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RADerdeyn

Your Opinions - Can Characterizations in Fantasy be too strong?

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I would be interested in everyone's comments on the quote below. After folks have had time to comment. I'll let you know who the quote is from.

 

"Every good writer knows that the more unusual the scenes and events of his story are, the slighter, the more ordinary, the more typical his persons should be. Hence Gulliver is a commonplace little man, and Alice is a commonplace little girl. If they had been more remarkable, they would have wrecked their books."

 

What do you think?

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depends upon purpose and intent. i think there are just as many examples of extraordinary characters that are able to handle the extraordinary circumstances because of who they are. - example - 'the chosen' motif

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1 hour ago, RADerdeyn said:

"Every good writer knows that the more unusual the scenes and events of his story are, the slighter, the more ordinary, the more typical his persons should be. Hence Gulliver is a commonplace little man, and Alice is a commonplace little girl. If they had been more remarkable, they would have wrecked their books."

 

What do you think?


I’m familiar with this author and this quote, and Fantasy story theory has advanced quite a bit since their day. This author is referring to the Milieu story, where a common character is an asset. But there are three other broad kinds of stories, and we write characters differently for those kinds of stories.
https://www.writersdigest.com/improve-my-writing/4-story-structures-that-dominate-novels
 

Quote

 

The milieu is the world—the planet, the society, the weather, the family, all the elements that come up during your world-creation phase. Every story has a milieu, but when a story is structured around one, the milieu is the thing the storyteller cares about most. For instance, in Gulliver’s Travels, it mattered little to Jonathan Swift whether we came to care about Gulliver as a character. The whole point of the story was for the audience to see all the strange lands where Gulliver traveled and then compare the societies he found there with the society of England in Swift’s own day—and the societies of all the tale’s readers, in all times and places. So it would’ve been absurd to begin by writing much about Gulliver’s childhood and upbringing. The real story began the moment Gulliver got to the first of the book’s strange lands, and it ended when he came home.

 

Milieu stories always follow that structure. An observer who sees things the way we’d see them gets to the strange place, observes things that interest him, is transformed by what he sees, and then comes back a new person.

 

The other three kinds of stories require more from your characters. 

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Thanks for the replies all. The quote is from C.S. Lewis in his essay On Science Fiction found in the book, C.S. Lewis On Stories and Other Essays on Literature.

 

The point (and thereby, the question) here isn't whether the characters in a fantastical story can be "extraordinary". They certainly can, as any good hero can be -  for example, Aragorn in LOTR.  The question is, how deeply do you develop the character, and does a deep level of characterization detract from the wonder and awe of the fantastical setting? Is it possible to do too much character building that it detracts from the story? It seems it would be counter-productive to add a complexly-drawn character like a Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, or a Scrooge from A Christmas Carol to a fantasy novel, even of they did fit in the story somewhere.

 

 Johne, I'm not sure I agree with your premise that "...Fantasy story theory has advanced quite a bit since their day." The article you quote from Orson Scott Card exactly supports what Lewis said. in describing a Milieu story Card says, "For instance, in Gulliver’s Travels, it mattered little to Jonathan Swift whether we came to care about Gulliver as a character. The whole point of the story was for the audience to see all the strange lands where Gulliver traveled".

 

I do like Card's description of the other 3 types of stories, though it would be interesting at another time to discuss whether there are 3 others or perhaps more.

 

 

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