Dysfunctional Families Are Wonderful Fodder For Fantasy

Today I’m thinking about Delmar’s uncles in Talbos.

Uncle Thorn, Uncle Elan, and Uncle Fallor

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about uncles lately, without at all meaning to. Apparently that’s a theme in my current work. Delmar’s got, um, three . . . four uncles. One of them is a leechy hanger-on married to his aunt, so hardly counts as far listing out a family tree.

Delmar’s youngest uncle is the worst, but the two in the middle are quite nice. One of them, the man in the middle, is in charge of the city guards, and the older one is in the awkward position of handling power without having any right to it.

The Fourth Uncle Is The Kind Of Guy Everyone Ignores

The thing I love about dysfunctional families is how quickly everything changes when one person lays hold of a new romantic partner.

Fresh blood, emotionally speaking, disturbs the dynamic between all the older predators, and the younger, weaker people jostle to see how many scraps they can collect for themselves.

Power, Control, and Status

Have you ever watched a herd of horses assimilate a new member? There’s a lot of biting, and squealing, and chasing of the new horse into corners to be beat up and cowed. Ha ha! Horses being cowed. That’s funny.

The same kind of procedure happens in an unhealthy family (and let’s face it, a lot of families are run on poor authority and corruption). A new body shows up, connected to an existing member, and the head honchoes start to sniff around and pick fights, testing the waters to see how much they can get away with.

Delmar goes to see his uncles in Talbos, and he brings Ajalia with him. Chaos ensues.

Examples

Clumsy Construction (Bad Writing):

“Do you think your grandfather will come to see you?” Ajalia asked.

“No,” Delmar said. “He will send my uncle.”

“Who is your uncle?” she asked. “The one who manages the guard?”

“Yes,” Delmar said. He gestured with his chin to the entrance that lay ahead of them. “That is him now. His name is Elan. He is my father’s youngest brother. I do not think he will like you.” Delmar clammed up now, because Elan was drawing near.

Ajalia saw that Delmar’s uncle was near him in age; Elan wore a trimmed brown beard, and had eyes that were reminiscent of Simon’s hard dark eyes. Delmar’s blue eyes, Ajalia thought, had come from somewhere else in the family, since he resembled neither his father nor his mother. Coren, Ajalia thought, had looked rather like Simon, like Elan did.

Elan strode through the courtyard towards Delmar. He spared a glance for Ajalia, who was partially out of view behind the horse, and then turned his full attention to Delmar.

“What do you want, Delmar?” Elan asked sharply. Ajalia saw that Delmar’s uncle put little store in Delmar’s new position; she looked at Delmar out of the corner of her eye, and saw that Delmar was not embarrassed by his uncle’s rudeness.

“I’ve come to negotiate a renewed succession with the king,” Delmar said. Ajalia was quite impressed; she had thought, ever since Delmar had frozen up during the confrontation with the guards, that Delmar would be a mute accompaniment to her negotiation, but she saw now that Delmar was going to take the lead on the matter. She hoped that he was prepared for how ugly things would turn, if Elan did not like what was said. She began, very quietly, to gather up long veins of magic in her hands.

Elegant Construction (Good Writing):

“Will king Fernos agree to see you right away?” Ajalia asked. She was standing just to the right of the black horse, her hands folded and her best slave-face in her eyes. She looked exotic, expensive, and very discreet, even with her clothes wet through from the rain.

Delmar, astride the horse, glanced down at her with a smile, his hair and fine clothes still damp from the recently-ended downpour.

“No, my grandfather doesn’t see me officially. Now that I’ve come for an actual audience like this, he’ll put me off as much as he can. I imagine he’ll send one of my uncles, to see how much of a mess I am.”

“Your poor uncles,” Ajalia said softly. Delmar laughed and shifted in the saddle. Ajalia’s black horse made a heaving sigh that jostled Delmar. “You’re sitting well,” Ajalia murmured in the old Slavithe tongue.

“Thank you, darling,” Delmar replied in the ancient tongue, his mouth twisting in a grin and his reddish-gold stubble making an alluring shadow over his jaw. “Oh, here he comes,” Delmar said, switching back to regular Slavithe and nodding towards a young man stalking with clear impatience through the farther arch of the courtyard. “That is Elan, third son of the king, and master of the guard. He’s probably going to hate you,” Delmar whispered.

“Thank you,” Ajalia said, and she sank into foreign-slave mode entirely, her expression smoothing into a pleasant, docile kind of readiness. She saw Elan glance irritably at her as he drew near the enormous black horse and exquisitely attired rider.

In Conclusion

Embrace dysfunction in the families of fantasy environs. Humor and drama lie therein, and however awful bad families are in reality, they make wonderful fodder for fiction. Exploit them. (Bwa ha ha, etc.)

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m in the midst of stylistic rewrites. Come back soon for more novels. Like, a lot of them. Cough, cough.

Advertisements