Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Other Issues To Keep In Mind

Good vs. Evil: This represents a three-fold issue; be very wary of it.

First is that there may be the cliche turnaround; who you introduce as the bad guy and good guy actually are the good guy and bad guy respectively. This is just annoying because there's just no way to handle it right. It's either obvious from the get-go, or it feel like a betrayal. I appreciate the temptation; it's either a way to keep things fresh, or to show that good vs. evil depends on perspective, but it always comes off cheap.

The second is that you may feel like making the good guys corrupt and the bad guys downright nice in order to show that there are many shades of gray. That's the time-proven wrong reason to do it. Now, if you wanted to show that what's important is the decisions people make and why they make them, that works. I'm not trying that I don't disagree with that style of writing; the flawed hero and honorable bad guy are definitely important archetypes. However, the important issue is that they are still good guys and bad guys; a long as their reasons for doing what they do is valid, such as cops taking bribes because it at least slows the bad guys down a bit is okay, but the cops taking bribes because they like it is a problem.

The third is the worst of all: That anything is good given the right context. The problem is two-fold: First, you need to keep in mind that, as a race advances certain things are left behind; murder and rape are arguably the two best examples of that. Aa a corollary, you can't judge a race's morals by what it becomes; in other words, there has to be a point where a reasonably peaceful race can no longer be judged by the crimes it committed centuries before.

Consider slavery: Originally, it was agreed that it had definite advantages. Eventually, it was decided to be an evil and abolished. Should the American south be forever hated because it once participated in the practice, or should that sin be fogiven?

The other aspect to this is to not judge a culture by modern rules. The issue here is that our rules may not apply to cultures past, and that it is far too wasteful an exercise to blame a past culture for its rules when they are different from ours, especially if you assume that the same issues that beset the current culture effected the past one as well.

Consider that a women's place is not in combat; in the medieval era this made perfect sense as women were far more valuable giving birth; it may sound sexist now, and it should. However, when half the children were dying before they were five, and wars and disease got the rest, there needed to be as many children born as possible. Now, a woman need only birth a single child, maybe two, in her lifetime and her responsibility to the race is done. Now, if she wanted to go into combat, there should be no stopping her; the original reason just doesn't exist anymore.

As noted, people change and are respected for it. Shouldn't that apply to cultures as well?

Magic: This needs to be defined rather tightly as quickly as possible. Stories in which magic is defined or limited tend to be better than those where magic can do anything. You just can't provide any actual sense of suspense when it's entirely possible for someone to use some magic to get out of any situation. It also means that the characters will have to think their way through. At the same time, avoid elemental magic; cliche issues.

Chaos: True chaos is neither evil nor silly. This isn't to say that it's always a good thing; it just is. Chaos should foment change, growth, and allow for some reflection. At the same time, it can damage organization, cause too much growth, and get caught up in the moment. Balance in all things!

Sorry; I'm a big Monkey fan. I see far too much of the latter three, and not nearly enough of the former three. I really wish people would remember that sometimes you need a bit of randomness; too many heroes get too angsty because they forget that there is more to life than just the usual scheduled battle; the little random bits, such as a beautiful smile after a hard battle, a child needing protection from the normal monster under the bed, and gentle rain after a heat wave, color life and make stories so enjoyable. More people should read Tales of the Questor; it does a beautiful job of combining magical spells and magic moments. Okay. so I like racoons, too;-)...

I think that that's enough for tonight...


Willie Hewes said...

Hey TS, Willie from Gaia here.

I'm not sure I'm entirely with you on the Good Evil thing. You seem very worried about cliches, which is understandable as they are so common (well, they would be, wouldn't they?) but I'm not sure telling people not to do certain things is going to reduce the number of cliche plots in the world.

Regarding your first point, I disagree that it always comes off cheap. It depends entirely on how well you handle it.

On the second point, the antihero is a tried and tested concept, and works very well in many stories. What about that?

I'm not sure I understand your third point. "Anything is good given the right context." Is that similar to: "People do what they think is right, even though other people think it's wrong"? If so, what's so bad about that? In real life, there are no good guys and bad guys, there are just opponents, but they are opponents of each other.

Stories that have a clear-cut good guys v bad guys devision are boring to me, because they are basically lectures on morality. Don't do this, it makes you a bad guy. Do do this, just like your hero mighty mouse. It's kid's stuff. Reversals, flawed heroes, antiheroes, bad guys with perfectly good motivations, that's the stuff that makes (for instance) anime so interesting to me, why say it's cliche and bad?

In the rest of point three, I have to say, I'm not sure what you're saying. That, if you set stories in the past, you should accurately reflect people's un-PC attitudes towards women and slavery? That you should not judge your characters for being racist, misogynist pigs, if they were from an era where everyone was?

I'm a little confused...

Anonymous said...

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