1. Dun Pirossar
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    Dun Pirossar Member

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    My big fantasy dilemma

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Dun Pirossar, Apr 18, 2011.

    Hello
    I am working on a novel which is the first of a series. Actually, I have finished writing it and editing and very few things remain undetermined.
    However, there is one matter regarding the fantasy world which I have created for the story that I cannot solve.
    So according to the background story there was a nation that was almost entirely annihilated. An evil witch following the tragedy revived the king of that nation and later on the entire population. These "Undead" (as I call them) are on the "evil side". Now here is my dilemma:
    Their physical appearance and demeanor have two possible versions:
    The first: they are zombies at first until they lose their rotten flesh, then appearing as skeletal beings. They are mindless or at least lack human intellect. They are ruthless yet loyal. They can live through severe injuries. They feel no pain. They lack desires, culture, personality, habits and basic needs. They are often referred to as creatures or beasts rather than people.
    Advantages: distanced from the reader (the reader can't relate to them), scary, unique.
    The second: they are simply people that were given a second life, a second chance. They have all the characteristics of a human being and they recall their past. In other words they are common people. They do have a few particular traits: they are stronger and quicker and perhaps their senses even sharper. They cannot die of old age and their skin is extremely pale - almost white.
    Advantages: apt for a more mature story; allows conversations amongst the Undead or between an Undead and a person; allows personality (for example the king of the Undead is one of the main protagonists in the story and therefore needs basic human traits).
    The story is clearly high fantasy, but I want the reader to feel like he is in a real world. The story and its presentation is serious, tragic and often melancholic.
    Although I consider these two definite solutions a mixture between the two or any alternative is most welcome.
    As I have said this is a dilemma for me, so I am heavily depending on your opinions.
    Thank you.
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I think the most interesting bad guys are the ones we can relate to. Perhaps these people are living their lives over again, they feel love, they feel pain, they are characters we can relate to.

    However, they also have an insatiable desire for living flesh!

    This would be most interesting to me.
     
  3. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I think I'd go down the middle. The culture doesn't extend outside of their base of power, so they seem bestial and mindless.

    However, at some quiet moment, there is a realization that they can still think, and there is some twisted sympathy for them. (He acknowledges that I don't want to have my brain eaten, and yet he needs brains to survive.) Would you really starve yourself if you could hear your food screaming? Even though I decided not to even try Balut, I think I could learn to ignore a shrieking cupcake easily enough.
     
  4. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    I would say go for a mix, like some can communicate but others are mindless. Or have it so, say, the dominant characteristics they had when they were alive are now all the remains/even more prevalent. Like a violent criminal becoming even more violent. If you stripped down their personalities and made their core traits the only ones, they could still communicate while also being distant.

    It's sort of like how zombies are supposed to revert to their base instincts, eating to stay alive, but not as severe as that. It could give you some very dark, remorseless characters in addition to more grounded ones.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rather than the rotten skin falling off and leaving a skeleton, it could slowly heal, making them appear more and more human until they look normal. You establish them as evil and as a type of monster, but as they get harder to distinguish from ordinary people so the threat becomes more sinister.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends on the story you want to tell and may even be a reflection of how magic works in the world you’re creating.

    The mindless undead would be very limited as described. Acting only when directed, like a robot attached to a remote control. They would stand around ‘lifeless’ until directed by a necromancer or whatever controlling individual(s) commanded them to do otherwise. The level of intellect wasn’t clear, but it would seem to be if they were ordered to assault a castle wall, they would do that through basic means—attempting to scale, throwing javelins at defenders atop it, etc.

    The others would be more ‘human’ but less certainly there’d be a difference in cultural/social norms. And would someone, their ‘creator’ if someone made them undead, be able to influence them?

    In my novel Flank Hawk, there are two types of zombies—mundane and souled zombies. The mundane are more of your first type. The souled ones are more of the second type with intellect and independent thought/actions. There are reason for both types in my novel, and the point being, it’s important to the world you create and the story you tell (if the undead play a major part) what type of creatures they are and how they respond to others, each other, and their environment—especially in the context of the story.

    Good luck as you move forward!
     
  7. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    Do you want your book to be known as a zombie story? If the answer is yes, then go down the first route.

    You may not call them "zombies", but what you have described there are bona fide zombies, straight from Hollywood's cliche cupboard, so that's what people will think of when they read your book unless you give them some traits which distinguish them from zombies.
     
  8. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    I see little that is unique about that idea. They are effectively the stereotypical zombie, aren't they? And in my experience, it would make them scarier if the reader was not able to predict everything about them.

    I would take the second path personally, as it would provide more scope. You could still have them scary if you did something similar to what funkybassmannick suggested - essentially humans who live and feel as normal but with a zombie appetite!! :cool:
     
  9. HBAdams
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    ^ This. If you haven't played it, go look up World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. You're almost identically describing the Lich King and his army (zombies/skeletons) and Sylvanas and the Forsaken (more human-like).

    Going somewhere down the middle would probably make this really interesting. I love the zombie appetite thing! A couple of zombie noblemen sitting down to a meal of roast human and chardonnay, yum. Also, you could consider having them CHOOSE whether they serve the evil witch or not, instead of being mindless. A zombie with an agenda could be a scary thing indeed!
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they lack desires, their memories won't do them much good. Without desire, they have no motivation, no will to live or do anything else. You essentially have a marionette or puppet.

    If you do find a way to give them their own desires, there are several things you could do with these undead. Death is a traumatic event. Now that they are undead, their outlook on life could be completely changed. Do they need to eat, drink, or sleep? Do they feel pain or tire? That puts a damper on a lot of aspects of life. Some might view the predicament as a half-life, or a numb existance. Of might go completely insane from the sensory depravation. Who knows? Maybe some will actually enjoy the new existance because they now have a whole lot of free time to devote to something new.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you clarify why you see this as an advantage? I see it as a big disadvantage.

    ChickenFreak
     
  12. Dun Pirossar
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    Dun Pirossar Member

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    Thank you so much. All of these posts have been very helpful to form a better idea.
    (Ubrechor) What I meant by unique is that in a world where you have humans and other races that are alike to humans, the mindless Undead are special, different, distinguished. A unique addition to the fantasy world I would say.
    (ChickenFreak) I want them to be the bad guys – to be terrorizing. The villain with no justified motives. I want the reader to fear them and despise them. But some Undead characters need more depth than that, and as part of my world they need a little more complexity. For example Dayl (pronounced Dale/Dail) – he was a secondary character, one of the main characters' companion, but he was murdered and as the reader might agree with him, his companion could have saved him. Soon he is revived by the witch's disciple and given purpose and tasks, and it doesn't take too long for him to remember that his companion had watched him die.
    (funkybassmannick) So yes, the antagonists need to be related to, and now I feel that the Undead need to represent another side of the story and not simply a stone to step over.
    (Smoke) the idea that there is sympathy for them is excellent. It could add quite a few inner conflicts. I think there should also be sympathy from them, like from Dayl when hunting down his companion, and feelings in general like guilt (from Dayl for example) knowing that he is betraying his people and friends.
    I like the idea of separating them into two groups – the mindless and the more human... very useful.
    (TWErvin2) Their “creators” are the evil witch and his disciples so they ought to be responsible for the two different types of Undead. There is an Undead king, there is a “hitman” (Dayl), there are well organized hosts, and there are swarms left to bring chaos onto lands and people.
    (Ellipse) Their outlook and even their level of consciousness will depend on the witch and his disciples. They might be given purpose, they might be given a way of life, or they could be left to their own insanity. They will have a difficult time remembering their past unless someone helps them. That way we have communities with a way of life, memory, desires. We have hosts or individuals (Dayl) given purpose, and we have the least fortunate who will be left to their impulses – murder and chaos like the ravaging swarms of Undead I mentioned and just like the scourge in World of Warcraft. That will make it difficult for an Undead to find his own purpose and oppose the evil witch since the witch and his disciples are their first and most dominant influence. For example, if a group is revived and immediately told - “Now rise and spread the chaos!” that is probably what they'll do.
    (TobiasJames) What I want is the exact opposite of a zombie story with Hollywood cliches. That is why I would rather reject the idea of a lust for human blood/flesh.
    Neither do I want them to seem stupid or primitive, so I guess I'll go for the high register whenever they speak.
    Now for the appearance and physical traits. Maybe, again, it's up to the evil witch and his disciples to decide. Maybe the Undead will remain as they are when revived: one who's flesh has disappeared will return as a skeletal being. One such as Dayl who was revived soon enough will return with his skin and the wounds will heal. He was stabbed many times before dying, so he will have quite a few scars – still handsome but scarred! How's that for a rule? – no nerves, no pain; no stomach, no hunger.
    I like the pale skin so that will be a common trait. All will be immortals when concerning natural death.
    So what do you guys think? All criticism welcome. Thanks.
     

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