Sunday, May 14, 2006

Crap! I'm rewriting Robert Jordan!

Kellie points to a couple of quiz-things (here and here) that test out one's fantasy-novel-in-progress to see how clicheed it is, and I figured, heck, why not jump through the paces with regard to The Promised King.

First, there's a quiz to test one's heroes for clichees. On the "Hero" side, I checked all the marks for Gwynwhyfar that are in any way applicable (in my opinion), and she came out with a score of 60, which is held to be unacceptably clicheed. Funny thing is, I only checked off about ten total boxes in the entire list (and it's a long list), so the ones I did check off must be pretty weighted. I'd differ with a few interpretations, though: for instance, if your character is female, you're supposed to check off if she "belongs to a religion that glorifies the sacred feminine". Well, Gwyn's actually preparing to enter the Sisterhood of Dona, the Goddess, so that counts. But, in my world, this isn't some secret female-cult open only to women, and there isn't a lot of tension between this sect and the "male sect" that's devoted to a male god. There are male priests, "Brothers", who serve Dona as well, so I'm not comfortable with the weight assigned to checking this mark. Also, the questions about the character's sex life don't even apply, because I just haven't thought about it at all. I don't know if Gwyn is a virgin or not, because it just isn't important to my story.

Anyway, onto the villains. The Promised King has several villains, operating at different levels (and eventually their own goals will turn out to not be totally aligned, either), but I went with the one we see most often, as opposed to the evil God who lurks behind it all. That would be King Cwerith of Gwynedd. He comes in at a 44, which appears to be dangerously clicheed. Again, not sure I buy this -- I had to mark that yes, in all honesty, he does hail from a "dark, imposing keep", but that keep is never an actual location of any of the events in my story, so why count it?

Finally, there's the fantasy novelist's exam, which is a series of yes/no questions. Scoring here is simple: answering any question in the affirmative constitutes failure and determines that the book-in-progress is crap. Well, OK, then. Of course, the quiz pretty much rules out just about the entire Epic Fantasy genre, so if we're trying to cull out the Jordan-esque crap, I don't think we're doing anybody any favors if we jettison the George R.R. Martin's of the genre as well.

But specifically, a few questions here bug me. Several refer to the common fantasy thing where older, mystical characters speak in vague, riddle-like terms about what is to come. Yeah, I have characters that do that -- but most of them actually admit that they speak like that because they have no idea what the prophecies really mean. That's something, isn't it? I'm also pleased that my book has only two "races", and none of them are elvish in nature; the "Fair Folk" are, well, basically humans who are a bit more magically endowed, and that's it.

So all in all, I think I come out fairly well. I'm not claiming in any way that TPK isn't derivative, since it's an Arthurian fantasy and all, but at the very least I can pride myself in not just transcribing in purple prose the events of one of my former AD&D campaigns.


Mesmacat said...

Who gives a rats about quizzes and tests. The questions you need to be asking are about how clearly you near the voices of the characters and who are they in your imagination?

Do you hear the triumph and glee of your baddy and the moments of uncertainty when it seems as though the grand plan may be challenged by pitful human emotions, that anceint hurt in softer times, or those doubts about the greatness so much deserved. Do you feel the beauty of an act of evil so sumbline in its intricacy it is like poetry projected into a narrative of the world as it has to be.

And for all of your characters. Do they keep you awake in the night, beause you have to find the right sentence or idea to express their own sense of themseves, and what faces them. Do you hear conversations between them where they fight as they might in real life to be heard over the ire and stubborness of their partner. DO they demand you rewrite an entire passage or chapter because you have some dumb idea about telling them what to do, and actually you are the conduit through which the world will get to understand what they actually feel and what really happend to them.

Does the love between your characters delight them as much as it frustrates them? DO they find themselves thrown between dismissal and that impossible to ignore ache for another. Are there tiny details about one or the other that can be the seed of dark thoughts or a moment of pure bliss?

Are you true to their journey? Do you understand what it is about being a human being, or something like them, that they are discovering by taking it?

There are thousands of legitimate questions for a writer, and for a writer of fantasy. I will never for a moment suggest what anyone else has to do, but I will say, don't worry about the vultures enjoying the humour of past remembered forms in the fantasy genre and having their few minutes of fame for making it all seem so cool to point out the mistakes.

Outlive the mistakes, write yourself out of them. Don't stop trying until, you start to wonder whether your characters lives are more important than your own plans and intentions. Don't stop until they have become the boss and you have to let them have their way, like a parent, thogh every ready to shape the final 5% that teaches them in your discovery of the truth of your own story, what they cannot know because you are ultimately the one who has to pen the words that let them breath and let them find themselves.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Oh, I don't much care about quizzes about this type of thing. This was more of a way to fill space on the blog than anything else. One person's worn clichees are another person's venerable and beloved tropes, after all!

(Thanks for stopping by!)