Sunday, 17 April 2011

It's a...

Being mildly obsessed with parodying a certain traditional sort of fantasy, I find myself thinking about its traditional elements quite a lot. As another little thing to blog about towards the start of the week, I'm planning on picking apart a few of those elements to explore some things writers need to consider. Oh, and probably write some lists in the process. This first thought is all about traps.

Let's face it, no dungeon, villainous home, or heavily defended castle would be complete without the odd deadfall or big rolling boulder. Writing about them can be fun, too, providing a different sort of challenge even in genres where huge dungeon complexes don't show up (urban fantasy might feature all sorts of nasty quasi-military stuff, from cars rigged to explode to electrified door handles).

There are a couple of big things to think about with this stuff, though. First, where does the villain get it? Mine mostly buy them wholesale from P. Edgeborough and co, obviously, but not everyone can do that. If you've written an embezzling accountant, then a house full of claymore mines is probably out unless you particularly want to show them with military connections. If your fantasy villain isn't rich, meanwhile, then labour intensive options such as entire hallways of doom are probably out. Whereas a tripwire connected to a crossbow...

Second, you have to think about how they live with this stuff (and there's probably a short story in that). If your hallway is lined with pits leading down to the Thing pit, then doesn't that make coming in slightly tipsy on a Friday night a bit dangerous?

Thirdly, there's the question of the character's personality to consider. Is a trap appropriate for them? Is this particular trap appropriate? That particularly stupid villain is unlikely to have a complex, multi stage death trap designed to outwit the heroes, for example. Those mischevious pixies might be more into bucket of water over a door territory than bit pits with spikes in. Though there's nothing to say the water can't have something nasty in it.

1 comment:

Autumn Shelley said...

In regard to 'villains on a budget' or Living with the Thing Pit: 'Things' are highly over-rated, they're dirty, they smell, have to be fed occassionally and oy, the immunizations! I've found that villains are quite often better off to leave the Things at the depot and instead focus on the smaller, more attainable tools. Boutinierre's that squirt mustard gas, flesh eating viruses and of course, my personal favorite in our age of over-stimulated youth: the brightly colored television program with the mind programming video. Turns any hero into an instant drooling idiot! ($19.95 plus shipping and handling). :P