1. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    On considering the direction of my story

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Orihalcon, Aug 8, 2013.

    I'm not sure if this is the right place; I apologize in advance if it isn't.

    I have a setting for a book I've begun writing. It takes place in modern day Europe (or North America - I haven't decided and I'm not sure how important it is). It centers around a young woman who discovers that she's a witch: to overly simplify, this means that she has the ability to manipulate nature and the "atoms of magic". Witches also establish a bond with a spirit from the "spirit realm". She befriends a few other witches and attracts the unwanted attention of a group of religious zealots who consider manipulating nature and consorting with spirits to be blasphemous.

    Here's what I can't decide on. Either the zealots are simply human beings who use modern weaponry and technology to hunt these witches, or they are people who are assisted by guardian angels from the "light realm", and they also have the ability to manipulate the atoms of magic. The choice does make a radical difference in what direction I may take the story. I cannot for the life of me decide where I want to go. The first option would inject the story with a bit of suspense and thriller, while the latter would lift its supernatural action elements to higher levels.

    Here's what I'm thinking: They're two significantly different directions and it really is up to me, BUT! Is one of these directions one that may have hidden traps unknown to me that could break the story? Is there something about one of them that has potential that the other does not?
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just off the bat, it seems to me that if the zealots can also manipulate the "atoms of magic", you're turning to a story of competing witches (although the zealots wouldn't see themselves that way, of course) versus a battle of beliefs/repression. So I think you need to start looking at what theme you want to write about.
     
  3. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    I agree with [MENTION=30989]shadowwalker[/MENTION] -- If the zealots also have the power, then where (or how) will you ask moral or thematic questions (that is, will your protagonist be on the right or wrong side of the use of magic? The zealots?)?
     
  4. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    I haven't yet decided whether manipulating the atoms of magic would be considered as blasphemy by the zealots; it's the manipulation of nature itself and their relations with spirits that they oppose.

    I suppose one could make the distinction clearer by saying that the zealots's ability to manipulate the atoms of magic is a latent ability that require a guardian angel to tap into. To take it further, perhaps they aren't even manipulating the atoms of magic. If the spirits are from the spirit realm, and we let magic be connected to that realm, then these zealots are using a different kind of energy that originates from the light realm where angels dwell? Then we would essentially have people who have "sided with" the light realm hunting others who have "sided with" the spirit realm.

    I want to avoid moral hypocrisy from the zealots. I don't want to make them clear cut as "bad guys"; their cause should be fully justified by their beliefs, even if their zeal is extreme. In either case - whether the zealots possess extraordinary superhuman abilities or not - the case needs to be that it is not a matter of whether their belief is right or wrong; the ambiguity lies in how far they are willing to go in exercising their belief. There is certainly a possibility of witches who, based on this persecution, may go after those with strong religious beliefs.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You might consider the deeper ramifications. Why are the witches evil and the angels good?
     
  6. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Do the witches have a history of using their magic for evil or oppressing the nonmagical?
    If the zealots use magic, there should definitely be a different method of tapping this power, something to separate their abilities. Maybe the zealots' magic is more academic: sign X carved on material Y creates effect Z. And the witches are more right-brained: intuitive, imaginative, creative.
    You could also split the difference and have the zealots use magically-powered machinery.
     
  7. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    Personally I like having them just use technology better. If they were magic users as well that would just make them seem like hypocrites to me, even if they didn't see their magic as the same as the witches magic. I'm also kind of a fan of the concept of a regular person being able to take down a supernatural force through, good planning, cleverness, or just sheer determination.
     
  8. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    If I decide to go with the option that the zealots can use "magic", then it needs to be so that using it does not make them hypocrites; I don't want to consider either side "good" or "evil". Just like people have suffered and died for being accused of witchery - even innocent people - surely at least one witch has used her magic to bring suffering and death to others. Whatever magic the zealots use must come from some other source - the light realm as I suggested - in order to clearly separate it and distinguish it from what the witches use.

    (Wow, I just had a déjà vu - it feels like I've written this post before!)

    I think I might go with the first option after all. The latter option brings the setting additional complexity, and I can't really see a worthwhile payoff for this added complexity and using modern technology does give plenty enough headroom for creative strategies and tactics without making them overpowered relative to the witches.
     
  9. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Good and evil are subjective and depends on your view point (with is why I like Game of Thrones so much - particularly the books - because you get to see the world though the different sides eyes you can see that they are not evil, but they do see that they are right and it is the others who are wrong - just like in the real world).

    In the real world, the witch hunts were used as an excuse to get rid of women who were too strong. Midwives and people who helped others were often the targets. History has changed it's mind on who was "evil"
     
  10. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    The witch hunts had different motives, and women and also men were accused of witchery for different reasons. The common denominator that religion was used to portray witchery as evil or immoral, and that witches therefore needed to be killed. You're right that good and evil is subjective. When I said that I don't want to place these labels on either side, I meant just that; it's all about perspective. My point was that regardless of what direction I go with, the zealots needs to be antagonists rather than villains.
     
  11. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    I'd say to stick with technology. Partly because having the Zealots practising magic even though it's from a different source seems a bit odd considering they're killing people for magic and partly because it makes things less complicated but in my opinion more interesting when both sides have a different way of fighting.
     
  12. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    Because witches are made of wood and float in the water, of course! (This is a self-evident fact to even the squishiest of ducks)
     
  13. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    But the entire point is that their "magic" is clearly different from that of the witches and that it may be viewed as "gifts from God" since they would have guardian angels. There's nothing odd about it relative to the setting. They are blessed by God and given powers by God to hunt down those who they consider violate natuer and the ways of God. It certainly is interesting with two sides having different ways of fighting, but both sides fighting in similar ways have worked before, like in Harry Potter, so it's really more about execution or implementation of the idea that would matter here. That is, if I do decide to go in that direction. Which I'm sort of sure I won't. I'm too lazy to write out elaborate action scenes.
     
  14. Pyraeus
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    Pyraeus Member

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    I feel a little geeky bringing it up, but you could maybe have a look at the magic from DnD? I can think of three different kinds of magic users from that you draw their power from different things.

    Sorcerers have Dragon blood in their veins and so through their Draconic heritage they can cast magic; they don't know as many spells as a college-trained mage but they can cast them more frequently.

    Wizards have trained for years to learn their art; they cannot cast spells as frequently as Sorcerers, but they have a larger selection to choose from.

    Warlocks are unlike the other two; they receive their magic from an otherworldly power such as a demon or fae; they make a pact with one of these beings, darkening their souls but allowing them to perform their magic. They use "invocations" instead of proper spells; these represent the tapping of the power given to them, and unlike Sorcerers and Wizards, who can only cast each spell a certain amount of times a day, Warlocks don't have a limit on the number of times an invocation can be used.

    If you did decide to go for magic (seems you've decided not to) you could have the Witches and the Zealots use one of the above for inspiration; maybe Witches gain their power in a way similar to a Warlock's, making a deal with a spirit and using incantations and the like to tap their power; Zealots could draw on their power through their bloodline (maybe they believe their family line was blessed by one of these guardian angels - or perhaps it actually was)

    The Zealots might believe that the Witches are not worthy of magic because they gain it from consorting with spirits, while the Zealots believe they have been given it because they are blessed; maybe Zealot magic is based around the use of light and healing, which can be considered good, positive things, while the Witches typically have powers like control of flame and the like, which can be considered bad and destructive. It's up to you really.
     
  15. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    It seems pretty clear which route you've chosen as far as the magic issue is concerned. But it does seem like you have a few more questions to ask yourself:
    You don't want to assign roles of Good or Evil to either group, but why are the groups in conflict? If the zealots get their powers from what we are given to believe is an all-knowing supreme deity, then wouldn't those chosen to receive angelic powers be deserving?
    What makes the witches' spirits so different from the angels?
    If the zealots aren't "good guys", but they aren't hypocrites, then what's left is idiocy. And if they don't know what they're doing, then why are they doing it? If the guy giving the orders isn't a hypocrite, then it's a case of Witches VS Morons. *
     
  16. Malo Beto
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    Malo Beto Member

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    You forgot divine casters Pyraeus. It sounds to me like the zealots would be more likely to get their powers by praying to their god like a D&D cleric would.
     
  17. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    [MENTION=37178]Pyraeus[/MENTION]: Thank you for the suggestions :) I've already established the nature behind the magic that witches use, so I don't see any need to change any of it. As for whether the powers of zealot, I have a rough idea but haven't decided yet, and that's not really what this threadis about, hehe ^^ I like the idea about bloodlines. It's almost an obvious option, and I've no idea why I didn't think of it before.

    [MENTION=38020]ManOrAstroMan[/MENTION]: Zealots are either human or have had their powers granted to them by their guardian angels, who don't reside in the same realm as spirits, but a different realm. Witches are believed to deal with demons and go against God by using witchery or "ungodly magic". The zealots have conviction in their religious belief and believe they are doing good by ridding the world of witches. You may think it's idiocy, you may have moral objections to it, but that doesn't stop you from considering their point of view and trying to understand why they believe that they are good and witches are evil.
     
  18. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Here's what I meant by idiocy:
    If the the zealots aren't good--which is odd, if their powers are granted by heavenly beings--and their war on witches isn't based on hypocritical distinctions between the two magic types, then they must be blindly following orders to destroy the witches, based on faulty or corrupted information, which implies that the one giving the orders is a hypocrite of some stripe.
    And if it turned out that the zealots were truly in the wrong in their anti-witch policies, then wouldn't their heaven-granted powers be revoked?
     
  19. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    Why must it be that they are blindly following orders? Even if they were, why must it be based on faulty or corrupted information? Also, what defines good and evil?

    I'm not sure what it is you're really asking after, but I suspect you may have misunderstood something. Try not to think in terms of "good" and "evil". It's two sides with different perspectives.
     
  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My question becomes: What are you asking the reader then to ponder, what are you exploring thematically, with these two perspectives?
     
  21. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    When a conflict between two sides arises, either the two sides come to an agreement or the conflict is allowed to continue until one side surrenders. One can't ask the other to simply give up and expect this to happen, but what if the other side is directly bringing harm to oneself? What does one do when one is subject to such harm and the moral ambiguity is too large to reasonably settle things without either side feeling diminished?

    The fact is that, regardless of their intentions, these witches possess supernatural powers that can be abused. There is nothing really controlling them, it is hard to carry out justice against those who abuse their powers, and its scientifically inexplicable nature does begin to raise questions about spirituality, religion, life after death, morality, and so on.
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ok. I can see some parallels one could draw to real world dynamics. (I'm just woolgathering here with you, brainstorming. :)) In the real world you have 'super power' governments (my own for example) that, though economic epicenters are shifting, still possess more than enough military might to inflict and impose harm on others. Whether they do or don't is a different debate, but the undeniable truth is that they can if they wish, and with greater ease than would be comfortable to any reasonable person.

    Here you have a cultural parallel that can be drawn. I understand that most of Scandinavia is a good bit more secular than countries like the U.S., but here, when you get folks in close quarters and a few beers in them, even the stoutest atheist finds it next to impossible to completely shake off the cultural shackles of 'God as Boogieman', the idea that maybe, juuuuust maybe, no matter how ridiculous the fairy tale of religion sounds to the logical brain of the atheist, there may just be a place where people burn and shaking one's fist too loudly at the non-existent God is less than advisable.
     
  23. badgerjelly
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    badgerjelly Member

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    I think you should focus on the theme of the story rather than the setting.

    You can only really set your story within a world you are familiar with. For this reason when deciding on the "where" and "what" of the setting think about "where" you know and "what" you know.

    Sorry if this sounds like simplistic advice but I have found time and time again that simplistic forms tend to elude and
    subsequently destabilise what could have been a solid, cohesive idea.
     
  24. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    [MENTION=3885]Wreybies[/MENTION]: Good points there. Certainly one can - and should - draw parallels to real world today, from political conflicts to cultural clashes - as your post suggests.

    I think that the louder voice inthis thread - that only witches should possess supernatural powers - lends itself easier to accent the themes one would like to touch on with this conflict. It reduces needless complexity and gives me more headroom. The only thing keeping me back, I feel, is that at some point I want a few of these witches to actually use their powers in an actual battle, and I'm not sure how to pull that off in a fun, intense way without putting them against an opponent who can also use "magic". It seems though that it's very hard to give zealots any abilities without raising a lot of other questions and potentially confuse readers or obscure a message or theme I want to convey. There is, of course, the alternative of having witches battle each other, but I can't shake off the feeling that something like that would lie too close to Harry Potter...
     
  25. Wreybies
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    I would actually consider it essential that the reader be able to draw parallels to real life, otherwise the theme has no footing, nothing to compare with, for the reader. :)

    Could the battle be an internal one? A civil war, so to speak. That would give you plenty of room to explore the other side of the coin, the group that has no magic. Imagine the panic of being caught in a battle that, worse than trying to destroy you, isn't even concerned with you or your outcome. Does the lion or the hyena give a rats arse if they trample a meerkat den during a fight between pride and pack? ;)
     

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