Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.
slithytove

WFC Panels, Friday morning, 11/3/06

First, some suggestions for moderators, panelists, and listeners.

1. The microphones are there for a reason. Use them. Especially if your natural speaking style is to speak softly in a disarmingly incomprehensible brogue.

2. If you carry a cell phone, for god's sake turn it off or set it to 'vibrate' when you're sitting in a room with a hundred other people, all of whom are trying to figure out what the panelist with a disarmingly incomprehensible brogue is whispering about. We don't need to hear an electronic beep-boop arrangement of "Dark Side of the Moon." We don't need to hear it again and again, as you slowly excuse your way past a row of a dozen people and head up the aisle for the door.

3. Moderators: do not use a quarter of your panel's limited time in introducing the panelists and their decades of accomplishments. "Ms. Such-a-one, well-known fantasy novelist, whose new novel "Pig Herder's Quest" is now in bookstores," is surely sufficient.

4. The names on the placards should at least match the sex of the panelist sitting behind them. Having the actual person named correctly is an added bonus. Print of a size that can be read at greater than four feet is also desirable.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way:

Notes: 1) 'PM' is 'parenthetical me', my own glosses on the comments.
2) Some notes are briefer than others. That's because some panels drifted rather badly, or many comments were obvious generalities.

Friday, 10 am: Regional Differences in Fantasy
Holly Phillips: from Western Canada. Canada produces an emphasis on small, often rural towns, isolation, the influence of landscape and environment.
Williamson (? identify): Readers seem to want extruded European fantasy with European-type landscape. This is difficult for Australian writers who live on a continent with very different geomorphs, who have no experience knowing what it is like to live in a European environment. Australian writers may do well with a desert-type landscape, but W. fears this may not be liked or accepted by readers outside Australia.
HP: "You can't get anywhere in Canada without embarking on a quest." In Canada nature and the works of humankind are ephemeral: lots of rain and moisture, everything rots quickly. Most things in the human world are, therefore, relatively new.
Jay Lake: also true of the US, except some parts of the Northeast.
HP: Is fantasy a way to create myth to supply the New World's lack of it?
JL: It's odd that Americans take to Tolkien, with his atavistic adoration of aristocracy, rigid feudal class structure, and the inherently racist idea of elves as a superior race.
Fiona McIntosh: class structure can be useful in generating conflict
FM: she tries explicitly to excise Aussieisms such as 'billabong' from her prose.
FM: she would like to try writing fantasy based on the legends and culture of Australian indigenous peoples, but there are serious political difficulties with this in Australia: "I'd get my throat cut in the middle of the night."
HP: finds it hard to write indigenous-based fiction without feeling as if she is stealing.

Friday, 11 am: Taking One for the Team: Memorable Supporting Characters

Dave Duncan: One of the best villains is Moriarty in the the Sherlock Holmes stories, even though he almost never actually appears on stage. For examples of great secondary characters, see Dickens and Shakespeare, who are full of them. To make a character memorable, make the reader feel sorry for him. Examples: Harry Potter at the beginning of his first book is being treated very badly.
Caroline Stevermer: Virtues taken to extremes become vices, and entertaining.
Melanie Rawn: Use secondary characters as an exercise in learning how to write that type of character. I.e., if the writer wants to explore a certain type of character but isn't confident enough in their ability to pull it off if the character is center stage.
DD: "magic cases": body shared by several personalities. (??)
John Moore: Secondary characters can be used as a reality check, try something out before the hero does it, or as a sort of exposition to let the hero, and reader, know that something is or is not possible. "You'll never make it across that bridge, m'lud, the ropes are rotten, they won't hold ye."
DD: always keep a spare secondary character in your narrative, in case you need someone to kill off.
JM: If a character is only in one scene, do NOT spend much effort describing or characterizing that person. If you do, the reader will expect the character to reappear in a more important role later, and will be annoyed if they don't. [PM: this sounds like a variation on Chekhov's gun] Likewise, if the character appears several times, you must put some effort into him, or the reader will feel cheated.
DD: But doesn't Jack Vance fully characterize and describe every minor character the moment they come on stage? [PM: yes, he does. Even Homer nods.]
WW: Shakespeare does this, too.
DD: Collects names in a file, so that in the course of writing, if he needs a name for a new minor character, he has one ready at hand, and doesn't have to waste time thinking of one.
CS: It's always a good sign when a character shows up already named.
JM: Names should be common and easy to pronounce. If the reader has to pause to figure out how to pronounce a name, it kills the flow of the narrative. Don't fill your names with apostrophes and diacritical marks.
Wendy Wheeler: Consider splitting a character in two: one character is all intellect, for example, the other character all physicality (not necessarily violent, muscular or athletic: he might simply be shown always doing something physical, such as twiddling a pen).
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