elementology 101. Lecture 1
Hello, and welcome to Elementology 101, where A.L. Hornbeck will discuss his magic system called Elementology. The magic system of my greater Computus lore is called Elementology because it relies on elements and, catalysts, and attributes as it's foundation. Imagientechs and magic are a way to draw upon this magic system, but they are mostly techniques on how to manipulate and control this system. In this blog post we will discuss what elements, catalysts, and attributes are. Then show how they are used in practice.
There are two types of elements in elementology there are primary elements and there are secondary elements as well as a pseudo-third element called Tertiary. The reason that Tertiary is somewhat of a pseudo element is something we will discuss when I talk about Catalysts and attributes. The primary elements are Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Light, and Dark. These are basic magical fantasy elements. They are the core of this magic system and also the first six elements.
The only thing to note about elementology besides the elements is it all powered by spiritual energy, at least the magic part of the system. There are three ways to generate spiritual energy or ki, or chi, depending on the culture that uses the term. Everything that is sentient as well as alive has the potential to use spiritual energy, generally only sentient individuals have been seen using spirit energy, but everything else in the Computus Galaxy that is living has spiritual energy within them.
It is a potential form of energy that can be called upon in three distinct ways due to the energy flow in the individual. Those types are focused, burst, and cycle. Focused Energy is typically done by mages and those who have trained in a form of theory to focus energy to a point and then release it. It is calculated and precise type of spiritual energy flow. The second type of energy flow is called burst which is gratuitous amounts of energy being uses at once in massive bursts of energy. This energy type drains a lot of energy, but a lot of energy is exerted making attacks or defense much more potent. The third type is cycled it is the weaker of all three energy types, but it regenerates energy back much more organically to the user, so that they can do more with less.
Now that you know what the spiritual energy does, how it affects the magical system is a mage or an Imagient or pretty much anyone else generating magic or techniques such as Imagientechs can use these energy types to generate one of the six basic elements.
The main rule of elementology is that when magical energies or elements collide they create catalysts. During a collision two things happen. One is that imagicite dust is created as a reaction. That imagicite dust is unrefined and generally not workable into a material. The other outcome is a catalyst. Generally when collision it is not controlled and the catalyst is brief such as when a fire mage hits a water mage and they block it with the various elements steam is produced as well as some unrefined imagicite dust.
A steam mage to create steam would have to draw upon their knowledge of fire and water to create steam as an attack. For example a ninja who uses smoke to attack can either use something that natural makes smoke such as a smoke bomb or if they can draw upon spiritual energy to create magical smoke. The easiest way to do this is to know a bit about fire element and apply dual fire in a technique which means no smoke bombs needed to create a smoke affect and allowing them to escape.
Steam itself is a catalyst, it is also a secondary element as well. Effectively all the secondary and tertiary elements are also catalysts, they can only created or reproduced if and only if the primary elements involved or in the case of tertiary elements the attributes are used. A catalyst is an affect that happens when two magical elements collide either in battle with one another or being used by a mage to create a stronger element.
The table above does a good job of showing the examples of the primary elements and what they do to each other when they interact amiss other elements. I also listed the attributes, but not their actual tertiary elements they make. This is mostly because primary elements and their respective catalysts are more important on laying a ground work on how the system works.
Primary elements are created via the use of spiritual energy to manifest the primary element. For mages they learn techniques on how to do this. For an Imagient, they just learn their Imagientech and it becomes second nature. The way these two people can harness elementology is different, but if a Wind Mage is taking on an Imagient who controls fire and they fight each other with the two elements one must know that if the magical elements hit that both attacks will create a catalyst which is sand.
Secondary elements can then themselves be applied to attributes to make certain things called tertiary elements. Which are not true elements because they need an attribute. An attribute is by definition something that is being caused by something else. For example Heat and Cold are attributes because they are caused by something being hot. A weapon is a weapon, because it is being used as such. To make things more confusing there are primary and secondary attributes. Which are well, the main difference between the two are that the secondary are generally applied ideas that are not really tangiable like the primary attributes. One does not simply pick up something that is positive or kinetic, those are more of the lines of meta-magic, which I will not necessarily go into detail with.
There are other attributes and tertiary elements that I am not listing, but the main one I will discuss for example is Poison. Poison is created magically, not naturally by knowledge of acid element and negative attribute. Biologically you have acids in your body, but that is not the acid we are talking about. Acid in elementology isn't even necessarily something that is considered an acid in chemistry either. An acid is just what happens when the Dark and Water elements collide. That acid if given some negative attribute will turn into poison. A ninja or a spy or assassin or anyone else who knows a bit about those elements and attributes can create poison that will magically poison a target, hopefully not the user.
I hope this is a good introduction to my magic system called elementology. If you like this blog and want me to continue with detailing the magic system, please like and comment on the blog. Next week, I will go into detail with what is an Imagientech, and how the system is used.
Perspective is generally thought of in the third or first and occasionally second person. It is how we view a book through the eyes of a character or by a narrator. It allows us to focus on a viewpoint and perspective of a certain character or a story in a certain way. In my novel The Imagient King I have many viewpoint character in fact I have a total of eleven viewpoint characters, but the views are mostly split into two individuals. We have the main protagonist Leonli aka Li and the main antagonist William Vilheim Cyph who tell the story of Journey with a Princess of the East. This allows me to show that both my antagonist and protagonist are human, that they both have something to lose and to show empathy on both sides. These aren't just cookie cutter heroes and villains.
The main reason I have a duel perspective is I don't like I when a book has the protagonists as the good guys and the dark lord as the main bad guy. The antagonists are just a fixed evil characters and we don't know anything about them, no hope and no dreams or aspirations except for maybe world domination. But, seldomly do we understand why they want world conquest if they want that at all.
I always wanted William Cyph to be the main antagonist of the first book, my goal with him was to eventually lead him on a path towards being a protagonist of his own rite and his own story. For me, the generic bad guy character is boring. William is much more of a complex character so I wanted to show not just his thoughts, hopes and dreams to eventually allow him to have a character arc of his own, but to show that he is not just some bad guy stereotype.
William is a character who changes over the course of the story. He starts out as a bastard prince hunting a princess so he can find legitimacy in his kingdom and try to show himself worthy of the Cyphic name. He is almost a foil for the main character Li in that regard. Li doesn't have motivation, except to help Tsuna, while William's whole motivation just like Li is to capture Tsuna although he does have a responsibility and reasoning for doing it. Just like Li, except our protagonist wants to protect Tsuna as she saved him and transformed his life. William seeks the capture of the princess to prove himself. The character arcs of these two characters intertwine to create conflict between the two, and that drives the story.
The character arcs we see at the start of chapter three initiate the coming clash between Li and William, both have their own hopes and dreams at stake, and it just so happens that one of them wins in the end. After the events of chapter three going into chapter 4 we see once again the paths of these two individuals parallel with each other, but still very similar. I wanted to show that, because again William is not just some boring antagonist to fight our protagonists, he is a conflicted individual as well.
William is human, well he is an Imagient, but that is besides the point. William has hopes and dreams, he as family and he is a flawed individual. He is a human character that people can relate to. Yeah, we don't have a lot of bastards who get forced from their birth father and get adopted by their uncle only for William to rise as a general of a country. His backstory and his status are not relateable, but his struggle to fit in despite his hardships which is a form of adversity.
Li also is human, he has a boring job as a blacksmith, but that all changes when a princess from a foreign country asks to have her spear fixed. From this interaction Li is thrust on a journey unexpectedly. He follows her after she protects him from a demon possession not only as a form of reciprocate but also because he wants to find out more about himself.
William's character arc is about proving himself to others and Li is about proving himself worthy of Tsuna. These two stories both center around Tsuna, the other main character, but equally would be nothing without our main heroine Tsuna. Through their perspectives we see a side of not just our characters, but a bit of Tsuna as well. In William's eyes we see Tsuna as a childish princess and in Li's eyes we see a heroic and powerful princess on a quest to save her realm. Two different perspectives of one character through their eyes. It is an important distinction to have and one of the other reasons I wanted duel perspectives in my book.
The other reason is I wanted to show loss and success with both characters. I briefly touched upon this early when I talked about their character arcs colliding. Both character arcs feature rising and falling actions of success and loss. In the end of the book one of these perspectives is shattered while the other is allowed to move on. So in the end one character arc succeeds and the other fails ultimately. But, you feel empathy for the one who fails, because both characters have grown on you. We know that each side Li and William both have something at stake and both individuals deal with the rising and falling actions accordingly.
I have many perspective characters, but William and Li are the main focus of the book both linked to Tsuna, the story's heroine and she has her own perspective and motivations as do these two young men. The story is just as much theirs as it is Tsuna. I didn't want to write a book with boring protagonists or antagonists, but daring and competitive characters who want two different things and both revolve around a stunning plot and cast of characters. With perspective writing I found a way to do that.
A post that one of my friend's made on their Facebook helped create today's blog topic. There are multiple ways to write a story, but for me one of the best ways especially if you have multiple characters is to have them intersect into a story through various paths. Their character arcs themselves drive the characters and the plot, not the plot driving the characters. Obviously in such stories as Lord of the Rings, there is a goal that everyone is trying to accomplish, but everyone getting there has their rocky paths and obstacles.
For me one of the best uses of this is the story of Final Fantasy IX, because it is essentially many windows of multiple character arcs that both introduce and progress the story. It isn't just the protagonists that due this either, the antagonists also have their own character arcs of sorts, which shows how much the story cares about it's characters which are what drives the story to success in so many fans eyes.
There are three components I think work in the favor of it's characters. The main thing is that the characters have character arcs that are essentially rising/falling actions, the characters interact with the world and their experience and those same rising/falling actions change their perspective of the world and then finally the characters story arcs are what drives the plot, not the other way around.
The characters in Final Fantasy IX include Zidane, Vivi, Freya, Amarat, Stiener, Eiko and of course the most important is Garnet. Many would think that Zidane the main protagonist is the focus of the story, but he is not. Garnet aka Dagger is what the story revolves around. Zidane is just a useful viewpoint character not just for Garnet, but for the rest of the characters in the game. Zidane and Garnet can be seen as the two protagonist, and traditional many people have labeled Garnet as the deuteragonist.
The main plot of the story starts and is resolved by Garnet's decisions, she leads the story. Her main character arcs are what shapes the story's direction. Zidane's does not, he is just the major player that the events of the story unfold using. His actions do not really put anything into motion, except for in the beginning, but that is a bit of a misnomer due the fact that Zidane although set out to capture the princess, the princess wanted to be captured.
Depending on how one interprets that scenario you could say that Zidane went out to capture the princess and to his surprise she wanted to be captured. This is how the game if told through traditional lens would say it happens. But, it doesn't end there due to Garnet being the one to press everything else forward in terms of her actions. It is her actions of wanting to be captured, and her decision to go to Lindblum. Then everything else from Lindblum is instigating by her poisoning the party and by doing so, splitting the party. Although Zidane's group is split from Garnet, it is Garnet who is being proactive, while everything up to Zidane getting Garnet back is him being reactive to the situation.
Zidane's character arc itself is still important, it is probably just like Garnet's important to the story. But, most of the story, Zidane is a reactive character. Yes, he wants to help people, but usually it is only after the fact. His character is important as it is through him we see the world of Gaia, and he is the main character that links all the others. His role is not that of the main hero, as Garnet is far more important in that role, but he fufills a similar but paralel role. Through his character arc up until the big reveal about his creation and past, he is our guide through the story. It is his character arc that shows us the beautiful and dark world.
The other characters are still important both gameplay wise and story wise. Vivi being probably the third most important character due to him being a black mage, and having to come to terms with his own creation and his own destiny. Steiner has to come to terms with his responsibility and duty and what that actually means. The other characters deal with sadness, emotions and other themes that are seen throughout the story. But their character arcs all blend into and are apart of the story that is being told in the game.
Freya's backstory and motivation aligns her with Zidane's crew, and she becomes crucial in the Burmecia/Clerya story arcs. Amarat and Eiko are both linked to Zidane's character arc through their own pasts and character arcs. Vivi and Steiner are the only two who don't really need Zidane to finish their character arcs, hence why they are a bit more interesting as characters and are more important to the overall plot itself. The other characters are more so tied to Zidane, and stay with the party due to him.
The reason that these character arcs work is that they are all have something that character arcs need and that are rising and falling actions. This creates conflict which allows characters to progress in a story. Zidane faces the Alexandrian Army with success and loss. Through that loss, we learn about other characters mostly antagonists and about the overall plot, but what builds as a mystery, eventually through these failures and rising actions allows for a small plot thread to be seen each instance. Be it Garnet's capture because of her own protagonist actions or Zidane and crew being beaten by Beatrix. These conflicts allow the story to progress, it gives the characters a reason to exist in the world and not only gives them motivation, but it gives the player a sense of where the story is heading at each turn.
It is through these character arcs that are a series of rising and falling actions that new characters and certain plot threads are unveiled. The mystery in the beginning is far more serious than the player is let on. Although we are told one thing, eventually the truth is far more complicated. It isn't written as some lame and cheesy twist either, it is shown slowly with small pieces of information that are useful for piecing together the puzzle.
The rising and falling character arcs become the thread that make the rising and falling actions of the plot so intense. It only works because the character arcs form individual threads that are important to lay a ground work for discovering the mystery of Zidane, Vivi and Garnet's back stories. Through these pasts and histories we meet Freay, Eiko, and Amarant and it is also through these plot threads and actions of the protagonists that they become threats and targets of our antagonists be it Queen Brahne. Garland, Kuja or even Necron, who doesn't really appear until the late game.
What drives the plot is not the plot driving the characters to an end point, instead the actions of the characters in their individual, but primarily by the character arcs of Zidane and Garnet reach various rising and falling actions that force the plot along. This is a bit different than Final Fantasy games before and after it because in many of the Final Fantasy games from previous years or afterwords push the plot onto the characters and that is your plot. This game does something I think that creates better characters and a much more proactive and natural plot.
People can disagree with me, but for my money this is one of the more succesfull ways that characters arcs pushing plot can be used as an example. Do you have any stories that you think pushes character arcs to the front to drive the plot along. Post a story you think does a good job about doing this.
A.L. Hornbeck, historian, author, metalhead, and all around geek.