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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Some Days . . .

   
Author Topic: Some Days . . .
Meredith
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Really. I thought it was a stroke of luck when I got my query and first 250 words for MAGE STORM into the "An Agent's Inbox" event on Mother.Write.(Repeat). We won't hear anything from the actual agent until next week, but . . .

So far the two comments from my fellow entrants have both said that they don't know what a mage is and suggested that I should define it.

Seriously!!!

And how widely do we think they've read in the genre? Or even watched movies or played computer games.

Makes you wonder. At least, it makes me wonder.

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extrinsic
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I'm baffled too. Mage? Really? I guess mandrake is out too. Hedge witch. Green witch. Ice witch. Etc. Soothsayer. Scryer. Philospher.

On the other hand, naming exposition, like also brand names, holds relevance only for people who are familiar with the named item. Giving a term context and texture are a best practice so the meaning of an unfamiliar term can be readily decoded while reading, without having to go open--Providence forbid!--a dictionary, and for as broad as possible audience relevance and appeal.

One the third hand, early commentors are often the ones who react spontaneously anyway. Ones who respond after a degree of thought don't show their perhaps narrowly construed private sentiments and knowledge limits.

And maybe some early responders are just looking to find fault. If problems with the word mage is the only fault they can find, they aren't very good at finding fault, More importantly, that might mean there isn't much fault to find in the first place.

[ July 24, 2013, 05:17 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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I followed the link. Obviously, the people who commented don't read sci-fi/fantasy. I had a devil of a time with my family when I decided to title my book Athame. The assured me that nobody on earth would know what one was. Don't worry about it. Your target audience will love it.
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redux
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I too find it baffling that they don't know what a mage is or can't take two seconds to Google if they are unsure of its meaning.

For me, reading has always been about discovery. So, even if an author used a term I wasn't familiar with (and mage in the fantasy genre is not one those) I would gladly look it up and be all the wiser for it.

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Pyre Dynasty
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Reminds me of a time I used to word mobile, as in, "she pulled out her mobile and told the guards to come back in." And so many people in my class were so confused. "What's a mobile?" . . . "Um, you have one in your pocket right now!" (Also most of their written responses started out, "I don't usually read sci-fi but . . .)

I think sometimes people get a little disoriented when they are reading outside their usual and they think everything is this big scary thing that needs to be explained. Also I think when people are critiquing they are looking with a microscope for errors and they don't stop to think about what they actually read.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You defined it when you talked about magic in the same context. People who write should love and know words well enough that they can figure things like that out.

However, as Pyre Dynasty points out, it may just be a matter of them expecting not to understand, so they don't even try.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
Really. I thought it was a stroke of luck when I got my query and first 250 words for MAGE STORM into the "An Agent's Inbox" event on Mother.Write.(Repeat). We won't hear anything from the actual agent until next week, but . . .

So far the two comments from my fellow entrants have both said that they don't know what a mage is and suggested that I should define it.

Seriously!!!

And how widely do we think they've read in the genre? Or even watched movies or played computer games.

Makes you wonder. At least, it makes me wonder.

In this case I may understand why. Or so I think in my high regard of my own comments.

It seems to me that these days mage is usually used in certain sub-genres. So if you don't read them you may not know what a mage is. Wizard is another case, it is widely used in a lot of different formats.

Compute games are one thing, but how many movies use Mage? I can only think of a couple but I usually don't watch a lot of movies so I could be wrong there.

Even though Kathleen does have a point in figuring words out by context.

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babygears81
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I'll admit, at the risk of being flogged by all you fantasy buffs, that the first time I read a story with the word mage in it, I didn't know what it was either. At the time, I hadn't read a lick of sf or fantasy, at least not the kind of fantasy that would have mages.

I knew what a wizard was, but had never heard mage. I figured it out by the end of the paragraph though, and then googled it to make sure.

To me, if the word exists, the writer can use it. It's the reader's responsibility to compensate for their lack in vocabulary by looking it up. Of course, that should not be taken to the extreme to mean that using jargon or vocabulary inappropriate for your age group is an okay thing to do, but still.

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History
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I received the same response when I wrote of my Jewish mage Rabbi Cane in my Kabbalist stories.

Admittedly, I just sighed and shook my head.

This is why we have dictionaries.

And today one need only Google/Search on one's Iphone, IPad, Kindle or other electronic device close at hand (often seemingly attached to people's hands) to learn vocabulary.

M-a-g-e is only 4 key strokes.
Well, a 5th is necessary to hit "Enter."

I sometimes wonder why some people expect art and literature need be dumbed down to their level of ignorance instead of inspiring them to rise up and learn.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Robert Nowall
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Honestly. I wouldn't think anybody with pretentions to write fantastic fiction wouldn't know what a mage was---and I would think a would-be writer, anybody who works with words, would be able to, at the very least, take the word "mage" and link it to "magician" and "magic"...
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redux
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quote:
Originally posted by History:


And today one need only Google/Search on one's Iphone, IPad, Kindle or other electronic device close at hand (often seemingly attached to people's hands) to learn vocabulary.

M-a-g-e is only 4 key strokes.
Well, a 5th is necessary to hit "Enter."

On the Kindle it's just a matter of touch-and-hold. Even less keystrokes! [Smile]
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shimiqua
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Well, I think there's nothing wrong with specifically explaining what mage means inside your world.

Like
CHARACTER is a Mage, a wielder of magic...

or

CHARACTER is a mage, an outcast of society who dabbles in spells and magic.

or

CHARACTER is a mage, a powerful overlord who uses her magic spells to enslave the commoners.

If they want more of a definition, then that's probably a good definition to make. How you use magic is one of the things that will distinguish your story from all the others. I say if they want more information, give it to them.

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extrinsic
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Mage is a derivative of magus, singular form of magi, a hereditary priest sect of Persia that practiced astrology and alchemy and other magics. The three magi of Christian Christmas traditions were mages. You don't have to be a Christian to know what a mage is, as much as they're portrayed throughout the holiday season.
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MattLeo
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Well, some portion of what you write will escape some of the readers some of the time, unless you restrict yourself to "See Spot run" level vocabulary and grammar. But I don't think we have to do that. Hearing and reading words used in context is how people build their vocabulary. Writing clearly and confidently will help people infer the meaning of many words.

Of course a big part of that is choosing good words to begin with. If there isn't a good reason to choose an unfamiliar word, that undermines the reader's chances of extracting any sense from it. Why use unfamiliar X when Y means *exactly* what is called for? The only reason is that sometimes words have unwanted baggage.

Let's take the English words I know off the top of my head that mean "mage": Enchanter/Enchantress,
Illusionist, Mage, Magus, Magician, Necromancer, Occultistm Shaman/Witch Doctorm Sorcererm Thaumaturgistm Warlock/Witchm Wizard and Wonder-Worker/Miracle Worker.

Some of these are too general, and others too specific. "Occultist" is too general, it might refer to a psychic, fortune teller or astrologer. Others are refer to a specific branch of magic (illusionist, necromancer) or possibly an allied field (Shaman, Witch Doctor, Wonder Worker).

This really leave us with wth a modest number of choices, all of which could carry the meaning of "person who practices magic". But each has drawbacks, often a matter of unwanted baggage.
  • Enchanter: Not bad, but the female version of this title, "Enchantress" is apt to be misconstrued as designating an *attractive* woman, a woman who *has* charms rather than casts them.
  • Mage, Magus: both of these are uncommon words. Not much to choose betwee them, other than "Magus" sounds funny, like Nagus (the old title of Ethiopian kings).
  • Magician: Might carry connotations of stage illusionist.
  • Sorcerer/Sorceress: A common word and not a bad choice, in my opinion, although somewhat dark and sinister-sounding. I really like the word "sorcerous". Also, for some reason I picture a "sorcerer" as someone who practices ceremonial, or ritual magic.
  • Thaumaturgist: Very obscure word. Sounds kind of scientific, like someone who studies theory of magic.
  • Witch/Warlock: Carries connotations of Satanic magic, or Wicca. "Warlock" is considered offensive by Wiccans.
  • Wizard: A common word, usable, but with baggage. Conjures the image of a bearded man in star-spangled robes and a pointy hat. Probably why JK Rowling chose the word, for the incongruity of children going to "wizarding" school.

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Robert Nowall
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How 'bout this? When someone says they don't know what "mage" means, why don't you ask them what they think it means?
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