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Fantasy Friday! Can Your Character Survive A Flaw?

These days, all characters have flaws be it physical, mental or emotional. So if you give your main character a flaw that is integral to your story can your character survive said flaw?

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George R. R. Martin gives us a great example in Tyrion from A Song of Fire and Ice series (better known as HBO’s Game of Thrones). He’s a dwarf with physical limitations to his legs. Not only this but he’s viewed negatively by most everyone around him because of his flaws. He even gains a few more during the course of the series through battle as well as toting a load of emotional baggage. As effective as this characterization is, could he actually survive this flaw as long as he has in real life?

FightingI’m glad you asked. There’s a more recent archaeological discovery that has subsequently brought just such a real-life case to light. Richard III of England’s grave was discovered under a parking lot 2011. For those who are unfamiliar with Richard, he died in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 which pretty much ended the Wars of the Roses. One way he was identified was by a specific physical handicap – severe scoliosis or curvature of the spine. By severe I mean a 30% curvature – very noticeable. The unusual thing is that all accounts of the battle indicate that Richard fought with great skill and nearly won the battle. He unhorsed a jousting champion, killed Henry Tudor’s standard-bearer and almost killed Henry.

A recent episode of Secrets of the Dead actually examined whether Richard III could actually have functioned as a knight on the battlefield. They found a volunteer with very similar scoliosis and began to determine what his physical capabilities were. They realized that Richard would have needed specially designed armor and that the medieval saddle would have benefited him with greater support. In the show, they were able to outfit their volunteer and give him some basic training as a re-enactor. They were even able to show that Richard would have been able to ride in the charge and effectively use weaponry.

knights fightingHowever, physical limitations were also discovered. The re-enactor had less stamina due to the scoliosis affecting his ability to breathe well during exertion. In spite of Richard’s skills and training he may well have been just as limited.

Richard lost the battle for a number of reasons one of which was Lord Stanley’s failure to advance behind the initial charge. But Richard favored fast charges and ending battles quickly. If you lacked stamina for long physical exertions you would likely choose the same strategy. However, in this instance the charge actually took much longer. I could see Richard almost making it to victory only to be thwarted by his own malady as much as other circumstances. This one time, Richard likely misjudged the circumstances due to “the fog of war”. Had he known or thought it through better he might have chosen a different strategy. But maybe all outcomes would have been the same if Lord Stanley was indeed a traitor.

So as a writer of fantasy, I’m looking harder at my future characters and the flaws I can give them just to twist my plots tighter. Can my character’s survive their flaws? Will they be trapped into exposing their difficulties to enemies through lack of choices – political and otherwise? It’s certainly a way to add more spice to conflict in a story.

Book Cover Green Top & Bottom Cover - CopyPlease share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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photos via Morguefile.com – free section and Microsoft Office clipart

coverart commissioned

 

Fantasy Friday! Cavernous Kingdoms Aren’t Real – Or Are They?

If there’s a common fantasy theme that’s almost a trope it’s dwarven kingdoms of huge proportions. All those dwarven kingdoms hiding beneath fantasy mountains couldn’t exist though – right? There are no caves that long or deep. People don’t live like that out of the sun. That’s right isn’t it? It’s just the stuff of fantasy and that’s fine if you can stand that well-worn trope once again.

Or isn’t it?

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Here are some real-life underground, caves and dwellings that defy your understanding of what’s possible and where people have – and do – still live.

Cavernous Kingdoms 1First, let’s talk about caves. Most of us think of the tight places of tales and local legends and maybe visited a few pretty amazing caves with some pretty amazing formations. I’ve been in a few over the years and some provided quite a trek. But fantasy books come up with some pretty outlandish settings that just can’t exist – right. Wrong. There are some places underground around the world that have never been fully explored because they are so enormous. Some were lived in by numerous people on a daily basis. Let’s visit some:

First, here’s a list of the deepest caves in the world from Wikipedia. The deepest of which, Krubera, was explored in a National Geographic special.

But what about those massive caves described in some books which go on for who knows how long? Yep, those exist too. Case in point – Hang Son Doong in Vietnam which has some mind-blowing proportions and has never been fully explored.

Next, let’s discus cavernous dwellings because everyone knows that while people have taken shelter in caves for thousands of year there just aren’t vast dwellings out there. Well, there are some examples.

Derinkuyu – this underground city in Turkey is actually the largest of numerous, ancient underground cities in the region. This place could hold thousands of people – and animals.

NCavernous Kingdoms2abateans/Petra – is an ancient city built into a mountain which is famous from movies. The Nabateans were able to store and control their water supply in cisterns with a system of channels. This location became the main stopping point along caravan routes which meant the inhabitants collected lots of money in taxes. He who controls the water controls the gold.

What about those vast mines dwarves are always making? Yep there are several. One excellent example is Wielczka Salt Mines. This mine was open for about 700 years in Poland and runs for over 170 miles. It is adorned with statues and chapels and is now a major tourist attraction.

Cavernous Kingdoms 3So when reading fantasy and those incredible dwarven kingdoms are part of the plot, they have some basis in reality. Whenever there’s a major underground trip in a book, it may not even rival what exists in the real world. Authors would do well to research many of these caves, cities and mines as they provide excellent source material for describing them in any work of fiction, especially fantasy. Take a look around on the internet and you’ll find that people still live in underground complexes all over the world so don’t rule out books because you think of this as a well-worn trope in fantasy literature – it’s already well-worn in real life.

Book Cover Green Top & Bottom Cover - CopyPlease share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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Photos via morfile.com free section

 

Fantasy Friday! Traipsing through the Tropes

Courtesy MorgueFile.com

Courtesy MorgueFile.com

The falcon soared on the morning wind. It spied two figures around a fire and dove. It circled the pair of men talking about their fire.

An old man stirred the pot that hung over the fire. “When we reach the city we can find help and re-gain your kingdom.”

The young man scratched his head. “Funny to think a poor orphan like me is heir to a kingdom.”

The bird of prey alighted on a branch and cocked it’s head. “A common trope lingering in this wilderness? I must hear more!”

The orphan-prince and others are common in fantasy. From Tolkien onward it’s almost prerequisite to use the trope in epic fantasy – so much so that many readers are turned off by it. Many have fled to gray fantasy were there are no clear delineations between good and evil, right and wrong.

But why is the notion and others like it used so often? A missing heir or one who was usurped is excellent for conflict. Likewise, the orphan elicits sympathy through perceived weakness. It likely roots much further back in history to many tales of fallen nations and city-states. One such example is that of the Princes in the Tower during the Wars of the Roses.

Courtesy MorgueFile.com

Courtesy MorgueFile.com

This plot element has some basic uses for writing in fantasy the main one being conflict. The political or ethical conflict behind this trope and others like it are the grist of many a fantasy. These constructs have ready-made rivalries so it’s easy to use when writing.

Is the average tale of winning back the kingdom for the old family’s sake worth telling? In my opinion yes – but only as necessary. I think a writer must ask themselves the question, “Can it be told differently?” If the answer is no then the author should use this trope – or any other common one.

However, to use a common trope, one must do so with care or risk turning off readers. Some twisting is necessary so be inventive. If I want a well-worn path for my reading, I’ll just pick up my copy of Tolkien.

But if the answer to the question above is yes, then start re-plotting your outline. What the story can bear in being unique in the marketplace is most important.

Whichever way you go consider your presentation. Don’t follow in someone else’s footprints. Forge off the beaten path – trope or not.

The young man lifted his arm and balled his hand. “I’ll win back the kingdom!” His sleeve slid and revealed his forearm.

The old man leaned forward and squinted. “Your arm – there’s no mark.”

“Of course not. What are you talking about?”

The elderly fellow commenced packing his things. “You’re not the one.”

“What do you mean? You said I was.”

“I was wrong.”

The falcon screeched. “Looks like they have a twist. How far will it go.”

The old man hefted his pack and marched away.

“Wait! What will I do now? What does this mark look like?” The poor orphan grabbed the old man. “Maybe we can do this anyway.”

Just because the trope has been used is no reason not to use it. While readers may assume much based on the trope and reject the book out of hand there is no edict against using the basic concept of a common trope – just use it well and communicate with your blurb that you usage is different.

The Bow of DestinyWhat tropes bother you? Have you got a common trope that you’re using anyway? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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Clip art licensed from Microsoft Office.