Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Edges Of World-Building: Paying for Stuff

One thing that usually comes up in invented fantasy worlds, even if just in passing, is the need to exchange money for good and services.

Rare is the story where you can focus on a strange way to do it – most of the time is it little more than colour. Worlds based on Dungeons and Dragons usually have “gold pieces” as the core value (often abbreviated to “gp”) plus lesser values in silver and copper. Which is kind of ironic because the original idea of “gold piece” was so that game writers could create some local colour by changing the name. Many don’t, of course.

It also ignores some of the economic history of our own world. In medieval Europe, which is the basis for a lot of fantasy fiction world-building, the average man-in-the-field never ever saw gold in his entire life. Gold was rare and thus highly valuable. Too valuable, in fact: silver was much less rare and so many coins were struck in silver. But even a single English silver penny was worth a lot: Wikipedia tells us that estimates of its equivalent value in today’s terms is something like $20. That tells us that a lot of local trade wasn’t transacted with money. No wonder few people ever saw gold.

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Filed under David Eddings, Terry Pratchett, The Edges Of World-Building, world-building, writing

Calling all dead poets


Cover of "Dead Poets Society"

Cover of Dead Poets Society

The film “Dead Poets Society” has become somewhat of an iconic film in Western culture. Years before YOLO (You Only Live Once), the much older Latin phrase carpe diem was briefly made popular again.

Carpe Diem. “Seize The Day”.

Welton, the boys-only boarding school depicted in this film is clearly focussed on hammering into their adolescent charges’ minds the fact that working hard at learning is the way to get ahead in life. To get anywhere in life. This is why Neil Perry’s father has sent him there (there are hints he has gone into debt to do so) and expects him to become a medical doctor. In Neil’s father’s mind, this is an honourable and high-paying profession, and likely one he couldn’t do himself. So he is giving his son every opportunity to, instead.

But Neil doesn’t want to become a doctor. He wants to be an actor. His passion is not to earn  a lot of money and be well off, but to explore the emotions of words and story-telling. And his father does not understand this.

The story turns on this and similar conflicts.

If you have studied story structure, you would be able to pick the First Plot Point right around the 25% mark. This is where Neil convinces his friends to re-create the Dead Poet’s Society that their new English teaching, Mr John Keating, was apparently a member of when he studied at the same school. Crucially, this is where Neil takes a positive step to acknowledge his own emotional needs.

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Filed under men, storytelling, writing

Promote This Blog

Sometimes I wonder if I promote this blog enough.

Writers of all kinds generally need promotion, whether they write for a trade magazine or are a published novelist. If (or when) you get paid for your writing, promotion is often part of the deal. Your magazine editor can promote your writing better just by putting your article closer to the start of the magazine, for instance. Likewise, a major publishing house spends time and money getting people to look at the titles of its writers.

But bloggers and self-publishers are kind of on their own. Self-publishing is often held up as a way of getting a much bigger royalty on your work – except that you then have to do all your own marketing, too, now. Out of your bigger royalty. It’s a business, just like a publishing house. Some writers enjoy this, but not all of them. I think this is one reason the major publishing houses are still in demand from writers.

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Filed under meta, writing