thought about you.  Yes, you – my blog readers, both loyal and new.  If I read a blog consistently, I would be disappointed if one of the posts was not up to my expectations.  (Granted, I would feel more disappointed if there wasn’t a post at all.  That’s not the point at this moment.)  This thought made me hesitant to let you down.

Putting myself on the reader’s side of the writing (be it a blog, short story or novel) can be important.  Sometimes it’s a matter of making sure that something isn’t too confusing.  I like to keep things secret until it is the most opportune moment for a reveal; this often means stepping into the reader’s shoes to make sure that I have laid out the appropriate groundwork but haven’t given too much away too soon.  I’ve also thought about plot devices that I like in other books.

One of my favorite (and, at the same time, least favorite) things that an author can do is to make a relationship difficult.  You can probably think of an example.  The first one that comes to my head is Talia and Dirk in the Arrows trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  Both of them are miserable because they are in love with the other, but for whatever reason they can’t or won’t say anything.  They spend most of the trilogy in agony because of this.  I just want to grab them, shake them, and make them talk to each other!  It drives me crazy, but it also makes me cheer for them when they figure it out.  If I like this as a reader, then perhaps I should consider incorporating a similar concept as an author, making a relationship a struggle so the end result is more satisfying.

It’s interesting to think about my writing from your perspective.  Thanks for giving me the chance!  You are also welcome to share your perspective at any time!  Would you have been disappointed with a “cheater” post today?

Religion in Fantasy

One of the hardest moments for me in writing Butterflies came when I had to describe a wedding.  The reason this was difficult was because I had to address a question I had not considered prior to the wedding: religion.

I know that weddings do not necessarily require religion to happen, but for many people the ceremony is based on the forms and traditions of their faith.  As Butterflies is set in a world that I created, it fell to me to create everything about the people and culture.  Religion is a part of this, and this issue has been handled differently by different authors.

In most fantasy worlds that are very strongly magical, I have typically seen two variations on religion.  Either the belief system and the magic are heavily intertwined (as in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan) or the magic makes religion a moot point.  Ursula K. LeGuin explained in a description of Earthsea that relatively common magic use in part of the world had precluded the development of an organized religion. 

Several of my favorite authors have a different approach.  For these authors, the deities in the story are heavily active in the lives of their chosen people.  Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series is fairly light on magic, as fantasy goes, but is full of gods and angels intervening in the lives of the characters.  Some of the cultures in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books get their ability to work with magic (on its own a natural phenomenon) from the very involved goddess or god of their people. 

I have read some fantasy that takes place in a setting similar to medieval Europe.  In these books religion seems similar to what is expected for Europe at the time.  And then there is fantasy that doesn’t really approach the question at all; if it weren’t for that wedding, I would never have felt the need to address the issue in Butterflies.  Honestly, I kept it pretty simple; I described the ritual and a brief glimpse into the beliefs, but I didn’t dig around or get philosophical about it.  I figured that was sufficient.

Going to the Movies

I have mentioned in a previous post that I don’t watch movies based on books that I like, although I didn’t explain the reason for the rule.  At this point, with all my complaints about consistency, it may already be clear.  Here’s the story. 

My friends all wanted to see Jurassic Park when it came out – I was in junior high.  My mom was searching for a way to get me interested in adult fiction, so she seized on this opportunity.  I had to read the book before I could see the movie.  It was quite a successful venture: I ended up falling in love with Michael Crichton’s work and spent the summer checking out every book he ever wrote.  (I played that game again later – in high school – when I discovered Mercedes Lackey.) 

This did, however, lead to the rule.  I saw the movie.  I would have liked the movie had I seen it out of the context of the book.  However, I spent most of the movie saying things like “the girl is the one who likes dinosaurs, not the boy” and “What?  That’s not how they figured out the dinosaurs are breeding!”  Needless to say, I was disappointed in the movie and the lack of cinsistency with the book.

Thus the rule was born.  It started as “no movies based on Michael Crichton books” and then grew from there.  (I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies, but I also didn’t finish those books and it was years between reading and watching.)  I did make one exception: I saw the first Harry Potter movie when it came out.  Guess what?  Disappointment again, this time based on the things that had to be omitted, so the rule was reinforced.  This has led to  more than a few arguments, with friends, family, and significant others who really wanted to see movies that I refused to see.   My apologies, but you knew my rule when you started.  🙂

I have since seen all of the Harry Potter movies, most of them on DVD.  I found that distance from when I read them (as in Lord of the Rings) makes it much easier to enjoy the films.  I went to see the most recent one last night; now I am impatient for the last one.  Of course, I am also impatient because I want to re-read the books, and I can’t do that until I have seen the last movie.

What’s Wrong With a Happy Ending?

I loved the comments I got last week when part 9 of Burden posted and my readers were excited that Stefan proposed.  It seemed that everyone thought it fit with the plot, that it was a good idea to make it part of a plan, and that it was exciting that the two main characters were getting together.

Thus I was a bit confused at this week’s comments.  The general feeling I got was that readers were glad the couple got together, but it was too fast, too easy.  They are waiting to see where the trouble arises.

While I am going to avoid revealing the rest of Burden (there are 3 more posts left on the story) I would like to take this opportune moment to ask: what’s wrong with a happy ending?

Granted, when the relationship is the plot you can’t have things work out quickly or easily.  When the romance between a couple is a major plot-driver, like Richard and Kahlan in Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, things have to be difficult.  I swear that pairing was one of the hardest to read – so much of the entire epic series hinged on the two of them having extreme romance issues.  I even understand that using a troubled romance is a good way to set up characters to resolve major plot issues, like Talia and Dirk in Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar trilogy.

If, however, the relationship is simply a subplot, or the characters need to be teamed together anyway, what’s wrong with a good, easy pairing?  It happens all the time in action movies: the main characters male and female work together through the movie with only the occasional sexual tension moments, and then at the end they get together.  Think The Italian Job or National Treasure.  The plot, the conflict, the struggle is in the challenge they are facing – the relationship is just icing on the cake.  I know these are movie examples, but can’t it work like this in books and stories, too?

I am not a flowers and rainbows person when it comes to my stories.  I know that people have to face challenges, characters we like have to die, and things won’t always work out how we hope.  But does everything have to be difficult for a story to be good?  Or can the people we like have things fall right into place once in a while?