Terrible Writing Advice: Fantasy Races!
Well, I MEANT to have this done up last night, but, well, I got side tracked with sleep and playing Wolfenstein.
Man, I’m REALLY bad at this.
In any case, this is the next installment of Terrible Writing Advice, where I go through and talk about topics brought up by Joseph Beaubien in his YouTube series of the same name. This time, we’ll be addressing Fantasy Races (notably Elves). Joseph Beaubien has multiple social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and his very own website!). If you like what you see here, by all means, check him out!
So let’s get started!
First of all, if you’re familiar with my world, you’ll remember that the vast majority of the known world is populated and ruled by elves. They are the top dog in the civilization food chain of Erde, with the largest power, Lonwick, being ruled by your classic blond haired, blue eyed smug-boxes. Another race of elves that has seen significant screen-time, as it were, is the sea elves, a much smaller race, however, they have many of the same physical characteristics, with some notable differences.
I’m not gonna lie; Tolkien was a HUGE inspiration for me as a writer. His were some of the first high fantasy novels I ever read; I remember reading The Hobbit when I was 8, and falling head over heels for Middle Earth. However, there were some things about the dwarves and elves in that world that sat wrong with me. I attempted to modify and address those things in my work.
Most notably, in the books as well as the movies, you tend to see different faces of the elves, though they were initially presented as a single homogeneous culture. Rivendell was very different from the Mirkwood elves, who were different from Lothlorien elves, though they all seemed to fall under the same sort of hierarchy. I never cared much for the Mirkwood presentation, and Lothlorien left me kinda flat. I liked the Rivendell elves most of all, I think.
In my work, I based the different cultures loosely off of real world counterparts. For example, the Lonwick elves were loosely based off of a blend of Greek and Roman societies, while I based the humans of Lonwick, near the borders of the Northlands, off of medieval English/French society. The Northlanders were more Scandinavian/Germanic in their society, while the Sea Elves followed a more Polynesian/Maori inspiration. Using these cultures, I was able to add a uniqueness to them more than simply changing their ‘stats’ or ‘abilities’ would have been able to achieve.
As for their different skin colors, I tried to come up with a reason for that that seemed at least somewhat explainable; the mainland elves tanned like white people do, while the sea elves of the islands tanned blue instead. Over the eastern mountains, in the desert of the Burning Sands, there are the Dark Elves, which instead of being subterranean evildoers, are based off of the Persian cultures of yester-milennia. They are born with tan, brownish skin, and their time in the sun deepens it to nearly black.
These differences help distinguish my elves from the tropes seen in other works, though maintaining enough familiarity with the concept that they are still comfortable and easy to read. You get what you expect to get, while still having notable differences that keeps it fresh.
Dwarves are much the same in my world. They are excellent craftspeople, sure, and they tend to be miners, however, it’s not by choice. Instead of being mechanical followers of some king, I made them more democratic, electing their leaders and holding votes. I made them prefer to live above ground, because it’s hard to grow food underground, and who wants to live in a cave forever? I also made them previously slaves to the oppressive Elven kingdom, both adding a vulnerability to the dwarves and a flaw to the elves. This gives my take on these races their own depth and character, and helps pull them out and distinguish them from other such cultures, without breaking too far from expected archetypes.
Could I have, or should I have gone with my own complete creations? Sure, I suppose I could have. But that wasn’t the story I wanted to write. I wanted to write something comfortable, easy to read, easy to relate to. By using familiar actors, it lets me focus more on the story, and less on species based info dumps.
Do you agree with my stance on these things? Do you have other methods you prefer to use or would like to see? Let me know in the comments, and again, thanks for reading!