Monday, November 03, 2008

Fantasy Cheese

I am making decent progress on the NaNoWriMo project, sticking to my planned pace of 2,000 words a day. My competitive streak did rear its ugly head when I saw people posting higher totals, and then I reminded myself that I'm not trying to go faster right now because my priority is revising the other proposal. And, besides, weekends are actually busier for me because things happen that require me to leave the house. Plus, the point of all this was to moderate my writing pace, and going all-or-nothing would sort of defeat the purpose.

I suspect the part I've written will require massive amounts of rewriting because at the moment I'm meandering and rambling, since I'm still wrestling with how best to convey this story (which points of view to use, what information to share and when to share it, etc.). Maybe once the proposal is done and once I have enough written to have a better feel for it, I can take the time for more serious planning and plotting.

I did discover that television makes a pretty good motivator for getting the work done. One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies was on SciFi Saturday afternoon, and I told myself that I could only watch it if I got the writing done before it came on. And I did, so yay. The movie is called Dragonsword on SciFi, but on IMDB and Amazon they have it listed as George and the Dragon. It's a moderately cheesy telling of the legend of St. George and the dragon (with many, many liberties taken), but it manages not to be quite as cheesy as the typical SciFi Channel movie. Most of the dialogue doesn't make me cringe and the cast is relatively high quality, aside from Patrick Swayze, who has inexplicably wandered in from another movie. Everyone else is British or at least attempts reasonably well to sound British, or is supposed to be foreign and therefore not supposed to sound British, and then there's Swayze with his Texas accent and not even trying to hide it (though, as we learned from Kevin Costner "playing" Robin Hood, the attempt to hide it can be much, much more painful) even though he's supposed to be from the same place as all the other characters. Still, there's just something fun and sweet about that movie that makes me happy, and since the DVD is pretty cheap on Amazon, I'm seriously tempted to buy it.

I attempted to watch the first episode of Legend of the Seeker, but I had to turn it off about half an hour into it because it was just too painful. Most of it was another language issue, since the lead characters sounded like typical American twenty-somethings, and that threw me totally out of the story. I know that in a story supposedly taking place in one of those fantasy worlds we can assume that the whole thing is being conveniently translated or dubbed into modern English so we can understand it, so there's no reason that can't be American English, but it still just seems wrong. If you're doing a sword-and-sorcery story set in a quasi-medieval European-type place, it seems like the characters should kind of sound at least a little quasi-European. The United States (or Canada) doesn't really have that kind of mythology (except as written by modern fantasy writers). We're too new to even pretend to have that kind of history that's been lost in the mists of time. So it just bugs me to have people running around with swords and magic and armor and castles and all the usual European-based fantasy tropes, and they sound like American college students. I lose that sense of "other" when they talk like people I hear every day. I'm curious as to whether British viewers feel the same way about fantasy, if they expect the characters to sound British or European or if they get thrown out of the story because the characters sound too much like people they hear every day. Are Brits more open to fantasy with American accents, or is that even worse to them than it is to me?

My other issue (and I haven't read the books -- and from what I've heard about them, I don't think I want to -- so I don't know if this is from the books or an invention of the TV writers) is the fantasy trope of the Destined Chosen One (with optional Magical Specialness) who's been hidden away by the Mentor Wizard, who doesn't manage to get around to telling him about his super-special destiny until, oops, that destiny almost gets him killed, and then in the middle of the crisis we have to have the "No, really? I don't believe you!" scene. Mind you, I'm a big fan of the unlikely hero and am all over the stories where the assistant underwater basketweaver turns out to be the long lost heir to the Empire's throne or the great mage who will save the kingdom. My complaint is more with the variation on this story where the wizard knows who he is and is even nearby, watching over him, but somehow never manages to share this potentially crucial information until after the time when it might have been useful (like, you know, before the kid confronts the people who want to kill the long-lost whatever). There certainly are reasons not to share the information, and that can make for an interesting plot if done well, but when it's done purely so that the big revelation can happen during the course of the book/movie and in the middle of the crisis that kicks off the story, I'm prone to much eye rolling. It's also kind of annoying tohave to stop all the action early in the book and go through the "Here's your entire backstory, and this is why these things are happening" scene, which usually involves much arguing about how it can't possibly be true and he doesn't know what to do, but he has this destiny, blah, blah, blah. And then everything else that happens in the book is all because of his Grand Destiny and Magical Specialness.

I actually much prefer the stories where nobody knows who this guy is, and where even the great wizard doesn't know where to find him. Then the revelation of who he really is comes near the end of the book, after we've seen him demonstrate his true worth without the confidence booster of knowing his Grand Destiny or being aware of his Magical Specialness.

At any rate, while I can be a big fan of fantasy cheese, I don't think this series is going to be my brand of cheese.

And now it's time to go rack up some words.


Devon Ellington said...

This is my fourth Nano, and the books I write take longer to revise than anything else. And yet, I wouldn't give up anything for the fun and pace of it.

But, you know, if I'd written HEX BREAKER during Nano, it still wouldn't be out! ;)

I'm glad I hunted you down on the internet -- I sat down with Enchantment, Inc., meaning to read a chapter this morning as a break from my own writing -- and read the entire book in one sitting.

Loved it, and look forward to the rest of the series.

Devon Ellington
Hex Breaker:

Carradee said...

*grins* I'm glad NaNoWriMo is going well for you; it is so far for me. My goal is to learn to get out rough drafts faster (grammatical and stylistic perfectionist = me), and it's already helping. Now for that effect to continue...

Re: the special person with the unhelpful witholding of information, that irritates me, too. Patricia Briggs does something like that in her Mercedes Thompson books, but at least there there's a good reason why the vampires don't want to tell her how she's naturally very good at killing vampires.

My finished novel draft has a character who's known all her life what's so special about her. She disbelieves the prophecy out of pure pragmatism. (Little clumsy kid cause overthrow of 3 tyrannical magic-using murderers? Right.)

I've noticed my NaNoWriMo plot is a lot closer to the cliche, but even there my character's been told who his dad was; he just thinks his stepfather's exaggerating about whose wife he stole. (Still, I am gonna have to be careful with the entire "Wait, my dad's the Emperor?!" realization.)

Hey, cliches are good. If not for cliches, how would writers know what plots/situations to avoid? And what incentive would we have for looking at our plots and characters through nice, strong magnifying glasses?