Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Sword & Sorcery

Here's a post about sword & sorcery, with ideas on how to make it more popular today. My thoughts ...

1. Length

Largely true. By all means, stories about the same character or setting are very popular in crowdfunding and other online venues. But don't forget the folks who want something they can pick up without need to find episodes 1-8 first. Bookstores kinda suck now because the shelves are mostly filled with fragments, not whole stories. :/

2. Clones

Valid to a point. Originality is precious. However, loads of people love revisiting old favorites, hence the prevalence of fanfic. But some 'echo' fantasy is quite good.

So, in the case of Tolkien you end up with: Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs, trilogies or longer novelizations, good versus evil, Halflings, the artifact hunt/quest, and the reborn dark lord from 1,000 years in the past.

It can also be fun to start from scratch and make whole new races. That's what I did with A Conflagration of Dragons, except for the dragons (although I did a fresh build on them too).

3. Hack-and-Slash (and the movie experience)

In my observation, this depends on multiple factors including but not limited to:

* Whether it's possible to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys at a glance. This used to be easy, but now they usually dress the same and act the same and it's like watching a football game in the rain. After five minutes everyone's covered in mud and nobody knows where the ball is and your hot dog is soggy. :/

* How well the author understands combat, choreographs fight scenes, and describes the action. You should be able to tell where everyone is and what they're doing.

* A sense of meaning. Each skirmish should add tension to the overall flow of action. It shouldn't feel perfunctory.

Yes, I'm often bored by movies that consist primarily of people hitting each other. If I liked that sort of thing, I'd watch boxing.

4. Grey characters and anti-heroes

For fucksake, make sure your story includes someone to root for. Without likable characters, why are we even here? It's fine to have some moral quandaries, but you need to represent a full spectrum for any of it to have meaning. If everything washes out to gray, there's no point.

George R.R. Martin bores me to tears. Almost all the characters are assholes, and the few who aren't wind up as punching bags for the rest. It's one of those worlds where good, not evil, is a fatal flaw. Do Not Want. >_<

What we really need is something I've seen in Terramagne but not here: electronic subscription bundles for short fiction. So each town, state, etc. could have a cache of material by local writers. You could have some with different themes. If you curate the writers rather than each individual piece, then they can upload new ones as those get written -- which is quite a lot like the pulps and newspapers that used to have a 'stable' of writers with avid audiences. It's also similar to how crowdfunding builds audiences now, but would include more than one writer. It has an advantage over current ezines because it's a 'push' model (sending things to subscribers) rather than a 'pull' model (making people visit the website). Think about how waiting rooms get cluttered with outdated paper magazines. By all means, leave those, but add a few e-readers for access to always-fresh content. (If you're worried about theft, you can always fasten them to a chair with a cord, like people do for pens.) Much the same would work in libraries, coffeehouses, and so on.

Happily, this is something that anyone could start up in their locale. Lots more people write and publish now, because the internet has made it so much easier -- and more writing means more practice, which improves quality over time. Does your place of work have a waiting room or breakroom? Start there. Does your library hype local writers? That's another option.

I think the genre would benefit from more variety, too. Look at the sword & soul variation, which is African-inspired sword & sorcery. You can do that with any culture.

Look in my Serial Poetry page, and you'll see Kande's Quest. I saw someone say that nobody ever based Always Chaotic Evil races on white people, so I just had to write that -- and it was a perfect fit for sword & soul. A grand quest, magic and mayhem, and evil demons. :D
Tags: fantasy, how to, networking, reading, writing
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