• Tag Archives world building
  • On Kami

    Writing this has been a long time coming; almost from the moment I decided that since my Honor’s Path series takes place in a Feudal Japan-like setting that I should use largely Japanese religious traditions and ideas within the story. A quick disclaimer, I am not a follower of Shinto and cannot claim to be an expert on the religion. I have, at best, a lay understanding of the material. With that addressed, let us continue.

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  • Legend of the Five Rings: What I Love About The Story

    Originally, I wrote a (quite long) post about the story of Rokugan. After I finished, and was looking at the 2000 words I had put down, I realized something: It read like a wiki post. Greatly informative if it is about a topic you are already interested in, but otherwise I expect it is quite dry.

    Initially, I wasn’t sure what to do. On the one hand, I had spent a few weeks working on it. Shouldn’t I just post it, since it represented two weeks worth of working on content for my blog? On the other, everything I wrote about was easily available from different sources. As such, I really wasn’t bringing any additional value to the table. I was merely regurgitating information that is readily available.

    After some deliberation, I’ve decided to hold back on everything I wrote for now. If it seems relevant later, I can always post it then. Instead, I have decided to explain exactly what I loved about the story Legend of the Five Rings created.

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  • Legend of the Five Rings: The Great Clans pt1

    A good place to start explaining my love for L5R is the factions that exist within the setting. Originally, there were 7 Great Clans (although when the game first launched one of these had been “destroyed” and was reintroduced later in the story). Every clan tends to revolve around particular themes, although individuals within that clan may deviate from the norm.

    Obviously, this was done mostly for gameplay reasons. By having every clan wear a unique hat (so to speak), it makes it easier for prospective players to understand what mechanics each clan is most interested in interacting with. It is actually something I do like. For one, this means that every clan ends up representing different aspects of Asian cultures. Also, while the game does take this specialization to an unrealistic extreme, it isn’t entirely unheard of (the English and Longbows, French and Knights, Swiss and Pikes, etc).

    For the time being, I am going to focus on a few of the 7 Great Clans, and cover the others in Part 2. I may also go over some of the other factions (three or four in particular), but do not want to get bogged down. These background posts are supposed to be an overview, not a setting sourcebook. Also, these clan summaries obviously give my perspective of the different clans. As such, they highlight the things I find most interesting about them.

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  • Legend of the Five Rings: Introduction

    This was originally going to be something for my newsletter (for this month even) before other events overtook it and I realized this probably makes more sense as a series of blog posts anyway. Before I begin, allow a brief explanation about what Legend of the Five Rings is:

    The Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) is a fictional fantasy setting that focuses on the empire of Rokugan, which borrows heavily from various feudal Asian cultures and (Japan in particular). It was originally associated with a Collectible Card game, however, this expanded over time to include a large amount of official fiction, a tabletop RPG system, and now a Living Card Game.

    So all of that is nice, but why bring this up on a blog about my writing? Because it was probably the thing that introduced me to Asian culture and has undoubtedly had a strong influence on my writing as a result. Although there are a number of criticisms that can be leveled at L5R, notably that it westernizes the subject matter to fit the audience and portrays things in a (generally) idealized manner, it is a property that I have enjoyed throughout a significant portion of my life. That being the case, it seems worthwhile to discuss the setting and what I liked about it. Consider this an overview.

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  • Sigilism pt1: Overview

    For my coming novella I wanted to try my hand at a story quite different from the Honor’s Path series. This comes with a shift to a setting that is inspired by a combination of Feudal France and the Byzantine Empire. It also means that I’ve decided to try my hand at writing a story with magic. Not going for high fantasy here, so don’t expect mages slinging absurdly powerful spells. Continue reading  Post ID 1043

  • More Character Motivations

    Oops, got so involved with what is going on in my life that I missed a week. I’ll try to make it up sometime in the future, but for now I’m just going to continue on with my plan writing about Character Building.

    Last Time I wrote about the primary motivation most characters should have: staying alive. I believe it is very important to be aware that most characters in a story will want to focus on keeping themselves alive, and what it means when that isn’t the case, however while that provides a solid base it isn’t terribly informative. Realistically, it won’t come up that often, and even if it did anything that is common to 99.9% of the population isn’t terribly interesting.

    Secondary motivations are where things begin to get more interesting. Here it becomes possible to look at a character and start to infer things about who they are, and how they will behave in a given situation. Also, the importance a character gives to each of these goals tells the reader something about your character. Their character development is ultimately driven by things which cause them to reorder their priorities, or by how achieving or failing to meet their goals causes them to reevaluate themselves and what they are doing.

    One thing to keep in mind is that characters may not be aware of all their secondary motivations, and they may also incorrectly define which ones are most important to them. For example, a businessman may tell you his goals involve moving up in the company hierarchy, but what he actually cares about most is providing for his family. Culturally, his caring for his family is simply assumed. Alternately, an athlete may say that winning the big championship game is the only thing he cares about, but when presented with the opportunity to win by cheating he may turn his nose up at it. He discovers that while he wants to win, he isn’t willing to do so unfairly.

    Protagonist Goals

    Protagonist goals tend to be different from those of the characters around them. Most characters in a story will have primarily mundane goals, or if they have fantastic goals will give them a low priority (due to their impossibility). Obviously this doesn’t have to be true of all secondary characters and minor characters, a minor or secondary character that is trying to accomplish something seemingly impossible could be someone to help give the protagonist a boost when they need it most, but in general most people keep their main goals down to earth.

    Protagonists, however, like to reach. They don’t want to get that next promotion, but rather intend to eventually become the company president. When that village child said that he wanted to become a knight, he really meant it. And that little boy wants a puppy more than anything else in the world.

    One thing to remember is that the goal doesn’t have to necessarily seem that impressive. Where The Red Fern Grows is set in motion by a boy and his dream of owning two coon hunting dogs.This may sound like a minor thing, but the key here is that the goal was so vitally important to the character, and his situation called into question his ability to achieve it. This was something he needed to seriously work at to accomplish.

    Antagonist Goals

    Antagonist goals can be vastly more varied, often depending on the type of story you intend to tell and the type of antagonist that best suits your story. If you want an antagonist that mirrors the protagonist, it may be good to give them a lofty goal as well (often one that conflicts with that of the main characters). In this case, giving the goal twist to make the antagonist unlikable is a common too. For example, perhaps both characters want to win the championship, but the antagonist wants to do it to become rich and famous while the protagonist wants to do it because they love the game and feel this need to prove they are the best.

    A conflict with the antagonist’s goals is almost always a given, but that doesn’t mean they have to be inherently malicious. Perhaps a kid has trouble getting support of his father because he wants to go to college, but his father believes that is a waste of time and money for someone who is destined to take over the family farm. Or, on the other side of the coin, perhaps there is a child whose mother is pushing them to enroll in an ivy league college despite their love for animals and desire to become a veterinarian.

    The most important thing is to know why the conflict exists. Taking the example of the mother trying to push her kids to get an ivy league education as an example, it is entirely possible she sees how smart her children are and wants to make sure they get the best future possible. Maybe she got pregnant early in life and felt that she had to give up such opportunities for herself to take care of her children, and thus wants to make sure her kids get the life she never had. Ultimately what she wants is for her children to grow up to lead happy, fulfilling lives, however she defines that in a particular way which isn’t necessarily what everyone wants. Knowing this lets you better understand the clashes that happen, driving the story forward in a way that is consistent while suggesting potential outcomes.