Category Archives: Tobias Mastgrave

A Blast from the Past….What do you think?

Greetings all,

Unfortunately, I had a very long day at work today, and then a pile of other responsibilities demanded attention immediately thereafter. Alas, I wasn’t able to give today’s blog the thought that it is due and you all deserve.  So, instead, I thought I might bring you something most of you have probably never heard of and the rest probably don’t remember:  The Lantern Hollow Character Blogs.  I’d love to hear that you think of it as a concept.

The original plan, laid down by LHP in its infancy, was to run two blogs at once:  One of them would be the blog you see before you–dedicated to writing and the Press itself.  The other would be simply fun:  We would blog as the characters from our books and stories!  For instance, I blogged as Meg, the young-adult heroine from my book Waverly Hall:  Relois.*  Melissa became “Uncle Ian” and Danni, from the novel she is now finally completing.  Stephanie had a lot of fun as “Renard Breen”, an insane gangster pixy.  We had enough fun with it that it spawned a third blog, where the villains could runamok.

I say it was simple fun, but it also served a useful purpose:  it forced us to regularly think and write as our characters.  And perhaps more importantly, we ran out of “good” things to talk about, and that made us dive even deeper into into their psyches when we had to put ourselves so far into their lives that even their reactions to mundane things came to light.  Have you ever actually tried to envision someone’s life, moment by moment, and not just the fictional highlights?  It’s not easy.

In the end, both blogs died slow deaths.  We never had enough time to devote to them, and there never seemed to be a readership for blogs written by people pretending to be random characters, ripped out of context, about things no one really cared about.  But it was fun while it lasted and definitely useful.  Take a look at them (while we cringe in embarrassment) and let us know what you think!

The Characters of Lantern Hollow Press

The Dark Characters of Lantern Hollow Press

Hopefully I’ll be back next week with the previously promised installment of War in Fiction!

Have a great week,

Brian

*And no comments from the peanut gallery about my ability to impersonate a 14 year old girl on-line on a blog.  Believe me, every variation of joke you can think of has already been used.  Twice.  Or three times.

Advertisements

The Best of Tobias Mastgrave: On Villains Part 3

As you know, Tobias Mastgrave has started his own blog after a good run with us here at LHP.  In thanks to him and recognition of his work, for the next few week’s we’re running several of his highest rated posts from days past.  Check out his blog athttp://tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com

Good luck and Godspeed Tobias in your new endeavors!

Lantern Hollow Press

https://lanternhollow.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/newrule5.gif?w=239&h=27&h=27

I want to speak today on one of the most important factors of creating a believable, frightening, impactful villain: motivations.

Ok…I’m going to rant here for just a moment, it won’t be long I promise, if you’d rather get on with things just skip down to the next paragraph.  Many villains that we see in media today have no real motivations.  The deciding factor behind the majority of their actions seems to be ‘how do I PROVE that I’m evil’.  In the entirety of human history, I promise you, no more than a handful of people have gone out of their way to PROVE that they were evil…and the ones that did, NOT THE BEST VILLAINS IN HISTORY! Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito did not think of themselves as villains.  Nero and Caligula did not think of themselves as villains.  Real villains DON’T HAVE TO PROVE THEY ARE EVIL!!!

Anyway, short rant done now on to motivations.  Your villains should have reasons for pretty much everything they do, good reasons, believable reasons.  However the key to any character, villains included, is to define their central motivations.  What factor, or combination of factors, drives your villain to his wickedness? Does he lust after power? Does he want to become a god? Does he want to protect his people or his family? Is he running away from something in his past? Is it as simple as he just doesn’t know how to do anything else?

Let’s look at the motivations of some excellent villains. In my last post I used Star Wars as an example, I love Star Wars…to be honest I’m a little bit obsessed. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are two of my favorite villains, they have excellent and CLEAR motivations.  Darth Vader falls into the dark side trying to save his wife, to protect his family.  However once corrupted, once he has lost everything he loved, he continues to pursue power despite clearly seeing it’s evil.  In a poignant moment in ‘Return of the Jedi’ he responds to Luke’s pleas with the statement ‘It is too late for me son, you do not know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master.”

Darth Vader understands his own darkness, his own evil, but he sees no way out. The Emperor, on the other hand, does not see his own evil.  He understands that others see him as evil but he sees himself as maintaining order by doing what is necessary.  Vader’s desire, his only real desire, is to feed the addictive hunger inside him which the power of the dark side has created.  He serves in the hope of destroying the Emperor and stealing all of his power.  The Emperor’s central motivation is to create order, secondary to that is his desire to contain non-humans. Both characters had very distinct motivations that lead them to commit evil acts in the pursuit of achieving these goals.

If we look at a couple of the villains, from our group of writers, which I mentioned in my last post we see that Korluus’s primary motivation is self-perfection.  His pursuit of self-perfection has led him to the assumption that whatever serves this pursuit is ‘good’.  Therefore he commits horrendous acts in the name of raising humanity to perfection, himself first of course, and classifies said acts as ‘good’.  On the other hand Loki, from Erik’s fantasy writing, is pursuing Ragnarök (the end of the Norse gods).  The question we are confronted with is why? The two possible answers that I have seen so far (I know you all haven’t) are 1) that Loki desires the end, that he believes it is a good thing. Or 2) that his hate is so complete that he prefers destruction, the destruction of all things, to his own continued existence.

Ultimately there are many things that go into writing a good villain, as many as go into any other character, however there are some that are more often ignored or handled badly than others. I was intending for this to be my last post on this subject, however (in an effort to make my posts more manageable) I am going to split this in two. So, next time, On Villains Part Four: On Humanity, That Poor Little Psychopath.

****************************************************************

Among The Neshelim: My first novel, Among the Neshelim, is now available from Smashwords here, and Amazon here. Print copies are not yet available, but will be soon.

Among the Neshelim

by

Tobias Mastgrave

Understanding. One little word, and yet it means so much. We spend our lives pursuing it in one form or another. We long for it, seek it out, and break ourselves trying to find it. But it is always a rare commodity.

Chin Cao Yu, priest and scholar, has sacrificed all he held dear in its pursuit. Now he undertakes the journey of a lifetime, a journey among the mysterious Neshilim, a people of power unlike any he has seen before – all for the hope of understanding. This journey will turn upside down the world he thought he knew and challenge all of his dearly held beliefs. Has he found the ultimate truth or the ultimate lie? And what will he do with it when he learns?

The Best of Tobias Mastgrave: Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part II

As you know, Tobias Mastgrave has started his own blog after a good run with us here at LHP.  In thanks to him and recognition of his work, for the next few week’s we’re running several of his highest rated posts from days past.  Check out his blog at http://tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com

Good luck and Godspeed Tobias in your new endeavors!

Lantern Hollow Press

https://lanternhollow.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/newrule5.gif?w=239&h=27&h=27

  • The Ravager is generally the most common demon archetype found in fantasy.
  • The Ravager demon is the thug of the supernatural world, relying on brute strength and lacking in intelligence.
  • Ravager demons have their place in fiction but are generally over used or used to too little effect.

In the first installment of this series I introduced some of the differences between demons as they exist in mythology and in fantasy. In this and the next few installments I would like to discuss a few archetypal demons. Now I learned my lesson with my post on villain archetypes and I’m going to discuss these one at a time. The first archetype* I want to discuss is the most commonly used, the Ravager.

This sums up the Dresden Files pretty well.

As with all excessively common archetypes the Ravager has some problems. However, while it may be generally overused, it does have a solid place in fiction. The Ravager is somewhere in between a monster and a true demon. Generally Ravager archetypes are portrayed as the brute thugs of the demon world, very powerful but lacking in cunning and intelligence. One basic example of this archetype is found in the first book of the Dresden Files, Stormfront. The toad demon which appears in this book is a classic example of the Ravager, it exists for one purpose, to destroy, and that is the only thing which enters its mind. As with any Ravager the toad demon has one, and only one, approach to dealing with a problem, smash it. If the problem can’t be smashed then it is too much for the Ravager to handle. While the toad demon in Stormfront is relatively weak some Ravagers are very powerful. In Glen Cook’s The Black Company the Limper is another Ravager archetype**. The Limper is excessively powerful, able to confront entire armies on his own multiple times through the series, but he lacks cunning. Through the course of the series the Limper displays only one reaction to any obstacle, kill it, if it cannot be killed then smash it, if it cannot be smashed then he can’t do much about it.

Ravager archetypes generally see little character growth, they are too simplistic to truly develop as characters and generally exist to get in the way. For instance in The Black Company the Limper presents an excellent obstacle to portray the company’s main strength, its cunning. Though the Limper is excessively powerful he is defeated time and again by the cleverness of the company’s soldiers.

Ravager archetypes can also serve to exhibit the great power which opposes the main characters. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the Balrog serves to show the great power which opposes the fellowship, both in Moria and as a foreshadowing of greater threats to come. Though the Balrog is portrayed in the novel as little more than a very powerful brute its power manages to, apparently, overcome the wizard Gandalf, who is the fellowship’s own ‘man of power’. This not only provides a sense of emotional loss for the reader but also underlines the very real danger which the fellowship faces on its journey.

An amazing showdown

The difficulty with the Ravager archetype is that it has been used so often that it has become mundane to think of fantasy demons as brutes who can’t think or plan. In The Amulet of Samarkand*** the image is created that Bartimaeus, one of the two main characters, is the only demon of any real cunning in existence. While there are shown to be demons of much greater power Bartimaeus inevitably overcomes them through his intelligence and cleverness. Also in many stories, The Amulet of Samarkand being only one, Ravager demons are beholden to mortal men who have bound them, again through cunning rather than power. This use of the Ravager demon does not mesh well with mythology, as discussed in Part 1, and so gives demons on the whole the image of being little more than lackeys.

Patricia Briggs, in her novel Blood Bound, combines the Ravager archetype with the Possessor archetype (which I will discuss in a later post) to good effect. Though the demon is still portrayed as being single-minded, obsessed with killing and destruction, it is given a certain low cunning which allows it to become a very real threat. Instead of the traditional use where the Ravager is bound to its summoner in Briggs’ novel the Ravager is clever enough to have overcome its summoner and become a threat to the world, or at least the surrounding area. In my opinion this, along with Tolkien’s use of the free-willed Balrog, is a better example of the Ravager archetype than the norm.

************************************************************************************

* Demons may sometimes be villains and villains may sometimes be demons. In this there is some overlap between the villain archetypes and the demon archetypes.

** While the Ten Who Were Taken are technically mortal sorcerers the power and persistancy they portray in the series has more in common with demons than with men. The Limper, for instance, ‘dies’ at least three times in the series (in one of his deaths he is chopped to pieces) and yet returns after each death to further harass his enemies.

***The Amulet of Samarkand, ostensibly intended for younger readers, has been challenged or banned from certain libraries.  While the novel itself shows quality writing the characters within display and, in my opinion, encourage a certain amorality which could be detrimental to younger readers.  I suggest you consider carefully before allowing children under the age of 16 access to this book and if your children are considering it as a reading option I suggest you read it before deciding whether or not to allow them access.  A review of the book which disagrees with my own opinion may be found here.

 

********************************************

Among The Neshelim: My first novel, Among the Neshelim, is now available from Smashwords here, and Amazon here. Print copies are not yet available, but will be soon.

Among the Neshelim

by

Tobias Mastgrave

Understanding. One little word, and yet it means so much. We spend our lives pursuing it in one form or another. We long for it, seek it out, and break ourselves trying to find it. But it is always a rare commodity.

Chin Cao Yu, priest and scholar, has sacrificed all he held dear in its pursuit. Now he undertakes the journey of a lifetime, a journey among the mysterious Neshilim, a people of power unlike any he has seen before – all for the hope of understanding. This journey will turn upside down the world he thought he knew and challenge all of his dearly held beliefs. Has he found the ultimate truth or the ultimate lie? And what will he do with it when he learns?

Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part XIV: Blood and Fur

Werewolves were not originally connected to the Full Moon. More on that later.

Last Post: Before I start into the subject of werewolves in medieval Europe, I want to let everyone know that this will be my last regular post on While We’re Paused.  I have started a new blog of my own, and I’m afraid that posting daily there leaves little time for these posts.  I will be continuing this series on my new blog, The Art of Writing, and the first post of that continuation is already up.  If you don’t want to follow links, the url for the new blog is tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com, and I will be posting there under the name tmastgrave.

Now, on to werewolves.  As I mentioned last time, werewolves are really just a popular subset of a broader category of werecreatures (shape shifters limited to a human form and an animal form) that inhabit ancient mythology worldwide.  However, werewolves themselves are predominantly European.  While a few other cultures have a canine shapeshifter, usually foxes or dogs, there are only a couple that have actual werewolves.  So, I want to restrict my comments in this post to the establishment of werewolf mythology in Europe.  I am not going to go into the etymology of the terms for two reasons: 1) werewolf is a generic term, and these creatures have been known by a multitude of names across Europe (one list I looked at was 15+ names long and it still wasn’t complete), and 2) the etymology is not difficult to find as many people have already discussed it.

With vampires we saw that the mythology changed drastically from the ancient period to the medieval period, and then again between the medieval period and the modern period.  However, the same is not true with werewolves.  While there are some significant changes in mythology, the specifics generally remain the same.  We also see the terminology appear earlier.  You might remember that the term ‘vampire’ did not appear until the modern period, and terminology resembling it dates back only to the Medieval period (10th century).  On the other hand, with werewolves, the term ‘lycanthropy’ dates back to ancient Greece, and has been linked (though not conclusively) with the myth of Lycaon in the first book of Ovid’s Metomorphoses.  This myth is considered by many to be the birth of the modern werewolf legend (something that could not be specifically identified with vampire legends).

I love you so much, I could just eat you...oops.

We also see even earlier evidence of werewolves in early historical writings.  Herodotus, a 5th century Greek historian, wrote that a people called the Nueri, who lived in Scythia, became wolves for several days of every year, and then returned to their human forms.  While the work of Ovid may mark the birth of the modern werewolf legend, this historical account lends evidence that the idea of werewolves is much older.  Trying to follow the spread of the legend throughout Europe from this point forward would be impossible in a post of this kind (and with the level of research that I am willing to do for these posts), however we can say that the basics of the werewolf myth did not change much as it spread through European cultures.

In fact the greatest variation appears in the area of how one becomes a werewolf.  According to some legends, lycanthropy is a generational curse, in others it is passed by bite (as rabies might be).  Some legends tell of people who voluntarily become werewolves by donning a magical, wolfskin belt, while others change form by drinking from an enchanted stream, or performing a magical ritual.  However, once the transformation is accomplished the legends reconverge describing the resulting creature as violent, wicked, powerful, and uncontrollable.  Many legends also note that werewolves do not have tails, a trait that they supposedly had in common with metamorphosed witches.

Though silver has made its way into modern mythology as the great bane of the werewolf, this does not appear in either ancient, or medieval lore.  In fact the earliest mention of silver in connection to werewolves appears to be in the 18th century story of the Beast of Gevaudan, where the creature is killed by a silver bullet.  Before this common methods of repelling werewolves were rye, mistletoe, and mountain ash.  The aconitum, or wolfsbane, plant has also been historically connected to werewolves, though not always as a repellent, and so the relationship is not clear.

See, no full moon.

There is some evidence in the mythology that lycanthropy was believed to be a reversible condition.  Though early cures were often more likely to kill the afflicted than to cure him, some of the later legends refer to conversion to Christianity, exorcism, or simply calling the werewolf three times by his Christian name as potential cures.  How efficacious these may have been (assuming they were ever actually attempted) has been lost to history.  We also see, with the rise of Christianity, that lycanthropy takes on a demonic aspect that it did not originally possess.  However, I will save this for later consideration on my new blog.

God as the Author and the Author as God

Apparently knowledge also equals little beams of light shooting out of your body.

Melissa and I seem to be thinking on the same wave-length this week, which I’m sure must be frightening for her.  Lately I hear and read a lot about relativism, truth, certainty, and knowledge.  I think, to a large degree, people use these terms in discussion and debate without ever coming to agreement about what they mean.  Let me start by saying that in my personal thinking and for the purposes of this post I am going to define knowledge as ‘determinative power’.  To know something is to be able to speak of its innate substance (to determine that things truth), yet as humans we are incapable of understanding the innate substance of that which surrounds us.  We must place out trust in something internal, our senses, our feelings, our logic, etc.  Let us say that I place my trust in only what my senses tell me, then I must assume that my senses are trustworthy and can accurately tell me about the world.

If I place my trust in my feelings then I must assume the same, the same for logic; thus I, as a human, am incapable of saying anything about the intrinsic nature of anything else, only about my understanding of that intrinsic nature (this is what we normally mean when we say knowledge).  Because of this I can speak only of my understanding, and the beliefs I form around it.  This is not a denial of truth or an acceptance of relativism, do not assume so, it must be accepted that there is one truth and that truth is absolute (truth=reality), however my ability to understand and form beliefs about that truth is limited.  This is also not an argument that all beliefs lead to one truth.  It should be obvious to anyone that two contradicting beliefs cannot both be correct, though they may have objectively equal truth claims (e.g. a woman and her clone both claim to be the original, both have exactly the same memories, dna, personality, identifying marks, etc, thus their truth claims are objectively equal, but only one is actually the original).  Lastly, this is not an argument against certainty.  I can, and do, have absolute certainty in my beliefs.  I believe that my beliefs are an accurate reflection of the truth (if I did not, I would not believe them), but I am, and must be, willing to accept that I could be wrong (however unlikely I think this to be).

Although God doesn't have to steal his ideas from other authors.

Why does this matter?  As an author I create worlds, thus I know what is and is not true within my worlds (knowledge=determinative power).  While my fans may read my writings and form beliefs about my worlds, they cannot ‘know’ what is true about my worlds, unless I tell them.  In the real world we are all in the same position.  God is the creator and holds creative authority over the real world, just as I hold creative authority over my fictional worlds.  Thus, as only I may hold knowledge about my fictional worlds, only God may hold knowledge of the real world.  Just as my readers opinions, beliefs, and convictions about my world may reflect the truth of that world; my opinions, beliefs, and convictions about the real world may reflect the truth of God’s creation.

In your literary world you are, effectively, god.  Your word is creative power, and true knowledge is limited to your mind.  There is nothing that you can’t do in your world, though there are certainly things that you shouldn’t do or that your fans won’t like (God doesn’t have to worry about critics, editors, and selling copies afterall).  While our readers may inform our decisions (as can our own characters – Moses after the breaking of the Ten Commandments, anyone?), they cannot determine those decisions.  Remember that, no matter what anyone else says, you know what can, should, and will happen in your world better than they do…even if they know the details better than you.  This is an important distinction because it gives you the freedom to do what you need to do, even if someone else might not like it.  Glen Cook, one of my favorite authors, made the point that, in spite of critics, a writer has to write the way he writes.  So write the way you write, and then find people that like it.

We must also realize that not everyone is going to like what we write.  The same is true with God, there are a great many people that don’t believe in him, or that don’t agree with him (this is true whatever religion you are from), and, just like our readers, they have a right to disagree.  In this case disagreement will (according to many religions) bear somewhat greater consequences than missing a great book, but it is still their choice.

***********************

Among the Neshelim  is now available in eBook on Smashwords and Kindle and in print from Amazon.com, I’ll have a link for the print copy coming soon.  I am curious what people think of the blub.  Does it draw you in? Make you want to read the book?  If not, why not?

Among the Neshelim

Tobias Mastgrave

Understanding. One little word, and yet it means so much. We spend our lives pursuing it in one form or another. We long for it, we seek it, but it is always a rare commodity.

Chin Cao Yu, priest and scholar, has sacrificed all he held dear in its pursuit. Now he undertakes the journey of a lifetime, a journey among the mysterious Neshilim, a people of power unlike any he has seen before. This journey will turn the world he thought he knew upside down and challenge everything his dearly held beliefs. Has he found the ultimate truth or the ultimate lie? And what will he do with it when he learns?