Tag Archives: fantasy reference

Okay so the back ground of my story is that everyone has the same super power. With hard work and other factors there powers can become stronger or weaker. The natives of the world are at war with other beings just as powerful as them. Now there are a number of chosen one types of characters who have a second type of power. They are either friend foe or neutral. How could you write a fight scene with super powers then write a training scene

This is a really hard question to answer without context and primarily why we don’t talk about how to write superpowers in anything other than generalities. Every setting with magic or superpowers come with their own rules and we’re not privy to what those rules are. Our focus on “realism”, technically just how weapons work in the real world, comes from that. Telling me “superpower” or even “telepathy” or “telekinesis” doesn’t actually help me much if I don’t know what it affects, it’s strengths and limitations, or how it gets used. I mean, even just telekinesis runs the gamut from “can pick up silverware” to “fling bus with startling accuracy” to “devour star system”. Move over to Star Wars, you’ll find Luke’s small time stuff in the Original Trilogy like choking, jumping, and retrieving fallen weapons to Starkiller dragging an entire star destroyer out of orbit. In the EU, one Sith Lord used the Force to slam two stars together to destroy a fleet that was chasing them. Babylon 5′s telepaths go from “can’t quite read your mind, but can tell their minds are being read” to “detonate entire planet”.

How do you write a fight scene with superpowers? You have to figure out what the superpowers can do and what they can’t do. Where the assumed upper limit is, where the actual upper limit is, and what that means for your story. Unfortunately, the primary onus for that is going to be on you.

You’ve got to figure out how the powers work, how they manifest, and the rules this society has erected to keep everyone in check. How they influence their day to day lives. How they’ve evolved to make use of them. Etc. Really good settings have very solid world building that show all levels of the society and how the powers at play have affected them. Harry Potter, for example, does an excellent job of showing the utility of magic and how the Wizarding World has evolved their use of magic to aid their everyday lives. Rowling creates a sense of wonder while simultaneously grounding the reader into her world through some rather mundane activities like travel or cleaning the kitchen.

So, world building. Fantasy settings need it. The rule set grounds you into the world. Writing combat is fairly easy once you gain a basic understanding of the rules, how they get broken, and how people behave when under pressure. Once you as the author figure out how to start thinking from that perspective, it gets a lot easier to predict how your characters are going to behave. While superpowers ultimately don’t alter the baseline of how people behave that much, they do change how the problems get solved. New toolkit, new methods with which to solve problems. Start asking yourself some basic questions:

If I had this power, what would I do with it?

How would I use it to affect my day to day existence?

What parts of my life would it make easier?

What would it make harder?

If someone was threatening me, what would I do?

Inside out rather than outside in. Then, consider the other character’s perspective in the scene. How do they respond? What do they do? If everyone has the same power and one character is more experienced at using theirs than the character who just activated their powers, then it’s unlikely the newbie can overpower them. Even if they are actually stronger. And, as you said, the strength talent is the based on hard work anyway. Your protagonist is probably going to get their ass beat the first time out and that’s okay.

Really.

(And if they show their special Chosen One ability in that fight when under pressure, I just want you to know that’s… very cliche. Not that you can’t do it, just know almost everyone does.)

If you’re confused or unsure then I suggest a Lit Review to see if that inspires any ideas. A Lit Review is when you go out and read a bunch of novels or view a lot of media that’s similar to your own idea to gain a better understanding of your genre. You’re not reading or viewing for enjoyment so much as raiding for ideas. It’s helpful to review what other authors have done in order to find inspiration for your own work.

You want to write a scene which involves a character new to their powers and unsure of how they work fighting someone else? Get thee to the fantasy section of the library or start reviewing superhero movies. From bad to good, there are a lot of examples from the humorous to the serious of characters screwing up, nearly dying, or scraping by.

This is all important when it comes to writing training sequences. Why? You as the author are teaching your audience about your setting. Your characters actually have to learn something and that something should be applicable to the job they’re going to perform. This requires understanding that something well enough that you can communicate what it is, what it does, and why to the characters and your audience. You want to write a training sequence for a spy? You need to understand the tradecraft and what a spy actually does. You want to write a military training sequence a la boot camp? Probably best to learn what the military is actually doing because they’re not just teaching their recruits how to kill people.

Sports movies are often mocked for being corny and cheesy, but the secondary aspects of the training are actually more important than the training itself. In the Karate Kid remake, for example, a huge part of Dre’s evolution as a character comes from his training with Mr. Han. He’s not learning to beat people up, he’s learning responsibility, respect, and building his confidence.

Good training sequences demonstrate an author’s understanding of their setting, their characters, and their subject matter. So, to teach, you first must develop your own understanding.

All combat training comes in three tiers: the physical (the body) and the psychological (the mind), and the additional overlay of whatever their training is molding them to become. This is the insidious part of training that most writer’s miss. Training isn’t just teaching you how to fight or how to use your powers, it’s changing how you think, it’s affecting your morals and your values, it’s redefining your perspective, and, in some cases, a character can come out of it as an entirely different person.

Is your character’s mind being broken down so that they can be remolded into a proper fighting machine? This is what Stanley Kubrick was talking about in Full Metal Jacket, the military’s dehumanization of recruits and stripping them of their previous identities in order to transform them into soldiers. I bring up Full Metal Jacket because it remains the go to resource for most writers when they’re writing military training sequences, but many imitate without understanding. The other big one is Fight Club. Often the theme of dehumanization actually ends up in the story through the training sequences and is portrayed as a good thing. Divergent is one such example where the themes of dehumanization and rather brutal abuse are introduced via Dauntless training methods but never extrapolated on.

Why? Because the process of transforming someone into an out and out psychopath is treated as “just hardcore” in a lot of fiction. That is the point of the Fight Club itself, by the way. It’s not about teaching someone how to actually be good at fighting. It’s actually about adrenaline junkies, about getting high off asserting physical dominance over someone else. If you want a novel that’s legitimately talking about “toxic masculinity”, then Fight Club is it. Real training doesn’t actually look anything like Fight Club, but then Fight Club isn’t actually about creating competent soldiers.

Some Quick Don’ts:

1) Don’t overestimate to be more impressive.

This is a pitfall almost everyone falls down the first time, but I’m mentioning it because everyone falls down it. Figure out what people can get away with in the real world when training, then compare that to the characters in your setting, and build into that. There’s nothing more annoying than the character who supposedly spent a year or five in solitary confinement showing no signs of sensory deprivation or crawling up the walls.

Boot Camp does blast you with near constant exercise in order to weaken your mind. If you’re interested in what they actually do, there are resources available to tell you the training regimen. It’s fairly sophisticated in what it’s actually doing.

2) Don’t go for shock value

The ones who fall down the Fight Club trap are usually going for shock value. Shock value is worthless in the long run. Substance is better.

3) Don’t forget that this is about teaching.

If the sequence isn’t teaching us something about the world, the powers, and the characters or advancing the plot, then the sequence is not necessary. And really pay attention to what your training is saying. This isn’t really one of those “fake it until you make it” endeavors, you gotta teach.

-Michi

In terms of the different sorts of bows, which would be best to hunt monsters, theoretically speaking? Or would this depend mostly on the sort of arrows? I mean, the war bow does produce a lot more force, but would a hunting bow be able to kill unarmored opponents (human or nonhuman)?

Honestly, it depends on the monster.

The short answer to the question is that a general hunting bow can kill a human, though arrows don’t work the same way as a gun. (Guns don’t work the way Hollywood portrays them, either.) Death is unlikely to be immediate. You’re setting up a slow and painful death. They can survive for hours, and are just as likely to fall prey to infection. Even with modern hunting, you have to track the animal as it wanders off. They don’t just fall over dead.

Archery and hunting are a lot more complicated than just picking a bow. You need to choose the right tool for the job. For example, the war bow fired heavier arrows with larger heads designed to penetrate armor. Including heavy plate.

However, the real answer that usually gets overlooked with monster hunters is that you’ve got to stop thinking about them in terms of signature weapons and more in terms of investigation. The line between hunter and investigator is really very slim. This is why you see so many pulpy monster hunters doubling as paranormal investigators.

Whether you’re hunting animals, humans, or monsters, your character still needs to be able to tell what they’re looking at and bring the appropriate gear for the appropriate task. For example, you don’t go hunting a deer with the same gear that you’d bring for a bear. You don’t go after a werewolf in the same way one would a vampire, they’re different. They have different priorities, and it’s up to the hunter to be able to tell them apart from the signs at hand. Depending on the kind of setting you have, they may either need to be able to use magic or some sort of holy relics to repel the monsters.

A good example of a monster hunter in fiction is Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher. He carries two swords, one of them is steel and the other is silver. The silver sword is for dealing with certain kinds of monsters, the kind vulnerable to silver. However, the silver sword will get wrecked on normal humans and monsters that are not vulnerable to the material. That’s what the steel sword is for.

You have a character who brings a bow to every encounter, regardless of what the threat is. Then, they’re going to be up a creek if they’ve got the wrong weapon paired to the wrong monster. Depending on your setting rules, your archer could fire regular hunting arrows into a werewolf and be perfectly fine. I can tell you that they’d be a very dead archer in both the Witcher setting and in White Wolf’s Werewolf the Apocalypse where the werewolves will just soak that damage off. Bring an arrow tipped with silver nitrate or wolfsbane and it’s a slightly different story.  

Sometimes, it’s easier to treat your monster hunter like an investigator. They’re solving a mystery. They need to be able to figure out what kind of monster they’re dealing with, especially because the locals may not know. This can take some fairly advanced specialized knowledge and a fairly wide array of skills if they have to go it alone.

A monster hunter is:

One part warrior. One part hunter and tracker. One part hedgemage. One part medic. One part fletcher, blacksmith, silversmith, and apothecary/chemist. One part academic, one with a fairly wide knowledge of folklore, ritual by region (multiple types, multiple cultures, especially that which has been forgotten), history, human behavior, and psychology.

Traditionally, most monsters and curses have their root in the actions of people. Someone did something wrong and putting things right requires sussing out the issue. More than that, depending on how technical you want to get with their monster hunting then those actions can create specialized, distinctly different curses or creatures that require very specific solutions. While violence may be an intermediary step and needed for surviving the experience or subduing the monster, the stabby isn’t what’s actually going to get rid of it.

For example, this Hellboy Animated short: The Iron Shoes. In this bit, Hellboy deals with a redcap. You’ll notice that he does fight him, but to kill it he has to drag him back to the Church at dawn to toss him over the threshold. Here’s the redcap entry on Wikipedia. On the list of things that may freak one out forever? In the modern world, redcaps look a great deal like garden gnomes.

There’s an advantage to going about it this way, rather than the Buffy way. It takes more work but, in the long run, it also justifies your character’s existence more. If the solution to a monster issue is as simple as “violence” or enough power applied to the problem, then there’s no need for a specialist.

If the only way to kill a vampire, for example, is with a stake through the heart then that’s actually not so bad. Once you get over the initial shock of them actually existing, it’s not so hard to get one’s hands on a wooden stake-like implement needed to take it out. However, if the stake only paralyzes it, and one must cut off it’s head and fill it’s mouth with garlic, bury the body on consecrated ground, or wait until sunrise and watch it burn, then it’s going to be a little more complicated. This is before we get to the rather long laundry list of different vampire types. (This isn’t even a complete one and whether some of these can be considered vampires is debatable, but it’s a worthwhile one. Detail is everything.)

To tie it all in, there’s a great Extra Credits about how The Witcher 3 may be one of the best detective games ever made, which helps explain some of the overlap between pulp fiction detective and monster hunter.

Below, I’ve listed a number of references. However, the key thing to really think about is the kind of monster hunter that you want, the kind of hunter that you want to write. Their place in society, what they hunt, and the skill set that they need in order to be able to do their job.

Once you’ve thought that through then figuring out what types of weapons that they use will be much easier. Remember, combat is a form of problem solving and there aren’t any universal tools. There’s the old joke about not bringing a knife to a gun fight but, in most cases, your characters are going to be trying to do the best they can with what they have available. Figure out what they need to have, build it into what they could have, and then walk it back to what they do have available to them.

Some monsters require enchanted weapons. Some monsters need a strike from a sword in order for them to be put down. In some cases, a bow might be better for distance or against one that might take flight. Spears are the common hunting implement for dealing with large and dangerous animals like boars. Traps. Snares. Pits. The possibilities go on and on. Ultimately, the more possibilities that there are then the more ways there are to solve a problem.

The question here isn’t what’s right? It’s what’s right for my character?

-Michi

References and Resources:

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapowski (The Witcher book series) – Though your most likely to find them in the “Tie In” section of the bookstore now due to the game’s popularity, these are what the Witcher game series is based on. Geralt is one of the best monster hunters I’ve read about and this collection of short stories focuses on the struggles he faces in navigating the human issues surrounding his job as much as it is about the monsters he hunts.

The Witcher: The Wild Hunt – The other two entries in the series are very good, but The Wild Hunt is excellent in terms of it’s world building and it’s focus on detective work. If  you haven’t jumped on the hype train yet, then look at this one.

Hellboy – Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics are famous and Hellboy as a character is probably more fascinating than he should be at first glance. There’s an interesting exploration of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu style mythos while also drawing heavily from Folklore and myth. Hellboy isn’t human, but he’s very sharp and intelligently written. There’s a lot to be gleaned from him when trying to build a monster hunter. In terms of other entries, I recommend the animated over the live action. Hellboy: Blood and Iron is a particular favorite of mine.

Hunter the Reckoning – White Wolf’s Hunter RPG is really about normal people given supernatural powers by a traumatic exposure to monsters and then go out to try to kill them. It’s at it’s best when paired with the rest of the books so that you can compare and contrast perception with reality. Characters dealing with misinformation and a lack of information, trying to put what’s in front of them together without having the tools to really do their job. It’s helpful to look at, even though it’s modern, to decide whether or not this is the kind of underdog that you want to write.

Dark Ages Inquisitor – What it says on the tin, this was White Wolf’s Hunter for the Middle Ages. Helpful, if you like Hunter and want to play it in a medieval setting.

Hunter the Vigil – Almost impossible to find, terribly expensive, and penned primarily by Chuck Wendig, this entry into White Wolf’s revamp of their World of Darkness setting isn’t my favorite. Like the others in the series, it lacks some of the general oddness which made the Old World of Darkness so fun to delve into. However, it and it’s subsequent books an excellent grab for any writer that wants work with Urban Fantasy. Like the others in this series, it’s more of a toolbox than a setting. One that’s chock full of ideas waiting to be pondered and story seeds to be nabbed.

Law & Order – At the end of the day, stories based on the supernatural are often stories about people. All stories, really, are about people. Not only is Law & Order a fantastic procedural, it can teach you a lot about observation, detective work, and why people commit crimes (and why they sometimes get away with it). At the end of the day, whether it’s real or supernatural, monsters are created by people. Homicide is an excellent choice to pair with this, one to study procedure while the other is a character study in the effects of the job. Understanding both helps to really write well.

The Tony Hillerman novels – particularly all those starring Detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. These are set on the Navajo reservation and star Navajo Detectives. Well known for their accuracy, they’re interesting to read about in general but especially helpful when you want examples of well-written tracking in fiction.

Lord of the Rings – Aragorn mostly. The classic example of the ranger.

Dungeons & Dragons – The Ranger class is for you. I’d look up associated class skills too. This is how you build Aragorn.

Folklore from as many cultures as you can get your hands on, even with European folklore much of it is uniquely dependent on different countries, cultures, and histories. So even if you’re staying within the traditional vein of European monsters, don’t limit yourself to just the British Isles, look at France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, spin the globe, pick a country, look into it. I’d also study up on the same cultures’ histories and socio-political climates.

In my story, there are clans of hunters. Most of their time is spent finding food or practicing weaponry, and just about all of the adults are skilled with a few. Later in the story, the clans are at war and fight with the same weapons they hunt with. Is there a difference between fighting against people and animals? (My MC uses knives and swords, if that helps.) Thank you!

Is there a difference fighting against people versus animals?

Yes. Yes, there is. For one thing, very few animals come with combat training. For another, a person cannot, for the most part, replicate the defensive attributes of most major predators or even most herbivores on their own.

Bows, spears, snares, traps, and slings are the historical methods with which people hunted. You need to keep a fairly significant amount of distance between yourself and the animal to avoid the teeth, hooves, claws, charging, and any number of other attributes which will leave your hunter very dead in fairly short order. Even with all the necessary precautions and use of appropriate weaponry/assistance of domesticated animals (horses, hunting dogs, whatever), there are no guarantees.

Herbivores like deer, buffalo, and other big game animals are exceedingly dangerous when put under threat. It’s best to get the Disneyfied idea that the only animals that will threaten your hunters are the big predators like lions and wolves. No, it’s the deer and the buffalo they should be looking out for. Herbivores can be very aggressive, they are also very large and very agile. After the mosquito and it’s good friend malaria, the most dangerous creature in Africa is the hippo. Knights used spears and lances when they hunted boar and even then many did die by getting gored on very sharp tusks.

If you’re really planning to write hunters than brushing up on your nature documentaries (and Animal Planet’s When Animals Attack) may not be a bad idea. You may also want to look into documentaries, studies, and other literature about the social structure/history of indigenous cultures around the world. You may also want to check with your local Fish and Wildlife Bureau (or corresponding group in your local country) to see what they suggest for more information on hunting and anthropology departments at your local college/museums to see if there are any suggestions for beginning good sources to brush up on. I also suggest checking with your local librarians to see if they have any suggestions for books similar to the one you’re planning. Lit reviews are always helpful when it comes to putting together a setting.

The business of hunting and the suggested methods change depending on the animal in question. I will say that your hunters will probably not be regularly chasing big game (lots of effort) if they predominately stay in the same place. They’ll subsist mostly on small game (like rabbits, turkey, etc) and foraged vegetation. Again, I don’t know your setting well enough to know what those would be. However, I do suggest looking into bushcraft and survival/camping manuals to start getting a grasp of how one goes about finding food.

There are a lot of excellent resources available if you are willing to look.

When it comes to combat weapons knives and swords are meant for humans, they were not used for hunting. (The knife is used to skin and clean the game after it’s been killed or kill the trapped animal.) Swords are weapons specialized for warfare and for killing other humans, hunter gatherer societies don’t really have a use for them. You can take a machete or a kukri, which are tools not weapons but within the short sword range, and maybe find a use for them in the clearing vegetation/butchering animals stage.

The problem here is that swords, especially the longsword, require a fairly advanced development of metallurgy. You need someone to make the weapons and the ability to find/mine the necessary materials. You also need a society where metal (be it bronze or iron), even if crude, has become common and necessary to the society. These are usually societies that have transitioned from hunter/gatherer into agricultural. Agricultural societies need blacksmiths to develop better tools for farming, stonemasons for houses, etc.

If those resources are minimal, then they will go toward those items that the culture needs more like knives, spearheads, and other tools than a weapon they have little use for (a sword) when they have other weapons available like bows and spears which work just as well.

You said it yourself, the clans aren’t initially at war and later they “go to war with the weapons they hunt with.” As we’ve said in the past, “You do not go hunting with the weapons you take to war.”

That said, there’s a lot of room to play with some very interesting weapons, tactics, and techniques from a vast number of indigenous cultures across the world that have nothing to do with swords. There’s a vast and very rich cultural history of varying kinds of warfare among the Native American/First Nations tribes, the Zulu and other tribes throughout the continent of Africa that have massive varying differences depending on region and climate, and a number of indigenous groups in many countries in South East Asia with a long and interesting history.

The advice I give everyone for world building is this: you have to learn how to marry what you want with what you’ve made available through your setting. Weapons are primarily developed based on need and available resources. A society primarily based on hunting is more likely to develop better traps, better bows, and better spears. If they are migratory (with a lot of open space like plains or steppes) then they may domesticate animals like horses for easier travel over long distances. Their homes may be lighter, easier to break down and carry with them or they may need to stay in one place but travel great distances because game in their region is sparse.

A group in a jungle may develop a machete or a kukri to clear vines, use boats for travel because they have rivers instead of horses because an enclosed environment doesn’t favor them. Goats, Llamas, and donkeys/burros are common beasts of burden in regions with more mountainous terrain.

There are a thousand reasons why, but what is key is finding the set pattern of development for your setting. Not all your societies necessarily developed the same way. They may use different weapons or different variations, different tactics based entirely around dealing with different threats from different regions.

This is why looking at historical cultures and modern ones is so important. Once you develop an understanding of how other people adapted to their environment and the different ways they did even within the same region, then you can backtrack to your characters, look at the world they live in and come to a better realization of understanding what they do and why it is that way.

-Michi

I’m planning out a shirt story set in a medieval alternate universe where a small troop of characters hunt down a mutant beast. Any tips on using swords and arrows and such against a creature similar to a mutant lion or tiger?

Yeah, don’t. A sword is a weapon designed to kill another human being, it’s not a hunting tool. As you may have noticed, people are not particularly adept at clawing your face off. When that’s a consideration, you’re better off looking at a lance, pike or some other polearm.

Those should keep the enraged, wounded, and (hopefully) dying animal far enough away that it can’t seek bloody retribution on members of the hunting party.

Other than that, the best advice is just, “poke it with sticks until it falls over.” This one isn’t that much more complicated.

If the critter requires a specific sword to kill it, your best bet would still be to skewer it, wait for it to wear down a bit, and then deal the killing blow with the required weapon.

Bow hunting is a completely different kind of approach that favors parties of two or three people. You take a shot and then follow the blood trail until the animal wears itself out and expires. Finding the animal is usually the hard part. At least that’s how it normally works. I’m not sure about bow hunting apex predators, but, I have a feeling that could get massively out of hand, fast.

-Starke

Fantasy Book Critic: GUESTPOST: Cost And Consequence In The Creation Of A Magic System by Karina Sumner-Smith

Fantasy Book Critic: GUESTPOST: Cost And Consequence In The Creation Of A Magic System by Karina Sumner-Smith

do you have any tips on writing a non cliche werewolf?

fuckyeahcharacterdevelopment:

I shall do my best to advise. 

First and foremost, know your cliches. 
In this case, that means watching and reading all the werewolf stories that you can get your hands on. Grab some popcorn, take a break, it’s research! Patterns will probably start to appear pretty quickly. 

In a similar vein, I recommend that you look into all the mythology about werewolves that you can find. What’s become the current popular canon for werewolf mythology is actually a kind of distilled and selected version of some of the older myths. For example, in The Graveyard Book, I thought that Neil Gaiman did a lovely job pulling from the old stories of ‘Hounds of God’ to create a werewolf character that wasn’t a bit cliche. 

Finally, I’d say to top it off with some real world research- werewolves are mythical creatures that are grounded in real world stuff- clinical lycanthropy, serial killers, wolf-dog hybrids, hallucinations, actual wolves. Read up about it! Figure out what parts interest you. In particular, I find that a lot of stories about werewolves lack an understanding of how actual wolves work (I’m looking you dead in the face, Twilight series), which, I mean, if you want your werewolves to be humanized or a different beast from wolves entirely, that’s cool, but at least know what’s what so that you don’t flop misinformation/misunderstanding around.   

Now that you are an expert on the werewolf mythology that your work will be in the context of, decide:

– What you like about the existing stories. (Your creation doesn’t have to be 100% different from other werewolves to be fresh and not a cliche!) Do you think that a weakness to silver is nifty? If so, keep it! Nobody’s gonna stop you. Just be careful to only pick the parts that you REALLY like and find interesting. Don’t toss it in there just because it’s status quo. And maybe try adding your own spin on it, based on what seems logical to you (does the silver act more like an allergy, or lead poisoning?)

– What you think the current stories are lacking. Did you notice that most of the werewolves seem to be male (or are presented very differently than females)? Do you think that that’s lame? Make some lady werewolves! Do something different, or correct something that you don’t like about the stories that exist already. 

– Finally, and I cannot stress this enough- figure out your unique take and angle. What do werewolves mean to you, personally? What could they represent in the context of the story that’s a new way of looking at things? What parts of your research stuck out as being interesting and unique to you? Build up your own ideas, and create something that really comes from you. 

-Evvy

I recommend The Complete Book of Werewolves by Leonard R.N. Ashley as a good reference point to get you started. It covers historical lore, fictional werewolves, European, American, and world legends, and werewolves on the silver screen. This one is just a compiling of legends, historical lore, and modern fiction. It’s more akin to an encyclopedia, but if you want an in depth look at the history of werewolves this book is an excellent starting place. It’s got everything from Scooby Doo episodes to the werewolf legends surrounding the British Royal family.

There’s also Monsters: An Investigator’s Guide to Magical Beings by John Michael Greer. Unlike Ashley, this one is written by a self-proclaimed monster hunter, so take some of what he says with a grain of salt. However, it does provide some interesting suggestions on how it could potentially be possible and different shapeshifter legends, including the concept of astral projection and modifying the body’s electrical field to create the appearance of a wolf. If you want to develop a story about werewolves and monster hunters, this might provide you with some interesting insights.

If you’re looking to do wolves in a modern setting or play in the Fantasy Kitchen Sink, I suggest looking at White Wolf’s Werewolf: the Apocalypse roleplaying game, especially for the way it discusses and coaches integrating these characters into (or out of) society. If you’re looking for a Princess Mononoke style approach of Nature versus Man, I suggest going through this setting. The concept of the Delirium is especially worth looking at if you’re thinking Urban Fantasy because it works around the concept of a mystic magical field that hides supernatural beings from human sight. (Yes, it has a Tropes page.)

I’ll give two honorable mentions to my favorite sourcebooks:

Kinfolk, Unsung Heroes: which discusses roleplaying as and creating characters who exist in the shadows and backdrop of their special relatives. It discusses the important roles the mortal werewolf kin both human and wolf play in World of Darkness werewolf society.  What is it like to stand close to greatness and glimpse a spectacular world that could have been yours if only your genetics hadn’t rolled wrong? This is a great toolkit for creating supporting characters, antagonists, or protagonists and fleshing out the possible friends and family of the characters in your setting.

Ways of the Wolf: Do you want to write a story about a man (or woman) who is sometimes a wolf or a wolf who is sometimes a man (or woman)? If it’s the latter, then this Werewolf: The Apocalypse sourcebook has got you covered. In Werewolf, lycanthropy can occur in both humans and wolves. These wolf born werewolves are an interesting concept that rolls against some of the common werewolf mythology. The book covers wolf and pack behavior from the perspective of writing a wolf who has become more than a wolf, but is still a wolf at heart. It talks about how they interact with their wolf brethren and the human born Garou. Which makes it an interesting read while trying to get around some werewolf cliches.

I also recommend Wolves at Our Door which is a phenomenal documentary by Jim Dutcher about life with the Sawtooth Wolf Pack, whom they raised from pups to develop a better understanding of pack life and wolf family structure in a way that cannot be done with these shy animals in the wild. It’s a treasure trove of information and more importantly may lend some nice visual inspiration. For someone working with werewolves, watching wolf and man live together in harmony might be a great jumping off point.

Wikipedia and TV Tropes are (well, might be) great starting sources but as they are crowd sourced and anyone from anywhere can edit them, you’ll have to do a lot more research (and watch/read the suggested media yourself) to get anything really useful out of them.

-Michi

I’m going to toss two of my favorite Werewolf: The Apocalypse source books on here because they can give you some more ideas on getting away from werewolf clichés.

First is Player’s Guide to the Changing Breeds: this covers all the non-wolf based were-creatures in the setting. It includes wearbears, weresharks, werehyenas, weresnakes, and a bunch of other possible creatures. There are separate guides for each specific group, and if you find one that appeals, then their sourcebook will be more useful, but Guide to the Changing Breeds gives an overview for all of them.

The second is Project: Twilight. This isn’t actually about werewolves, it’s about federal agents who hunt the supernatural, and how to run them. If you want to write urban fantasy, I’d almost say this is a must read. If only to get you thinking about how law enforcement would deal with your characters’ actions and behavior.

-Starke

25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding

25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding

How would one portray a fantasy fight. Like something one would see in a comic book but still keep it believable?

The trick with realism in fantasy lies in the rules you set up for that setting. This is why world building is incredibly important and why someone saying “I can do what I want because it’s just fantasy!” is both true and ultimately false. A character who exists in a world that’s very similar to our own will function under similar rules to our own world, a character who exists in a fantasy setting will fall under the rules that have been set up for that world. Fictional worlds require rules because they create tension. In a lot of ways, regardless of whether your character is handling a firearm or a fireball, what makes or breaks a story are those rules, how well you as the author set them up, and how well you adhere to them.

What a character can and can’t get away with will be defined by those rules. Now, superpowers whether they are magical or natural add an extra challenge because they ultimately raise the stakes. Magic will get away from you very quickly if it’s not balanced by cost in a fictional world. A character who can do anything, but has no restrictions, ultimately ends up boring because we as the audience has no reason to care about them or worry about whether or not they’ll succeed, whether they’ll survive the next ten minutes.

Realism begins in the restrictions you place on your setting, in the cultures you craft, and how your character reacts as a product of that culture. It’s in how well your plot and character actions sync up in the world you’ve created. After that, the realism of the fight scenes is like icing on top of a very well-made cake. If you don’t have that, then it’s just icing and while great icing is delicious on it’s own, it pales when it compliments a great cake.

I’m actually really hungry right now, I don’t know if you can tell.

Anyway, you have to make sure you don’t let your imagination run away with you and because it’s fantasy, it is ridiculously easy to have that happen. Now, the easiest way I’ve managed to start setting rules (and it’s hard) is to take an RPG system I’m familiar with like GURPS, World of Darkness, or Exalted, pick powers, and just start plugging in numbers. The White Wolf ones are good over D&D because they spear head character development in conjunction with the superpowers. Now, you know what your character can and can’t get away with. Stick to that and follow those rules, track their trajectory and always craft antagonists who are their equal or better. The antagonists will require their own character sheets, even the throw away mooks your character is fighting.

Why? Because every character in the story is there for a reason and a fight is between two or more people. So long as the fight stays within the setting established rules and the character stays within the themes the story has set up, then it’ll be fine. It’ll feel real to the reader. Upgrade your understanding as needed. Be careful. And you’ll be fine.

-Michi