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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Robin Hobb

I recently finished reading the first tree trilogies of Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Elderings world (I have no intention of reading the Rain Wilds Chronicles which follow them, however). I had read the Farseer trilogy, the first of them, a long time ago, and then had to wait in line to read the second trilogy, the Liveship Traders. While waiting for the first book, I moved on and never started reading them again, until about a month ago at the request of one of my brothers. I proceeded to fly through the Liveship Traders and then The Tawny Man trilogies, and now I can put aside that world and move on with my life and past my brother’s nagging.

I have very mixed feelings about Robin Hobb’s writing, and this trilogy of trilogies. The most memorable aspect of every one of the nine books with the characters. Without a doubt, Robin Hobb is a master of character creation and development. Every character was deep, rich, and realistic; you could identify with every single character. At the same time, every single character was also flawed. In the Liveship Traders, I found myself admiring the depth of the characters while simultaneously hating each and every one of them. They were too flawed, and by the end I found I had no sympathy for any of them. While it’s hard to identify with perfect characters, we are also often loathe to associate ourselves with overly imperfect ones, and as a result I spent my time reading the Liveship Traders being infuriated at everyone. However, she wove a very rich tapestry of inter-character relations, in both that trilogy and in the Tawny Man trilogy.

The Tawny Man books were much better than the Liveship Traders. I actually liked almost every single character, and felt that the interplay between them was almost perfect. Interestingly, the narrator of both this trilogy and the first Farseer trilogy, FitzChivalry, evoked two very different responses from me in both sets of books. In the Farseer books, I hated Fitz, and had trouble reading them because I had no sympathy for him. He was whiny and made so many stupid mistakes it frustrated me to no end. In the Tawny Man books, however, I was very sympathetic to him (save for a few cringe-wothy moments), and instead felt as if everyone else was a jerk to him, rather than the other way around.

Her writing style is also magnificent. It flows very well, and she is truly able to immerse the reader in the world she creates. Though the books were often needlessly long, and sometimes nothing of substance happened for whole books (then again, GRRM is even more guilty of this sin), there was never a dull moment, both due to her ability to make the reader want to know what happens to the characters and to her very well-written and flowing prose.

Conversely, she has a bit of trouble with plot and world-creation. The plots were rather simplistic and somewhat predictable, and the world always seemed to me to be only half-imagined. Still, both were good enough to keep me engaged, even if there was a lot of room for improvement.

Would I recommend these books? I’m not sure. While her writing is amazing and characters are deep and real, her pacing can be off and a great deal of her characters are terrible people who I hated. However, she managed to still make me care about most of them (save Kennit at the end of the Liveship Traders, when Robin Hobb slipped into a rape apologist mindset, which infuriated me). I felt for the first two trilogies like I was being dragged along, and I was frustrated by the characters and plot, but at the same time I couldn’t put them down. The last trilogy was much, much better than the previous two, and was worth reading. I’m just not sure if it was good enough to justify the previous two trilogies.

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Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Universe, Plot, Characters, and Inspiration

As I embarked on my newest (new) project, Sundering Stars, I started to think a lot about what got me excited about writing and what inspired me to actually sit down and get things down. One does not need inspiration to write, but it certainly is more fun and often more rewarding when you are writing and feel inspired.

Recently, I haven’t been writing (see my previous post, Excuses, for a semi-coherent rambling on that subject). I have no one to blame but myself, as I kept making excuses for why I wasn’t writing because I never felt inspired to write. What has, of late, gotten me back into writing is actually being truly excited about a new project.

What makes this new project different from my old WIP’s (which I by no means will abandon) is that my source of excitement and inspiration is different. With all of my Juxian tales (save Tal’kan, which is a special case) including The Divine Madness of KIngsZigguratsBeneath, and A Deadly Dance, the inspiration and drive to write the novels was based on their shared universe, the Juxian mythos. My Juxian mythos is insanely detailed and I absolutely love it, but I realized over the past few weeks that I was trying to write these novels based on nothing more than the universe. No matter how detailed or well-thought out a universe is, it is never enough to base an entire novel on (a short story, perhaps). What these Juxian novels needed was something of substance; characters and plot. A universe is, in the end, often little more than the backdrop of the story.

What makes Sundering Stars different is that I was not inspired initially by the universe, as my Juxian stories all are. It was the characters which made me want to write, in particular the “female lead” Maria Holstead, who is in my outlines shaping up to be one of my most interesting characters ever. Following the characters came a vague concept of a plot, and (gasp) literary themes! The universe is something I’m borrowing from a forum game I started writing rules for but never got off the ground (which goes by the same title that the project currently does). Unlike my normal approach, the universe is secondary.

This is all revolutionary to me, and I have spent a while developing the world of Sundering Stars now, but for the first time I am motivated by characters and plot. This has gotten me out of my Juxian rut and started writing again. This leads me to the conclusion (that I am sure you other writers have long realized) that characters and plot are the driving force behind any good work, not the world. My Juxian novels were always about characters exploring the world I had created. Sundering Stars will be more about the world exploring the characters.

Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I hope I can keep up the momentum, and after Sundering Stars I hope to return to Tal’kan, which is a character and plot driven story only partially set against the Juxian mythos. It will take me a while to get used to this new character-focused mindset; I am much more comfortable with universe creation!

What aspect of writing drives your motivation? What aspect inspires you most? Character? Plot? Universe? Llamas?

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Writing

 

Excuses

Hello everyone; it’s been a long while. I’d like to say that there was a good reason for my (very) extended leave of absence, but there really isn’t. Over the past year, I’ve mostly had my head down in my undergraduate thesis, and once that finished in May, I spent the summer preparing for my upcoming doctoral program in sociology. I’ve always found it difficult to write when I am stressed or otherwise preoccupied by other things that need doing; it’s my greatest flaw.

So, while I’ve gotten some writing done, it hasn’t been nearly enough, and I began to doubt if I really want to be a writer. After a long period of soul-searching, I decided I still do want to be a writer, but also many other things. A writer is not an all-exclusive thing to be, and I’ve been in the mindset that it should be for a long time, which has been making it hard for me to get the motivation to actually write something. As I worried about and prepared for my doctoral program, I felt like I was betraying myself. Now, however, I have come to terms with my probably future as a writer and a sociologist, and I will do both.

So, I have no excuses for my lack of updates, or my lack of writing. I hope to fix both in the upcoming months, assuming my program will give me the time (and if not, I’ll do my best to make time). I will stop making excuses to not write (oh, I’m too stressed to write well! Oh, I don’t feel like it. Oh, I’m not a real writer so why bother?). I will just start writing again.

Part of my problem with regards to writing of late, other than the excuse-making and stress, has been a lack of inspiration. Inspiration is by no means necessary to start writing, but I’ve been less than inspired by my stories as of late. As such, until I can get fully involved with them again, I am starting a new project that I am very, very excited about. I am leaving the world of the Juxian Mythos – spending so much time in that universe I was beginning to find stifling and was hampering my creativity (though I still love it and will return to it many times) – to instead work on a science fiction novel (or maybe more than one depending on length) tentatively titled Sundering Stars.

The planned novel will deal with themes of genocide, humanity, auto-evolution, alien life, and godhood. It might be a bit ambitious for one such as myself, but I’m going to give it my best! Wish me luck, and I hope to soon be updating both this blog (and EsoTarot eventually) more often, starting with my thoughts on Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders and more about inspiration and Sundering Stars.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Personal, Writing