'New ' V 'Old' Fantasy

Discussion in 'General Fantasy' started by elouisemullen, Oct 30, 2015.

  1. elouisemullen

    elouisemullen elouiseeverdeen

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    Hey all,
    I was thinking about how awesome the world of Harry Potter is, how intricate and detailed every last village and town in the wizarding world has been made out to be in both books and films.
    But then I got thinking about Middle Earth, and how its intricacies go wayyyyyyyyy beyond these 'modern' fantasies.
    So I was wondering, are there any fantasy worlds out there that were produced more recently that can live up to the standards that Tolkien set?
    Or are the newbies just not up to it?
    TELL ME YOUR OPINIONS
    :p:rolleyes:;)
     
  2. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    On reason worlds like Harry Potter can go into a lot of depth is because a lot of it is built off a backbone of reality and current times. So depth is easy because a lot of the - at least muggle - social, political and other structures are all established and running. So the author makes changes and can bolt on things of their own.


    Lord of the Rings did kind of the same in that it took the Norse folk talks as its backbone; however Tolkien's Middle Earth is an example of extreme world building. His objective wasn't actually a story but a whole mythology built upon Middle Earth and rooted in Norse folk tales and mythology. He built up languages from the ground (elfish is a totally ground up built language - most authors swap words; use dead languages or otherwise replace letters; or just present so little that it has no meaning - Tolkien built his ground up).

    Indeed many stories he wrote are more histories and its why some find Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion very heavy going as they are not story books (The Hobbit is a storybook).




    Other authors can get close; but many take a lifetime to do so; because it takes a long time to build up a huge functional world; and even longer to present it to the reader. A few you might like:

    1) Discworld by Sir Terry Pratchett - each book might be short; but added up the build a wonderful display of the mad world of the disc. Each novel details a change; an event; a key moment where things within this world are changing from the old to the new and thus bit by bit you see the depth of this world grow.

    2) Game of Thrones by George RR Martin - a highly detailed fantasy story based off a strong medieval understanding. A very detailed read; although its less world building and more character driven. Indeed like Discworld the characters are driving things so the author isn't spending pages talking about chalk formations or history as such. But there's certainly a lot of depth.

    3) Robin Hobb is building a detailed world with her many series set in her own lands (interestingly the world map for this world is an upside down copy of a real world location). Again we see depth grow book by book; though we also see that sometimes there are subtle changes between the books as she fleshes out areas that previously were only background locations or far off areas.

    This latter point is where Tokien changes from others again; many authors build their worlds as they need them; adding a bit more than you see for some balance; but in general if they don't have to go somewhere in their world they like as not won't go there in great formal depth. So sometimes you can see little shifts as the author presents a new region or race that otherwise previously were either not mentioned or simply mentioned in passing. You can catch an author at that point making little changes; things that would likely be a few lines replaced in an earlier book - shifting a reference or name or such. In general readers let it slip - mostly because once a book is published you can't really recall it to make changes and where such changes are short and mostly patched over its allowable and doesn't spoil the reading.


    As an example in Robin Hobbs book at the end of one trilogy her character does a "fast tour" of some of the world; sailing down a key river. Later (well next trilogy actually) we discover that this river is laced with acidic compounds which would mean you could not casually sail down it in a wooden boat. In a latter book her character recounts the trip in a little more detail and elaborates on the difficulty of the trip. A patching over of the earlier change.
     
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  3. rochari

    rochari Member

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    I think a lot of the details could be left up to the reader. Good writers can tell us just enough and let our imagination fill in the gaps. Being overly descriptive can bog you down in details. I like writers that concentrate on sights and sounds and smells to flesh out the world: a dirty medieval city, a clear mountain stream, etc...
     
  4. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    It's a balance though because if the author doesn't tell the reader enough the reader can get annoyed with the book. I know I've given up on books because the author has denied me so much information that character actions appear to be at-random because I've no idea of their underlaying motives; or where its hard to visualise a scene or setting because the author hasn't described it well enough (which can then often appear very forced because the author keeps adding things only when they are needed - so the place either feels like its built as a deathtrap or has a lot of very convenient escape routes or such - depending on what happens).

    In any book the reader is going to be making bits up; the key is that the author should always be providing enough information to structure that imagination. The readers thoughts should not be running rampant just working out the core presented plot and setting - otherwise you run the risk that the reader is doing more of the "writing of the story" than the writer is.
     
  5. Richard Falken

    Richard Falken The Best Epic Literature Ever Written.

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    When I write stuff, I try to follow the same approach Star Wars does. You give the reader some information about how the world is in the first pages. Then you let them discover the world as the story unfolds.

    The first advantage of this method is that you don't have to write everything at once, and you are avoiding to do some heavy work. The second advantage is that, by letting the reader discover more of the world with each page, you keep the novel entertaining.

    Evolutionary worlds created this way, once piece at a time, are a long standing tradition in the universe of Fantasy. Look at the old roleplay game modules and campaing scenarios. They didn't define a whole world in a tome or two, they developed the game worlds a module at a time, and after some years of releasing small pieces, you realized they had built a really big fantasy world.
     
  6. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Oh I agree you have to develop as you go - although good writers develop the world in depth before they write or as they go; giving the reader enough to go on; but whilst also having a deeper formal understanding of their own world. That's because a bigger understanding means that you can establish a "seen" side which appears sane and when you spring something new it fits. Rather than having things that spring up and the reader goes "Wait what that's not possible"

    A prime example is if the author develops a world and setting and then in another book introduces a new major faction to the world without any or hardly any mention of them in the first. It seems odd if, for example, orcs are never mentioned in the first and then suddenly in the second orcs are everywhere and everyone knows about them; whilst if the author had already established orcs in the background to themselves they'd already be putting in the hints and references within the world to start with. So when the reader comes along its "oooh orcs I've heard about them - neat!" You're thus filling in missing bits and giving the reader what they want rather than "orcs - well if they are everywhere why were they not mentioned till now?"
     
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  7. Detth

    Detth Wanderer

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    I think that the writer should discover and develop the world he has created as much as he can, but that doesn't mean that the reader should know all that, because the charm of the books is in our imagination with a bit of author's direction, that's why i prefer books over films..Because in films everything-> characters, landscapes etc. are forced onto us, and disable our imagination
     
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  8. rochari

    rochari Member

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    A lot of the pleasure for writers must be making it up as they go along. It would be dull to set everything in stone then start fitting a story in. The process must be the writer's entertainment too, not just work. Of course they could get it wrong and add too much whacky stuff (Ewoks, looking at you), but that's where a starting platform can hold it all together.
     
  9. Midnattblod

    Midnattblod Royal Wolf of Shadow

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    I'm attempting to do this for one of my races, and I just want to say it's super difficult to make what could be seen as a coherent language.

    Also Overread, I always love reading your posts when it comes to stuff like this because you are quite informative and some of the things you mention always seem to find their way into my writing style, (not completely because one must always have their own style that sets them apart, but just enough to where I feel like I'm getting better at it).

    I personally feel like the world itself, or at least the part of the world that most stories in a series takes place in, should be more or less set in stone, because that way it's less likely that if a certain series goes for years with minor changes being added to fix something that the author wasn't pleased with after the fact won't get completely convoluted. there are many ways to have the land change that could be explained away even if it was set in stone. War could leave scars on the land, or maybe a natural disaster (which Dennis McKiernan seems to absolutely adore :D) could destroy something that was once there, like a city, or a forest, or some such. I feel like if the reader is left with too much to try and formulate with their own imagination, it could end up very messy. not saying that authors have to hold your hand throughout the series, just saying that too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing.
     
  10. rochari

    rochari Member

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    Tolkein was also a linguist which helped, but he probably overdid it. Personally I haven't looked to closely. having studied several languages and being semi fluent in one, I can give a few tips:

    1) Keep it simple. Don't make a lot of grammatical exceptions (such as in English) unless they somehow fit the story (characterization, a misunderstanding, etc.) This is so you can keep up with yourself more than anything.

    In fact write all the following parameters on ONE page, along with a few key words, and make that your template, add vocab as you go. There's no need to overdo it.

    2) Think of what it sounds like: Turkish, French, Italian, Arabic? Ground it in some common sounds and link it to similar vocab in those languages. This may involve creating an alphabet. Not all languages have 21 consonants and five vowels. Most have a lot fewer.

    3)What is the structure like? What's the word order (subject, verb object, position of adjectives and adverbs, etc.) Stick to those rules.

    4) Punctuate and spell like English. Make sure the readers don't struggle with pronunciation, and can imagine how it sounds (unless there's a story element to that too.) Avoid too many apostrophes. They are horribly overused in fantasy.

    5) keep a record. Update changes as added. Especially new vocab and their spelling. Don't lose track.

    6) Can be based on any language but the guiding principle is still English. Don't remove it so far you can't keep track, or the readers can't relate. Keep some elements of your native tongue (or that of the target readers).

    Here's an example

    Name: Sample - ese, ish, ian, i, whatever

    Alphabet: Start with vowels, as they are usually a foundation - A (allow) E (egg) I (igloo) O (orange) U (pull), consider diphthongs - AE, AI, EI, OU (all these are just pairs of the above sounds, not new ones)
    P, Th, S, K, Sh, Ch, L, F, H, Q, T, W; Notice there are few hard (voiced) consonants. This gives my Samplese a light, airy range of sounds.
    Boy: pae shop: feli to: e little/small: akul quick/quickly: sese(sa) old: tala

    Structure:
    Word order: Subject, object, verb (like Japanese): The boy to the shop runs
    Adverbs come before Verbs and adjectives but Adjectives come after nouns: The boy little to the shop old quickly runs. Prepositions can come before or after the object. I choose before, like English.

    Tenses: Just three - Past, Present, Future (Bahasa Indonesia makes do without Progressive, but does have passive). Japanese doesn't have future except when stressing intent. Don't bother with Perfect or Progressive tenses. English, French and Italian all have too many.

    Add a prefix, a suffix, or a changed middle vowel (or even added consonant) for tenses. Don't bother with irregulars and exceptions, unless it somehow advances story or characterization at some point. Don't bother declining for I, you, he/she or they either. Many languages don't. prefixes and suffixes are easiest.
    Run: tull, Ran: etull, will run: atull

    Articles: A/The is one of the hardest to learn for non-native speakers. I suggest none, like a lot of languages including Russian.

    Singular/plural: you can have plural endings or not. Don't need them if you have numbers, and a lot of languages don't use them. Same for countable uncountable. Having no plural solves this problem. Say you want plural for countable nouns; add a suffix, prefix or change a middle sound: Boys: paethi

    Vocab: Keep track and relate. (To)Day: tali; Yesterday: thaltali; (this) Week: selik; (next week) messelik - from that a reader can easily guess 'tomorrow' and 'last week', and will feel rewarded when they come across it later. Adding exceptions at this point would be just silly.

    There's a simple structure completed: Paethi akul e feli tala sesesa etull thaltali.

    Final note: KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid (again). European languages are far too complex. English has twelve tenses and Malaysian has only one (sorta). You don't need any more if you simply say when something happens. Russian declines nouns in seven different ways, including if they come after a preposition (or contain one). Well, at least they got articles right. Some readers like to be drowned in detail, but most will just appreciate a little of something exotic.

    You can fit all of the above examples on ONE A4 sheet on MS Word and you'll need nothing more for the foundation of a beautiful, exotic and arcane fantasy tongue.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  11. zmunkz

    zmunkz Member

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    I can give you two quick ones off the bat that are totally immersive and massive, in the way HP or LOTR is:

    Martin: Song of Ice and Fire
    Sanderson: The Stormlight Archive

    Both are amazing works.