Monday, February 7, 2011

Following the rules of fantasy

It may seem like having the words "rules" and "fantasy" in the same sentence appear to be somewhat of a contradiction, but believe me, they aren't. One of the best lessons I ever learned about writing for fantasy, or any fiction for that matter, is that your characters and settings needed to "play by the rules" you had established.
Imagine if you will, at the end of Lord of the Rings, Frodo pulled out a cell phone, called Gandalf and told the wizard, "beam me up!" I, for one, would stand up in the theater and yell, "Shenanigans!" There was nothing up to that point in time that would have led you to believe that Frodo had a cell phone or that Gandalf had the ability to beam anyone anywhere.
I have been sadly disappointed with story after story where the climax ends with the hero or heroine "discovering" a hidden power that they didn't know they had and saving the day. I feel cheated. How did they know to do that? Did we, as the audience, have any clue that they could?

Need an example? Here is the ending of the movie Tangled. *WARNING* This is the end of the movie, so if you haven't seen it, don't watch if you don't want to.

Let me just say, I actually enjoyed this movie until the very end. The way the heroine saved the day came out of left field to me.

Now, as an example of a good ending is the original Karate Kid. If you have not seen this movie (and why not?) I have to warn you there is a spoiler ahead. At the end, the Karate Kid wins the tournament by using a move that "cannot be stopped if done correctly". Earlier in the movie, we see him taught this and have seen him practice it. So, at the end, when he uses the move, it doesn't come out of thin air.

The end can be seen here:

For The Hidden Sun, I specifically chose not to use magic or dream sequences. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those, but I feel too often it gives the author an easy "out" of tricky situations, or in the case of dreams, there are too many, "Ha! Fooled you! It was just a dream!" I wanted an adventure where the reader was experiencing the same situation the characters were, and hopefully I got them to think, "How would I get out of this mess?"
The real fun for me as a writer was to provide all the clues on what could happen, and then have the reader guess, but the result isn't what they thought, but neither is it something that comes out of the blue.
Did it make it harder to write? Possibly. Did it make it a better book? I think so.
Oh, and as in mentioned in an earlier blog, what makes this fairly ironic is that I was inspired to write this book from a dream I had.

*Disclaimer: I took both clips directly off of YouTube and it isn't my intention to get monitary gain from showing these clips.

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