What kind of wizard are you? – A Quiz.

Ever wondered what kind of wizard you would be? No, we not talking sorting hats here, we’re talking about how your personality and power would come together. In the Book of Water (Enchantress Trilogy) by our author JW Whitmarsh there are four different kinds of wizard; enchanters, illusionists, seers and druids. Each have distinct approaches and perspectives but, ultimately, it is the person inside who shapes how the wizard comes to their power.

After a quick word from the author find out where you would sit

Nexus-Fiction: We’re trying to decide what kind of wizard people would be if they were born gifted in the world of the Elemental Cycle. Maybe we should start with some famous examples.

JW Whitmarsh: OK, but bear in mind this would mean they would have to be limited by the lore of my world. You can’t really dump a character from another world into a distinct fictional construct cohesively.

NX: Indulge us.

JW: Very well.

NX: Right. Let’s start with a biggie. Gandalf?

JW: Difficult. I think you’d have to treat Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White differently. Gandalf the Grey seems to have an affinity with fire magic principally, which says enchanter, but he also does defensive wards and shields in the manner of a seer. I’m going to say seer with exceptional skills in elemental charms. Gandalf the White on the other hand is all about light magic and in the Elemental Cycle world he’d probably be a summoner like Loreliath, but that’s not an option in this test.

NX: Alright, Merlin?

JW: The recent TV Merlin on BBC seemed to be a seer mostly but if we’re talking about the Merlin of legend he would definitely be an illusionist.

NX: Prospero?

JW: He is quite controlling and gets others to do his bidding a lot so I’d say he’d be an enchanter.

NX: Who’d be a druid?

JW: Radagast the Brown would fit very comfortably into the druid role, I think. Or Herne the hunter.

There you have it. Now it’s your turn to decide what you would be.

Question 1: If you had to face one of the following, which would you LEAST want?

  1. Going blind
  2. Losing both hands.
  3. Losing sense of taste and smell
  4. Going deaf

Question 2: It’s raining hard outside and you want to pass the time. Pick the game that would amuse you best.

  1. Poker
  2. Chess
  3. Blackjack
  4. Dominoes

Question 3: Your bedroom is drab and spartan. You can cheer it up with one thing, which would you choose?

  1. A teddy bear
  2. A plant
  3. A ceiling painting of the stars
  4. An encyclopaedia

Question 4: You have to go onstage and entertain a crowd for a short time. What is your act?

  1. A Stand-up routine
  2. Juggling
  3. Magic tricks
  4. A poetry recital

Question 5: Which danger sign would most likely adorn your workshop.

  1. 1024px-Flammable-symbol.svg 2. electricity 3. 2000px-WHMIS_Class_D-1.svg.png4. 2000px-Danger_radiation.svg

Question 6: You’re worried about security for your home, which do you invest in?

  1. A state-of-the-art alarm system
  2. Beefing up the neighbourhood watch
  3. A guard dog
  4. Hidden traps

Question 7: Which of the following phobias bothers you LEAST

  1. Crowded places
  2. Spiders
  3. Heights
  4. Snakes

Question 8: You’ve got some time to relax, what do you want to do?

  1. Take a walk in the park
  2. Visit an art gallery
  3. Listen to classical music
  4. Have a massage

Question 9: You have to commit a bank robbery and want to use as little violence as possible, how would you go about it?

  1. Fill the bank with smoke and set off the fire alarm to get all the employees out first.
  2. Hack the security cameras so you can pass by unseen.
  3. Convince the bank manager that you have his family hostage
  4. Pump a sedative into the air conditioning to send everyone to sleep

Question 10: You are in fear for your life, how will you protect yourself?

  1. Find a vantage point from where you can see anyone approaching.
  2. Escape to deep within the forest
  3. Surround yourself with the best guards you can find
  4. Retreat into a cave network that you know intimately

Answer Time.

Add up the following scores for each question. Pens and pencils ready.

1: 1)d  2)b  3)a  4)c        2: 1)d  2)c  3)b  4)a    

3: 1)b  2)a  3)d   4)c       4: 1)b  2)c  3)d  4)a

5: 1)b  2)c  3)d  4)a       6: 1)c  2)b  3)a  4)d

7: 1)b  2)d  3)c  4)a       8: 1)a  2)d  3)c  4)b

9: 1)d  2)c  3)b  4)a        10: 1)c  2)a  3)b  4)a

Mostly As Click Here     Mostly Bs Click Here    Mostly Cs  Click Here     Mostly Ds Click Here

 

Advertisements

Trilogy or Epic – A reader’s poll

In light of the forthcoming release of the third part of the Book of Water, Enchantress Destiny being released at the beginning of may and the complete trilogy version being released a month later. We thought we’d look at this question more generally.

The trilogy is a well-known staple of films, books and games. So much so that almost everything now has to be a trilogy. The number three is very satisfying but is it always what people want?

Tolkien famously never regarded The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy. That was his publishers idea. Yet when it came to making the films splitting it into three was a no-brainer. Is this the eternal truth? Is it that writers prefer a single, complete story whereas the audience needs a more digestible chunks?

We’re polling this on twitter at the moment and would be really interested to know people’s thoughts with regard to books and fantasy books, in particular. In the meantime, here’s a (very) short case for both sides.

Trilogy

Every writer wants their book read and many people would be intimidated by a 900-page brick. Length can be an initial barrier for many, even if in the event they would be able to manage. This remains true even once a reader has decided to take it on. War & Peace is famously one of the least finished books. We all like a sense of progress and huge books don’t make it easy for us. When you’ve read 100 pages you should feel like you’re well into a story and not just scratching the surface. Reading is a time-consuming process the less like a slog it seems the more people will do it.

Epic

First of all, a distinction should be made. There’s a difference between a book having two sequels and breaking up a longer tale. The reason writers don’t like their books split into three is because they are not three separate stories. It is a single story that should be read in order. Who wants to read Return of the King if you haven’t read the other two first? Also, this artificial split puts a lot of pressure on the first book to be the gateway to the others as well as being a complete story in its own right. We don’t judge films and plays simply by watching the first act. Novels should be no different.

Obviously there is a lot more you could say on both sides but it’s a start. Give your vote and your opinions here  or use the hastag #trilogyvsepic with your thoughts.

 

But it was cool when… – times adaptations got it right

Earlier, I wrote a blog called ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if’ … – the modern curse of Sci-fi and fantasy where I argued against taking liberties in adaptations for the sake of a cool (but unjustified) moment and one reader asked me if I ever thought adaptations could be better.

I feel I need to respond to this for a number of reasons. First of all, adaptations per se are not the problem. My problem is with WIBCI moments that wreck the story around them/the characterisation of those involved. As I wrote in that article, they are by no means limited to adaptations they just have worse consequences when they are.

Still, it’s fair to ask if I think there are times when TV/film can do better than my beloved medium of text. There are many writers who are dismissive of visual media and as a result are often far less outraged by bad adaptation than their readers. To them the definitive version (theirs) will always exist no matter what goes on elsewhere.

There are others who think TV/film is always better or at least the only form people care about and while I can’t agree with them on that, there is a  tiny nugget of annoying truth in that. Adaptations can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed, as for many people this will be their first introduction to the story. A poor adaptation may stand in the way of the author getting their true vision across.

There are others still who say there are two versions and you can’t really compare them. As reasonable as this position is, I can’t agree with that either. One begat the other and for the reasons mentioned before, the other often stands as the former’s representative in the world of mainstream awareness. Note George RR Martin being called on to justify Sansa-gate when he didn’t even write that. The two are and always will be linked.

This matters to me because I don’t dismiss TV/film. I always hope for good adaptations because when I read a book I can see the potential. As a novelist, there are tools available to TV/film which I envy; most notably the performance of actors and a soundtrack and I think these are two ways in which the original story can actually be enhanced for the readers.

So after that long pre-amble here follows some examples of when TV/film really added something. Since this site is primarily focussed on fantasy I’ll stick to famous examples from that but it’s only fair that I shout out Fight Club as an example of a film that deviated to good effect. There are a number of times when minor characters are replaced with Tyler and the ending is totally different. In both cases I think this is an improvement on what is a very good original story. Ok, back to fantasy…

Robert & Cersei, Game of Thrones Season 1, episode 5 ‘The Wolf & the Lion’.

All of season 1 of Game of Thrones is pretty much a definitive guide on how to adapt a book faithfully. Most of the changes are editing for content (which is perfectly acceptable especially when there are budget limits) and where they are not they are fleshing out characters who we didn’t see so much of in the books.

This works because all the books in A Song of Ice and Fire use the POV structure meaning there is much that happens that we (as the readers) just don’t ‘see’. The Robert and Cersei scene in episode 5 is an example of something that ‘could have’ happened off-camera from the POV characters in question.

The two of them talk and in doing so answer some questions that we wouldn’t have known the answer to otherwise and flesh out our understanding of them .In the scene both remain ‘in character’ even when they show a side to their character you might not have expected. Some purists might take umbrage that Cersei is depicted as having loved Robert initially but I think it shows them both to be more human (albeit horrifically flawed humans).

Lighting the beacons, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Ok, the set up is a bit laboured and unnecessary. Denethor in the film is a bit less ambiguous than in the book so he actively tries to stop this sensible measure leading Pippin to have to show some initiative. But once that is out of the way we are treated to one of the stand out sequences of the film. The soaring soundtrack of the Gondor theme playing over the glorious New Zealand scenery passing hope from mile to mile with every burst of firelight. In the books it is mentioned but, much as we try as writers, this is the kind of thing where film has us beat.

The battle of summer and winter, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Now it’s been a fair few years since I’ve read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but as I recall the battle is not described in a huge amount of detail. The film-makers really used the opportunity to give a scene that embraced the otherworldliness of the creatures involved; the griffins (superbly, character-fully animated incidentally) swoop in and throw rocks, the phoenix creates a fiery barrier and best of all is the moment when the big cats can’t restrain themselves any more and outstrip the rest of the cavalry while on the other side polar bears and loping werewolves run to meet them. For once, really running with an action set-piece really pays off here.

Of course there are many other examples than this (mentioning all the times an actor made a character more sympathetic is a blog in of itself) but I think in all of these cases the TV/film-makers have managed to add something without taking anything away. There is no car-crash or unravelling, simply they have taken what was there and added their own artistic flourish in in a way that remains true to the original story.

 

 

Wouldn’t it be cool if… – the modern curse of sci-fi & fantasy

I have a theory (by which I mean an idea based on anecdotal evidence), that much of what ruins a good film/TV series episode in the sci-fi/fantasy genres starts with the thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’.

I can understand the temptation. Who wouldn’t want to see Superman fighting Godzilla, while the X-Men fight hold off a horde of zombies with help from Gandalf? That sounds awesome! Oh, wait. No it doesn’t: it sound abysmal. Why? Because it makes no sense. Storytelling thrown out the window for the sake of a spectacular money-shot (almost certain to be the film poster and will definitely feature prominently in every trailer). My bet is on Superman mid-air poised to punch Godzilla on the jaw.

It’s something that appeals to the inner-kid, which is fine sometimes and if you want to ruin your own film doing that then, OK, that’s your right. As a writer, where I take exception to it most particularly, is when it is used in the field of adaptations. I feel that when you adapt something there is at least some responsibility to remain true to the source material. If you really want to make something that is different, write you’re own damn story.

At this point some will say, ‘ah, here comes the whine of the purist. Not everything can translate exactly and if people enjoy it -why not’. There’s some truth in this; I am something of a book purist but I like to think I am a pragmatic purist. The reason I think films/TV shows should stick to the book is that time and time again it is better when they do so. Off the top of your head, think about the worst scene in an adaptation, any adaptation. I’d say there’s a fair chance the scene you’re thinking of is one where the screenwriters have wildly deviated from the book.

That’s not just prejudice; there’s a reason why it goes that way. Generally, writers write what they’ve written for a reason. I’ve had any number of my own ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ moments and I usually think better of them because they don’t make storytelling sense. The moment of glory is like doing a wheel spin on the middle of a motorway (freeway to American readers). Sure, it looks spectacular at the time but it’s going to cause a pile up and you’ll be pulling apart the wreckage afterwards. Somewhere along the line that ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ moment is likely to cause narrative incoherence either before or after the event.

Let’s take some specific examples. The image on this blog is not the one I want you to picture; it’s this one . For those of you who don’t want to search, it’s that famous image of the Nazgul rising over the ruins of Osgiliath with Frodo underneath offering it the ring. This was almost certainly a ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ moment. From a cinematographic point of view it is. From a storytelling point of view, it’s a total pile-up that causes problems before, at the time, and afterwards.

The preceding traffic jam to this incident is that Frodo has no business being in Osgiliath in the first place. Not a problem – we’ll just move him there. But how do you move characters in a book? Unless they can teleport they have to be led there by events and prior decisions. In this case, the decision has to be taken for Faramir to take Frodo to Osgiliath thereby completely trashing his character along the way.

In the book there is a wonderful tension when Frodo discovers Faramir is Boromir’s brother. The assumption is he will behave exactly as Boromir would have done. Then he reveals his character, which is quite different to his brother there is a twist in for once things going well. Given that before and after Frodo goes through some pretty appalling things, it represents a ray of hope amongst the overriding bleakness. All that is lost in the film version. Faramir’s eventual turnaround seems more a reaction to seeing a Nazgul and being lectured by Sam than it is a result of his goodness and wisdom.

Which brings us to the other problem; strength of character and resisting the charm of the Ring. While in the books Frodo struggles with the Ring’s terrible allure, sometimes defeating it and sometimes being defeated by it, in the film he doesn’t resist it once. The film Frodo is weak. From the first appearance of the Nazgul, all his moments of courage are excised. He is shown trying to put the Ring on until Sam stops him. His moments of defiance at Weathertop and the Fords of Bruinen are removed and here, in Osgiliath, he actively tries to give the Ring to the Nazgul. Again, it is only physical intervention by Sam that stops him.

So not only has our ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ moment weakened both Frodo and Faramir it also affects the whole plot of the story henceforth. In ‘Return of the King’, Pippin takes the Palantir and Sauron believes he is the Ringbearer. Thereafter, the whole hurried attack on Minas Tirith is premised on the belief that getting to Pippin gets him the Ring. But in the film there’s no need for this as one of his Nazgul (possibly the Witch-King himself) has already seen the Ring up close in Osgiliath. Did someone just fail to mention this in the weekly Nazgul meeting? ‘Anyone got anything to report? We could really do with getting that ring back. No? No-one? Ok, so as we know the Palantir we looked at was in the tower of Orthanc…’

Now you might wish to employ some hand-waiving to explain these discrepancies, but my rule on this is simple. If a film gives you a plot-point you have use outside knowledge or speculation to make sense of, it has failed in its storytelling. All of this is easily avoided if in response to that ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ urge the writers had responded with ‘does it make storytelling sense?’.

So my plea to writers of all kind is simple. Start with this, ‘wouldn’t it be a great story if…’.