1. inkweaver
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    inkweaver New Member

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    Alchemist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by inkweaver, Oct 11, 2010.

    Hi, I'm new here and this is my first post. If I'm not posting in the right spot, please let me know. Anyway, to make a long story short, I have a character that I want to make a professor of alchemy. I have researched alchemy a little but I would like some opinions before I go any further with it. Does alchemy sound like witch craft or something scientific? Could it be something that has many faucets for teaching or is it strictly the philosophy and practice of turning metals into gold? This character would be a villian in a sense. I would like other suggestions for another subject for this character if not alchemy. The studies revolve around the supernatural for half angel, half human characters. Thanks
     
  2. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Originally Alchemy was the science based on the searh to find the secret to immortality. It was highly based for health reasons. It then spread out to become a science of all matters, including the well popular turning metals to gold.

    The one rule about alchemy that you MUST follow is this:
    To gain something you must present something of equal or greater value.

    It's the one law of alchemy that always stays true.


    The one part of alchemy that has changed really is the face of it, whereas it was created as strictly science, it's gained a more magical kind of representation. It is neither light or dark magic, and definately not witch craft though some people consider it so.
    In a sense, alchemy is its own little magic
     
  3. Lee Shelly
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    Lee Shelly Member

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    I think alchemy has always been the same kind of 'science' that astronomy is. It was used for finding the elixir of immortality, to turn base metals into gold, basically the quest for the secret of turning one thing into another.

    If a character is a professor of alchemy and is also a villain, I could see this going a lot of places. Does he discover some long lost secret, and keep it to himself? Does he steal a recipe of transmutation from a student, and claim it as his own? I'm really interested in your story!
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You must read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Alchemy is to chemistry as astrology is to astronomy.

    In a modern setting, no one will recognize Professor of Alchemy as a valid degree.

    Centuries ago, alchemists catalogued the results of their experiments to try to create elixirs of life and healing, and secrets of creating valuable or rare materials from more common ones. Their attempts to understand the composition of matter evolved into the fundamentals of modern chemistry. This same transition from empirical mysticism to the rational structure of science is reflected in the overall changes in philosophy and thought in the world.
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember, we get the "chem" in "Chemistry" from "Alchemy".

    Also, when science was still struggling to its feet, people were still relying on Alchemy. Isaac Newton went a bit nuts with too much mercury from playing with Alchemy - the same guy who set the world on course with his mathematical ideas.

    I'm pretty sure alchemy in the old days had useful properties too, so unless you're going all out with the magic, remember there are two sides to it. No one, historically, would have done it for evil purposes. A lot of money could be sunk into it, since there was so little reward due to never actually turning a smidgen of lead into gold. However, making hokey claims, perhaps creating a substance like Fool's Gold for very little investment versus payback, for example, could be something to look at.
     
  7. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    In a way, science is just magic explained with rules and theories. Many of us today accept computers as a scientific technology, but take it back 1000 years and suddenly that same computer is 'magic.'

    In a fantasy setting, alchemy can be pretty much anything you wish it to be. But if you are going to call it alchemy, you'd best stick to the general ideals of what defines alchemy. Alchemy is held to the rule that matter cannot be created or destroyed. Beyond that it's all up to your own imagination.

    A manga called, Fullmetal Alchemist, obviously delves deeply into the idea of Alchemy and may be a source of inspiration.
     
  8. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Alchemy is the belief that one can change a substance into another (metal to gold, for example). They also searched for a way to create immortality.

    It does take a few liberties with the power of alchemists, though, so don't rely on it as a factual source of information. It's a fantastic series though!
     
  9. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    In the book that I am writing now, one of my supporting characters is an alchemist. He deals primarily with primitive science, but creates magical effects in doing so. He also has some basic knowledge of magical systems. In effect, science is such a fledgling discipline in my world that my alchemist tends to straddle both the magical and scientific realms.
     
  10. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    Though alchemists spend a lot of time trying to turn worthless things into gold, they did actually discover a few useful things not directly related to gold. So something good did come out of the whole thing.

    However, of all the things they may have discovered, the majority didn't make it out into the world, because alchemists were very secretive. Why would they give others tips for making gold when they could keep the secret themselves? So if they made a major breakthrough in a certain area, very few people would learn about it. When an alchemist died, many secrets went along with him.

    This is why I have a problem with a Professor of Alchemy. I'm assuming you are writing fantasy. Historically, there would be no such thing as a professor of Alchemy. If you wanted to be true to the image of an alchemist, then don't make him a professor. He could be a professor of something else, and do alchemy on the side. If you really wanted to make him a Professor of Alchemy, then please name it something else.
     
  11. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    But if it is a fantasy, why should a writer be limited to what our own history has described as an alchemist? Is it not acceptable to take an idea from our own mythologies and histories and twist it with our own imaginations and reinventing the concept? It is a fantasy, after all.
     
  12. Lee Shelly
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    Lee Shelly Member

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    I agree. Isn't the idea of writing fiction, not just fantasy, but fiction, an act of creativity and imagination? Heck, you could make your alchemist be making potions and selling them for a penny each at a gypsy fair, or have him be a quack pretending to turn lead into gold, or a real alchemist who has found the key to immortality desperate to spread his ideas all over the world because he believes they will make it better. Go wild! That's the point of writing fiction.
     
  13. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    True, as a writer you are allowed to do whatever you want, make your own world. However, some people do have a problem with an author taking things from the real world, and changing them just a little so that it won't conflict with his/her story. Like sparkling vampires for example. Don't mess around with the real deal just because you can't come up with your own ideas. If you want to use something from life, thats fine, but then at least make it different enough that it won't come out as a ripoff.

    For example, I find it a lot more believable if an author comes up with a creature or character that is new, but has some of the same qualities as another mytical creature. It frustrates me when I read about a black teleporting winged unicorn that the author tries to sell me. No matter what they do, they can't convince me that it's a unicorn (or whatever other creature they come up with) Make it cursed unicorn, an evil mutant decendant from the first unicorns, just don't make it a normal unicorn because you are not going to fool me.

    So if your going to make a Professor Alchemist, make him a special exeption. Give him a reason for being different. If you take away the secrecy that automatically comes with being an alchemist, then you are taking away the one thing that makes alchemists so intriguing in the first place.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You do know that real vampires don't exist...right?
     
  15. inkweaver
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    inkweaver New Member

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    Wow, thanks everyone for your responses. Everything said was helpful and I really appreciate the help.
     
  16. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Maybe you could make him a professor of chemistry (or Potions or whatever the case may be in your story), but he does alchemy and other sciences he'd want to keep secret on the side?

    This could open up more subplot ideas and conflicts if someone tries to hack into his secret.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Alchemy is not a science.
     
  18. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Not a credible one in the real world. But there could be a fictional scientist who does alchemy on the side. Especially in a fantasy story, in which case the scientist would be more credibly able to believe in it.
     
  19. inkweaver
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    inkweaver New Member

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    I definitely like the idea of him keeping the alchemy part secret! It gives me more mystery to build on. Thanks Mallory
     
  20. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    I think she means it contradicts the established folklore of vampires, which usually don't vary much between different incarnations.

    So, if an alchemist in a story contradicts the real alchemists of the past, it might irk some readers. That's not to say you can't take liberties with parts, just as long as the basics are similar.
     
  21. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Unless you're writing Harry Potter-style fiction, you shouldn't have a "professor" of alchemy. But you could have some sort of secret group of alchemists, the character could be someone higher up in their little sect. Just not like a university professor haha.

    Alchemy is not technically scientific, for obvious reasons. But you can treat it as a science, if the world of your story allows alchemy as an acceptable scientific branch. In a way, treating it like a legitimate science is much more interesting than treating it as witchcraft and/or magic, even if it has elements of the supernatural.
     
  22. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I wouldn't accept your example either. It strays too far from what the general population views as a "unicorn." A unicorn is supposed to be a mythical creature that represents purity. It's physical appearance has changed over the centuries, but generally it's a hoofed animal (more recently resembling a horse, but in the past has had more similarities to a giant goat) with a single horn. Beyond that really, it's up to the author. Rowling's Harry Potter series had unicorns that had silver blood that could heal any ailment. Fairly sure that's a new concept to the idea of the unicorn and probably didn't bother too many people.

    As for sparkling vampires... Well, that's just a bit silly, but I doubt you will find two books that are alike when it comes to what a vampire is aside from the immortal, silver weakness, and drinking blood bits.

    I believe this all comes down to your skills as a writer to sell this idea. In this case, perhaps alchemy is possible, unlike in our own world. This would make it an actual science, and a Professor in such a field wouldn't be surprising. Trying to call it something different wouldn't make much sense, if the science is actually changing one type of matter into another.

    Sky's the limit. After all, there are always going to be some people who don't like the concept. Some will see it's fantasy and never pick it up, but that shouldn't stop you from writing it.
     
  23. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    I think it's worth noting that the Twilight books have been tremendously successful. And even though it's cool to make fun of them, and even though I personally hate the idea of sparkling vampires, there clearly was an audience for it.

    Likewise, the alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist was pretty far removed from anything a chemist would do. It still works.

    I'm just saying, if you wanted black teleporting unicorns, you would turn many people off, but so do sparkly vampires. If you gave them enough other unicorn traits, you could probably get away with it, at least as well as Stephanie Meyer did.
     
  24. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I still think that he needs to have some dark, scary secret. Something on top of just being an alchemist -- something he uses alchemy to cover up or to help achieve. A horror aspect would give the mystery aspect a lot of edge. That's just my two cents.
    Glad I could help, Ash. :)
     
  25. inkweaver
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    inkweaver New Member

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    Mallory, your a freak! lol jk I really think that is a fantastic idea. I was really stuck on trying to make an arch for this character. I knew I wanted to make him sneaky but I didn't know how to tie that in with him being a Professor at the school.
     

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