Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A word at a time: Intro

They say to write about what one knows! It’s a good advice.
Personally, I think it’s a better idea to write about what no-one knows!

Actually, if you analyze the past two sentences, you’ll notice they are not quite the opposite. In fact they both appeal to one thing: write about something that others cannot prove you wrong.
It’s true, if an historian writes about ancient Egypt, then there is a good chance he knows what he’s talking about and at most some other will disagree in a point that has never been fully proved, which brings us back to the second sentence: they disagree about what no-one knows, and therefore the historian did not, technically, made a mistake.

Now you can argue that what he could actually have done was a “suspension of belief”, that is intentionally telling a lie in the attempt to improve the story he was telling. We’ll be back at this shortly.

The point is that the first sentence works well, but only for specialists. You can argue that non-specialists can do research, but that either means they become specialists or, very likely, will get something wrong.
The second sentence gives you a lot of freedom, since it is much less restrictive than the first. There are shades of grey between the two, of course, but those would need a post all for themselves.

This is why I think fantasy to be a great genre to write about, because you set upfront that whatever you write will be set in a world that we have no knowledge about and therefore there is nothing you can’t justify (even if the explanation is “magic” you’re still right), but overall any type of speculative fiction possess these possibilities.

However, even in the more mundane types of fiction the second sentence usually takes priority over the first. A good example is love stories!
What do I mean with “love stories”? Well, how many of you know exactly how a relation is supposed to go? Anyone...? No-one…? Oh wait, you in the back! Oh! You just want to go to the bathroom. Second door on the right!
Most love stories usually include someone doing something that no-one in their right mind would do, but that doesn’t mean that someone wouldn’t do it. You can say it never happened, but you can’t prove someone wasn’t disposed to do it.

Suspension of belief is a sort of grey area, it usually involves things that can be proved wrong but that people accept in the context of the story. Like a fictional street on a real city or the ability to clone dinosaurs. However the use of suspension of belief must be used with some care.
While you can justify basically anything in a fictional world, even the most ludicrous things, with a bit of story development and good sense, suspension of belief usually implies the reader (or viewer or whatever) knowing that things are wrong. In fact, one can say that suspension of belief follows a normal curve in which the left side represents what’s too ridiculous to accept and the right side what’s not ridiculous enough to know it’s wrong. The height of the curve represents the amount of acceptance.
What this means is that people are willing to accept an otherwise normal people would survive an explosion, but wouldn’t accept the same person surviving a meteor strike.
Similarly if I said Nero burned Rome was I telling the truth or not? Most people are willing to accept this to be true, however there is no proof that he did and in fact is rather unlikely. This type of suspension of belief can be dangerous if not used with care.

I intend to make “A word at a time” a regular feature of this here blog, focusing with each post a different aspect of story writing. Obviously it will be a personal account, so you’re free to disagree and comment.

See you next time!

Edit: It has been called to my attention that it appears I consider fantasy superior to what I call "mundane". This is not true! I simply meant that I find it easier to write for the first. I used mundane to describe stories that generally take place in the "real world" and not, as it might seem, to describe common literature.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Early November!

Simply put, V for Vendetta is the best movie I’ve seen this year, and most likely will remain so until its end.

I’ve never read the graphic novel. I don’t know how similar the movie is to the origin, passing through the pages I saw things that are identical and others that have little to do, but that’s not what’s important here.

First off, one must be aware that V for Vendetta is political by nature, on essence it’s an updated version from Nineteen eighty four that does not mean it should be seen simply as such, because it isn’t.

There is no other film I can think off that is built quite like this movie, yet it works surprisingly well, delivering several stories while being only one while at the same time combining fast paced scenes with more quite ones. It’s almost impossible not to feel a chill up your spine in some of the tensest scenes, the montages that often appear in the crucial moments often being the exponent of this.

The acting is rather nice. Natalie Portman does the job, but it’s Hugo Weaving to get the prize. Although you never get to see his face he can transmit emotions purely through voice and body movement.

This is not a movie about revenge, although the initial act is pretty much it, it’s a great movie that belongs inside your DVD player.

I only regret not getting the DVD sooner!

Ps: I would have placed a pretty picture, but Blogger appears to be on strike about the issue

Friday, September 15, 2006

The streets of Ankh-Morpork

Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh, Commander of the city Watch, married to the richest woman in town, and it only took one freak storm, which coincidentally was magically charged and struck right while he was chasing a criminal atop a big metal dome covering the Unseen University Library (which is therefore very high in the magic department too) to take it all… (at least until the end of the book).

Night Watch is the twenty-seventh novel in the Discworld series (main collection, I’m not counting all the other stuff. I don’t know if I can count that high either.) and the sixth in the city Watch sub-series. It is also amongst one of Terry Pratchett best works.

Long story short, Samuel Vimes is sent thirty year into the past mostly due to the events I describe earlier! I say mostly because there is a little detail which is that part of the events which cause the events that eventually (still with me?) lead to the plot of Night Watch are the events taking place in Thief of Time. I mention this because it’s just that little kind of thing that makes the literary experience all the better. This is not new in Pratchett’s works, he uses it extensively in the Rincewind sub-series, but the cool part here is that the relation is only hinted at (mostly because they’re two different stories), making the realization of this much more rewarding.


Vimes is now stuck in the past, but Carcer, a maniac assassin he was chasing came with him. And while the sense of nostalgia actually feels good, he can’t just stop to smell the flowers because these are not easy times, a revolution is just next door, the place is ruled by madmen, and it seems one of things Vimes is better at is making enemies (nothing new here then). As if it wasn’t enough, the man who taught him everything he knew was killed, so now he has to become the man that taught him everything he knew while, among other things, make sure the past happens so he has a future to go back into.

This is most probably one of the best Discworld novels, but is also slighter darker in tone than most. If you know and like the character (If you don’t like the character then I suggest you to finish pre-school first) then this book is your book, because this book is all about Vimes! (not that the other’s aren’t there of course, they’re just a lot younger. Now thinking of it, Vimes is also a lot younger, but that’s the other Vimes, the one that didn’t travel back in time… yet.)

Carcer, the main villain, is evil, cruel cold hearted, and worse of all: smart. In fact he is probably amongst the worst villains in all the Discworld books (Mr. Teatime from Hogfather probably would join him for a cup of coffee though.)

All in all, a bloody good book!

Ps: I’ll probably make Review-o-rama part 2 about everything I read/watched/played in the summer soon. Unless I get lazy or get my hands on a copy of V for Vendetta soon.