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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Am I Crazy?

   
Author Topic: Am I Crazy?
Meredith
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Okay, I've got my query for FIRE AND EARTH (workshopped here) up on another board in preparation for WriteOnCon.

I'm getting consistent comments that I need to explain what a berserker is.

How may people who regularly read fantasy don't know what a berserker is?

Am I crazy to expect an agent that specifically reps YA fantasy will know this?

How would you describe a berserker in 25 words or less?

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History
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One would hope if in the odd chance a youth does not know what a berserker is or cannot guess its meaning from the common word "beserk" as in "He went beserk!", they would have the intelligence to look it up in a dictionary or Google it.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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axeminister
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Yes.
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JenniferHicks
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I agree with Dr. Bob. Beserker is not something that needs explaining. If you have a character who goes beserk, a few well-placed descriptions of what he/she is doing and feeling would be enough to clue readers into what you're talking about.
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axeminister
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Sorry, just answering the thread question.

OK, getting serious. I'm 39. I've read a few dozen fantasy books and seen a few fantasy movies. I know what a Berserker is.

I don't know what your Berserker is, but that's because you haven't told me yet.

I didn't know the difference between John Steakley's vampires and Ann Rice's vampires until they told me. (John's kill and eat people, while Ann's make out.)

However, I know what a freekin vampire is.

Just like I know what a Berserker is.

Plus, one of my axioms is, if I throw a term at someone and they're unfamiliar with it, too bad. (Assuming it's a real term.)

If I make something up, then I explain it carefully and thoroughly. (Flux Capasitor = Doc's explanation to Marty.)

I think Berserker is well known enough not to warrant a full explanation, but could be good for either a reminder or a definition of what [i]your[i/] Berserker is.

However, I don't expect you to cover that in the Query. (Unless you say, ... A Berserker, a warrior among her people, ... on a quest.) Using the between the commas definition to cover it.

Was that more helpful than my previous post? [Wink]

Axe

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extrinsic
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Berserker originates in Norse culture from bear skirt. A frenzied, recklessly defiant warrior.

The issue I see with using berserker as a descriptive term is it's naming exposition that assumes its meaning is universal for the audience. It's not. A berskerer to any given reader might not be a warrior. Might not be frenzied. Might not be recklessly defiant. Might be a rogue soldier. Might be a dervish. Might be a contrary. Might be a Thugee. Might be an anarchist. Might just be deranged or maladjusted. Context is paramount for enhancing naming exposition meaning.

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Meredith
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Fair enough.

The exact words are:

quote:
When her country is invaded, seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against the berserker curse she was born with. The curse turns her into a ferocious warrior, but that's no use to her people when she must be exiled as a danger to everyone around her.
Is that a sufficient explanation?
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extrinsic
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I see. "battle against the berserker curse she was born with" might signal the curse was placed upon her at birth by a berserker. Change the noun, berserker, modifying the noun, curse, to warrior, for example, to see how the meaning could be taken several ways. For that matter, try switching berserker for warrior and see if that clarifies the intended meaning.

//Casora loses her struggle against the warrior curse she was born with. The curse turns her into a frenzied, reckless, defiant berserker.//

Also, consider reworking to eliminate the fuzzy "when" words. Be as specific as possible. Neolithic cultures marked special occasions with their most memorable events or personages. The year Mother Moon blinded the sky, for example. From Kicking Deer War's beginning, the True People exile Casora for her danger to friend and enemy alike. For example.

[ August 01, 2012, 05:58 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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skadder
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A ferocious warrior rather than a cuddly warrior?Aren't all warriors (at least those that survive) ferocious. I think--if you have to explain it at all--that you should describe it as much more than ferocious.

Classically a berserker is someone in a battle trance, for who death is not a concern, and killing enemies is simply all they do (until there are no more). Drugs (or alcohol) were often involved.

I guess it depends on how you define a beserker in your story-- I have seen them described through their own POV using 'slow time' to describe and explain their ability to move fast and kill to easily. Other times they are described as altered states they aren't aware of what they did until they look behind and see the trail of corpses.

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rcmann
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quote:
When her country is invaded, seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against the berserker curse she was born with. The curse turns her into a ferocious warrior, but that's no use to her people when she must be exiled as a danger to everyone around her.
I suggest changing the second sentence to indicate that the berserker curse induces a form of madness. Like, 'turns her into a blood mad warrior', or perhaps, 'drives her into a blood frenzy, heedless of anything but the raging need to kill'. Something that clarifies how a berserker differs from the average thug. If I recall correctly, berserkers were rumored to sometimes foam at the mouth, howl like dogs, sometimes go into such frenzies that they bit through the iron rims of their shields, and ignored any wound that was not instantly fatal. That sounds like psychosis to me.
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Owasm
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You can use the term 'battle curse' and avoid using berserker in the query. You define it in the next sentence.

I really think most people will know what it is when you describe what happens to her in the book. Sometimes agents are purposefully thick and will seize on little things as a reason to reject a work.

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Jess
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I've never in all my life heard of a Berserker, but honestly I've heard of the word Berserk and I can put two and two together. I don't think any other explaination is necessary but who knows right?
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Robert Nowall
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I don't think it has to be defined...if one runs into an unfamiliar word, one can always look it up.

(Although...I remember reading Heinlein's Space Cadet at a young age, and at one point he talked about somebody being "asleep or shamming." For about five years, I had the fixed idea that "shamming" was some arcane term for something one did in the bathroom---but I didn't know what.)

But I also wonder, given the course this discussion has turned on...did Fred Saberhagen live and write in vain?

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MartinV
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Or give it an eyeblink description.

...the rage trance called berserk...

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
But I also wonder, given the course this discussion has turned on...did Fred Saberhagen live and write in vain?

What a sad thought.
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