Posts Tagged ‘fae’

Berries and Elephants

Information comes from the weirdest places sometimes, doesn’t it?

Holly Lisle, who is one of my favorite writing teachers (and if you’re looking for writing classes, feel free to check hers out in my affiliate link above), has a saying about berries and elephants. I’m going to massacre it here, but the gist is that how much a writer should know about their world is the size of an elephant, but you don’t stick that elephant in the story, oh no. You only put in a berry here, and a berry here, and only what’s applicable to the story at hand.

(I think it was Holly Lisle. My memory is shoddy.)

I’m working on my changeling story again this month, though admittedly not going anywhere fast due to the same issues as last month, as well as, you know, having construction done on my house and not actually being there most of the time. (It is running twice as long as predicted. But soon, hopefully.) And while the story itself is moving okay, I can already tell that the worldbuilding is going to need some streamlining and fleshing out in revision.

Faerie lore is vast and contradictory, so I’m making do the best I can. Also, you know, trying not to have it feel like a generic faerie story. As such, I’m spending more time actively researching during writing, which is not my favorite thing to do. And I’m not sure it’s helping, since the Internet sources I tend to turn up are about the tiny little winged fairies you can attract to your gardens and whatnot and not the Faerie of mythology.

Now, because I’m doing a lot more driving (due to not being as close to my normal haunts as usual) I’ve been catching up on my podcasts, or attempting to, anyway. First I caught up on Limetown, which only has twelve episodes or something like that. One of my creepy mystery ones. I guess they wrote a novel, but I read the excerpt and Lord, it was awful. I couldn’t even get through it. I suspect it’s because the sort of telling you do in a fake investigative podcast doesn’t cross over so well.

(Which is the reason I always listen to the Welcome to Night Vale novels rather than read them. Maybe they’re fine to be read. But they sound like Night Vale episodes, so it makes the most sense to me to just listen to them.)

Then I caught up with Tanis, which I like but which also frustrates me. It’s designed to draw you in, but there are so many plot points that seem important that then just disappear. I’m not sure there’s an actual planned story arc so much as just throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the plot and seeing what sticks. I guess a new season is coming out soon, but it hasn’t yet, so huzzah, I’ll take it while I can.

Night Vale I’m not listening to because I’m most of the way through It Devours! which is their second novel. (Audiobook version, as discussed above.) That seems like it would be confusing.

So the podcast I am listening to while I’m driving about is Myths and Legends. (Sometimes I listen to It Devours! but there’s also a lot of cussing and the small, mobile ones are often with me, so sometimes it’s best to…not.) I like it because it draws on numerous mythologies and also because I like the guy telling the stories. Anyway, the last episode I listened to was the original version of Beauty and the Beast, which, as opposed to being an oral folktale, was a story written in 1740.

Apparently the original is much longer and stranger than the condensed version (which came out in 1756). I’ve been scanning through it because Myths and Legends guy said that there were 20 pages (out of a 100-page story) about Faerie politics.

Said narrator was obviously not into said 20 pages of Faerie politics, but it sounds like it might be a good resource for me. I have found the Faerie politics, but thus far haven’t learned much. But hey! Still have ten pages to go.

I just thought it was funny that potentially-helpful Faerie politics showed up, in all things, in a podcast about the original version of Beauty and the Beast.

I also saw a neat thing on Writer Unboxed about using a setting mindmap to drive potential plot points. Might give that a try too.

How are you, squider? I hope to back in my house by the end of the week at the latest (but then, you know, I have to put the house back together, so it’ll probably be Monday before things are functional again).

Vaguely Fae

As a part of the writing/career class I’m taking, the teacher advocated against doing a ton of research/worldbuilding, instead focusing on what’s interesting and what’s important.

On one hand, yes, this can be a horrible, slippery slope, where one disappears into their work and never gets to the actual writing.

But on the other, it feels a bit weird, and, to some extent, a bit disingenuous.

This teacher is a self-acknowledged over-worldbuilder, so I understand why she’s teaching this way, but especially with stories involving mythology, I like to delve into the mythology itself, so I can see what aspects best fit the story, and use it to shape the story itself.

I’m just saying, Shards would be a completely different story if I just said “I’m going to write a book about angels” and went off without doing any more research than what I knew off the top of my head.

But in the interest of trying new things, I’m holding off. So far. I’m strongly considering doing more research (and yes, worldbuilding) because I feel weirdly adrift at the moment and it’s making writing harder than it needs to be.

The story I’m working on for the class involves changelings, and so, by extension, the fae. I’d like to stick to your old world trickster sort of faerie, and a lot of the book will take place in the Otherworld.

Working from memory, I’ve got:

  • allergic to iron or whatever (iron burns)
  • DO NOT ACCEPT GIFTS OR FOOD
  • Time works all weird in the Otherworld
  • Fae are good at illusions
  • DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR NAME
  • Never offer to pay a faerie for anything
  • There’s two courts: seelie (summer)/unseelie (winter)
  • Veil between worlds that’s only passable at certain times/places

(I even have the perfect book to use for research. It’s Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages by Claude Lecouteux. I got it out from the library while I was doing my Shards research and liked it so much that I got myself a copy.)

Now, it’s entirely possible that I’ve misunderstood, and that it’s really worldbuilding to be avoiding (beyond identifying what’s interesting and causes conflict) and research is fine. (I mean, what if you were doing historical fiction?) I should probably double check that. Ask in the forums, maybe?

Any good fae mythology to share, squiders? (Especially related to the Otherworld itself.) Or good sources for research, if I give in to my itch?

Stereotypical Creatures in Fantasy

My apologies for missing Monday’s update and for the fact this is late.  I blame jury duty.  And hockey.  But can you really blame me for the hockey?  It is the landsquid’s favorite sport.

Anyway, onward to content.

It’s come to my attention that you can usually tell whether something will be urban or traditional fantasy just be looking at the fantastical creatures involved.  Let’s test.  Vampires.  Elves.  Fae.  Unicorns.  Kraken.

(Okay, that last one doesn’t count.  I just wish there were more kraken in things.)

Admittedly urban fantasy seems to incorporate anything that looks vaguely human, but for the most part, fantastical creatures in this day and age seem to be pretty well-divided.  You rarely find things like dragons in urban fantasy.  Vampires tend to not to lurk in your more traditional Sword and Sorcery fantasy.  This is not to say that these creatures can’t be found in all types of fantasy, just IN GENERAL they tend to stick to one or the other.

It’s not terribly surprising.  Let’s look at urban fantasy as a genre.  Urban fantasy tends to take place in a modern setting, in a city or a town or someplace where lots of people tend to hang out.  Unless you go the alternative reality route, we are all familiar with these settings, and magic and fantastical creatures do not figure in.  So it makes sense to use magic/creatures that can more easily blend in with what is considered “normal.”

High fantasy, on the other hand, often takes place in a pseudo-historical context, in a world that is quite obviously not our own.  While each world needs to have its own rules that it conforms to, it does not need to take reality into account, so there is more freedom for larger and more blatantly unreal creatures.

You could argue that elves/dwarves/orcs/etc are essentially human-like and therefore would fall more into the urban fantasy category based on my (admittedly very general) guidelines, but there are also subgenre covenants that tend to be followed by the majority of examples of that subgenre.  People tend to read the same subgenre because there are things about that subgenre that they like.  (Some people will, of course, argue that such things are overused and/or cliché and/or are a rip-off of Tolkien, etc, but we will leave that alone for the moment.)

But hey, perhaps I’m full of it.  What do you think?  Do some fantastical creatures seem stereotyped into specific fantasy subgenres?  Do you disagree with my break?