1. Quetzalcoatl
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    Quetzalcoatl New Member

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    Concerning certain Fantasy tropes

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Quetzalcoatl, Sep 26, 2013.

    Hello everyone! I've been working on a Fantasy YA story for quite a long time now, and some questions keep sprouting and getting in my way, and I can't seem to dissuade them by myself... So I'm counting on you guys! They're the following:

    1. When it comes to YA fiction, escapism is an important factor in the mix. My story is originally set during the late 19th Century (Victorian Era), but I'm not sure if the readers will be able to 'connect' entirely as opposed to a story set in present-day. Does time period matter when it comes to this appeal?

    2. Rowling used the terms Muggle and Wizard/Witch to separate her non-magical and magical communities. This fit perfectly in her World Building, as all Wizards/Witches had the ability to use magic (save for an exception here and there). However, that is not the case in my story, and somehow using the term Others seems somewhat overused. What could be other alternatives, or places to look for one? I'm not exactly asking for you to give me the term, but I'm just blocked here.

    3. To avoid Deus Ex Machina and other far-too-convenient solutions to my characters' problems, I'm keeping my Magic System as simple and 'low' as possible. Sure, X character could fry you with fire, but sometimes it's just easier to put a bullet in Y character's head, and offensive spells are just too difficult and time-consuming to learn. My problem here? I'm actually thinking using words to trigger these spells, but then again, I think the Magical Language trope is very overused. What do you guys think?

    These three questions have been nagging at me for some months now, and I can't seem to circumvent them. True enough, if I was to put an original spin on them I shouldn't need to worry that much, but still... Well, I'd really help to read your opinions.

    I'm sorry for the length of the post and I appreciate all your answers. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I would prefer the Victorian setting. I think today's devices or gadgets are way too easy for writers to work their way out of corners. I would prefer a victim use his/her wit to get out of a situation rather than popping out their cell phone and dialling 911.

    Here I m picturing two frightened kids whispering under a table in the cellar, "Shush" whispered Sophie, "'They're' outside..." - I don't see anything wrong with 'They', or 'The Others' or maybe I have the scenario wrong, I haven't seen nor read Potter.

    You're the last person I would have expected to be not-quite-thorough in your writing. The type of research you are avoiding is exactly what I love regarding writing spells, finding the right ingredients from botanics etc.
     
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  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    1) People still read the original Sherlock Holmes. Just make sure you have something to say about the parts of the setting that you do or don't focus on.

    2) Maybe something like "commoners"? How do people in different real-world fields refer to people with no training in said fields?

    3) If one person does something, it's a Deus Ex Machina. If two characters try to do it - or to stop each other from doing it - at the same time, it's a conflict ;)

    I think Quetzal meant in-universe, it's harder for the characters to learn magic than simple firearms ;)
     
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  4. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    We often read for the sake of escapism, we get to escape our boring modern lives to some exciting world with less rules and more weapons. Can't see why this wouldn't appeal to kids.
    Of course, you might want to take into consideration what was the life of a "teenager" like back in the day. If they are like our modern ones, you have to adjust the society accordingly.

    Think what would be the most natural term for your people to call those non-magicky people. Maybe there's some specific aspect to the magic system, like, it's based on breathing the magic, so then they'd call magic folk "breathers." Sorry about the stupid example. Maybe they're "speakers" then. Worders. Oh it's just getting worse...

    Well, learning a new language is a bit of a bitch if one isn't terribly diligent, so it might be an interesting way to approach the magic. Even if it's used in other novels, you could just put your own spin to it. In Harry Potter they just learn and memorize words. Imagine if your magic system required the learner to know more than a few hocus-pocus words, and they'd had to get the pronunciation right; the stress, the open and closed vowels, the voiced and unvoiced consonants, etc. Yeah, not as easy as one may think.
     
  5. Sandfire
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    Sandfire Member

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    Point 1: Go for the Victorian era--don't be afraid to branch out and try it. I just finished a fantasy set a Victorian-esque society, and it was a lot of fun to write and my beta-readers loved it. I did have to think through how my magic system would have influenced technology, and it got pretty interesting to explore some of those possibilities. We've got a thread elsewhere on the forum discussing the subgenre of gunpowder fantasy, which mine falls into quite neatly.

    Point 2: I used the terms Wyches (female) and Wycks (male) as the derogatory terms for the shunned 'magicians' in my gunpowder fantasty. More appropriately they were called Changelings, and the generic term Riftling encompassed both Changelings and their animal Fymiliars. (I was very intentionally playing with and occasionally subverting tropes in this story.) Riftlings' powers were quite limited though--the real magic was performed by a race of Fae: a Riftcrafter or Riftcarver depending on what facet of the magic system they specialized in. A Riftmaster was capable of both.

    In my trilogy, the magic systems is based on lichens. People who reacted to the power lichens were called Enlichened, those who reacted to the secondary class were simply Lichened. I guess my point is that you can craft your own terms, depending on the setting and system.

    Point 3: I love magic systems--but it irks me when they're not done well. If you're coming up with a magic system for your book, I *highly* recommend reading Sanderson's Laws of Magic. His magic systems are a cut above anything else I've ever read (to be fair, Brent Weeks' Lightbringer Series has a very good one) and in those blog posts he explains a lot of the things he thinks through in developing them. I do agree that the spoken word/spells based magic systems are pretty overused and rarely satisfying to me, though there have been a few. But I would suggest you try exploring some different options.
     
  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Out of interest, what's the logic with the letter 'y'? Why Fymiliars?
    I like "the Changeling." It has a somewhat mystic air to it, makes me think of the changelings in fairy tales.
     
  7. Sandfire
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    Sandfire Member

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    Probably because we were travelling through Wales when I was outlining the magic system and they seem rather obsessed with 'y's. :)

    Seriously, though: I was playing around a lot with our world's mythologies and fairy tales (witches, familiars, faeries, changelings, etc) but casting them in a different context, subverting them, or redefining them. The 'y' might have come from Wales' influence, but the idea was that I wanted something close enough for the reader to make an association without being exactly the same word--conveying the idea that it's supposed to be similar, but it's not going to be the same.
     
  8. Quetzalcoatl
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    Quetzalcoatl New Member

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    Hmm, you've got some great points here! I will definitely consider them, and your opinions are truly helpful. I'll try putting some spins to otherwise conventional fantasy terms and don't worry, I'm not avoiding any research! :p I just don't want Magic to play as important a role in my story, but for it to be a tool that's sometimes used by the characters. They do require ingredients and certain prequisites, and can gone awry from time to time, so the characters rely on them only in emergencies. Thanks a lot!
     
  9. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    The best house cleaning spells are some of the best offensive spells in urban combat. You just need to be creative instead of going with "magic martial arts". A potent spell of levitation for massed objects can be a wall or a dangerous barrier. It is easy to have some hovering cutlery be turned into homing missiles. There is a lot to be said for spells that result in frictionless movement; from effortlessly moving chairs without scuffing the floorboards to foes who suddenly have no traction. These are not flashy offensive spells, but with the energy requirements for a "fire ball" or other magic staples - these would make a lot of sense for limited magic which exerts a toll on the user and would be utility first. I love crafty magic, some of the most clever characters employ it so sparingly, yet so effectively that you believe they are just plain lucky or gifted. This can be great for limited magic settings because you can really play with the focus independently for class divides; it's fun to write, trust me!
     

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