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Category: Heroes

Grimdark vs noblebright

Posted in Heroes

stgeorgeThe words grimdark and noblebright arose as technical terms in the gaming world. There's a certain amount of dispute about the exact definitions there, with a tendency to paint them in black and white terms (such as the slur that noblebright is all about rainbows and unicorns and flawless heroes).

In fiction, by contrast, especially adventure fiction (in which I class things like Westerns and Fantasy) they have come to be used to reflect two different and opposed styles of story. Since there is some dispute about the definitions, it behooves me to offer my own.

GRIMDARK

The notion that the actions of one person can do little to improve this world in decline, that the forces of evil and inertia and temptation will ensure that all of us are doomed. The best we can hope for is a little struggle with morally ambiguous heroes to oppose danger and maybe rescue for a brief time a few others.

NOBLEBRIGHT

The notion that the actions of one person can make a difference, that even if the person is flawed and opposed by strong forces, he can (and wants to) rise to heroic actions that, even if they may cost him his life, improve the lives of others.

Let me explain why I am firmly in the noblebright camp.

An observation

Posted in Broken Devices, Heroes, Plot, and The Chained Adept

Put your hero in danger and keep them there
Put your heroes in danger and keep them there

So here I am nearing the middle of Broken Devices, and I'm itching to broaden the scope. I mean, we're in Yenit Ping, the biggest city in the world, but it's just not… enough.

Ever notice that if you put your hero in a spot of danger, just a little bit, it has a way of greatly increasing your story options?

We enter the scene with everything all hunky-dory, and we exit… rather differently, as if a wind had blown down all the jackstraws.  Let's see what our heroes (and villains) are going to do about it.

Valar Morghulis

Posted in Characters, Heroes, Plot, The Chained Adept, and The Chained Adept

ValarMorghulis
“All Men Must Die” — The motto of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones

We're part way through a multi-day marathon of the entire 5 or 6-season run of Game of Thrones on cable, and it's been on non-stop for the last couple of days, downstairs in this small cabin. Periodically I go and get some lunch or dinner, and make sure my husband is still breathing, in front of the TV.

No doubt about it — this is quality programming, and I've seen all the episodes (and read the books). Upstairs at my writing desk, where I can hear snatches of the dialogue, much of the music, and all of the screaming, I'm having no trouble following along with the episodes as they go by.

This is having two effects on my writing…

I am oh-so-glad that George R R Martin is not the god of my personal universe

When novels first became popular in the 16th/17th century, readers felt that they held up a mirror to life. My opinion is: yes, and no.

Yes, in that the characters must emulate real people, or the story they tell has no foundation, no reality, and is nothing but fable, with puppets moved at whim by the author.

No, in that the author is the god of his created world, and it is only a pretense to abdicate that responsibility. It is not fate that kills his characters, or accident, or evil — it is the author's pen, disclaim it how he may. Even when writing a novelized version of historical events, the author cannot help but take sides, offer explanations, create a reality where the events make some sort of fictional sense. It's his story, and he has shaped it as he wants it.

Re-reading old favorites

Posted in Characters, and Heroes

Leisure Hours, (oil on panel) by Croegaert, Georges (1848-1923); 23.5x33 cm; Private Collection; (add.info.: Leisure Hours. Georges Croegaert (1848-1923). Oil on panel. 23.5 x 33cm.); Photo © Christie's Images; Belgian,  out of copyright
Leisure Hours, (oil on panel) by Croegaert, Georges (1848-1923); Belgian

It's a common bit of advice to write the books you want to read, and I think that makes good sense. Of course, if you're going to do that, it helps to understand why you like the books you like, so that you can put more of that into your own stories.

I enjoy many different sorts of books, and I read hundreds each year (no, really) and like lots of them. However, my re-read list of favorites that reliably engage me over and over is actually quite short. It's thoroughly idiosyncratic and includes a few guilty pleasures (like everyone's list).

My frequently re-read favorites

Now don't laugh…

Tomboys

Posted in Characters, and Heroes

Jo March (left) & Family (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)
Jo March (right) & family (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)

What is a tomboy, exactly?

I participated in a discussion recently about the tomboy character in literature. We discovered that we all had very different opinions of what constituted a tomboy. If you search online these days, you'll find definitions associating tomboys with lesbians and transgenders, which I think is wrongheaded and anachronistic.

I know what I mean when I say tomboy, and I think of it it as an example of a story character archetype which, like all archetypes, reflects something in real life.

Let's try this definition:

A tomboy is a girl or young woman, typically pre-pubescent or at least virginal, who values highly the same male virtues that appeal to boys of her own age, and values less the virtues that appeal to girls of her own age.

Preconceived notions about the weapons that heroes carry

Posted in Characters, and Heroes

Iron – Utility or Rarity?

Golden dagger & sheath of Pharoah Tutenkhamun (d. 1327 BC)
Golden dagger of Pharoah Tutenkhamun (d. 1327 BC)

Ceremonial weapons are all very well. They look splendid when you ascend the throne. The goldsmith was probably the best in the land — look at all those animals on the sheath (click on the image to enlarge it).

What insights can we draw from this dagger from Tut's tomb? The blade is gold alloyed with copper to harden it, but it can't have been a practical weapon. So the boy Pharoah who carried this never had to defend himself (or didn't expect to need to after death) — that's what he had guards for.  Judging from his physical remains, he may have been unfit and walked with a cane. The cause of his death at 19 is disputed.

So, this dagger defended his reign, the right of his dynasty to rule (but he had no issue, so the 18th Dynasty ended with him). It was a beautiful, treasured, symbolic weapon.

The pair of daggers from Tut's tomb - gold and iron.
The pair of daggers from Tut's tomb – gold and iron.

But before we jump to conclusions, there was a second dagger found in his tomb, this one with a meteoric iron blade. (Notice that the haft for the iron blade can't be the original, since it's shorter than the tang of the blade requires.) Given the similar haft and sheath treatment in gold, there is speculation that the iron blade was valued as highly as the gold one.  Certainly it's more practical as a weapon, being able to take an edge.

Plans and news

Posted in Bound into the Blood, Goals, Heroes, King of the May, The Hounds of Annwn, The Ways of Winter, and To Carry the Horn

As some of you know, I moved from Virginia to Pennsylvania in May, just as I was finishing King of the May. We relocated to our vacation home in central Pennsylvania, an old log cabin (with improvements) nestled into a hollow of the Allegheny mountains.

No one had lived in the cabin for 10 years beyond a few relatives visiting during hunting season, so the place had to be emptied, cleaned, repaired, and painted. On the Virginia end, this included moving two different households to a single smaller location and a warehouse, so it was beyond complicated. I did my best to keep writing each day but the dust is still settling and will be for a while. (Half of my office is still in boxes.)

You may have noticed that King of the May is published by Perkunas Press, still in Hume, Virginia. It will take a little while for me to register the business in Pennsylvania, and after that new printings (and my bio) will show the update.

Southviewcabin1
Architectural detail of the main cabin (1820s) or thereabouts

 

Icicles-FARM-20130304-2654
Recent – porch roofs needed a bit of leakproofing.
shed
Nearby shed in happier times.
Dead shed now.

 

DeadShed-FARM-20130304-2652
Shed imploded after being whomped by a fallen willow.

Meanwhile, I've started on Bound into the Blood, book 4 of The Hounds of Annwn. Since I include the first chapter of the next book at the end of the current one, I had to write the first chapter before I could publish King of the May. So I have a pretty good idea how this one is going to roll out.

It will be a more intimate book than King of the May, as The Ways of Winter was more intimate than To Carry the Horn. George will look for answers about his father's family, and the search will take him to strange places with unusual companions (Seething Magma will be coming along).

These four books of The Hounds of Annwn will cover most of a year, from mid-October to end of summer. Interestingly, they are coinciding with the same seasons in real life as I write them — helps me stay in the mood.

I'll produce some more short stories in The Hounds of Annwn world, and collect them into an anthology (sign up for my newsletter to hear about each new one as it comes out and read it for free on my blog), but after Bound into the Blood (sometime this fall/winter), I intend to begin a new fantasy series, The Affinities of Magic.

Depending on the wishes of my readers, there may be more adventures in store for George Talbot Traherne. Please let me know — I'm listening.

Ah, the wonders of fiction

Posted in Characters, Heroes, The Hounds of Annwn, The Ways of Winter, and Works

This morning I got up at 6:15 to do my daily writing. I reflected, as I sat down at my keyboard, on what a wonderful thing fiction was, that I had gotten up early out of a warm bed (and ultimately missed foxhunting later that morning) to write a scene from the point of view of a fifty thousand year old rock elemental, because she had opinions worth hearing about regarding the plot twists of the current book.

Anywhere else, they'd lock you up for that.