Does anybody remember the ralph bakshi cartoon/movie "wizards?" (I'm really asking if anyone is OLD enough to remember it!) There was a gimmick at the very end, where one ancient wizard whips out a pistol at the very end and shoots the other wizard, saying "here's a trick mom taught me when you weren't around". It worked because the entire movie put you entirely into a mode of thinking that only magic would be effective against a wizard, yet there were always indications of other technology.
If you remember this, did you think it was too cheesy? I am finishing up the last couple of chapters in a novel, with a big confrontation between good and evil, and I have two ringers in the group - one a teenage boy who is a black belt, and the other the son of a witch who has shown no prior indication of magical talents. I am tempted to have one of these guys pull a totally unexpected trick out of their sleeves, but the cheese factor . . . would you be disappointed as a reader? They've both been likable and consistent characters throughout the book. interested in feedback. Inarticulate Babbler (IAB?) where are you when I need you?
The key is to be consistent with whatever magic system you use in your world. If in that cartoon you mentioned, for example, they made it plain that wizards are just as vulnerable to modern technology-weaponry, that they have no simple way to defend from a gun (but maybe wizards think of guns as "uncivilized" and rarely use them for asthetic reasons, think Jedis with their lightsabers vs. blasters) then that would have worked for me. If they had set it up so it was obvious only magic could kill a wizards, I would find the ending incredibly stupid.
Same goes for your world and your situation. As long as you are consistent with your magic, your characters can certainly think of tricky ways to unexpectedly win. But if you spend most of the novel establishing that, say, wizards are able to magically defend themselves from a sword with ease, and then have your character whip out a sword and simply kill the wizard with it, it strikes of inconsistency, and I would (if I didn't put the novel down that very moment) stray from any future works of yours, becasue, as a reader, now I know that you "cheat."
So it's all about being consistent. Your characters can be tricky. They can't break the rules of magic you've already established, though.
quote:There was a gimmick at the very end, where one ancient wizard whips out a pistol at the very end and shoots the other wizard, saying "here's a trick mom taught me when you weren't around".
I wish I was old enough to remember that, because it's hilarious.
If one of your characters pulled out a magical trick that hadn't been even hinted at slightly in the entirety of the pages previous, I'd probably groan a little. When characters pull magic out of their sleeves without prior suggestion of it, just when they need it the most, it feels a little too much like deus ex machina to me.
Pulling out a pistol is different because it shatters the audience's assumptions, as you've noted.
If it was some trick other than magic, using accessible technology and/or ingenuity, I'd be much more pleased as a reader.
You could write the scene you want to write, and then go back through the story to look for opportunities to offer at least a small hint to your readers (e.g., make sure the fact that one is a black belt is no secret.)
Seems to me that most good books do some sort of foreshadowing of the final showdown scene. I don't generally have a problem with it, unless it comes off as "Deus ex machina" stuff - you know, where suddenly she remembers that she's able to teleport so she teleports herself to behind the bad guy and takes his gun while he's all surprised like. Dude, that kind of thing bugs me. Don't ask why I'm talking teen, I've no idea.
If I was handling the story, I might have him with something in a pouch that he is very protective of. He might go into a panic if it is not where he thought he put it. I would use that to indicate where he had the gun all the time.
another thing is to show the weakness to modern technology, or at least really fast things. He might get hit by a kid firing a pebble with a sling, but is able to stop arrows which are slower. Then, one can believe that a bullet from a gun can kill a wizard.
Another would be to show how they are vulnerable to modern technology, by showing a magic user hurt by something modern when something primative would have no chance against them.
Ohh, I liked that one. I have a few of the animation cels in my collection.
I think Astro has it right. If there are hints that mages are subject to mundane weapons, I'd go with it. The son of a witch coming into his power at the precise right moment would give me a groan.
After all, think of Indiana Jones. There is a huge build up to a sword fight with the appropriate level of showing off. Indy doesn't have his sword, so he oulls his pistol and shoots the guy. Why does he get away with it? Because we all knew he had the gun and, in his place, we would have shot the bad guy too.
Intereting tidbit/sidenote: did you know in that scene in Indiana Jones, they were *supposed* to film an elaborate sword fight scene, but someone was sick or, something, in any case they ran out of daylight hours. Finally, Harrison Ford actually said "y'know if I was Indy, I'd just shoot the guy" so they did it. The guy who weilded the sword ended up being pretty mad. He went from a long 5-10 minute fight scene villain to the "swoosh swing BANG dead" villain.
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Fire and Ice was created by Frank Frazetta. He painted the cover of the movie and drew some of the stills that designed the characters. He has original sketches of this, along with prints of the character sketches used for the beginning narraration for sale at his website.
The reason the pull-the-gun-out-of-the-sleeve move worked so well in Wizards (IMHO) is that the whole movie protrayed technology as evil. The main reason they were fighting the war was to eliminate technology and bring the world back to "paradise." So when the Good Wizard whips out a gun, it's as if he went over to the Dark Side to defeat the Dark Side. And why not, since the Dark Side was very effective at what it did.
So it wasn't cheesy because we knew it could happen (although we didn't expect it) and because it worked so nicely to illustrate the theme.
If you can do that with a suprise, then you shouldn't have any problems, IMHO.
If I wasn't married and straight I might have to stalk you :-)
The gun at the end of wizards AND in Indiana Jones were both examples of using Anti-Climax effectively.
Both were situations where they audience expects a big lavish fight or exposition, since they are bigger than life, but instead a more realistic approach is used to create a very effective anti climax.
I find this refreshing since it seems FAR too often film and occasionally novels, insist on intricate involved puzzle wrapped in an enigma, solutions rather than choosing the obvious and expedient solution. Computer games are particularly notorious for this.
AndrewR, thanks for reminding me what the real pivotal idea of that scene was - bad guys assume good guys are going to play by the rules that the bad guys are always breaking.
The idea I'm working on has several present day folks going up against a powerful spirit, who have several minions. I think the minions, at least (sorry about the minions thing. I've been spending a lot of time at the EE site), would be subject to the same rules as the present day folks. the kids black belt status is discussed early on when the kid is introduced, and there have been occasions in which the minions have been at a disadvantage because the have little acquaintance with any technology past the late fifties.
I'm on the last 2-3 chapters of the book, and I think I am just having trouble getting them out because - it's the last 2-3 chapters of the book! (sigh) King's Falcon and the mighty Inarticulate One, I think we must all be really dating ourselves to admit we know this movie. Much less Frank Frazetta. I haven't heard that name since I was in college and dating an aspiring comic book illustrator (sigh). I won't tell if you won't tell.
I just went to the frazetta site. I remember that conan cover, too. I suppose no one is old enough to remember Conan, either. Man, I used to love those books.
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Keep in mind that in another film. Harrison Ford was about to use the same "draw gun and shoot sword'sman" scene, but his gun fell out of his holster. He calmly goes for his gun, sees it is not there, and runs in panic. This is a version of giving a wink to the previous trick, and showing true results.
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Which Conan books are you referring to: Robert E. Howard's?; TOR's Conan series (Which includes the works of Robert Jordan and Steve Perry)?; or Ace Fantasy?
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Have you checked out the website about the Robert E. Howard Museum? Or One Who walked Alone by Noveline Price (who dated Howard); or The Whole Wide World which is the movie version, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zelleweger?
never even heard of it before - if renee zellweiger is in it, it must be fairly (meaning within the last two decades). Did you ever read the German book man who fell to earth - bowie was in the movie.
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At CONduit, a couple of weeks ago, Brandon Sanderson (author of ELANTRIS and MISTBORN, both of which I highly recommend), who is also a teacher at a nearby university, said something I found very insightful about using magic in stories.
He said that the more you explain to the reader how the magic works, the more you can use the magic as part of the plot -- to solve problems in a story. The less you explain (the fewer rules you give for the magic), the more you have to keep the magic as setting (or scene decoration).
So if you go by his "rule of thumb," if you want to use magic (or guns or anything else for that matter) to solve problems in your story, you have to make sure the magic (or whatever) follows the rules you've set up for it so that it can solve the story problems.
If you just want the magic to be unexplained (and therefore just part of the setting), you risk committing "deus ex machina" to have the magic do anything to solve story problems.