I told you the next post today was going to be good, didn’t I? Welcome to the third installment of Writing by Quotes! When I was trying to decide which work of fantasy to focus on today, I considered Warcraft. I know it’s fantasy, but I think it would be nice to focus only on written works (and their movie adaptations) rather than video games. So, today we’ll explore the whimsical world of Discworld!
Let’s just say that if complete and utter chaos was lightning, he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards’.
~ The Colour of Magic
This wonderful quote comes from the first installment in the Discworld series. It’s the first one I read and still a great read now. I love this quote because it’s very Monty Python-esque and makes me chuckle each time I read it. If we applied it to writing, I think the major piece of advice to take from it would be to think of this when you’re writing characters. Sometimes, characters do stupid things. Really stupid things. Usually it’s just a part of their personality, but other times it’ll be the author’s fault. If your character taunts gods and evil guys without a care for his safety, he should get obliterated. Be careful what your protagonist does…
Demons have existed on the Discworld for at least as long as the gods, who in many ways they closely resemble. The difference is basically the same as between terrorists and freedom fighters.
This same comparison can be applied to protagonists and antagonists (good ones, anyway). It’s good to paint characters in shades of grey and make the reader question who’s got the moral high ground and who hasn’t. If characters are falling a little flat and lacking depth, add a bit of uncertainty and make them question their own actions.
‘You know me,’ said Rincewind. ‘Just when I’m getting a grip on something Fate comes along and jumps on my fingers.’
~ Interesting Times
A brilliant quote which explains what we as writers do to our protagonists to keep things interesting. If the goal is too easily achieved, we lose interest, don’t we? Make it difficult–make it brutal, even–and the readers will thank you for it even if your characters don’t.
‘Look out of the window. Tell me what you see.’
‘Fog,’ said the Chief Priest.
Vetinari sighed. Sometimes the weather had no sense of narrative convenience.
~ The Truth
I have to say, I love this. It reminds us as writers that the world carries on around your characters when they’re going about their business. Things shouldn’t just work out perfectly all the time. Maybe your characters are going to have a walk under a clear, starry sky? Well, maybe that night there’s a storm and the characters have to find shelter instead. There might even be a greater opportunity for development in such a situation. Think about it.
‘In a world where we all move in curves he proceeds in a straight line. And going straight in a world of curves makes things happen.’
~ Night Watch
Why write a meandering, round-the-houses story, when you can get straight to the point and whack your reader in the face with a tonne of action, mystery and intrigue? Just imagine how much quicker you can write and how much better it could be if you head in a straight line? I’m not saying you should cut corners, but you can always stand to streamline the way you write.