Chaotic Evil, an alignment most notably characterized by the Joker. But, that is a bit cliche in my eyes, the laughing maniac running around killing everything because they think it would be fun. There is a way to work with a “Chaotic Evil” character in writing and especially in fantasy.
A character can play the long game and appear to everyone around them that they are working for the greater good but in private they are working just for themselves or for something a bit more sinister like a demon or some evil god. All of the good things that they are doing could be for a very nefarious purpose. How can this be written though?
Think of the novel as more a game and work in the biggest picture possible. And, foreshadowing is going to be your friend. In a project I am working on my character does not know that what he is doing is evil. He is mostly doing what he does for the money and personal gain. That is one way to do it or the character can know exactly what they are doing, like Cersei Lannister in early Game of Thrones. This allows the character to be more manipulative than a puppet working for a dark shadowy master.
While I am working on the former my favorite to read and to play as a character. These characters are smart and clever and always know more than they let on in their interactions with other characters. But, my question to all of you: What is your favorite type of secretly evil character to write, read, or even play? I am very curious to know what other writers and readers think so please let me know.
Escapism and fantasy are very different from the world we live in. The very nature of fantasy is to be an escape and be different. Magical some might say. But, this brings forth a very interesting question about the current fantasy front runner A Song of Ice and Fire(Game of Thrones). Why is it so accurate to real world politics?
Escape and the over powered protagonist are great but they tend to wear thin as the reader ages and matures along with their literary tastes (I am well aware some people never grow out of what they read as a child). Readers still want an escape but don’t want the protagonist to be able to mow down scores of enemy soldiers or navigate a deadly encounter through sheer luck and being a one trick pony. Readers want tension and uncertainty which is a feat not easily done by something that advertises it’s length as much as a book does. It can be done and quite well which brings us to the answer as to why GoT is so popular.
All the really needs to be done is to introduce more realistic combat and removal of supporting characters no matter how major that supporting character may be. Those characters that seem safe throughout the entire novel dying unexpectedly because of a realistic combat injury is something that brings a lot of tension into the novel. There is another way should you be too infatuated with your characters that killing them off feels like killing a little bit of yourself (like when losing a D&D character).
It is one of my favorite things to do when I am writing a character and that is to give them some big flaw. In one of my projects it is crippling mental disorders and in the rest of the projects I am working on it is a foul mouth and a terrible nicotine addiction that dictates how they spend their day. Flaws add a layer of relatability to characters and makes them stop seeming like this god like being in the story using their over whelming powers to get through the challenge. But, it is best not to over do the flaw so that it seems that the character is skating by on luck through the entire work or series if you make it that far as a writer.
What I am doing in my main project is a bit of both. Not to spoil anything but the main characters have mental disorders that will grow to cripple them as people over time and I make sure that if they are in a situation that is overwhelming then they will not make it out alive unless by some crazy magical means. But, as an author I am curious as to what others do in their stories.
Do you give characters terrible flaws but let them live? Do you go the George RR Martin approach and drop them like flies? Or do you write a mixture of both. Please let me know as I am very curious.
The words Lawful Goid conjure distinct images in everyone’s mind. Some think of the white knight paladin while others gravitate towards a certain red and blue spandex covered alien. That’s right Martian Man Hunter! Despite his name he is still lawful good. But are people lawful good and deeper than that are believable characters solely lawful good? Does the Chaotic Evil character never do anything good? I believe people and characters are messier than one alignment will allow them to be.
Other than D&D characters the best example of complicated alignment in a character come from Dr. Octopus in “Spiderman 2”. Through out the movie Doc Ock is portrayed generally as CE. He is blinded by rage and only wants to do what he wants no matter the cost to others. That is until he *SPOILERS* sacrifices himself and his experiment to save NY. It shows that he is still human deep down. So while he may have been CE on paper he saw through that and did a LG act.
Alignment is heavily debated at D&D tables and in some fantasy circles. But, if you think about the characters as humans and not just figments of your imagination you’ll see they too can be a bit complicated and have a complicated alignment.
As a writer and a lifelong creator there have definitely been things that I feel make me personally more creative, or rather get me out of my head. This can be a multitude of things from a generous pour of whisky(yes I spell it the European way) or epic metal songs and honestly anything in between.
I have the tendency to get too much into my own head and over think how something might sound or read. This is a terrible thing to do because it halts my progress. The music, usually folk metal or neo-classical, gets me out of my head and makes me write and let’s me get more into the story. The whisky does the same as long as it’s done responsibly. (I refuse to be responsible for anyone reading this getting black-out drunk and writing.) I usually just take one drink let it sit to loosen a bit and then go. It does the same thing of getting me out of my head but with less background noise.
I am very curious does anyone else use alcohol or music to get the juices going? Or do you do something entirely different like watching D&D streams, playing an RPG, or something way off like taking a hike? I want to know to open myself up to these and just see how everyone else does it as well.
It seems pretty clear at least to me that focusing on the politics of daily life and the way the governments work is far more popular in the current fantasy mainstream. Which seems odd, at least to me, that the journey type of fantasy novel with a grand quest like the Lord of the Rings or every Dungeons And Dragons campaign would fall out to the popular eye.
My theory as to why this happened was the rise of fantasy in television. Most notably Game of Thrones. The show gave the books a huge boost in popularity making them the pinnacle of fantasy for our time. GoT is a great show and a great series of books but I think the sword and sorcery or epic quest fantasy novels are a little underappreciated currently. That may change as time goes.
I say that because from my experience with fantasy noir novels and the current tabletop renaissance going on I think more people will be looking for something closer to the stories that they are sharing with their friends at the table. Or, I am completely wrong and projecting my own wants onto the entire fantasy community. But, I am curious as a reader and writer which do you prefer. The politics of normal life or the epic quest?
It is no secret that tropes exist and a lot of people complain when they are used and writer’s try to avoid them at all cost. But, I want to offer an alternative. What if a writer used a trope or cliche as a characters defense mechanism to who they really are.
This idea brings up a lot of ideas. Having a heroic character actually be a psychotic murderer. A person who uses adventuring as an excuse to kill indiscriminately or every D&D character ever. Or you could take the jolly male character and make him terribly depressed, using the humor like most real people do to cover the suffering they feel inside. Or what about the coward, this is an interesting trope. Taking the Paris character and turning them into someone who is brave and will lay down their life for the right cause can be tricky.
I see this as a way to write a fantasy book or really any book and not focus on straying away from tropes and cliches but rather using them, more than usual, and then using different possibly darker chapters to show that the trope is a mask, a facade, or any other defense mechanism. It’s not often that a fantasy book would get as self aware as what I am describing but I think it could be an interesting adventure.
Tell what you think. Should authors take this direction? Should they go the more Martin route and disregard them or become the trope ridden fantasy novel?
Unfortunately I did not quite finish my book. I was able to make an huge amount of progress. I went from serially adding chapters to elongate the story putting myself further and further behind to knocking out close to seven chapters. The rest of the book should move quickly as I have the ideas ready and some of the chapters already written.
I may not have been able to get the book done in November due to my procrastinating nature but my hopes are that it is done before 2018.
Against all odds I have stopped adding chapters and I can finally get to finishing up the story. I am down to 12 chapters left to write plus and epilogue that I have already written to set up further for the next book.
This significant only on the grounds that for a moment I felt like I would never stop adding chapters because I never wanted to be done. Until I remembered this is the first book in the series and I won’t be done with these characters for quite some time. I am ecstatic that you will all be able to read it soon.
Fantasy Noir or Hardboiled Fantasy is a niche genre but probably one of the best ones out there today. It throws away all the ideas of the grand journey and looks more toward the people on the street and investigations. My personal favorite example is the Ratcatchers series by Matt Colville. It focuses on a main character in the first book as he tries to solve something for the church he is a part of.
I think the hardboiled fantasy and the fantasy noir is the direction that main stream fantasy will go in. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and these novels rely on being punchy and short and delivering the story to you quickly as it clues you in on what’s going on in the world. It is a far cry from the 1000 manuscripts that George RR Matin takes his time to put out on the shelf. This is not to say that this style of writing is bad in any way, but I personally can barely get through the novels and I quite like them. Recently I skipped the fourth novel in the series after talking to people to find out that it had no information that was super necessary to understand what would be going on in the next book.
The longer form fantasy is still great and has seen great success over the years. With Patrick Rothfuss’ series set to become the next fantasy TV series. So this is not to say it is on it’s way out but I think over the years that Hardboiled fantasy may become just a prevalent or more so as it develops as a genre and gains more attention. If you have read any hardboiled or fantasy noir works that you think are great let me know. I am always looking for more inspiration and things to read. And, please tell me if you think that this part of the fantasy genre is going to gain steam or if you think that it is a fad that may soon die out.
As a student of history and a fantasy author this question has plagued me with every sentence that I have written down. Can I make my world fantastic and still make it believable in a sense of historical and real world function?
I believe so but it requires being present while writing. It doesn’t require a medicine degree to know that a sword slash across a body is close to fatal or that if one person is fighting an army they probably are not going to survive that fight. It has been historically done but only in desperate times as a last ditch effort to help other people out. Not as a method of combat.
I have to remind myself of tactics a lot since my main characters are quite outnumbered even with an army. So they use terrain and surprise to their advantage. It’s a bit of a challenge because I play barbarian in D&D mostly so I enjoy the run in and smash type of fighting, but I’ve been good so far with making it more methodical and thought out so that it doesn’t seem that my characters are magically surviving because of plot armor instead of combat prowess and intelligence.
I am curious as to how other authors do this. I know George R R Martin does similar things (with the exception of Battle of the Bastards). Do you as an author keep conflicts more one on one? Or do you go with the amazingly powerful lead character? Please tell me as I am very curious.