Six ways of using the insider

Now that the reading for my exams is finally letting up a bit, I can write another rant!

The “insider” in the title of this post means someone who’s a native member of the culture/world you’re writing about, or at least familiar with it. A common worldbuilding trick in fantasy is to bring a visitor, a sheltered innocent, or sometimes a complete alien, as in modern-day people crossing over from Earth, into the picture so you have someone who will ask questions about aspects of the culture and can be Explained At. But outsiders have problems, too, the most pernicious of which is limiting the stories you can tell. Using the other half of the equation and telling fantasy stories with insiders is very far from impossible. And no, it does not need to involve the characters telling each other in monologues what they should have known already.

Here are ways of doing itCollapse )

I’m open to suggestions about what to do next.

Casual worldbuilding

This rant is similar to others I’ve done—particularly in that it’s a means of getting around long infodumps—but I hope it’ll help to contribute to a sense of a detailed, living world and culture (or cultures!) on a level other than philosophy and metaphysics. After all, not all your characters will be given to those kinds of abstractions, and others will have no opportunity to come into contact with them, and your world might lack the printing press, academies of philosophy, and other easy ways to transfer them. Yet those characters are still part of the story and in contact with your created culture and world, and ideas can exist outside theories.

So here are some ways they might existCollapse )

Maybe the next rant can be on the history of cultures. If so, it is entirely the fault of that last point.

Gender-equal societies

A few people asked for a rant on gender-equal societies. Like the rant on domestic fantasy, this is much more of a ‘how-to’: considerations that might help you, rather than “Lord, I am so sick of this” (though there’s a bit of that). I’ve read relatively few gender-equal fantasies in comparison to fantasies where one gender is dominant, though, so, like domestic fantasy, attitudes towards this kind of fantasy are more my targets than the books themselves.

A disclaimer of sortsCollapse )

The rantCollapse )

I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, and I’m sure I have biases showing through here I’m not aware of. I hope some of these are still useful, given that.

Rant on domestic fantasy

This is part rant, part how-to. One reason I think not very much domestic fantasy is written is the sheer lack of models; it’s much easier to walk the paths of, say, the save-the-world plot because there’s so much of it out there to show you how to do it.

But I think there should be more domestic fantasy, because I like itCollapse )

I think there should be more of this kind of writing, if only because it would vary the deeper parts of fantasy novels—plot structure and pacing, for example—as well as the kinds of events and protagonists available.

Ten ways of making all-powerful, unique protagonists tolerable

I don’t think it’s easy, mind. But it can be done.

Read more...Collapse )

For the record, I still think stories without all-powerful, unsurpassable characters are much more interesting, and I prefer protagonists who have qualities that every character could have, only magnified by the events of the story or their pasts.

All the small things

Inspired by a comment renakazur made in the last rant, about work being one of those things many fantasy authors don’t like to talk about because they think it doesn’t advance the plot. I took that as a challenge.

Six ways noticing small things can advance the plotCollapse )

Unquestioning obedience to any dictate of writing can result in stale conventionality, and I think that’s what often happens when authors just assume that, “Well, there’s no way to make an interesting story out of work/food/cleaning/servants’ lives/domesticity.” It’s true that certain individual situations won’t work; on the other hand, parties, magic, destinies, swordplay, and royals’ lives are not a guaranteed success either. Working with these materials might force an author to stretch her wings a bit.

Lists as of right now

I'll probably still have to make changes, as these are works-in-progress, incorporating changes suggested by my chair but not yet finalized by her, and I still have two committee members who need to approve them. But, as of right now, these are what my lists look like.

HistoricalCollapse )

Topical ListCollapse )

So I read them, write rationales for them, and then I'm tested over them. But, luckily, it seems I'll have extra time for the oral exam, which is basically defending the prospectus for my dissertation.

I've been warned the dissertation is what kills people, because most graduate students have plenty of experience writing seminar papers but none writing a book-length manuscript. And this is where I have the advantage of a lot of people, because if there is one thing that does not intimidate me, it's the thought of writing a lot.

The Victorian list so far

Thank you very much to everyone who made suggestions on the last post about Victorian novels concerning gender! This is far from a final copy, as I haven't yet met with my professor, but it was the one I sent to her to consider. It's balanced as far as I can make it between canonical works which I can't ignore, canonical female writers, canonical male writers doing works that relate to gender, and little-known or little-studied female writers.

Read more...Collapse )