Points of Light: Dragonlance Chronicles

This week, I’m continuing Points of Light with a look at a source that was so essential to the book, I would never have been able to write it without it. When I started writing, one thing I very much wanted to avoid was creating a sword and shield style fantasy book. Even though I love stories like Lord of the Rings, I felt there wasn’t anything new I could add to this genre, and that having those elements in modern times was far more interesting. However, one such fantasy book series provided such tremendous insight on concept and character that I found myself compelled to use it. That series was the Dragonlance Chronicles, by Track Hickman and Margaret Weis.

Points of Light: Dragonlance Chronicles

The Concept

Based on a Dungeons and Dragons game, the Chronicles have used that epic universe to create the massive world of Krynn, which is populated by so many various cultures, that many authors have taken their own spins on it, with various spin-offs and exploratory novels that delved in the parts of the world the main Chronicles didn’t get into. However, the original Chronicles series, and its direct sequels are the major influences for me. Those books focus on a group of pulled from different cultures (elves, dwarves, knights, barbarians, mage, warrior and the gremlin-esque kender) who are pulled into a massive war by heralds of the forgotten gods of evil. The heroes are charged with reigniting belief in the gods of good, while learning of the cosmic balance needed to maintain order. During this initial trilogy, they must deal with various nations and prejudices, the reappearance of good and evil dragons, and on occasion, meeting the gods they are learning about.

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What I Learned: Characters, Group Dynamics, Balance

As readers may imagine, seeing a large group of varied characters coming together and learning about balance is vital to Lightrider. Chronicles still remains the best example I can give for making a large group of characters work. Every person in the group was dynamic and brought something different. For example, the character of Sturm Brightblade was a knight, honorable to a fault and constantly holding others to high standards. By contrast, the mage Raistlin Majere was conniving and selfish, and was always out to serve his own needs first. But both characters had traits and skills that made them vital and overshadowed their flaws- Sturm’s fighting skills and sense of honor, as well as Raistlin’s magic and sympathy for the weak and downtrodden (as he was sickly). And every character has a similar purpose. Some were there for comic relief, others gave them purpose, some led and held the group together, while still others were there to grow and learn, traits the reader could relate to. It was a perfect example of vibrant, different characters that should not have worked together, but accomplished amazing feats when they did.

That trait of strange companionship also played into the book’s sense of balance. The Chronicles features three sects of gods (good, evil, and neutral) that strive to create balance, though the evil gods are more interested in conquest. While the beings of evil are depicted as self-serving, the beings of good are no less flawed. The Elves and Solamnic Knights that champion good are both rigid and unwilling to see beyond themselves. The Elves are convinced they are the chosen race, and generally shun contact with outsiders, believing only they can save the world. The Knights are less xenophobic, but also see the world in black and white, clinging to ancient codes of conduct that make it impossible for them to actually do much good in the world. This was the first time I had seen ‘good’ characters painted with such tragic flaws, and it showed me how easy it was for the righteous to become blind and ignorant. It really made me understand why balance needed to exist, and how it was only the existence of good and evil together that caused either side to be meaningful and accomplish anything. It also led to the creation of another great concept for Lightrider- the creation of an evil Knighthood – that held the same basic traits of honor and discipline as the Solamanic Knights. They were a truly dangerous force because of this, and in reading about them, I saw the character of Nightstalker taking further shape.

What Writers Can Learn

The Dragonlance Chronicles are an amazing example of sword and shield fantasy, and should be held up to Lord of the Rings as sources of inspiration. However, if you aren’t interested in fantasy, it has perfect examples of group dynamic and solid, multifaceted characters. I would not have been able to create Joe or Nightstalker without first reading about Tanis Half-Elven and Raistlin Majere. The sequels delve in further important themes, like faith and belief, the seduction of good, the attractiveness of evil, growing old, death, and a changing world Regardless of your feelings on fantasy, these are themes that a writer should be thrilled to tackle and write about, and the Chronicles are perfect examples of all of them.

Posted on March 6, 2013, in Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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