Monstrous Regiment and Miyazaki

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=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#1
Monstrous Regiment has the "flash-sideways" scene,, which brings in Vietnam war references. It always annoyed me because it seemed so jarringly out of place. Today I realized that it was the same thing Miyazaki did to Diana Wynne Jones's fantasy book, Howl's Moving Castle, and that he seems to do to everything he makes: shoves in flying warplanes.
I think Sir pTerry was satirizing Miyazaki.
 

RathDarkblade

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#2
Hmm ... sorry, I'm not sure what a "flash-sideways" scene is. Can you please elaborate, =Tamar?

Obviously, I'm aware what a "flash-back" is (and wrote a few, too). But "flash-sideways" is new to me.

As for the Vietnam war references ... the only ones I remember are
Maladict's craving for coffee and his mumbling about "Charlie" etc., which confuse the others.
Are there any others?
 

Tonyblack

Super Moderator
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Jul 25, 2008
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#3
Yes Rath - I think that's what =Tamar was referring to. I also seem to remember Mal hearing helicopters. There was a sort of sideways flash in Colour of Magic where
="Rincewind and Twoflower end up a Roundworld aeroplane."
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#4
There are some in Lords And Ladies, too.
 
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=Tamar

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#6
Helicopters and Vietnam references in MR. Flash-sideways in L&L.
 

RathDarkblade

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#7
*looks up what "flash-sideways means* Aha! So "flash-sideways" is another way to express an "alternate timeline"? Or "The Other Leg of the Trousers of Time"? :) Now I get it.

In that case, I think that what I've been writing for the past 3-4 years is something similar. I take an established historical episode/mythological story (or both, in the case of really ancient history*), and "tweak" just one aspect in a plausible way. (Plausibility is the key; obviously no ancient Greeks called Fred or ancient Egyptians eating tomatoes etc.) :p Then I take it from there.

For instance, what if the Minotaur of Crete - or, say, Medusa - weren't what they seemed? How would their story, and the world around them, be different?

_________________________
* By really ancient history, I'm referring to history so long ago - say, 1,500 BC - that it's become mythology. But since new archaeological evidence suggests that Hercules and Perseus really existed - well! Why not use their stories as well?

Discworld is not the only world with infinite possibilities ... :)
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#8
Not quite. You are writing alternate universe stories.
Technically, a flash-sideways is a sudden dip into an alternate universe, but it doesn't last. It's like a flashback, in that one character briefly experiences a moment in which they are 'somewhere else' but only mentally (at least, in Rincewind's case, the only long-term result for him was a memory of a situation in which things were different). This is different from a portal fantasy, in which they actually go there (again, um, Rincewind's experience was kind of an extremely short portal fantasy, but so short that I'm calling it a flash-sideways). It is closer to the pyschological versions where they mentally contact someone in a different universe, but in a true flash-sideways, the only person they "contact" is their other self. (A slight variation of it was experienced by Vimes in Jingo.)
 

RathDarkblade

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#9
Aha ... OK.

So let's say Theseus finds the Minotaur, who turns out to be the King's unwanted son in a bad mask (it's been done). Theseus offers to lead the son out and avenge himself on daddy, which the boy is OK with.

Just as they turn to go, Theseus imagines he sees bones on the floor - human bones! - and thinks he's been tricked. He draws his sword and prepares to lunge--

Wait a minute, what happened? Those are rat bones. Has the kid been eating rat? Poor kid. Poor rats. Poor everyone. Theseus sits down and has a jolly old cry.

(OK, that last bit, with Theseus crying, is maudlin and silly. ;) But is a flash-sideways)?
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#10
Yes, that would count. Theseus briefly perceives an alternate version, but although it is real, it doesn't last, and it isn't actually real in the universe of the story as told. He's not physically transported to the other universe, and in his proper universe it didn't happen that way. No one else knows what he perceived (unless he tells them, which would be foolish).
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#11
[Avast spoilers ahead]

Technically, in Jingo it was the Disorganizer that experienced the sideway flashes, not Vimes. He himself never experienced the "alternate reality" the Disorganizer was describing. He only imagined what it might be like.

I also assume that in Lords and Ladies Granny Weatherwax's visions of herself as a grandmother are the main sideway flashes? Were there others?

As for Maladict's Vietnam sideways flash, I always thought that was just a riff on the tired stereotype of flashbacks in TV shows and movies. I thought Maladict's specific one was a reference to the frequent cliched Vietnam flashback Principal Skinner experienced on The SImpsons.
 

=Tamar

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#12
To be even more technical, in Jingo, the Disorganizers experienced a portal fantasy, because they actually did travel between universes. Listening to the Disorganizer from the other universe was what gave Vimes the effect of a flash-sideways without technically having one.

Yes, I was thinking of Granny Weatherwax's experiences. The unicorn experienced a portal fantasy. The elves also did, but for them it's normal.

I think we are at risk of confusing the story-telling flashback, which is merely a section of a novel that is placed out of the usual time sequence, with the true psychological flashback, which is felt in the present but in which the individual feels that they are living through an experience exactly as it happened in the past. Granny's visions are brief moments that are experienced, but since they are the visions of a different Granny, they are flashes sideways.

Granny's flashes are to a Granny in a different but still Discworldian universe. Maladict's flashes are to a potential Maladict in Roundworld. Because they involve Roundworld. Maladict's flashes are similar to Rincewind's brief portal fantasy adventure, which for the purpose of discussion I have treated as a flash but which actually did help him by transporting him to a different relative location, so his fall into the ocean wasn't as catastrophic as it might have been.
(Come to think of it, Rincewind's adventure was not only a portal/flash-sideways, they were also a flash-forward, because at that time the wizards had not yet created Roundworld...)
 

RathDarkblade

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#13
SPOILERS AHOY!! :)



Speaking of flash-backs ... if they are used extensively (or for over a page or two), they become tiresome - at least in my opinion.

Terry uses them right at the beginning of "Going Postal". A few paragraphs, and that's it. Enough to whet our appetite and keep us reading. Then, a few chapters later, one of them becomes an example of Chekhov's Gun, (Pratchett's Golem?). Later still - much, much later - the other flash-back (about Adora Belle's brother) becomes a Tearjerker.

But if used extensively, they become an Info Dump or a Cliché.

The only cliché worse than that is opening with a dream -- and, far worse than even that is the writer telling you the entire story or novel and then ending with a character waking from his dream.

As David Farland says in 'Daily Meditations': "Don’t do that. If your editor reads it and then shoots you, it’s considered justifiable homicide." ;)
 

=Tamar

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#14
Wintersmith begins with a flashback. I forget just how long it is, but it's pretty long.
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#15
SPOILERS AHOY!! :)
Terry uses them right at the beginning of "Going Postal". A few paragraphs, and that's it. Enough to whet our appetite and keep us reading. Then, a few chapters later, one of them becomes an example of Chekhov's Gun, (Pratchett's Golem?). Later still - much, much later - the other flash-back (about Adora Belle's brother) becomes a Tearjerker.
I wouldn't call the first two pages of Going Postal a flashback. It's a prologue, which is narrative that takes place before the "present time." A flashback is a singular recounting playback of an event in the past of a character residing in the present. The second prologue isn't a flashback, either. it's no one's memory. It's an omnipotent narrator telling a story that no one else witnesses.
 

RathDarkblade

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#16
Hmm - you're right, of course. A prologue.

Is there a way to use a prologue right (or should I say "right" -- because writing isn't like maths, with just one right answer)? ;)

Some years ago, I tried to create a 17-year prologue and a 15-year one for a story I was developing. But they became Info Dumps. :( What's the rule with prologues -- that if you use them at all, use them sparingly, to avoid giving away too much too soon?
 

=Tamar

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May 20, 2012
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#17
The term "infodump" indicates that someone is annoyed by it. A prologue gives information, but it is not automatically an infodump. Study what pTerry does in his prologues. Also, note that he used every bit of the book: the title is meaningful, the dedication is meaningful and even adds to the story, introductions and prologues and footnotes all add. Even the author description would sometime be adjusted to work with the story.
 

RathDarkblade

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#18
I say "infodump" because that's what my beta readers told me about the prologues. :) I ended up cutting them entirely and revealing the information gradually, over the course of the story - a hint here, a paragraph there, instead of a prologue of about 6-7 pages. (Oops). :oops:

I think that's how it used to be done in Dickens's day (i.e. telling the story "from the egg"). That's common to Homer's epics, too. Instead, I re-jigged things and started the story in media res (roughly speaking, "from the middle" - i.e. plunged right into the middle of things, no explanation beforehand). :)

I suppose it is still possible to write a prologue (or two). It's just better not to make them 7 pages! ;)
 
Oct 1, 2009
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#19
I don't think there's any "right or wrong" rule for using prologues, but I would advise using them sparingly and keep them short. I personally don't like stories that begin with long prologues and then jump into the present. I particularly don't like stories that alternate events that happen in the present with events that happened in the past. I've found that this occurs frequently with many of the mystery/crime writers I like. The first couple books all take place in the present, then they try to shake things up in the third by using prologues and alternate past/present chapters. To me it's annoying and a crutch. Pterry's prologues were exactly the right length.
 

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