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Via David Moles, a post by Joe Abercrombie on whether people who write fantasy ought/need to read fantasy as well. I found myself nodding at a lot of what he has to say, but particularly this bit near the end:

It's also worth noting that there are all kinds of places you can find ideas outside of books. TV and film are full of great writing. Computer games less so, but plenty of ideas still. And then there's, you know, life. Nothing wrong with adding a sprinkling of newer, edgier stuff from outside a genre or even a given medium to the tried and tested classics within it to produce the familiar with a twist.

Something I noticed a while back during various discussions of my "literary" influences is that I was referring as much or more to movies and TV as I was to books. This bothered me for about ten seconds, I think mainly because it suggested I wasn't reading "enough" anymore, but then I remembered that I care a lot more about good storytelling than I do about provenance -- and really, it's not as if I haven't always gotten ideas from odd places.

As for producing "the familiar with a twist," there's a part of me that wants to object and say "No, no, you should strive for breathtaking originality at all times," but just the other night Lisa and I were talking about how our two latest TV obsessions -- House, M.D. and Burn Notice -- are both very formulaic shows that manage to avoid feeling formulaic because they're so well written. So, never mind.

Bonus link: This morning jaylake offers a pointer to a Wiki of Story Tropes.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
We really like Burn Notice as well! I've been working on a collaboration set in 1980s Miami with coke dealers, were-gators, and expatriated Cubans and just realized that the show is influencing that at least a little.
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
...Were-gators? This I have got to read.
Jul. 29th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
So what's the were-gator equivalent to the word "lycanthrope"?
Jul. 29th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Alligator is a bastardization of the Spanish el lagarto, so perhaps "lagarthrope"?
Ted Chiang [myopenid.com]
Jul. 29th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
Apparently the Greek root of crocodile is krokodeilos, so maybe "krokanthrope" or "krokodeilanthrope."
Jul. 30th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
(oops forgot to login - ignore my previous anonymous)

-thrope is latin - no need to go back to classical greek for latin "crocodilus" - which would become Crocodilanthrope or something

mormo is the (classical) greek, as in mormo-luke for werewolf. mormo-kroko? I like that better. :)
Ted Chiang [myopenid.com]
Jul. 31st, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
The suffix -thrope isn't Latin; it's Greek, from anthropos. Same with the prefix lyc-, from the Greek lykos.
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love Burn Notice. On top of the great writing, awesome characters, and tips on how to blow stuff up, it's the only show set in Miami that actually captures the spirit of the city. I live here, and even though they get their Spanish mixed up sometimes, it's so much fun to be able to recognize ideas and attitudes that are so familiar to me. And there's nothing like watching Coral Gables get the shit blown out of it.
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: tips on how to blow stuff up, one of the things that impresses me is how well the voiceover narration works. That's a very literary trick and one that's hard to pull off on screen (cf. the David Lynch Dune -- "I will bend like a reed in the wind.").
Jul. 29th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
my only issue is the way he brushes off the idea of learning the rules in order to break them. i would be more into Jasper Fforde if he had bothered to read some speculative fiction before he tried writing it.

i think those favorite shows work because the writers know the genre in a way that lets them play. Tim Kring from Heroes isn't a comic book fan. and that definitely made the superhero/supervillain stories fresh. but i think where the show falls down are in places where someone who knew the literature would have had a full toolbox.
Jul. 29th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
Good enough for Shakespeare...
It's the Greek/Roman dramatist's approach: the story is always well-known, it's how it's told that matters. And I think House and Burn Notice both benefit from the formulaic approach, because when they break their own rules it is all the more effective for the audience (Amber dying/torturing Sam). When I was a kid, this was my argument for why I liked Doctor Who over Star Trek: Star Trek required everything to follow the rules and build on the past, whereas Doctor Who killed off the main character on a regular basis - all the rules could be broken, and the past (even of the show) wasn't exactly concrete.

And I agree with this whole argument that storytelling takes many forms. Anyone played Monkey Island? Brilliant.
Jul. 29th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
Glad to see that I don't need to feel shame about watching Burn Notice, just L&O:CI.
Jul. 29th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Damn. Miguel Ferrer was on CI this week, wasn't he? I missed it. Saw his ears in the commercial, but totally spaced on watching the show.
Jul. 29th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
I have mixed feelings about the voiceover, but the story is excellent so far, and I'm so pleased to see Bruce Campbell. Jeff Donovan reminds me wonderfully of Buckaroo Banzai's Perfect Tommy.
Jul. 30th, 2008 12:13 pm (UTC)
I think Terry Pratchett has been quoted as saying 'Import, don't recycle'.

Re the tropes wiki - believe me when I say that this can be a total time sink if you're not very, very carefull...!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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