18 November 2006

NaNo – Day 18, Store-bought Peeves And Bad Guys With Library Cards

Today my antagonist went to the library. No, really. I was pondering how to get him some information, without relying on conveniently placed informants. Not to mention there is some knowledge that isn’t just lying around. Well, actually it is, but it's lying around in the library. Why wouldn't my fantasy world have a library? Books, maps, writing utensils, all the luxuries that make plotting just a bit easier. We're not primitives for the Gods sakes.

My pet peeve with some people is their attitude that everyone before 1950 was stupid, and humanity just barely survived until the invention of cell phones and microwaves. Every time I read about ancient engineering I want to go find the cultural ostriches and smack them around a bit. Roman toilet, sewer, and bath systems serve as role models for my fantasy worlds. If my characters get the chance to bathe, they take it. Public baths with latrine facilities in the bigger towns. Hey, if the Romans could be fastidious, so can my characters.

A lot of fantasy seems to be set in medieval times where bathing was a symptom of the devil, and people just scraped mold off their food and ate it. I think my culture is an extension from the Romans, if they had just kept chugging along and hadn't collapsed in a quivering heap when Christianity ran amok.

I read all these 'pet peeve' lists on fantasy boards and have to wonder about the people who post them. I am not interested in reading about some stable mucker or kitchen drudge unless they have something else going for them, like being the bastard son of a king, which makes everybody scream 'cliché!'. Honestly, how would some uneducated slob with no money or prospects be able to save/rescue/remodel his village, let alone his/her kingdom or the world? I want to read about people who are intelligent, and driven to make a change, whether it be for personal reasons or to save the world, clichéd or not. The characters who would rather die for a cause then turn tail and run home to live out their days saying, "I could have been a contender, but..."

The antagonist is a learned man. He has his culture's version of a bible; he reads history and studies past battles and the journals of soldiers to learn more about his craft. I also wanted him to have to work a bit to gain his intel, instead of having it handed to him by a spy. Of course, written words are open to interpretation, especially ancient versions of religious texts. I can't help it if in his arrogance... he misinterprets a few things.


Carla said...

I share that pet peeve. One of the most striking things about experimental archaeology, or at least the bits of it that I've come across, is that whenever someone sets out to recreate a piece of ancient technology it almost always works far, far better than anyone imagined. I might take issue with you about the backwardness of medieval times (!) but I'm with you on the general principle.

I find I can't write about stupid people, whether they be kings or drudges (though a secondary Doctor Watson-type character can sometimes come in handy). The main characters have to be intelligent, otherwise I run out of things for them to do and say.

And I agree about the usefulness of writing for plot development. I was most pleased when an archaeological team dug up a Byzantine seal ring on a sixth-century site in North Wales - right where a story is going to be set :-)

Constance said...

Carla, I won't tell you which fantasy books I was thinking of when I wrote the medieval rant, but I bet you can guess. There's enough stupidity out there without adding to the mix in fiction.

Do you have a link to the archeology news in North Wales? That sounds interesting. I love Byzantine stuff, and my reenactment persona (well, one of them) is Welsh...

Carla said...

I can guess but I might be wrong (there's competition....) - can you tell me by email so we're not at cross-purposes?

Link here. I think I'm going to set the story on the mainland to fit in with some other snippets, but after all, who's to say where the ring was used before it found its way to its final resting place on Anglesey?