Fantasy has a funny way of calling things magic that aren’t really magic.
Isn’t that Brandon Sanderson’s message? All magic is just science we haven’t explored yet. There are systems we can’t see, but since the world isn’t outright chaos, we can dig deep and find them.
The sea! A dark goddess who smites the unwary from beneath, dragging them down to sate her hunger. Or, just a giant pile of water pushed around by heat, air, and whatever else happens to be living in it. Relationships! A magic spreading over all the world, connecting person to person and heart to heart, bringing the like-minded together, never to be healed once severed— life debts binding strangers, dreams binding loved ones, twins feeling each other’s pain. Or, just a bunch of individual minds with individual wants who step on each other’s toes, come together and drift apart, and once in a while stick. A house! Dark and leaning five degrees to the left, hallways that lead nowhere (or everywhere if you come back at night), a cook in the basement who you always hear whistling but never actually see. Or, just an old house you get lost in far too often.
There’s something fun about simplifying life this way. The myths give explanations for why the sun rises on one side and sets on the other but never turns and goes north for a change. Animal fiction, as I’ve mentioned before, deals with death, spirituality, and other heady topics without restraint because instead of humans they’re all cats. Fantasy introduces creatures that are vastly different from us— thirteen eyes, ten claws— and deals with otherness that way. It’s a lighthearted look at things that generally inspire confusion or depression, and a light heart is worthwhile.
But how much magic do you need in a story? How much simplification, how much metaphor? After all, simplification does not equal fun— you could end up confusing the issue instead of clarifying it if you go too far. (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on February 28, 2017
Last year, I read the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer. Looking back on that year of reading, I can’t exactly remember what I read, but I know the Enola Holmes series was on the top of that list.
This year, my favorite movie so far is Zootopia. I can remember more clearly the movies I’ve seen recently than I can the books I read last year, so I’m pretty sure in this statement: Zootopia is currently my favorite movie. (I’m seeing Captain America 3 pretty soon, though, so don’t hold onto that one.)
All in all, children’s stories make me happiest. Not just happy— not just pleased with life in general. Out of all the movies I watch, out of all the books I read, those written for children give me the most enjoyment. Why?
Guess #1: I’m a child. (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on May 3, 2016
Magic systems don’t have to be anything. They’re magic, after all– for all of Sanderson’s Laws of Magic Systems, magic doesn’t have to be anything. You could have a magic system where a different thing happens every time someone gets peanut brittle stuck in their teeth, with no rhyme nor reason to what happens to whom. Or you could have a strict magic system that only works when the moon is full and the porcupine has molted its sixty-ninth quill, at which the magic makes a slight whistle. It can be powerful, it can be subtle; it can come whenever someone burps, or only when the seventh son of a seventh son stomps his foot. Magic systems can be whatever you want.
But if you want a strict magic system, there are certain things you can do to maximize its effect.
Brandon Sanderson is known for magic systems. He already has his three laws of magic (which again, are known to be optional, thus disproving the label “laws”). Each of his books holds a different system (or at least a different insight on a system). By the end of any of his books, you’re an expert on whatever magic he created, without ever being pulled out of the story. But the most powerful thing about his systems are their concreteness.
In Elantris, magic stems from runes drawn in the air. In the Mistborn trilogy, powers come from “burning” metals, accessing weird acupuncture, or storing abilities in metals. In The Rithmatist, chalk drawings come to life. If you notice, none of them come from mentally “reaching out” to hidden entities that can only be “sensed” with a “corner of the mind”. That’s what I mean by concrete. (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on May 19, 2014
Here’s a short story I wrote last night on a vague prompt. I wanted to write a thriller, and this gave me the opportunity. They say short stories are the best places to experiment, so consider this as such. I hope you enjoy it.
“Would you like fries with that?” The kid behind the counter picked at a pimple as he punched in Mark’s order.
The sounds of the mall around them almost drowned out the words, but Mark got the idea. He shook his head. He moved his newspaper to his other hand and dug his wallet out of his pocket.
“Iced tea, please,” said Mark.
“That’s six seventy-five,” said the kid, turning aside to get the drink.
Mark didn’t have any change, so he dug a ten out of his wallet, accidentally sending a picture of his two young children to the floor. He picked it up, then handed the bill to the kid when he turned back with the drink and the receipt. He was number twenty-six. With all the noise in the food court, hearing it would be difficult. He found a close table and sat. (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on September 16, 2013
Today, author Matt Myklusch published a podcast containing five tips on writing that don’t include “Believe in yourself.” Since I gave him this challenge myself and since he mentions me, I thought you would like to listen to it as well.
Writing Advice: Part 1 | The Other Side of the Story Podcast.
I know I just posted a short post full of links, but this one is too awesome to ignore. It’s only fifteen minutes. Go listen.
Posted by Liam Wood on May 10, 2013
This is a short story I’ve had simmering within me for a while. I wrote most of the first half about a month ago, but I had the wrong main character. Yesterday, I reworked it so it would be more entertaining. I hope you enjoy it.
“Everything seems to be in order,” the hunchbacked minion sniffed. He shuffled his papers and folded his glasses into his pocket, glaring in the boy’s direction. When he turned to his master, his attitude changed from haughty to humble. It was like seeing a fox turn into a worm; even his hunch grew less offensive. “The supplicant is ready,” the minion said.
The chief examiner, a blue-hued silhouette in the window, turned his head. He spoke softly. “He has passed all the tests?”
“He is intelligent for his age; he is fluent in three dead languages and has killed a fourth. He has a suitable pocket watch, though it isn’t the finest example of timekeeping I’ve seen.” The minion sniffed again. “His name is Mor, which technically begins with ‘Mor’, but that seems to be the full extent of it.”
“And the last test?”
“I watched him make the spaghetti myself, m’lord.” (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on April 14, 2013
Last night, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the first time. I had heard a lot about it– from some sources, that it deviated from the book in bad ways; from others, that it was extremely good no matter what; from still others, that the entire Lord of the Rings and Hobbit story is a Harry Potter ripoff. After shrugging to the first group, hmming at the second group, and not even bothering with the third group, I got the chance to see it myself. This review will be as spoiler-free as I can make it without being vague. (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on January 28, 2013
Have you ever felt ecstatically weird?
It’s a nice feeling. It’s a happy feeling, but it’s a feeling that, when expressed, will earn you more odd looks than a cyborg penguin in court. I felt this feeling in abundance yesterday. Why? Because I felt ecstatically weird.
In short, it’s a feeling of pleasure derived from the knowledge that you aren’t completely normal, but that it’s okay not to be. It can also be defined as the feeling you experience just after you get a particularly strange or childish idea.
I felt ecstatically weird yesterday after doing a few things, listed below: (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on January 3, 2013
Engie (nevillegirl) at her blog posted her Ten All-Time Best Pieces From Film Scores, and I couldn’t resist. Here is my version of the list, with only one piece from each movie, no predominantly vocal pieces, and only pieces from movies I’ve seen. They are in no particular order, because I didn’t want to pick favorites. Because music plays such a large role in the presentation of a film, and because the conception of the film itself is often reflected in the conception of the music, many of these choices were personal favorites. For one who never saw the movie, perhaps the conclusion would be different. (more…)
Posted by Liam Wood on December 30, 2012
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, season’s greetings, and all that stuff. For you, my followers, I give a small thing: a link to the best set of writing tips I’ve ever seen.
Hilarious Writing Tips – Writers Write.
There are 113 of these, and they’re all funny. Have a great day.
Posted by Liam Wood on December 25, 2012