Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Do Constraints Mold The Best Art?

I read an article not long ago that made an interesting claim: placing constraints on an artist helps create the best art, while giving an artist total free reign, IE “the sky is the limit” often results in monstrosities.

Of course, I don’t have the article to re-read, and so I cannot remember the examples they gave.  But, the idea came back to me today and I realized that in some ways, there may be truth to it.

Let’s take the most basic (or perhaps extreme) example: spelling, grammar, punctuation.  If you tell a writer “no rules” you’re going to get something that’s difficult to read, if not impossible in some cases.

An example:

“OMG can u imagene readding a entire 300 pg b00k likE THis?”

…That was painful just to write!  Almost as painful as reading Washington Irving’s run-on sentences!

But what about less obvious examples?  As I’ve found out the hard way, there are rules about genre, and while it might not be too bad to bend those rules to make it interest, flat-out breaking them might work against the writer.

Image Source – https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com

The best example I can think of is a topic I’ve already talked about: novel cover art.  When I first started considering cover art for The Sword of Dragons, I remember looking at the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble and thinking, “All these covers look similar.  I know!  I’ll do something completely different, that’ll make my book stand out!”

Except…it didn’t.  Not in the way I wanted it to.  Yes, I made it look very different from regular fantasy novels.  And so anyone looking to read a fantasy novel didn’t even bother to pick it up, or more likely, didn’t bother to click on it on amazon.com to see what it was about.

But there’s more than just cover art to consider…

Tropes of Fantasy

I’m a fan of taking a typical fantasy trope and turning it into something just a little different.

Image Source – http://dartgarry.deviantart.com/

For instance, a typical trope about dragons is that they are fire-breathing creatures who live in caves guarding a hoard of treasure.  In the first Sword of Dragons novel, there is, in fact, a dragon living in a cave, and she is indeed guarding something of incredible value, but rather than an evil beast greedily guarding gold, she is protecting the most powerful weapon in the universe.

Is it possible to take this too far?  Initially I might say yes, but then I look at examples like Game of Thrones.  In most fantasy novels, the heroes live and achieve their goals, and the heroes are often very clearly defined from the villains.  Neither of these tropes are true in Game of Thrones.

But is that an exception?  What was it about GoT that made it so popular?  Honestly I don’t know, but it seems like this has created a sort of sub-genre of fantasy.  I’m curious to see how many more venture into this type of fantasy, successfully.

And in all honesty, I’m not sure what rules should or shouldn’t be followed, when it becomes okay to break rules or tropes.

For my own part, I do enjoy a lot of fantasy tropes, they are why I like the genre.  Dragons and magic in particular draw me in.  I intend to continue to toe the line, keeping some fantasy tropes intact, while turning others on their heads.

Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/smokelight/dwarf/

For instance, dwarves will start to play a bigger part in books 3 and 4, but they won’t be exactly what you’ve come to expect from dwarves.  You’ve already seen in book 2 that they once lived underground, as is typical for dwarves…but they definitely don’t anymore.

I also do not like the “Damsel in Distress” trope.  Even if there’s ever a female character in need of rescuing in my novels, it’s usually not done in the typical way (for instance, Elaria in the first Sword of Dragons novel.)  I’m all for ‘damsels in distress’ rescuing them selves, like Princess Leia did!

In any case, to answer the initial question of this blog, I think it helps to have constraints.  Movie productions have shown that an unlimited budget aren’t necessarily going to create a better product.  But sometimes, just sometimes, there are those that can break the typical rules and succeed.

It all depends on the circumstances, and perhaps even the luck of the draw.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Defining Moments – Response to Peter Dinklage

Hi everyone,

What is a day job?

I know, a weird question to start with.  But that’s what I define as my day-to-day job, my work in I.T. that pays the bills.  My Day Job.

And I’m going to steal a quote from Peter Dinklage: “I hated that job, and I clung to that job.”  Except I’m still clinging to it.  And I don’t know how to let go of it.  I don’t know how…

Peter Dinklage Commencement Address

Image Source – speakola.com

A few weeks ago, my fiancee sent me this video, a part of a speech given by Peter Dinklage at a commencement speech at his former university.  And it struck a chord in my soul.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  In my waking moments.  In my dreams.  It’s a voice in the back of my head saying “these are the words you’ve searched for, they give voice to what you’ve felt for so long.”

Would you believe that Peter Dinklage was once in I.T.?  He was in data entry, and as he said in his speech, he hated that job, and he clung to it.  Like me, he clung to the job that gave him the freedom (outside of work) to live for himself, to not have to depend on others.  And yet, from the sounds of it, for him it barely even did that.

Until one day, when he was 29, he decided he needed to do something more with his life.  So he took the first acting job he could get, quit his Data Entry job, and went hungry for a while…but kept going.  One job led to another, to another, to another, until now, he’s one of the highest paid actors on television.

And in his speech, he pleaded with the college students not to wait until they were 29, like he did.

29.  I’m 33.  He did Data Entry for 6 years.  Counting my work study time, I’ve been in I.T. for 14 years.

Like Dinklage, who put on puppet musicals as a child and acted in school plays at least since the 5th grade, I’ve been a writer all of my life.  No, strike that: I’ve been a story teller all of my life.  Because funny enough, it was in 5th grade that I actually wrote my first story, but before that, I would tell anyone who would listen stories.

Clinging to the Job

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

Ask any of my friends or family members, for the past year or so, my desire to leave I.T. and write full time has been stronger than ever.  I feel like my day job has been sucking the life out of me, and it’s only gotten worse.

There are days where I even allow myself to feel a little hopeless in that regard.  I feel like I’ll never be able to escape it.  I’ll never be able to write full time.  I’ll never be able to follow my passion, to do the thing that has given me meaning since I was a child!

How do I escape?  Do I take the plunge like Dinklage did, quit my day job, and just write and publish and try to get an agent, and hope that I land on my feet?  What he did took courage beyond all measure.

Yet to do something like that right now would go against everything I was raised to be.  Not that Dinklage was wrong, in fact I admire him for what he did.  But I’m in the rabbit hole too deep.  I can’t just throw caution to the wind and then go “oops, it didn’t work out right away, now I’m living on the streets until I can find a way to land on my feet.”

Whether it was skill, luck, or some combination, Dinklage was able to get through the rough beginning, and came out on top.  But let’s face it, that’s a rare occurrence in life.

…So yes, that means I’m afraid.  Terrified.  Of what?  Failing?

Yes…but what does failing mean?  Dinklage covered this in his speech, too.  He hated his job, he clung to that job, maybe he was afraid of change…are you?

If I were to quit my job and write full time, the chances are extremely high my entire life style would have to change.  Quality of life would definitely go down the tubes for a while, and who knows for how long.

It would feel like a step backwards.  It would be like all of my hard work until now was for nothing…

Would it be worth it?  That’s the maddening thing, I can’t begin to calculate it.  Just as I’m sure Dinklage couldn’t calculate it.  I doubt he had any idea he would one day end up being one of the highest paid TV actors.  Maybe he dreamt of it…but when he took that acting job…  It would be worth it if I knew I was going to come out on top and someday make just enough from writing to live off of, to pay the bills, to have a roof over my head.

Honestly, I’d love to sit down with him and talk, to ask him how he felt as he did it, what he thought, how long he pondered over it before he made his decision.  What was it that prompted him to take such a daring and dangerous course of action?  What got him through the hard times that followed, the doubts as he struggled to pay the bills as an actor?

Hmm…maybe that’s the question everyone should ask those who have ‘made it.’  Not “how did you succeed.”  But rather, “where did you find the courage?”

How do you learn to believe in yourself like that?  Because that’s also what holds me back…my self doubts.  I’m waiting for validation.  I’m waiting for my novels to be at least somewhat successful, as if to prove that I at least have a chance.  Does that make me a coward or prudent?

Honestly I don’t know anymore.  In the commencement speech, Dinklage says “The world might say you are not allowed to yet.  Please, don’t even bother asking.  Don’t bother telling the world you are ready.  Show it.  Do it.”

…I’m trying.

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

PS: if you’d like to see the full speech, click here.  It’s worth watching if you have the half hour to spare.

Is it Necromancy or Not?

Hi everyone!

Thanks to a lot of fantasy-based fiction, including books, video games, movies, and TV shows, most everyone has at least some idea of what necromancy is.  The act of raising the deceased, or reanimating them.

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalRecently, a friend who finished reading Burning Skies came to me disappointed with how necromancy was used in the new novel.  The reason?  Without giving the plot away, she was unhappy by the apparent hypocrisy of how characters regard necromancy and how they regard what the Staff of Aliz does.

Though she remained unconvinced after I explained the difference, it prompted a great conversation between us, and I wanted to cover the topic here, hopefully generating discussion from you, my awesome readers :D

What is Necromancy?

Image Source - vsbattles.wikia.com
Image Source – vsbattles.wikia.com

According to the Oxford Dictionary, necromancy is: “The supposed practice of communicating with the dead, especially in order to predict the future.”

This holds true with my research into necromancy as it is known in the occult.  The legend goes that if necromancy is used on a deceased person, the undead may reveal the future.  Really and truly, that is what people in the ancient world (and perhaps many still do in occult circles) believed.

necro-gameofthronesFantasy has taken a different spin on it.  There are many, many forms of necromancy throughout the varying fantasy universes.  I have not seen many that use it based on the original intent.  Most ‘pop-culture’ fantasy merely makes necromancy a form of raising the dead and making them do their bidding.  World of Warcraft, Buffy/Angel, and even Game of Thrones (though I don’t know if they call it necromancy in the show, and I have not yet read any of the books.)

This is, without doubt, the most common thread I see in fantasy.  There are cases where the resurrected person retains their personality, to at least some extent, but there are others that show it as nothing more than reanimating a body.  No soul, no intelligence, no personality, just a mindless automaton.

Necromancy in Burning Skies

So how does it work in the Sword of Dragons universe?  Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this post, beyond the existence of necromancers.

A brief history of necromancy that is not covered in Burning Skies: when the Necromancers of Vestuul first came to be, it was when they had discovered a new magic: they could reanimate the dead.

Though no personality or soul returned to the risen, the magic used to raise them connected them to the Universe, indeed the magic was of the very essence of the Universe.  These deceased could be coerced into revealing events to come, predicting the future with startling accuracy.

Image Source - thespectacularspider-girl.tumblr.com
Image Source – thespectacularspider-girl.tumblr.com

But the necromancers lost their way.  Over the centuries, the magic was perverted, and the most powerful necromancers were able to raise and control armies of undead.  With every fallen enemy, the ranks of the undead grew, until nothing could stop the necromancers, and they conquered their world.

How Does The Staff of Aliz Work?

Introduced in The Sword of Dragons, and eventually finding it’s way into the hands of the first Wizard King, the Staff of Aliz controls the very life forces of the Universe.  With a disciplined mind, the wielder can literally dispel the very life within any living thing.  Or give it back…  It can even heal the gravest of wounds.

Image Source - wowwiki.wikia.com
Image Source – wowwiki.wikia.com

But it has limitations.  As the Wizard King explained in The Sword of Dragons, if a person has been dead for too long, the staff will not work.  And in Burning Skies, the staff cannot return the undead back to life.

When a deceased person is brought back to life by the Staff of Aliz, it is truly bringing that person back to life.  Their soul, their intelligence, everything they were returns, and their bodies are healed.

What’s The Difference?

The difference is in the definition: someone brought back to life with the Staff of Aliz is exactly what it sounds like: they are brought back to life.  Necromancy, on the other hand, only reanimates the body.  No soul, no intelligence, nothing of the former person remains except for their body.  Furthermore, their body will continue to decompose.

Think of the difference between someone who has been resuscitated and a zombie (think biological zombies, an infection.  Walking Dead for example.)  While the resuscitated person may have been dead for a very short time, they are still themselves (assuming no brain damage from lack of oxygen.)  Zombies are not themselves.  They have no intelligence.  The only part of their brain that works are base instincts and basic motor skills.

Image Source - wallbase.fr
Image Source – wallbase.fr

Now apply that to magic (if this were a sci fi instead of fantasy, it would be advanced science that simply looks like magic to the less developed.)  The difference between the Staff of Aliz and necromancy is like the difference between a Paladin in World of Warcraft reviving a character and a Death Knight or a necromancer raising a corpse.  Is the Paladin using necromancy?

What Do You Think?

I’ve made my case, now I want to hear from all of you!  What do you think?  Do you think the Staff of Aliz is necromancy?  Or do you think they are completely different schools of magic?  Is it hypocritical for characters to condemn necromancy but be okay with the Staff of Aliz?

Thanks for reading!  :)
-Jon Wasik

Do Common Fantasy Elements Turn You Away?

Hi everyone!

Burning-Skies-Digital-FinalFirst, I just have to say it…2 days away form Burning Skies!!!!  :D :D :D  It’s almost here!  Can you believe it?  Two years ago I thought I’d never get published.  And in just two days, my second novel is coming out.  Wow!  heheh.

Ahem.  Anyway, onto the meat of this post.  I’ve been wanting to write this article for a while, but I kept wanting to post about Burning Skies instead, lol.

Image Source - http://daroz.deviantart.com/
Image Source – http://daroz.deviantart.com/

Elves.  Wizards.  Dragons.  Orcs.  Trolls.  Medieval Europe.  An all-important, powerful sword.  These are all elements of ‘traditional’ fantasy.  And a week or so ago, I remember reading another blog article in which the writer stated he was instantly turned off by any fantasy novel that included any of these elements.

Is this a universal truth?  Has the common elements, which in Tolkien’s days were uncommon, been overused, overdone, burned out, and therefore have no place in any hopeful, up and coming writer’s works?

This is a particularly important question for me.  It begs the question, will the Sword of Dragons series ever take off?  Or is it doomed to fade into the background as ‘just another Fantasy novel’ because it includes these tropes?

Make It Your Own

Everyone’s looking for that next original, ground-breaking story.  One that turns the genre up on its head.  That has that ‘wow!’ factor and makes us want to read it just because it’s different.

Image Source - http://ertacaltinoz.deviantart.com
Image Source – http://ertacaltinoz.deviantart.com

And I believe, in part, this is why A Song of Ice and Fire has done so incredibly well.  It has the shock and awe factor going for it.  It is so different from other Fantasy stories.  For starters, no character is safe.

But the more ‘traditional’ adventure stories?  They are not dead.  They are not doomed.  So long as you make it your own.

“What does that mean,” you ask?  It means take those common elements, and turn them on their head.  Put an original spin on them.  And no, I’m not saying make it different just to make it different.  Make it your own.  Write it in such a way that is unique to you.  So that when someone talks about how you made the elf culture, or how magic works in your universe, that they can point to it and go “that’s this one author’s version.  No one else writes it like she does.”

And whatever you do, don’t be afraid.  “They won’t like it.”  How do you know?  Take a chance.  Write what you are passionate about.  Believe me, the readers will feel it.  And word will spread.  Slow at first, but word will spread.

Image Source – http://www.writetheworld.me

Furthermore, and I cannot stress this enough: practice your craft!  Practice!  Write!  Write some more!  Never stop.  Because that will also shine through.  If your story is good, and is told well, you’ll draw readers in.

Finally, find that original spin, and make sure you include it when you’re replying to the inevitable question “What’s your book about?”  And sometimes, that original spin is the tone.  If your book is whimsical, make sure your description is whimsical.  If it is dramatic, make the back cover dramatic.  Match your tone, so that when you do draw in readers, it is the appropriate audience.

Never Give Up

Finally, never give up.  Not if you’re passionate about it.  To quote a classic movie: “Go the distance.”  (Right next to “If you build it, they will come…”)

Image Source - boston.com
Image Source – boston.com

Thanks for reading, everyone!  I can’t wait to hear what you all think of Burning Skies when it comes out :D  And as always, I love hearing back from you, so please comment below!

-Jon Wasik

Too Many or Too Few – How Many Characters?

Hey everyone!


So last night, I was at the Doctor Who convention Gallifrey One (what a blast!!!) when I attended a panel that discussed sci-fi/fantasy movies in 2014, a ‘year in review.’  And one of the panel members made a good point:

The Hobbit was a technically sound trilogy, well made, a visually beautiful movie, but…it fell short of The Lord of the Rings.  And the reason why?  For the panelist, he felt nothing for the characters.  He wasn’t interested in their trials and tribulations.  When one died, he felt nothing.

When I realized I felt the same way, I began discussing it with my friend, and came up with a plausible reason: there were too many protagonists.  13 Dwarves, 1 Hobbit, 1 Wizard.  Plus in movie #2 and 3, there were two Elves and Bard.  Not counting some of the other heroes that showed up in the 3rd movie, that’s 18 characters we’re supposed to invest our emotions in.

Image Source - blackfilm.com
Image Source – blackfilm.com

So I’m wondering if there is a correlation.  If there are too many characters in a movie, does it become too much for the average audience member and they lose the ability to care about the characters, and therefore do not care for the outcome of the story?  Can the same be said about novels?

For me, at least, keeping track of characters in a novel is easier.  At least, good novels.  That of course gets into another topic all together: some extremely complex novels are easier to follow than others.

In any case, it has me wondering if there is such a thing as too many characters.  Do you, as a reader and/or a movie-goer, find that there is a limit?  Do you lose interest in a story after so many characters?

On the other hand, I also think it is possible for there to be too few characters.  For me, most (not all) stories with only one or two characters in the entire novel is boring.  Yeah it would be easier to invest in those characters, but think about how Harry Potter would be if there was only Harry and Voldemort, and none of the other characters: no Hermione, no Ron, no Dumbledore…

Image Source - starpulse.com
Image Source – starpulse.com

I’m not saying there is a formula: for this type of story, there must be so many characters.  Every situation is unique, certainly.  I loved Cast Away and there were only a handful of characters in that.  So what’s the secret?  Is there a secret?

What do you think?  What are some of your favorite movies or novels with a large number of characters?  Or few?And here is another question to consider: does the length of the story dictate how many central characters you should have in a story?  Would 18 main characters be okay in a series vs. a movie?

I’ve not actually seen any Game of Thrones episodes, nor have I read the novels the series is based upon.  However, I do know that there is a very large cast of characters in there.  Yet that series is insanely popular, and even though characters are killed off left and right, people are getting very invested in the characters.

Image Source - meltybuzz.fr
Image Source – meltybuzz.fr

So perhaps that is the key: the number of characters should depend upon how much time you invest in each of them, making each one a fully-realized character, with emotions and desires and fears.Maybe that is the secret: give all of the characters the time that they deserve.Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik