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azbikergirl
01-31-2005, 10:01 AM
Do you use the mythology approach when writing your SF or F stories? I tend to draw heavily from mythical story elements, even if my stories don't strictly follow the formula, but I'm playing with the idea of going "whole hog" on The Hero's Journey approach for my upcoming story.

Betty W01
01-31-2005, 12:06 PM
Here's a review for a book that you might find interesting:

www.absolutewrite.com/novels/45_master.htm (http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/45_master.htm)

Nateskate
01-31-2005, 08:18 PM
Do you use the mythology approach when writing your SF or F stories? I tend to draw heavily from mythical story elements, even if my stories don't strictly follow the formula, but I'm playing with the idea of going "whole hog" on The Hero's Journey approach for my upcoming story.

Absolutely. I've created a fantasy world, but if you look at different parts of the story, it would appear to be written in different styles.

There are various books at various stages. The core of the works is a series, which is being re-written in parts. But, tired of waiting, I wrote a short story, and am waiting to hear if a magazine is interested in it. The short story was written in a mythos style, with elements of Genesis as well.

When I was young, I was very much into Greek/Norse and Roman mythology.

My son accused me or ripping off Tolkien, which I did not do. I love Tolkien's brain and his use of metaphor, but I don't particularly like his writing style. However, Tolkien used a similar approach in the Silmarillion, where you have the East and West European Mythologies meeting the Old Testament. You have sort of a combination where the Valar are like Biblical Angels in some parts, but like Norse and Greek gods in other parts.

What I dislike about much modern fantasy is the overuse of "power", and the implication that the protagonist is a messianic superhero waiting to find the magic secrets. They are somewhat arrogant. For one, it is counter-Messianic (victory through emptying oneself of power and embracing servitude) but it is the fact that a Frodo can be the the unwitting hero that makes older fantasies more alluring to me.

Jenny
02-01-2005, 07:59 AM
Couldn't you argue that when we write, we're writing about relationships and (without trying to be cynical) a lot of the conflict in relationships involves power.

Look at rites of passage, from a child's lack of power to the power of adulthood, from dependent on parents to independent.

Concentrating on power in fantasy is a way of making tangible the usually slippery concept of power between people in real life. Whether you make it explicit or not, a hero's journey involves learning your own power and becoming comfortable with it.

I think people are scared of the word power, as if it's gotten dirty connotations from tyrants in history. Inequalities of power create the conflict which makes people and fiction interesting - sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad. Power's just another tool for understanding life.

Sorry for the Sociology background showing,

Jen

Nateskate
02-01-2005, 09:06 AM
Hey Jen, interesting comments. Power is not a dirty word. Power and humility go well together.

This is a sociologic trend no doubt, but I wouldn't say a good one. In my mind it is born of dysfunction, and a sense of powerlessness. In a sense, you have the powerless kid who wants to grow up and get super powers to make all of the people who hurt him pay. It works well in comics but in real life they only hurt the ones who love them.

If you look at the reason why people become Passive Agressive (A passive attempt at control- blended with fear and a weak ego) and an out and out control freak who bullies his way into getting what he wants, the core motivation is an unmet need of some kind. It's generally born out of dysfunction and the inability to trust others and negotiate as one adult to another adult.

In some instances, you had parents asleep at the wheel, and children growing up, unprepared to deal with the pressures of life, but realizing, "If I don't steer, someone is going to crash my boat". So, the problem that arises is a deep belief that "I/Me/My" have to control things, and therefore become somewhat of a tyrant. If I don't look out of number one, who else will..." Some of the Heroes of today, essentially appeal to dysfunction. "Yeah, I want to become incredibly powerful and make girls love me and bash the head of nasty people who insult me."

Well, that doesn't work well in a relationship. Obviously in mythology you aren't thinking relationships so much as accomplishing a goal, but the tudes are there.

And in some cases, you can't tell a good guy from a bad guy. Luke Skywalker was borderline arrogant when he realized he could control the force, but he was cuter than Darth Vadar. He still was likable, although if you gave him a deeper voice and darker suit, his "Don't mess with me...I warned you...I got the force..." wouldn't have been so cutesy. He was on his way to being Darth Vadar.

Part of what made his personality work from the beginning was that he was a bumbling kid from the farm, and not a natural warrior. "Golly gee...I can't do this."

I'm less of a fan of the "Ninja Master" hero, who has the "You don't know who you are messing with...I know secrets of the tobo kooby...and will cut you into a thousand pieces."

azbikergirl
02-01-2005, 10:38 AM
Part of what made his personality work from the beginning was that he was a bumbling kid from the farm, and not a natural warrior. "Golly gee...I can't do this."

This is what makes The Key so intriguing -- any character, regardless of his strengths and skills, must adventure into the "mythological woods" (out of his element) and go through some sort of transformation in order to achieve his goal. Frodo had to find the courage and strength to face powerful enemies and the seduction of the ring. I would disagree that Frodo did not find or seek a sort of power on his journey. He had to.

Luke Skywalker had a Call to Duty when his aunt and uncle were murdered, and he had to enter the mythological woods too. He was a farm boy who shot wombats (or whatever) for fun. He transformed into a Jedi. But he never became Darth. You're thinking of Anakin. I don't think he followed the Hero's Journey so much since there wasn't really a call to duty that prompted him to begin his training, aside from his "Oh momma can I? can I? huh, can I?"

Nateskate
02-01-2005, 07:45 PM
With Kwy Chang Kane (Spelling?) and Kung Fu, you had a new hero of sorts. "I'm a pacifist who kicks the living tar out of one or a group of people every week." Is he really a pacifist or a magnate for trouble? "Snatch the pebble grasshopper". Well, he's just a super hero in tramps clothing. You know he's got the power to beat up anyone who comes his way. And you have an audience, "Yeah, Kane...kick the blankity blank out of those guys...they don't know what they're messing with."

What I like about Frodo is that he never ever becomes anything more than a common man. His power is "faithfulness...conviction...dedication...and above all..."Self-sacrifice".

In a sense, Arthur is only a young boy with a destiny. Sure, he has a nice sword, but its the integrity that sets him apart, not the sword.

I'm far less drawn to the "He-Man" power trip heroes, who are really not that far away from being maniacal themselves. Their power in a sense, is not the qualities of the heart, but the overwhelming "Force" they learn to tap into.

Don't get me wrong, I loved Star Wars, but toward the end, Luke was becoming less sympathetic. He was turning into "Kung Fu", who walks in and gives Jabba "Ultimatums", "you don't know what you are dealing with...I'll give you one last chance..."

In a sense, what makes Spiderman 2 such a great movie is the fact (Despite his powers) Peter Parker had no confidence in himself or his abilities, and in fact, shows a great deal of fallibility.

azbikergirl
02-01-2005, 09:23 PM
I see what you mean. It's like they don't evolve as beings when they have to threaten violence to get what they want. A "greater" man would not need to, and so their power comes not from learning how to create, but from learning how to destroy.

Nateskate
02-01-2005, 11:47 PM
It's a taste thing. Perhaps I just like humility, and too many heroes are not humble. I loved Aragorn (Movie Version) and Gandalf, and Frodo, and Sam. All throughout, they had to wrestle with self-doubt, and overcome their own fears.

In the book, Aragorn was a bit more otherworldly, which I didn't like as much. But it isn't the lack of powers that makes them attractive, its that you can relate to their struggles.

In general, Marvel comics found the right formula. Spiderman and Daredevil -tormented heros. I also like the X-men because they aren't invincible. But what made Wolvarine so likeable was his fallibility, not his powers.

Then again, I did rather enjoy Ian McCellan as the somewhat arrogant Magneto. Boy did that guy step into two of the choicest rolls of all time, and rather late in his career: Gandalf and Magneto. Then again, Christopher Lee didn't do to bad with Saruman and Count Dooku.

ChunkyC
02-03-2005, 05:50 AM
Don't get me wrong, I loved Star Wars, but toward the end, Luke was becoming less sympathetic. He was turning into "Kung Fu", who walks in and gives Jabba "Ultimatums", "you don't know what you are dealing with...I'll give you one last chance..."
That's important to the story. Luke is going down the same path as his father. When he does those things like threaten Jabba, the audience should wonder, "Will he become another Darth Vader, or will he have the strength to resist the dark side?"

At the end you have, on the surface, the son saving the father. But you also have the father saving the son, for if Luke had not sensed the real Anakin Skywalker within Vader, would he have been able to turn back from the dark side? Having that "goodness" he sensed within Vader to hold onto might well have been the key to his salvation.

I'm such a Star Wars geek. Can you tell I'm chomping at the bit for Episode III? :p

Nateskate
02-03-2005, 08:28 PM
CC, that's a great observation. But I always wondered if Lucas meant it that way or not. Did he ever address that?

In my mind, I felt Lucas was showing that he was becoming more confident. And in a sense, full of himself. In the story, "Arrogance" is not addressed as a corrupting influence, only "anger".

Obviously when you see the convaluted way they finally escape, you feel like, "Luke, there are far too many variables for you to have planned this and pulled it off. Everyone could have gotten killed long before."

Then again, Lucas does portray Luke as resisting training...being a bit impulsive. At anyrate, I liked Luke in story one more than in story three.

allion
02-04-2005, 01:02 AM
Funny how Luke shows up in this thread when my husband and I were talking about him the other night. CBC ran Return of the Jedi Saturday night, and I was paying particular attention to Luke's behaviour, especially with Episode 3 coming in May. (Can't wait, can't wait - bought the Vanity Fair magazine because of the cover story)

Hubby wondered aloud why Luke is dressed in black all the time, just like dear old dad, when we have seen the other "light" Jedis in khaki and neutral tone robes.

My take on the choice of costume he wears goes a few ways:

- he isn't a true Jedi until he confronts his dad - that is the final test as Yoda told him, so he is dressed like a novice, in the sense of he hasn't taken his final vows yet

- he is closer to the dark side than we originally think

When the Emperor taunts him and finally gets him to pick up his saber to cut the Emperor down, it's Vader who stops him. It's Vader who knows that if Luke does slay the Emperor, then his soul is lost.

I see it as the teeny tiny bit of "good" left in Vader prompts him to act, as it does by tossing the Emperor down into the core of the station does a few scenes later when Luke is at the brink of being fried by blue lightning. But then again, not all of us are completely "evil," and not all are completely "good."

Lucas has said the movies have become a story of fathers and sons and redemption. Episode 3 promises to be darker than what has come before.

As someone who loved Star Trek: Deep Space 9 because of the depth of the stories and edgier plot lines, I am thrilled to hear that.

And a trip to the dark side of the soul can be illuminating in its own way.

azbikergirl
02-04-2005, 04:55 AM
Hubby wondered aloud why Luke is dressed in black all the time, just like dear old dad, when we have seen the other "light" Jedis in khaki and neutral tone robes.
I thought that perhaps it was like belt colors in the martial arts. Luke started off wearing white, in episode 4, and progressed to "black belt" in episode 6.

ChunkyC
02-05-2005, 12:05 AM
I always wondered if Lucas meant it that way or not
Certainly the "following in his father's footsteps" part. Look at the test Yoda subjected Luke to on Dagobah in "The Empire Strikes Back", where he had to go into a cave steeped in the dark side and ended up seeing himself behind Vader's mask. This was a big fat warning to Luke to be careful about rushing his training, letting his emotions dictate his actions (anger, as you point out, Nate), etc.

This is the part of the story arc in Star Wars that I absolutely get caught up in: the relationship between father and son. All the basic stuff is there; Luke vows not to be like his dad and turn dark, yet we see him making the same mistakes Anakin did (as Lucas is only now showing us). Both were frustrated with the pace of their training and let an innate arrogance push them in a way we don't see with Obi-wan and many of the other Jedi.

Yet is this "fire" in the Skywalker family line what's necessary to bring the Jedi order back to life, so to speak? The order, along with the Republic had become so stagnated that perhaps this "purge" and rebirth was inevitable. The very thing that led Anakin to the dark side was what was needed to bring back the vitality of the Jedi order.

There I go again! 8o

Nateskate
02-05-2005, 11:17 PM
It was hard to sort out, because it seemed to draw a bit on Eastern Lore, where you tend to have that "Macho"- I'm holding my peace, but I'm going to kick your buttocks before the movie is over," feel. "You don't know that I am a fifteen thousandth degree black belt of the rainbow coalition, with tempered steel finger-nails, do you?...now I shall rip you to shreds to show you what a fool you were to doubt my powers..."

"Everyone is rooting for the bad guy to push too far, so that the hero will be forced to show his real powers.

ChunkyC
02-06-2005, 06:23 AM
Yeah, I think we all have that feeling deep down that occasionally the bad guy just deserves to get his butt thrashed and we enjoy the surrogacy of watching the character in the book or film do that for us. The best stories show us the danger inherent in giving in to this "righteous anger."

I think that's why I don't like movies or books that present someone as the hero who grievously breaks the law to achieve his ends. Hollywood is really bad for this. Just look at the remake of Walking Tall with The Rock in the Buford T. Pusser role. In the original, Pusser was backed into a corner and could see no way out, yet he continued to resist resorting to violence until it was a matter of life and death. But in the new one, there's only one incidence of Pusser going to the sheriff for justice before he takes the law into his own hands and vandalizes the casino owned by the bad guy. It was the equivalent of knocking someone's teeth out because they butt into line in front of you at the supermarket.

I hate that sort of thing. To my way of thinking, any character who resorts to criminal activity or violence when there's another way to achieve justice is NOT the good guy.

maestrowork
02-07-2005, 12:03 AM
But it's so gratifying when you do need to resort to taking matters in your own hand... I think that's the kind of fantasy many people have, to shed their moral code and say, hell, if only I could just knock that sumbitch over... if only I could just slam into that jerk's car and get away with it... if you do it right, to put the hero in such "no way out" situation, the result can be incredibly satisfying.

Watch Paparazzi. It's a silly popcorn movie but by the end I was cheering the hero, even though he broke almost every law there is so he could protect himself and his family...

Nateskate
02-07-2005, 09:14 PM
But it's so gratifying when you do need to resort to taking matters in your own hand... I think that's the kind of fantasy many people have, to shed their moral code and say, hell, if only I could just knock that sumbitch over... if only I could just slam into that jerk's car and get away with it... if you do it right, to put the hero in such "no way out" situation, the result can be incredibly satisfying.

Sure, there's catharsis in living through Spiderman. I loved Marvel, the tormented hero comics. In fact, who in the series was not misunderstood and tormented. Hulk? Spiderman? Ironman?

But I tend to like Fantasy, where "payback" is not the primary concern. For instance, in the Wizard of Oz, kicking the tar out of the Wicked Witch wasn't an afterthought. Finding a brain, heart and courage, and a way home were the objectives.

Frodo doesn't want to kick the snot out of Sauron, he simply wants to destroy his weapon and to save the Shire.

A good deal of Fantasy is based upon revenge, but revenge as a primary motive can also make heroes uglier.

By the way, do you know who was the first in the Genre of the Kung Fu movies? Do you remember the movie "Billy Jack?" with the song, "One Tin Soldier". He was the prototype for the "Kung Fu series, a pacifist who is pushed too far. "I'm going to take my right foot and kick you on this side of your face, and there's nothing you can do about it..." After that movie, everyone was talking about Marshal Arts. And suddenly, you had Marshal Arts centers in vogue. In this day and age, that movie would be hokey. And his Marshall Arts skills would be terribly lacking and outdated. But at the time he was "cool". In fact, I can't even remember the actors name.

azbikergirl
02-07-2005, 09:38 PM
Tom Laughlin. I have the Billy Jack video because it's so awesome. Remember how Billy takes his boots off before he kicks someone's a$$? I used that in my novel -- not taking boots off, but pulling a glove onto his sword hand. :rollin

ChunkyC
02-08-2005, 04:42 AM
if you do it right, to put the hero in such "no way out" situation, the result can be incredibly satisfying.
Definitely. As long as you show that there is no other viable choice, and that whuppin' the bad guy is the lesser of two evils, the other evil being what the bad guy is gonna do if you don't stop him.

At the time, I thought Billy Jack was cool, too. I'd have to see it again to see what I think now.

Jaxler
02-10-2005, 08:50 PM
For those really interested:

www.billyjack.com/ (http://www.billyjack.com/)

Nope, he hasn't changed much.

And Nate--it's "martial" arts.

fallenangelwriter
02-17-2005, 02:22 AM
I'm surprised to see so much distaste for the ppowerful heroes. I think that it is esserntial for the protagonist to be powerful. occasionally, a Frodo type may work, but i'd like to point out that frodo is NOT lacking in power. physically, for instance, he is superhuman in every respect but brute physical strength.


In any event, the gripping thing about all the Jedi is their power. without the power of the force, their internal struggles would be lessened, and they wouldn't matter. the greater their powers, the more they are tempted to turn astray, and teh more sever the consequences. The skywalker line is ambitious. none of them will ever really be accepted by the other jedi masters, like yoda, but they accomplish more than the other Jedi ever do. although Anakin's pride pulls him into darkness, Luke's pride actually pushes him into his success. if not for the hint of arrogance, he would never saved his firends in episode two or defeated Vader and the emperor.

A powerful protagonist has a number of advantages for the story

It allows things to happen- they can accomplish their goals

Ity makes their internal struggle mroe important: who cares if the cashier at your local supermarket is seduced by the dark side of the force? with a Jedi, it matters

It allows the whole story to revolve around the protagonist: Luke and Anakin hold the power to change the world, which means that when Luke does get his mind straightened out, he can save the day and bring the story to a favorable conclusion.


that said, what i said about Yoda still applies. i don't think Luke has it in him to be a Jedi master. his power with the force and his skills with a lightsaber may grow unparallelled, but he'll never be a Jedi master. that is because of that arrogance which allows him to be a hero.

Heroes are not perfect people. ordinary, well adjusted people become moisture farmers like Luke's relatives. or presidents. Luke is a hero because of that inner force which compells him to sacquire and use power. that's why heroes don't fit in with the rest of the world. after his victory in episode three, he''l either need to change his personality, find new evils to batytle, or become a useless drunk, becaus he isn't cut out to be a normal person, or a Jedi Master.

EDIT:

"Yet is this "fire" in the Skywalker family line what's necessary to bring the Jedi order back to life, so to speak? The order, along with the Republic had become so stagnated that perhaps this "purge" and rebirth was inevitable. The very thing that led Anakin to the dark side was what was needed to bring back the vitality of the Jedi order."

Yes. Anakin is the one who brought balance to the force.

Dev
02-17-2005, 03:25 AM
I think, particularly with fantasy stories, a certain amount of drawing from mythological sources is good, and gives our readers more empathy with characters in the story. I don't mean taking all of any established religion and forcing it into your setting, but parallels of certain aspects of myth can make for intriguing reading. The great flood of the Old Testament roughly parallels the great flood in Hindu mythology, as well as the story of the destruction of Atlantis...and I'm sure there are other links in that chain as well.
--Dev

The Hero's journey, on the other hand, could present difficulty. I think a really appropriate hero is one whose power (or whatever) generally equals the villain's power. That being the case, should both the Hero and the Villain have taken the same sort of journey? (I'm sure we could draw more examples of that from Star Wars if it were necessary.)

katiemac
02-18-2005, 06:49 AM
That being the case, should both the Hero and the Villain have taken the same sort of journey?

That's semi-like what I'm dealing with. The protag and the "villain" are facing the exact same problem, yet attempting to solve it in completely opposite ways.

I think having a similiar journey isn't necessary, but it does make interesting commentary on what makes one "evil."

DaveKuzminski
02-18-2005, 07:45 AM
Personally, I like putting ordinary men and women through extraordinary circumstances to show how those can be overcome. There's no real thrill for me in a hero who possesses super powers if only because I first expect them to succeed. As well, in order for them to overcome anything, either special obstacles have to be encountered or it requires villains with equally remarkable powers. When that occurs, lots of plot holes start to materialize.

When it comes down to it, I like watching or reading of ordinary men and women who rise to the occasion. As well, there are lots of historical precedents that can be used for guidance in formulating realistic scenes. When it comes to characters with special powers, you're on your own.

Axler
02-18-2005, 06:07 PM
I tend to agree with Dave. One of the reasons I'm so fond of Stargate SG-1 (and one aspect that I think has contributed to its longevity) is that for the most part, the protagonists are presented as everyday kind of folks.

They are heroic, brilliant and brave, yes, but they have everyday concerns, too. For every episode that presents the group as larger than life, there is another which reduces the perspective, showing them as regular people...grocery shopping, fishing, talking about movies, complaining about various aches and pains or sitting around the commissary and shooting the breeze.

In that, Stargate's similarities to the original Star Trek are the most pronounced and it's the kind of character bits almost never featured in any of the Star Wars films.

I find this interview with David Brin on the subject of the fundamental differences between ST and SW pretty illuminating, since it dovetails with my own feelings and can be applied to Stargate as well:

<How is the Star Wars mythos different from its chief competitor Star Trek?

Well, one saga seems to have an Air Force motif (tiny fighters) while the other is naval (the big ship is heroic, not evil). But that difference isn't crucial. The biggest distinction is that Star Trek sees technology as essentially useful and friendly (if sometimes dangerous). It portrays education as a great emancipator of the humble (e.g., Starfleet Academy). It sees futuristic institutions as having an essentially good nature (the Federation), though of course one must always fight outbreaks of incompetence or corruption.

Professionalism is respected and henchmen often become whistleblowers (as they do in America, today). In Star Trek, when authorities are defied, it is in order to overcome their mistakes, not to portray all institutions as evil. Good cops actually sometimes come, when you call for help.
Ironically, this fosters true criticism of authority, because it says that any of us can gain access to institutions, and perhaps fix them with the fierce tools of citizenship. In contrast, the "rebels" in Star Wars must simply choose sides in a civil war between two wings of the same genetically superior royal family. They may not meddle or criticize. As Homeric spear-carriers, that is not their job.

Moreover, Star Trek generally depicts heroes who are only about ten times as brilliant and noble and heroic as a normal person, prevailing through cooperation and wit, rather than because of some indwelt godlike transcendent greatness.

In other words, Trek is a prototypically American dream, entranced by a notion of human improvement and a progress that lifts all. Roddenberry's vision breaks away from the elitist tradition of kings and wizards who rule by divine or mystical right.

In contrast, these are the only heroes in the Star Wars universe. The clash between these two fundamental views of human nature and society far transcends any superficial similarities of furniture, like aliens and ray guns.>

fallenangelwriter
02-20-2005, 12:56 AM
I don't understand why super powers are found so distateful.

Stories about interesting people are interesting. capable people are interesting. even in real-world fiction, protagonists are usually the bright, the talented, the inspired, the determined. a story about average, mediocre people just lacks luster.

DaveKuzminski, you say you like stories about ordinary epople overcoming great adversity. i contend that thhis means they were great people all along. heroes waiting to happen. if a protagonist is to succeed, and triumph, it must be because of skill or luck, and i find skill to make for a better story. on the other ahnd, is someone is to fail, it is all the mroe tragic if they had the potential to be great.

in a fantasy world, magical powers are a gift, and there are some mroe talented than others. why, if we can read sotires about geniuses, sport stars, or successful businessmen, can't we read about the natural magicians, the expert swordsman, and so on?

heroes are more interesting than ordinary people. they must still be realistic, and have human failing and flaws, act like real people, indeed, be real people. but there are real people who excel, and they seem to make the best protagonists.

Dev
02-20-2005, 01:05 AM
...heroes waiting to happen.


I agree, and I like the way you put it.

--Dev

ChunkyC
02-20-2005, 03:42 AM
Good quote from David Brin. I've read a few of his essays and though I may not agree with everything he says (do we ever with anyone?), I am always impressed by how much thought he puts into it. The man has a brain, and he uses it.

I think I know what Dave K. is getting at with the super-power thing. Superman for example is one of the greatest superheroes of all time, but when the stories started to rely too heavily on super-powered villains for him to fight, they started to lose me. That's why for me the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve will always be the best. Lex Luthor had no super powers per se, yet he still is considered Superman's greatest foe.

I just can't get as invested in a battle between collossi so far removed from my reality, as I can with a regular joe thrust into extraordinary situations, which Star Wars does both with Anakin and Luke, and Spiderman does with Peter Parker. They're all just regular kids until the greater universe finds them and draws them to their destinies.

Axler
02-20-2005, 04:20 AM
It's not the mere possession of super-powers that damage credibility, since I think Superman is a very credible character at his core--it's when those powers are used to define a character to the exclusion of all else.

Fantasy unfortunately has that tendency to portray the characters as basically vessels for eldritch knowledge or special powers. There are certainly exceptions--the immortal Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser and Michael Moorcock's early Elric stories--but to a large extent, it seems that fantasy protagonists are defined by being third-level mages or thieves or elves.

I have a great deal of affection for super-heroes, but it's not their powers that l care about. It's who they are, not what. Clark Kent could be stripped of his powers as could Peter Parker and I would still be interested in them.

fallenangelwriter
02-20-2005, 06:53 AM
I'm not terribly familiar with superman or spiderman, but i think that without their super-powers they wouldn't be the interesting characters they are. giving a character power and seeing what they do with it is a good way to develop them.

DaveKuzminski
02-20-2005, 08:09 PM
There aren't many choices they can have once given super powers. They can:

- ignore them.
- use them to excel in their career.
- use them for evil.
- use them for good.

I believe once others become aware of those powers, eventually most will be forced into one of the last two categories.

Axler
02-20-2005, 11:15 PM
There aren't many choices they can have once given super powers. They can:

- ignore them.
- use them to excel in their career.
- use them for evil.
- use them for good.


Or they can be like poor ol' Hugo Danner from Philip Wylie's Gladiator who tried and failed miserably at all four of them.

Anyway, the point of contention is relatability...Personally I relate to Jack O'Neill much more than I do Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Conversely, I relate to Peter Parker more than Frodo Baggins.

So with me it's not the special powers, arcane knowledge or lack thereof...it's the core character that matters.

Nateskate
02-21-2005, 02:00 AM
Personally, I like putting ordinary men and women through extraordinary circumstances to show how those can be overcome. There's no real thrill for me in a hero who possesses super powers if only because I first expect them to succeed. As well, in order for them to overcome anything, either special obstacles have to be encountered or it requires villains with equally remarkable powers. When that occurs, lots of plot holes start to materialize.

When it comes down to it, I like watching or reading of ordinary men and women who rise to the occasion. As well, there are lots of historical precedents that can be used for guidance in formulating realistic scenes. When it comes to characters with special powers, you're on your own.

Lets face it, there are a variety of formulas for fantasy writing. And most stories tap into them at some point. But the ones that stick with us the most tend to have common denominators.

There is something that draws us in when we see a person who is facing overwhelming odds, who is forced to put down their own dreams of a comfortable life for the sake of others. It is a human nature thing.

In a sense, when you look at Frodo taking up the ring, and leaving the shire, it invokes Moses leaving his position as heir to a throne, or Jesus taking up the cross. Now throw in a bit of Norse and Greek mythology, and perhaps a dragon or two, and you have the formula for countless Fantasies. Even Sci Fi taps into these things. You still have that formula in a more scientific format. And you have your own version of ringwraiths and dragons, but from another star system.

Even in the best stories where "Power" is needed to overcome evil, there is a sacrifice associated with it, and it is selfless. Luke is leaving home and the life he loved, and flying into a deathstar, where many of his comrades gave their lives. He has no guaranteed outcome. That's the way it works. You can't know that you stand a chance of winning, but know that if you don't do it, no one else will. Isn't that the way it was for poor Frodo. Everyone else seemed more qualified, but only he could take up the ring that was given to him.

In a sense, the reason why I liked Luke in story one more than story three (although I liked the story) was because he was a little less superman and a little more everyman.

DaveKuzminski
02-21-2005, 05:52 AM
I have to agree that Luke was much more likeable in the first movie.

In fact, the attack by the small fighters against the Death Star was almost like a real life battle that took place in World War II where seven U.S. destroyers charged a task force of 23 Japanese battleships (4), cruisers (8), and destroyers (11) in order to protect six U.S. jeep carriers and the Leyte Gulf landing. They were hopelessly outclassed and outranged, especially since the Yamato, the world's largest battleship, was in the enemy center, yet they drove off the Japanese.

Oh, if you want to look it up, it's known as the Battle Off Samar.

Nateskate
02-22-2005, 01:39 AM
[QUOTE=DaveKuzminski]I have to agree that Luke was much more likeable in the first movie.

In fairness, I do like much of Luke in movie 2 as well. The part I like is his wrestling with himself. Movie 2 was highly under-rated. In movie 3 Luke's likability factor drops significantly. (For me). In fact, much of the movie drops off for me, although I kind of like the Vadar Vs Emperor part a great deal.

HConn
02-22-2005, 10:00 AM
Luke was too whiny in the first movie.


There aren't many choices they can have once given super powers. They can:

- ignore them.
- use them to excel in their career.
- use them for evil.
- use them for good.

The same could be said of good looks. Or a big inheritance. Or a way with the opposite sex.


As well, in order for them to overcome anything, either special obstacles have to be encountered or it requires villains with equally remarkable powers. When that occurs, lots of plot holes start to materialize.

You might as well warn people off whodunits, because lots of plot holes might materialize in writing one of those, too.

Powers or super-powers are just a way to create a fun character. Yes, the opposition has to be more powerful, but so what? That's part of the fun. I *like* seeing Superman get punched through a building, then come flying back into the fight with his fist cocked. That stuff is *fun.*

You guys watch Justice League Unlimited, yes?

And to answer the original question in this thread, no, I don't use the mythological story in my fantasy. I just write the regular kind.

Axler
02-22-2005, 05:03 PM
You guys watch Justice League Unlimited, yes?


Oh, yes. I do...I find the anti-authoratarian sub-text that's been sneaking in these last few months very interesting.

Instead of presenting the JL as the upholders of American mores, elements of the government view them as threats, either to be controlled or destroyed.

With this approach, the government represents the grim, humorless and paranoid "adults" as typified by post 9/11 politicians--you either accept the heroes they manufacture and present or they'll take away the ones you actually care about.

By bringing in the "Lex Luthor For President" plot-line, it's pretty obvious the parallel that's being drawn. The whole thing is like a Bizarro World version of the Super Friends, almost a dismantling of the super hero myth.

I think the show is great, and some episodes border on the brilliant.


And to answer the original question in this thread, no, I don't use the mythological story in my fantasy. I just write the regular kind.


I employ a great deal of mythology in my series, but primarily in terms of how mythic archetypes of the past deliberately shaped humanity's belief systems and will have long-ranging effects on them in the future.

preyer
03-04-2005, 03:25 PM
'I see what you mean. It's like they don't evolve as beings when they have to threaten violence to get what they want. A "greater" man would not need to, and so their power comes not from learning how to create, but from learning how to destroy.'

the problem with that statement is that were it the hobbit's duty to jump the great evil from behind, box his ears, gnaw off his nose, poke his eyes out, and stomp his guts into the dirt to get the job done, instead of throwing a ring into the fire, then that's what he'd have done. let's not forget that those little guys hardly managed to accomplish their goals without committing a bit of violence here and there along the way. to me, a better definition of being a 'great man' is doing what has to be done. since it's laughable to assume you can reason and perhaps co-exist with evil whose only purpose in life is to see you die, you're left with about seven options, as long as all seven of those options entail you getting them before they get you.

here's an interesting twist for any sociologist, which a script doctor would charge you big bucks for and call it 'professional advice,' yet i call it 'conversation' and offer it for free: imagine if, at the beginning of the whole war, those giant war eagles got together in a massive flying army and flew frodo directly to mt. doom, dropped him off at the steps after a day, he strolls right in, drops the ring into the pit, and is whisked away. war over, no fuss, no muss. well, you've still got about a million orcs zipping around middle earth without a clue. how do you handle that? hunt them down and kill 'em all and let the gawds sort 'em out? arrest them? banish them? try to integrate them into your society? (indeed, these are the more interesting stories to me more often than not, kinda like those japanese soldiers stuck on some island forty years after the war ended, still fighting their emperor's cause out of unsane ignorance of current events. one of my own favourite fan fictions i ever did centered around a garrison of stormtroopers trapped on tatooine *after* the empire falls and the locals are laying siege to their last outpost. LOTR doesn't seem to have much of an appreciable aftermath, another way that it's almost too tight of a story, too easily wrapped up from a social perspective for me to find much value from that standpoint.)

'CC, that's a great observation. But I always wondered if Lucas meant it that way or not. Did he ever address that?' ~ lucas is a proven liar a hundred times over. he'd tell you in his later interviews the whole thing is supposed to be about anakin, when clearly the OT is nOT. lucas raped my childhood! sorry, had to throw that old saw in there, lol. people call gl a genius. and at business, he's a wunderkind, a phenom, a devil and a saint. as far as creative ability goes, once you start investigating him, it turns out he's very middling in the imagination department, truth be told. his real creative ability resides in his ability to take things and combine them in a way that doesn't make it seem like he's not ripping everyone else in the world off.

'american grafitti' was virtually autobiographical. doesn't take a genius to tell your OWN LIFE STORY, eh? lol. creativity factor- zero point five.

'thx-1138.' actually his most creative movie as i recall. a box-office bomb. i hear the new version rocks, though.

'star wars.' of course, this is where people became aware of the hero's journey, which, as gl claims, was the template he used for the 'sw' story. and that's probably true, but it brings up the question, 'why wasn't 'willow' a better movie?' it follows the hero's journey, too, doesn't it? why did *that* suck swamp gas (besides the fact that val kilmer is the overall cure for box-office success)? so, the template wasn't lucas', which he admits, and sw geeks like me can pick the movie apart frame by frame and tell you where he stole everything from right down to the time he got sued for stealing the design of r2-d2 from another sci-fi movie, to threepio being taken from 'metropolis'' robot (kinda hard to lie his way out of that one, so he never even tried), to using frame-by-frame footage of WWII dogfights to set-up his final battle with the death star, to-- well, the list in endless.

anyway, that movie is pretty much the only one that uses all the characters of the hero's journey (inasmuch as i understand it to be, having read several detailed synopsises of it over the years, but not a recent retelling). are the prequels not as good because there's very little growth factor involved? personally, i think it's because lucas has lost his damn mind, making me wait nearly twenty years for a new star wars then giving me 'exqueeze me' and fart jokes, flying artoo-detoos and teenage queens voted into office (?) who dress in tight black leather next to romantic fireplaces then gets pissed off when the teenage dude next to her wants to kiss on her. you can put in all the hero's journey you can into that story and it'll still suck. at this point, the whole prequel thing is so mired in politics and heavy-handed 'subtlety' it seems to miss its own point (thanks rick mccallum-- you know, you *can* tell your boss an idea of his blows every now and then).

if what you're alluding to is the jedi as an institution makes for a dull story, i whole-heartedly agree. it's only interesting aspect is when one of them goes bad. otherwise we're following galactic boyscouts around.

king arthur and LOTR have hero's journeys in them, too, though i'd like to say that the arthur legend has been so watered-down to fit the modern sensibility it's most popular version, mallory's, would be unrecognizable and highly offensive to people today, but it's been so twisted to fit into the hero's journey that people accept it.

'indiana jones' ~ my personal favourite because indy's an anti-hero. he's also a major rip-off, of course. the rogue with a heart of gold is hard to deny. i think it's true, too, that these types of characters do a certain amount of pandering to the lowest common denominator. at the same time, you're also leaving the realm of social commentary and entering *gasp* entertainment for its own sake. these characters have a natural sex appeal, indy as robert plant as opposed to frodo as boy george. well, seeing as indy has little to nothing to do with the hero's journey as opposed to being a great character with a great storytelling behind the camera, no need to expound on his virtues... or lack of.

just as an aside, i've argue for years since anakin was meant to bring balance to the force, he did exactly that when he slaughtered the jedi. hey, i mean, there's like thousands of jedi and two sith? yeah, that's balanced. by the end, there's only luke left. hm, seems like the light side of the force has the overwhelming 'balance' there, eh? now, correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't a balance means equality? like yin/yang? lucas, get your shady-*** philosophy straight for *once*, would ya?

'Yeah, I think we all have that feeling deep down that occasionally the bad guy just deserves to get his butt thrashed and we enjoy the surrogacy of watching the character in the book or film do that for us. The best stories show us the danger inherent in giving in to this "righteous anger."' ~ sorry, c, i think this not only misses part of the point of drama and entertainment, but it's also a naive world view. however well you expressed your thought (very well, in fact), the real danger is expecting that the hero can always do what absolutely has to be done without ever stepping outside the boundaries of 'good.' kinda like 'would you break a bakery storefront glass to steal bread to feed your family if you had to?' in real life, america runs black ops all the time so we can keep our country the way it is. cops have to break speed limits to rush to a scene. granted, a hero's only recourse shouldn't be to shoot first and argue with the police chief later, but at the same time what has to be done has to be done.

this world will never be entirely pascifistic. that's not cynical, that's just the way it is. if you have a free society, you *must* accept that violence is a part of that.

i say all that to preface this:

'I hate that sort of thing. To my way of thinking, any character who resorts to criminal activity or violence when there's another way to achieve justice is NOT the good guy.' ~ clearly, not always is it possible to strictly adhere to the law to enforce it. a very minour case in point: when i owned a jeep cherokee, i'd been pulled over during the winter. the cop was just checking me out, his excuse being a lot of 4x4's are stolen here in the winter. i hadn't broken any laws, i hadn't done anything wrong. now, in my mind, that was pretty damn illegal for him to do without any justification whatsoever, but he did it anyway just to make sure i wasn't a car thief. bear in mind i'm a white guy, was in a white neighbourhood, and otherwise look very much like i could afford the $17k price-tag for the vehicle i was in, so there wasn't any profiling going on.

that's trifling, though. what's more serious is this seriously off-kilter system of 'justice' we have. it's not 'justice.' it might be the law, but it's incredibly dangerous to confuse the two. they're not the same.

i think we just might not see eye-to-eye on the concept of violence. i take it you view violence as without redemption, whereas i view it as a tool. i feel there are times when violence and justice are one in the same. then again, i think vigilantes kick ***, so what do i know? lol. at the same time, i really don't have a problem with the idea of revenge, either. don't want to get shot? then don't burn my house down. don't want me toppling your empire? then you shouldn't have blown my planet up. don't want me cutting your arm off with my lightsabre? then you shoulda kept that pistol in your pants, big boy.

in entertainment, we're rather hard-pressed to find heroes who're given any options other than springing into action so it's always pretty easy to justify. and there's never a time when the hero is wrong by rushing into a place where he thinks evil is being practiced. in real life, if ever i'm driving down the road and fifty flaming arrows shoot out of the darkness and land in the corner drug dealer's head, i didn't see nothing. sure, i guess the cops could arrest him again for the same crime, and it might postpone some kid from o.d.'ing for a minute until that dealer was replaced, but when that dealer gets out of prison in a few years he's now a super-criminal.

the point here is there aren't always absolutes until you write them in, and as a writer, care has to be given not to be preachy in your views, rather to shroud them in such a way that even if your character has the ability to take a different approach, the results are given in a realistic way, not a convoluted series of twisted events that seems to support a political statement. certainly one of the biggest kicks we get out of seeing the villians get their come-uppance is because we so rarely see it in real life, eh? if that last quote is something everyone can agree upon, i hope people have a real definition of what 'justice' really means to them, not only as a writer but as a person, too, and not to confuse it with abstract concepts like 'law.' (sorry, i really don't mean to sound like i'm jumping your back or anything :))

'Watch Paparazzi.' ~ oh, man, that movie rocks ***. it had me so pissed off at those photogs i couldn't wait for the guy to take his gloves off. that's what it boils down to in a lot of cases, eh? i mean, at what point are you going to be a man and protect your family? as it was, is, and always shall be, the point of being a man is to provide for your family, to help raise your children, and to protect them. don't call yourself a man if you refuse any of those. well, i guess you *could* call yourself a man, but you won't be no friend of mine, lol.

'A good deal of Fantasy is based upon revenge, but revenge as a primary motive can also make heroes uglier.' ~ this is true. it makes them much uglier. at least it's the violent fantasy that makes us not commit them in real life, lol. unless you play 'd&d.' when i was kid, my buddy and i used to enact little battles with whatever crap was laying around, taking turns as the hero and the monster. when the fishing pole is was using scraped just under his eye, he told his mom, who had a fit. damn boyscout. he had a shield/garbage can lid, for cripes sake, he should have used it! it's no real wonder he never got any women. so, anyway, i had to start hanging out with another buddy, and our after-school pasttime consisted of throwing rocks at one another. sad but true. this is how i've become the most sane lunatic you're apt to meet. *twitches eye uncontrollably*

'although Anakin's pride pulls him into darkness, Luke's pride actually pushes him into his success.' ~ i think that's a good comment. 'pride' is one of the seven deadly sins, but that definition is lacking. there are two forms of pride, one being the kind of pride that incites violence as being called 'yella,' the other the kind a father feels when his son wins the ballgame with a home-run.

'if not for the hint of arrogance, he would never saved his firends in episode two or defeated Vader and the emperor.' ~ sorry for being critical, but you mean episode V, and luke did absolutely squat in managing to save his friends. artoo was their real saviour there.

'Ity makes their internal struggle mroe important: who cares if the cashier at your local supermarket is seduced by the dark side of the force? with a Jedi, it matters' ~ that's just funny.

'Yes. Anakin is the one who brought balance to the force.' ~ ah, finally someone who agrees with me. obviously, i'm commenting as i go through the thread, sorry for being redundant in a lot of places. :)

'The great flood of the Old Testament roughly parallels the great flood in Hindu mythology, as well as the story of the destruction of Atlantis...and I'm sure there are other links in that chain as well.' ~ unless i'm mistaken, it's either every major religion or culture has a flood story.

'I think a really appropriate hero is one whose power (or whatever) generally equals the villain's power.' ~ if by that you mean sauron's brute power is equalled by frodo's 'humane' powers, i guess i agree with that. if you mean that they each have the same amount of bullets... well... ah... yeah, i guess that's true, too, it just doesn't sound very entertaining. i should admit that superman is the most boring superhero ever created. i think usually it's a case of all things being even, the villian should easily whup up on the hero, but it's one of those 'good' qualities the hero has that allows him to triumph that the villian can't comprehend, thus unable to defend against.

'When it comes to characters with special powers, you're on your own.' ~ i tend to fall into this category, too. that's why i really like the indy character. yeah, he can fight, but he gets his *** kicked more often than not against a real opponent. it's his intelligence and remarkable perseverence that gets his goal. i really don't have any problems with green lantern or aquaman (two vastly underrated characters), but give me batman any day. what makes a good hero for me isn't his indestructability, it's his human-ness. why else would we care about a spider-man or a hobbit? or a vulcan, for that matter.

again, i apologive for the long post, the redundant nature of how i approached it, and the soap-box nature of certain parts of it, not my intention. :)

preyer
03-04-2005, 04:23 PM
oh, hell, i didn't see there were two pages to this thing. guess i'm not done yet, lol.

why do we love spock as a character?

'The biggest distinction is that Star Trek sees technology as essentially useful and friendly (if sometimes dangerous)' ~ i assume this refers more to TNG, as kirk was a computer killing machine. i think the old series essentially painted a lot of technology in a negative light, using it to solve problems it created in the first place, and much of it was begrudingly accepted. dredging up my memories from star trek, i have the impression the old series centered more around warning about technology than lauding its virtues (and certainly its practical applications, heh heh).

i don't know who this david brin guy is, but had i the inclination, i could argue his points fairly accurately, i feel. i have to wonder if he watched the same star trek and star wars i did.

'a story about average, mediocre people just lacks luster.' ~ i think it's about being to identify with the character. i think you happened to stumble on a spate of folk who like the more average joe character than the power-endowed. i gravitate towards the character, not his ability to shape-shift or throw fireballs. i often like to feel as if i could perform the same actions the hero can. chances are i'll never be able to turn objects into gold just by touching them, though.

'In a sense, the reason why I liked Luke in story one more than story three (although I liked the story) was because he was a little less superman and a little more everyman.' ~ beyond 'anh', how far does the hero's journey extend? seems the first movie fulfilled its goal by sticking to the template, then it turned into a three act play. 'tesb' and 'rotj' is actual character development, which doesn't seem to play an uninhibited role in under the HJ's template: that is, the template is very rigidly structured. i think lucas and his writers did as good a job as could be expected seeing as how the character simply had to advance dramatically. i would be proud to have written it that way (though embarassed for having made 'rotj' overall (how the hell do you torture a droid? that's just stupid.)). i know what you mean and i agree, though that's probably just the way it had to be. fortunately, we had han solo to give a damn about by then. (i'm giving lucas a little credit here, unsure whether or not there's another old japanese movie he ripped-off. 'son of the hidden fortress'?)

'Movie 2 was highly under-rated.' ~ 'tesb' is generally considered to be the best of the bunch.

'I employ a great deal of mythology in my series, but primarily in terms of how mythic archetypes of the past deliberately shaped humanity's belief systems and will have long-ranging effects on them in the future.' ~ i don't know what the hell this means, but i know i don't get all fancy like that, lol. those rare ocassions i write fantasy, i never think to myself that i have to follow a HJ's if i've got an ensemble cast. the farmboy, the wizard, the princess, the rogue, etc.. at least i don't consciously set about doing it like that, though i'm of course programmed to bend that way, so i probably do it more than i realize. being a cheap hack, i'm sure i do, lol.

the last fantasy story i was writing was about a young constable trying to solve a cold case. it was your basic generic fantasy tudor-style town, though the magick and all that was toned down. anyway, every ten years, the events of a terrible crime replayed itself (repleat with ghosts-- cool, huh?) in a room of a fancy inn overlooking the docks. the crime happened a century before, and every constable who took to solve the crime had met with terrible fates; death, poverty, unsanity, etc.. the last constable who undertook the task was now a drunk in the dirtiest tavern of the city, and had to be conjoled with a lot of booze by the young constable to tell his tale. it was a tricky story to tell, and somewhere i lost interest in it. but, i remember thinking to myself with a slight grin how far removed from any HJ's that probably was, a fact i recall being somewhat happy with. :)

Jamesaritchie
03-05-2005, 12:44 AM
I don't understand why super powers are found so distateful.

Stories about interesting people are interesting. capable people are interesting. even in real-world fiction, protagonists are usually the bright, the talented, the inspired, the determined. a story about average, mediocre people just lacks luster.

DaveKuzminski, you say you like stories about ordinary epople overcoming great adversity. i contend that thhis means they were great people all along. heroes waiting to happen. if a protagonist is to succeed, and triumph, it must be because of skill or luck, and i find skill to make for a better story. on the other ahnd, is someone is to fail, it is all the mroe tragic if they had the potential to be great.

in a fantasy world, magical powers are a gift, and there are some mroe talented than others. why, if we can read sotires about geniuses, sport stars, or successful businessmen, can't we read about the natural magicians, the expert swordsman, and so on?

heroes are more interesting than ordinary people. they must still be realistic, and have human failing and flaws, act like real people, indeed, be real people. but there are real people who excel, and they seem to make the best protagonists.

I tend not to like superpowers because they don't exist, and even if they did, I don't have any. This means I can't relate to the protagonist.

And in real life, I think we're all heroes waiting to happen. That's the point. Being a hero doesn't take greatness, doesn't take any special powers. Being a hero doesn't take a great physique, or even a great brain. It doesn't even take any special skills. In real life, being a hero is simply a choice. So is being a complete cad.

DaveKuzminski
03-05-2005, 12:56 AM
Very true. It can be thrust upon you simply because you're the only person at a pond who knows how to swim at the time that someone is in danger of drowning. You don't think of yourself as a hero at that moment. You just go in after the kid. You don't give up when you find that your first attempt to grab him and get him to shore fails. You try again and again until you succeed.

preyer
03-05-2005, 01:59 AM
dk, maybe i never noticed or the tagline under your book is new, but it reminds me of a great book by poul anderson (i think) where a spaceship lands in a medieval village, is captured, and is accidentally taken to worlds abroad, which they promptly conquer. it was the only book i ever read twice in my life. wish i could remember the name of it, i really liked it. i might have to check your book out. it doesn't suck, does it?

Velleity
03-05-2005, 03:19 AM
Even when I was a child watching Saturday morning cartoons, I never cared for superheroes. Where's the drama? They're designed to win. If they could lose, they wouldn't be superheroes, would they?

And don't wave that kryptonite in my face. That's not a weakness, that's a contrivance. Give me a hero who's too weak to win. Or doesn't know what he needs to do to win. Or can't win without losing something else he holds dear. Now the ending's in doubt (even if it isn't). Now it's interesting.

(And I happily watched Scooby Doo as a kid, so it wasn't just the formulaic plots that turned me off, either.)

I suspect this says at least as much about me as it does about superheroes.

DaveKuzminski
03-05-2005, 06:28 AM
Preyer, new tag. I realized today that I hadn't mentioned anything about my book, so I decided I should. No, I don't think it sucks. In fact, some readers and the publisher already want a sequel.

Vellity, I agree. There was a TV program called The Greatest American Hero which was interesting and entertaining to me because it involved a man who was chosen by aliens and given a suit that gave him super powers. The only problem was he lost the instruction manual, so he bumbled his way through each episode. So, despite the powers, he was still an ordinary person most of the time. I and my family always looked forward to that program.

And he probably would have found that manual if it hadn't been for those darned meddling kids. ;)

Velleity
03-05-2005, 11:32 AM
Vellity, I agree. There was a TV program called The Greatest American Hero which was interesting and entertaining to me because it involved a man who was chosen by aliens and given a suit that gave him super powers. The only problem was he lost the instruction manual, so he bumbled his way through each episode. So, despite the powers, he was still an ordinary person most of the time. I and my family always looked forward to that program.

Now I have that theme song running through my head. After... no, I don't want to think about how many years. :( I could still quote the chorus, but I won't.

A hero who has great powers, but finds that they won't solve every problem or open every door, is much more interesting to me than one who has every answer to every solution.

preyer
03-05-2005, 11:51 AM
funny you mention that series not only because it brings back painful memories of the time my mom had my dirty blonde locks permed when i was in sixth grade and i was the 'envy' of my schoolmates', but because the main character had a 'mentor' in the gov't agent, which fulfills one aspect of the hero's journey.

fallenangelwriter
03-07-2005, 04:01 AM
I Think I have not made my argument sufficiently clear.


Identifying with a character is important, but i personally don't like identifying with mediocrity. identifying with a character is possible even if the character is a genius, [president or superhero, as long as they are human, has failings, foibles, ambitions, fears, etc.

there are two types of "Super Powers". the first are simply gifts, talents, whatever you wish to call them. I prefer to read about smart, determined, talented people. I enjoy seeing what they do, i want them to succeed, the stakes are high. I can identify with them.

(DISCLAIMER: I have a superiority complex, so i find it natural to identify with heroes. poeple who are more reasonable in thier mindsets may find it more difficult.)

then, consider shapeshifting and fireball-flinging. in a magical world, just as there are smart people, there are shapeshifters. i find it no harder to belive in a character with talents that ecxist in out world, than one with purely fantastic talents. again, i can identify with a shapeshifter: it seems just part of the suspension of disbelief required. in fact, the reason i Enjoy reading and Writing fantasy, is to be a user of magic. it's why i play Dungeons and Dragons.

that said, too many excessive superpowers DO cause problems in creating beliveable characters and coherent storylines, and certainly not everyone character need be a superman, but i prefer a protagonist who is somehow remarkable. maybe they're incredibly smart. maybe they're sensitive and kind. maybe they're charismatic, or beautiful.

even in the case of the average guy who knew how to swim, something mroe was required than that. he had to have a heroic attitude, a superpower in and of itself. courage, determination, altruism- these are gifts.

if a person has absolutely nothing to distinguish them, why are we reading about them? and, in a fnatasy world, why can't their distinguishing factor be magic?

Birol
03-07-2005, 04:39 AM
just as an aside, i've argue for years since anakin was meant to bring balance to the force, he did exactly that when he slaughtered the jedi. hey, i mean, there's like thousands of jedi and two sith? yeah, that's balanced. by the end, there's only luke left. hm, seems like the light side of the force has the overwhelming 'balance' there, eh? now, correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't a balance means equality? like yin/yang? lucas, get your shady-*** philosophy straight for *once*, would ya?



One of my friends said something similar when Chapter 1 came out. It was something along the lines of "Why didn't Yoda go, 'Hmm... He is supposed to bring balance to the Force. The Jedi are at the peak of their power. The only way to bring balance is to bring the Jedi down. Hmm... Must kill this child now before he can destroy us all.'"

preyer
03-07-2005, 01:37 PM
i think you're trying to blur the lines of what a superpower is. by your definition, that i can gnaw my toenails off is a superpower. not like anyone else can do it for me, eh? lol. superpowers/magick isn't about semantics-- you'll not be able to convince me my ability to jump three inches higher than most people is a basis for identifying with a flying superhero. by its very definition, a 'super' power is an ability to do something no normal person can do.

i guess, too, that since i identify more with mediocrity... that makes me mediocre? lol. i know that's not what you meant. at least i hope not, because i view it as identifying with reality, as opposed to, no offense, the over-indulged/over-compensating ego who, i've found, often *do* identify with extreme characters late into their adulthood (think the comic book guy from 'the simpsons'). when i was a kid, yeah, give me superheroes any day, but as i matured (this isn't to say anyone who still loves superheroes is immature), i found myself more drawn to the humanity behind the mask of powers, and the more i experienced in life the more i found that ordinary people aren't quite so ordinary. indeed, 'ordinary' people are far more interesting to me than the surface 'i'm a superhero, woe is me, i can't find a girlfriend' character. i mean, here you've got a guy with all these great gifts, yet he's lonely *because* of those gifts, and there's where the separation begins between character and reader.

notice how virtually every superhero has relationship issues? more often than not, that's the only problem they have, at least problems that aren't completely contrived. so, usually, to me superheroes have a very limited range for the most part. i mean, i can count on one hand the number of superheroes who know what it's like to be out of a job, heh heh.

fantasy is a bit different. by its very nature, it's often an ensemble, and somewhere in there is the personality you connect with most. too, fantasy has always seemed to concentrate more on actual characterization (i think it's because the author has to humanize the characters because of the bizarre world setting).

naturally, it's up to everyone to decide what they like more, just for me superheroes and their 'problems' are something i, ah, for lack of a better term, 'outgrew'.

birol, the force is apparently working on destroying the jedi, it being who created the instrument of their destruction. not only that, but the force is slowly withdrawing its powers *away* from the jedi. if this isn't the case, i think lucas has to have one whopper of an explanation for what would otherwise be a huge plot hole even by his standards.

i'm very much looking forward to seeing the jedi get clobbered. mace windu is about as useful on the council as a third a ss cheek, his character about as exciting as driftwood with fishing line wrapped around it. and all those little kiddies practicing with their cute little lightsabres with yoda? they gotsta die. since everyone hates kids, this is gonna be a kick-a ss movie.

fallenangelwriter
03-07-2005, 09:44 PM
Well, you may be right. perhaps when I grow up, i won't like superheroes as much.


in any event, relationship problems, while a real and important concern, are not the only problems that confront superheroes. from my own fantasy stories, which may not be the best, but which i feel mroe comfortable explaining than books i have not actually written, i give some examples of things made possible only by the superhuman nature of the heroes:

morality stories are often strengthened by having important figures as heroes.

one of my stories features an angel who decides to conquer the world, reasoning that angels will govern humans better than people do. throughout, he is tormented by the possible and actual consequences, and struggles to decide what his real ambition is.


they can be singled out becauseof their powers.

another story focuses on a group of talented adventurers who are manipulated by an unknown person. they know they can do a lot, but every step they find they've been helping their adversary.

they can fear or mistrust their powers

A man gifted with incredible magical powers fears and hates them, and every time he ios forced to use them because depressed and withdrawn. coming to temrs with them in his task, and he ultimately fails, finally choosing to transfer them to another.

none of these stories work without the facft that the characters are special and talented.

arkady
03-08-2005, 12:41 AM
... imagine if, at the beginning of the whole [Ring] war, those giant war eagles got together in a massive flying army and flew frodo directly to mt. doom, dropped him off at the steps after a day, he strolls right in, drops the ring into the pit, and is whisked away. war over, no fuss, no muss. well, you've still got about a million orcs zipping around middle earth without a clue. how do you handle that? hunt them down and kill 'em all and let the gawds sort 'em out? arrest them? banish them? try to integrate them into your society? ... LOTR doesn't seem to have much of an appreciable aftermath, another way that it's almost too tight of a story, too easily wrapped up from a social perspective for me to find much value from that standpoint.)


I agree completely on this point; the ending of LOTR has always seemed far too quick and tidy to me. Just look at the ruined land King Aragorn must now rule: Hundreds of thousands of his people dead, most of them the strongest and most productive males who were keeping the economy of Middle-Earth together in the first place. God-knows-how-many thousands of farmland and crops destroyed. Widespread starvation. Vast hordes of Orcs still crawling all over the landscape, up to whatever dirty tricks they can manage, with or without Sauron. Orphans and widows everywhere you turn. Scurvy renegade humans who threw in their lot with Saruman or Sauron, still on the loose. There's a hell of a lot more to dealing with postwar Gondor than just finally getting your elven-princess in the sack and throwing a swell party for the hobbits.

Simply slaying the Bad Guys isn't enough. You have to buckle down to a lot of mundane hard work to keep life going on afterward. With its mythic focus, I certainly don't expect LOTR to dwell on the details of Gondorian War Relief, but the ending would have been less of an emotional letdown if there'd been at least a few strong hints of the massive recovery efforts that must now be undertaken in a Middle-Earth that's essentially been decimated. Only in the hobbits' beloved Shire do we see any real signs of the human (or at least, hobbit) cost of the War.

When you come down to it, the "social perspective" of the Ringwar is essentially ignored, in order to focus on the trials of the main characters. That's okay -- the main characters are where the story is. But at the end, LOTR seems to lose sight of nearly everything else, to the extent that the vast struggle's meaning seems to be reduced to Aragorn's love life and Frodo's Christlike sacrificial sufferings. Tolkien went to enormous -- and highly successful -- lengths to create a believable social background, then simply abandoned it once the Ring was melted into slag. It's an omission that even Suspension of Disbelief can't camouflage for me.

preyer
03-08-2005, 02:52 AM
i haven't read LOTR since i was a kid, but i certainly don't remember anyone even saying, 'the war is over, but there's still much work to be done.'

fa, i don't mean to imply you're immature, or that i'm particularly mature, for that matter, lol. it's just children will look at a superhero and focus on his ability to walk through walls, shoot lazers out of his eyes, or find the focal point of any object and can destroy it (a pretty lame superpower, but one character actually had that as a 'power'), without realizing that that's just surface b.s. to get you interested in the character and his problems. when people get to be young adults, creating sonic booms with your mouth just isn't as interesting anymore. there's a point where the drama and characterization is more important.

i still love whiz-bang f/x and eye candy that makes me go 'wow', but if it's not tempered with good characters, you've just watched 'van helsing' and wish you had those two hours of your life back.

the hero's journey is like tapping into a universal (for westerners, at least) stream. it's kinda hard to screw that game plan up, that's why it's so constantly used. anyone who writes high fantasy or whatever term you prefer, will do well to understand how the 'system' works, if for no other reason to avoid another story of miss-matched characters trekking through the perilous woods to destroy the big bad evil dude.

damnit, now i'm half-inspired to pick up the one story i'd dropped a few years back. the great evil was the gov't, and it was about revolution.

i believe there's a series of book that focuses on the bad guy's perspective, isn't there? those sound interesting. it's interesting to see a hero turn evil without him ever knowing it. it would quite a challenge to write a hero's journey with a cast of evil characters, eh?

i remember my d&d daze. it was a lot of fun while it lasted. too many rules, though, so my buddy and i made our own games up. the one 'real' game we settled on was 'warhammer,' which seemed to be the core of the reason we played d&d in the first place, to kill lots of people, lol. what i need now, though, is a couple of people who can actually play 'risk.'

fallenangelwriter
03-09-2005, 12:17 AM
I think that we're more or less in agreement.


for the record, my opinions are not that protagonists must have superpowers but that

A: protagonists should be special or important

B: superpowers are one valid way of making them special

C: moral precepts are dependent on the ability of people to act upon those precepts.