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industrialistDragon

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12 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Because I read a lot of author blogs and thinkpieces and I'm sure @kais gets tired of my constantly spamming PMs sometimes. 

So, to start off, the thing I keep chewing on at the moment is the idea of "seeing the author in their characters." It was brought up in these posts by Jane Lindskold (whose Firekeeper series is amazing and whom others might know from being Roger Zelazny's partner, coauthor, and biographer shortly before he died). 

https://janelindskold.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/tt-is-that-the-author/

https://janelindskold.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/tt-a-question-of-identity/

https://janelindskold.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/tt-is-he-in-there/

 

I think Lindskold brings up a very good point, in that no matter how much people want to say "this character and the author share X traits and history therefore they are the same!" it is still taking certain specific aspects of a person and running them through a fictive lens -- by definition fictional characters are too limited to really "be" the author. 

What do you all think? Is it possible to see what the author is like by looking at the characters they write? Does it matter? Do you care? When does "writing what you know" become a distraction to the readers (who always seem to want to go "aha! gotcha, that's real!" with a character or event).

 

(*NOTE: I'm still compiling links for a Mary Sue post, so this IS NOT ABOUT MARY SUES AT ALL. The blog posts touch on self-insertion (by way of cameos), of which Sues are a subtype, but the issues around Mary Sues are different. This is talking about readers sussing out the author from their characters, not the author consciously hiding themselves in their work)

 

Edited by industrialistDragon
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I honestly don't know how writers write characters without at least a little bit of themselves in them. Some experience, some emotion, so faucet of self, to me, is in every character I write (that has dialogue and character development). I can write outside my experience, but I have to be able to connect to that experience, or I just can't connect with the character.

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I think this more comes up with authors who have an established body of work, where readers then go back into the canon and try to figure out the author's private life from what they've written.  Specifically, they were talking about readers who look at a body of work and say "this character is actually the author."  Lindskold was saying that it's impossible to find the real person inside what you're describing (the use of one's own experiences to lend realism to their characters) because of all the filtering the real experiences go through to be able to fit into fiction. The other opinion was that, in certain cases, the author is so blatant in the use of incidences from their lives that it's impossible NOT to make assumptions from the texts.

Personally, I like being able to see some firsthand experiences in the stories I read. I enjoyed the medial portions of the Stardoc series by SL Viehl (other major issues with her work aside) because to me they were clearly based on her experiences working in a trauma center, and I find that insider perspective really compelling. Julie Czerneda was a biologist before she started writing scifi and it really shows in her awesome aliens, especially in her Species Imperative series. This kind of "seeing the author show through the work" can really backfire, though, and I'll find myself getting distracted from the story, or even stop reading all together if it's too blatant or not worked into the text well enough. 

I also agree with Lindskold in that I think it's impossible to really know an author just through what they've written, precisely because an author only puts portions of themselves into a work. A real person is always going to be more multifaceted than a fictional character, no matter how many points of connection the two have. Assuming you "know how an author really is" just from the stories they've written is like assuming you know what someone is really like based only on what they post to Facebook. It's a curated experience. You can see some things, but it's never going to be the same as getting to know them in person. 

 

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I get that. I feel the same way about the rock climbing in Wolfwalker. That sort of glimpse into an author's life is really neat! I'm not sure I've ever been distracted by it. I only remember books fondly for it, like the aforementioned Stardoc series.

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New topic time: Conlangs! More than just a couple made up words here and there, conlangs (constructed languages) are when an author makes up a whole language including grammar and syntax and conjugations and all that stuff.  Actually, more than just authors enjoy conlanging (it's totally a verb too!) and some people just do it for fun! The ur-example is of course Tolkein's Elvish, but Star Trek's Klingon and Game of Throne TV's Dothraki are also conlangs. 

Conlanging has its own society: http://conlang.org/

an extensive wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructed_language

and even its own reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/conlangs/

I loved reading these articles about how the creator of the Dothraki language went about it making it. There's a lot of great worldbuilding, thought, and heavy-duty research that goes into creating a whole new language.

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/07/created-languages-dothraki-valyrian-game-thrones/

http://blog.ted.com/meet-david-peterson-who-developed-dothraki-for-hbos-game-of-thrones/

Since they're complete languages, conlangs can break free of the book that created them sometimes. I have a friend who's working on A Klingon Christmas Carol this year and it looks so awesome!  

(this is an old article but I can't find one about the production my friend's in) https://www.inverse.com/article/25206-a-klingon-christmas-carol-star-trek

And of course, if you don't have time for all that, there are scripts like Vulgar that will generate a complete, workable language for you automatically. 

So what do you think? Are conlangs just good worldbuilding? Should everyone try it? Can you tell the difference when an author makes up a whole language and when they just add a couple words here and there? Has a made up language ever distracted you from what you were reading?

 

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Ugh. The very thought of making up a language makes me head hurt. I know too many languages, I think to ever be able to settle on a grammar and tense pattern for a new one. I also think they're a little much for most books. Maybe too though, I don't get as into the nitty gritty and really just read for pleasure. 

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, I think it's fine if your a professional linguist (like Tolkien - near enough); setting up something that's you know is going to be sustained (like the Federation, at the point someone committed to develop Klingon); or just a complete fruitcake... but it's way, way beyond something that an unpublished author should contemplate, I think. Learn to write and entertain people in your own language first, and if you need it to sound like there is a complete language lying behind the culture you just introduced, do what authors do... 'Carth ins angl stral doh'*.

(* "Make some sh!t up." - translated from the original Sothelyan.)

Edited by Robinski
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I don't think there's anything crazy at all in being interested in developing your own language for a story you're writing! There's a lot of culture and worldbuilding involved in making a language from scratch, and even more in deciding how a language is used once made. It might not be for you, but I could definitely see someone using the process of making up a language as a way of exploring the background of a secondary world or character. Published or unpublished doesn't matter. It might not be the right thing to do for every story or for every author, but the way culture and language intertwine is fascinating and important IRL; it certainly isn't useless to think about in writing. 

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Slow week, so how about some links? I stumbled across this series of posts by Judith Tarr talking about writing horse-based aliens with more focus on research into actual horse biology and behavior. Besides being really cool, it got me thinking about research. Has actually doing the research on something you've been writing fundamentally changed the way you've thought about/written it?  (Besides the alpha wolf fallacy I mean.) This post by Kate Elliot does a great job of both citing sources and deconstructing commonly held ideas about women in history.  Has research ever led you down a rabbit hole as deep as Patricia and Mike Briggs' quest to cast real, working silver bullets?  I love doing research, but when I'm doing it on my own I definitely use it as a way to put off actually having to write. :ph34r: Have you ever been struck dreaded "getting ready to get ready syndrome?" 

 

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8 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Has actually doing the research on something you've been writing fundamentally changed the way you've thought about/written it?

Yes.

I'm working (and have been working for some time, on and off) on a magic system that includes an emotion manipulation component.
(I've always felt a bit "iffy" about emotional allomancy by the way, since it seems like you can do whatever with it. For example, IIRC in HoA Vin riots someone's sense of calmness, how is that any different from soothing someone's agitation? Compared to the rest of allomancy, it's really loose and undefined, which bothers me.)

Anyway, back to my system. I was browsing the net and came across the Hindu philosophic notion of Gunas. Emotions are messy and complicated so there's always going to be a lot of wiggle-room, but after encountering this idea I based (this part of) my system around the thought of emotions being (predominantly) attached to one of three "principles": Sattva(good, constructive, harmonious), Tamas (dark, destructive, chaotic), and Rajas (passionate, active, confused).

But more than just this system, it's got me trying in general to think about things less "dually" in a yes-or-no way, and more tripartite, which can be something of a challenge.

I'm still doing research into the concept of Gunas, trying to make sure the system is internally consistent, which might qualify for the dreaded syndrome. But I consider it more "getting ready" than "getting ready to get ready".

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14 hours ago, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

I'm still doing research into the concept of Gunas, trying to make sure the system is internally consistent, which might qualify for the dreaded syndrome. But I consider it more "getting ready" than "getting ready to get ready".

I think the difference is usually a matter of degrees. When "internal consistency" becomes "I can't possibly start writing until absolutely everything makes sense!" is when you might need to start worrying. ;) 

Here are a few more links about it:  Link one and link two

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On 10/10/2017 at 4:36 PM, industrialistDragon said:

Have you ever been struck dreaded "getting ready to get ready syndrome?" 

Me with religion. :( I wasn't really raised religious, and I sometimes feel like I have to read extensively about every religion that's ever existed before I try to make my own in a fantasy setting. Part of that was because writing deeply devoted religious characters didn't really work when I tried it out on my own without proper research. I tried to combine religious concepts with outside material that I was familiar with, and it just felt like the religious characters were spouting pseudoscience. Definitely not how the majority of people in the world today should have their faith represented. But when I do research, I don't want to have a bias towards religions I'm more familiar with, and I haven't yet found tenets and theology that really would enhance a fantasy setting for me.

So I've decided at least for now to focus less on religion, since I don't want to misrepresent it or have it feel one-dimensional. There are plenty of other setting details that can be just as cool. :) Doesn't mean all of my characters have to be agnostic/atheist/unaffiliated, but I don't need to go super deep into theology to make a setting work.

On 10/10/2017 at 4:36 PM, industrialistDragon said:

This post by Kate Elliot does a great job of both citing sources and deconstructing commonly held ideas about women in history. 

Oh, wow. That's a monster read. Skimming through it, I saw that I cited in a college paper one of the sources she used about the Ottomans. It took some research about outside cultures for me to realize that women being cloistered doesn't always mean they're completely oppressed, and that women with restricted liberties could still wield immense power. Interesting stuff. :) 

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