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May 28th, 2010

11:42 pm: Rant on loyalty
This is partially about loyalty and partially about the characterization of traitors. Because I wanted it to be.

When loyalty is (and isn’t) a virtue )

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December 1st, 2009

08:39 pm: Rant on avoiding a villain monologue
I’m sorry to have been gone so long. Major health issues as well as writer’s block on the rants meant that I had little to post. While I think I’ll be posting more regularly again, I can’t promise it.


This rant brought to you by Magic Bites, an urban fantasy novel that I read recently and liked well enough—with the exception of one major irritant. I bet you can guess right now what it is.

This is a temptation, yes, but there is a difference between feeling it and giving in to it )

Villain monologues irritate me for the same reason that idiot plots do: there’s no reason for them to exist, not when you have so many interesting tricks to avoid them.

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January 28th, 2007

08:48 pm: All the small things
Inspired by a comment [info]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 plot )

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.

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September 13th, 2006

09:07 pm: Loose ends rant
This is another one where I had difficulty deciding on the title for the rant. By “loose ends,” I mean not just the usual subplots or themes and concepts that might drift about in the wind at the end of a novel, but those things you want to leave untied. I like those stories best that seem to go on beyond the end, the characters who live after you let them walk off the page, those plots with reverberations that don’t just stop with a bump. So this discusses, as I see it—always as I see it, because there are exceptions for each of these if the book is written well enough—some ways of judging what loose ends might work to enhance your story and which will just muddle it.

See? Not a good title )

There’s always a risk to take with loose ends. But that’s true of every single story that reaches for more than mediocrity.

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August 31st, 2006

10:05 pm: Subplot rant
Uh, no clever introduction this time. Several people asked for a subplot rant. Here it is.

No clever cut title, either )

All I have to say on the subject for right now, as I’m pretty tired.

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July 12th, 2006

10:43 pm: Raining shit on the story and not letting it stink.
Sorry this one was so long in coming. I went through another of those periods in which I couldn’t think of anything to rant about without sounding repetitive. So I did what I probably should have done in the first place and started rereading good fantasy, in this case Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

And it hit me that while Martin’s series is incredibly brutal, with torture, rape, murder, humiliation, mutilation, wrongful executions, casual suffering, and sadism galore—in fact, the reason I’ve heard most people use when giving up on the series is that it simply makes them too depressed to continue reading further—I don’t mind the suffering. At the same time, all it can take is one abused and sniffling heroine in a different series, and I am outta there.

So I started wondering why… )

It wasn’t until I thought about it that I realized just how much of a mess Martin has made of his fantasy world. I’m a bit in awe. A fantasy world centered on a heroine sniffling because someone teased her just can’t compare, really.

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June 15th, 2006

09:32 pm: Complicating a plot rant
Because simple plots just don’t cut it )

I may tackle the idea of writing collectivist and tradition-driven societies as other than Evil and Wrong next.

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March 26th, 2006

08:34 pm: Why complex fantasy is just so great
I will say this three times. That makes it true:

I have nothing against light fantasy.
I have nothing against light fantasy.
I have nothing against light fantasy.

There. (We will not talk about my grudge against simplistic fantasy, because then I would have to foam at the mouth, and no one wants that. Besides, I know that simplistic fantasy isn’t the same as light).

Now I can talk about what makes complex fantasy so darn great )

Hmmm. Perhaps the next rant will be on ways to recognize when an author might be repeating herself.

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January 23rd, 2006

07:50 pm: Rant on killing your villain without a *deus ex machina*
Um, hi.

Yes, I know it’s been a while. I just didn’t feel up to writing these for a few weeks. Stress, mostly.

But here it goes again )

It wasn’t the next one in the poll, but it was the next one I wanted to write. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue with this.

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August 18th, 2005

06:01 pm: Idiot plots, and how to avoid them
I used to think I had no idea what an idiot plot looked like. Then I read a nearly purebred example that impressed me with how diligently and carefully the characters acted like idiots, to make every possible event in the story come off as contrived and layered with stupidity.

I will point out right here that if your plot only works because your characters act like morons (when they are not actually supposed to be), you are writing an idiot plot story. If that’s all you need, you can go on your way right now. You don’t need to read the rant.

For the rest of you, come on in )

And, oh, yes. I’m back. *runs about answering comments*

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April 18th, 2005

10:06 pm: Giving your plot a good kick in the ass
Two things you need to know right now:

1) I am not a writer who outlines, so I’m coming at plotting from that perspective.

2) I’m a writer who has to finish a complete draft and then go back and revise it.

So these suggestions? Not so much about knowing what’s going to happen before the story hands it over.

Here’s hoping it will be of some value anyway )

Plots like this are one of the many, many reasons I love writing, because so often I’ve been stuck on something, and had threads from another part of the plot that I was ignoring collide in my head, introducing a much better solution than any I might have dragged into existence. Great work if you can get it.

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March 5th, 2005

04:56 pm: Handling Byzantine plots
I’m really going to try to keep myself from ranting about just political fantasy here, because gods know it’s not just political fantasies that can lose their plots.

If you walk Byzantium, know the streets )

Will answer comments on the psychic powers rant later; need to go somewhere right now.

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March 2nd, 2005

10:27 pm: Rant on non-journey stories
This is the rant on non-journey stories. Like the rant on non-war plots, it’ll cover things that I have seen done, and done well, in fantasies. Too often, though, authors adopt unquestioned the need for a journey, even if that kind of plot isn’t the one that plays to their greatest strengths.

And then there’s the idea that remaining in one place couldn’t possibly be interesting )

Really, what is it about journey stories? When I start plotting, the first thing that springs into mind is “Point A to Point B.” It’s taken training to make myself start thinking, instead, “But do they really need to go anywhere?”

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December 4th, 2004

05:47 pm: Rant on slippery-slope plotting.
I’m taking this term from the slippery slope fallacy. Briefly (if you don’t want to click the link, which has several examples) it involves making an argument of the form, “If this event happens, then that event will happen,” which conflates a whole bunch of small steps into one huge one. Usually, the second result is extreme, and the author does not bother to provide any evidence to show that the second event would actually follow on the first one.

Which is exactly what happens with slippery-slope plotting )

Is it really that hard for people to make sense?

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November 30th, 2004

11:31 pm: Plotting in peacetime
I was going to do a non-journey rant, and somehow it evolved into a non-war one.

Oh, well.

Big dramatic battles? Oh, sure. But what happened before and after? )

I deliberately didn’t mention romance or mystery in there, because those were the two that immediately sprang to mind. I wanted more difficult ones. There is so, so much that can be done.

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October 15th, 2004

06:10 pm: Second part of the plotting rant
The second part of the plotting rant, on advancing the plot in small ways.

It’s unfortunate that so many people understand ‘plot’ only as battles and romance… )

Shapeshifter characters next, I think.

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October 12th, 2004

10:51 pm: Some considerations when plotting a fantasy novel
The title of this rant is arrogant, yes. I am feeling like being ranty.

How to freakin' plot )

Oooh, I know what rant I want to do next. About advancing the plot in ways other than having battles or big destructive things happen.

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September 15th, 2004

07:55 pm: Invisible barriers rant
Ever get to the point where you’ve been reading so much idealistic fantasy that the idealism is leaking out your ears and getting in the way of your vision and…

…turning into something else? )

Not sure what rant I should do next.

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August 18th, 2004

08:57 pm: The suspense in fantasy books would like to stop dying, please and thank you
Ah, suspense. Probably the most frequent murder victim of bad fantasy, aside from common sense.

It’d like to stop hiring personal injury lawyers now )

If the suspense in fantasy books ever did turn sentient and decide to sue the authors that had killed it numerous times, with malice, the list would be longer than most fantasy books I’ve read.

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July 30th, 2004

08:27 pm: Backstory rant
A lot of fantasy stories have immense backstory. This isn't so much the information about the fantasy world itself, but information about the characters' personal histories, abilities, pasts with other characters, beliefs, travels, and so on. It needs to be in the story somehow. How do you get it in there without subjecting the audience to a character monologue that goes on for ten pages?

I freely admit I'm biased... )

I prefer fantasies that move like Arabian horses, I think, light and swift. Backstory is a big culprit in making them lumber.

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