Worldbuilding: It’s a Breeze

I’d like to see a classic urban fantasy battle not in a cramped and litter-strewn alley, but in an open, chilly, wind-tunnel of a suburban parking lot.

Think about it. For one thing, if your magic system works at all off the elements you should have an incredible bonus to both wind and earth spells (all that asphalt). Cold, too. Definitely cold, enough to slow down thought; with wind plucking spell components, critical evidence, or just aggravating IRS paperwork you don’t want to have to do again from your hapless grip. While any characters lighter than your average beagle – say, some annoying winged fairies – risk getting swept away over the rooftops. Or at least swept off their feet, and not in a romantic way.

The visuals, man. The visuals could be awesome.

Dragons getting tangled in the lightpoles. Parking spaces on fire, red and orange and viscous green, as fire spells sear the asphalt. Cars to smash, grocery carts to careen and spin, possible hordes of lizards summoned from the hedge-bits on lot islands. And of course characters tumbling across the way and suffering road rash before slamming into the side of a monster pickup or dinged RV hard enough to set off the car alarm. Magical rune-light duking it out with blinding sunlight, gloomy clouds, or the eerie yellow of sodium lamps at night. Sudden blinding gleams of light from glass, plastic, or newly waxed cars.

And don’t forget all the possible obstacles and things to fight on, over, around, and through. Stacks of mulch, piles of bricks, rattling falls of planters, tangles of outdoor furniture. Not to mention witnesses!

…Though less of those than you’d think, given how many people walk through parking lots with their heads bent over their phones and their ears filled with earbuds. Parking lots are between here and there; a space liminal enough magic should work even better, while annoying enough to people who want to be there that they’re paying almost no attention to even the weirdest sights. Flaring fires, roaring monsters, guys brandishing swords and staves? Yawn, more sign-twirler-type ad guys, keep ‘em away from me.

And your fight would have so many sound effects. Passing traffic; the wails of sirens, fire and ambulance, that have nothing at all to do with the havoc your characters are currently wreaking. The odd stray helicopter overhead; air ambulance, search and rescue, sometimes the news.

Scents are less of a thing because of the volume of air moving by, but that should sharpen the ones up close and personal during the fight. And if you smell grit and a bit of oil… protect your head, you’re about to hit the ground hard.

I think it’d be a neat scene. Anyone want to give it a try?


23 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: It’s a Breeze

  1. “A *Wal-Mart* parking lot! This is an INSULT! At least pick a Lowe’s or Home Depot, something with a *bit* of class!”

    “Be glad I didn’t pick a Piggly-Wiggly.”

    “Okay, now, don’t diss the PW! I grant the name is silly, but I *like* shopping there!”

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Now I’m imagining a tense, dramatic standoff between wizards.
    They’re poised to attack, but nobody had made a move yet.
    They narrow their eyes.
    Their fingers twitch towards their wands.

    Then a minivan slowly drives between them.

    It would be like the trigger to other standoffs, but the trigger itself proves some cover and concealment.
    They move to attack once the minivan passes, but the extra second lets them be slightly more prepared or duck behind another car, or whatever.
    It adds an additional layer of guesswork to the game theory.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You’d be surprised how many people, intent on their own business, would completely miss the action happening in the parking lot. Case in point:

    Though it’d be hard to put that in a novel. Because, of course, fiction has to appear realistic, while reality has no such requirement. And most people would find it hard to believe that they could fail to see a magical fight in a parking lot. But, well, watch the video for yourself, then answer the video’s question, and perhaps you would believe that it could happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Or, to put it in classic self-defense terms, many people walk around in “Condition White”: totally oblivious to what’s happening around them. Someone could be stalking them, waiting for them to walk into a lonely spot in order to pull a weapon and rob them at knifepoint/gunpoint, and the person would completely miss the signs that they’re being followed. Such people would also easily walk right past even very weird stuff (dragons, unicorns, or whatever) and not even glance in that direction.

      Someone who’s in “Condition Green”, though, is paying attention to the world around him, keeping his head on a swivel, often glancing left and right and sometimes behind him, trying to notice anything weird or out-of-place. A lot of self-defense training involves getting people to consciously stay in Condition Green instead of Condition White while they’re out and about. Then, of course, once that person notices the weirdness in the parking lot, he’s going to go into “Condition Yellow”: there’s a potential threat. What’s the response? Fight? Or flight? Usually, the best answer is flight: the most effective means of self-defense is, quite often, turning on your heels and walking (or running) away. (If you have to defend other people the equation changes, but if you only have to defend yourself, getting out of there in a hurry is nearly always the best way to avoid getting hurt, and only if flight is impossible or impractical should you consider “fight” responses, which have a much higher chance of you getting hurt.)

      But then there are going to be some bystanders who end up in “Condition Red”: there’s a threat, it’s actively coming after me, and I can’t get away for some reason. So your fight in the parking lot may just grow, as (say) a werewolf on the evil side goes after a bystander, who pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Might not be able to kill the werewolf as the bystander didn’t load silver bullets that morning, but it’ll annoy the werewolf and/or its allies. Now the protagonists have an extra person they have to try to protect: how does that change the fight parameters for them? Does that throw a monkey wrench into their careful planning?

      Liked by 3 people

    2. 1) yes, this effect exists
      2) it’s highly exaggerated, and kind of specialized.

      IIRC, a lot of these tests are not exactly as displayed — because someone notices, and them responding makes other folks respond, and that one doesn’t get used.

      Or the guys doing the test forget to put in/don’t mention that a sizable portion of the group are plants, and they only ask folks if they noticed things after their ringers have answered. (This is also how you can get the “everyone says X number when it was clearly Y” effect, which ignores the way that folks don’t especially CARE if the answer they give is accurate, it’s not worth fighting the rest of the group. IE, grats, you discovered naturally occurring keeping-the-peace type manners, psychology test design guy!)

      Or, as in this case, the thing which is phrased as being hugely different is not; you have (some) people wearing black pants, black t-shirts and with dark hair vs someone wearing dark pants, a long-sleeve fuzzy black shirt, and a mask with dark hair.
      The t-shirts move their arms near their chests; the fuzzy shirt beats black gloved hands against his chest.

      Although that bit is seriously *brilliant* because the motion, when you’re focusing on it, calls to mind the Tarzan yell– similar to how they describe it as a gorilla, rather than “did you notice one of the guys in black had long sleeves and a full head mask, and wasn’t passing the balls at all?”

      Could probably use it by having dragons that are poison green, and look fast even when they’re holding still, and with their wings hooded they are as tall as those sporty little race-car looking rigs; golems the size and shape of the end of a cargo truck, one of those kind of rusty red ones. Magical glowing sparks that look like one of those tricked out rigs that can’t have their lights on when they drive down the road…..

      Also a tendency to count just answering the passes thing as having not noticed, AND for a video– that the ‘trick’ to being able to count the passes is to sort of unfocus your eyes, and look for hands-on-ball-over-black, rather than just watching things normally; people aren’t even seeing the people involved, just hands-on-balls. (I am especially horrible at that trick, and can’t manage it for the full length of the test clip.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Quite true for a lot of those tests. For this video, if you weren’t primed by the question, you’re more likely to notice the ______. But if you play along with the video’s premise, then you’re actually training yourself to pay attention *only* to the people in white, and therefore to ignore what the people in black are doing. And guess what color the ______ is wearing? So the video itself is a bit of a trick, because it primes you to ignore it.

        Kind of like how the stagehands in certain Japanese stage plays* are dressed in black, which helps the audience learn the social cues “anyone dressed in black is invisible, ignore them”. Then when an actor playing ninja, who is of course (in this setting) dressed in black, walks up and stabs someone, the audience gets the feeling of “Man, he came out of nowhere! I didn’t even see him!” Precisely because they’ve been playing along with the implicit “anyone dressed in black is unnoticeable and invisible, you don’t see them” premise.

        * Anyone remember the proper name for what I’m thinking of?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Having said that, I still maintain that there are lots of people who would miss the magical fight, because they’ve trained themselves to ignore the world outside their phone screens. Plus there are those who would go “Ooh, *nice* special effects on that monster! I wonder when the movie is coming out?” And ignore the fact that in real movies, the monster is added in post-production editing; during filming, the monster just looks like a guy in a bright green (or blue) motion-capture suit with white dots all over it. So that monster they’re seeing is no special effect, but they might not know enough about film editing to realize that.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. If it’s a late night fight, you also have pickup campers and camp trailers, and *those* folks may have, ah, alternate means of defense on the theory that it’s better to a live criminal than a dead, law-abiding sort.

    If threshholds and hospitality and such are important, a camper or RV may select for folks who can be an unexpected rescue, too.

    “A man’s home is his castle. Mine just happens to also be my vehicle.”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Huh. Hayajiro in a nutshell, though a hayajiro is definitely more limited in where it can go.

      …Between the name, composition, and the people living on it, any fae to find themselves at cross purposes will find themselves in a world of hurt. Does a train count as a liminal space?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hmm… I will read that if you write it!

    …Not so sure I’d be able to do the scene any justice myself though… I tend to be minimalistic when I write fights because they are one of my weak spots.

    I don’t shy away from writing them though because I do want to get better at them!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. :groans in sympathy:
      I’ve been fighting a very basic fight scene that I know everything that happens– I just can’t figure out how to DESCRIBE “bad guys come around the corner, instinctive defensive and protective flailing, someone konks a Bad Guy over the head, then sees group and faints, grab and run away.”

      Fights are A PAIN!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Add strategic explosions to draw attention from things you don’t know how to describe yet? No one sees the entire fight, and if they are busy looking at the Lot-Shattering-KaBOOM and dodging flying debris, they probably aren’t watching the guy behind them who found a handy brick?

        Liked by 2 people

  6. There is some *very* similar fight scenes to this several times in the “Matthew Swift” urban fantasy series. It is one of the *very* few urban fantasy stories that takes seriously the idea of “urban magic” and then runs with it. Hard.

    So you get cool things like a construct made out of garbage all centered around a flyer for a litter cleaning campaign that *didn’t happen*, stopping someone from following you by reading out the terms and conditions of a subway charge card with the turnstiles to the subway between them (no card? can’t go past the turnstiles…), graffiti artists whose murals can come to life, bikers who can… essentially teleport given how fast they can travel, the Neon Court are the fairy court who love technology and use Hollywood style makeup as the basis for their glamours, a medusa with wires and cameras for hair, etc.

    I highly recommenced that series if you want an urban fantasy that avoids the “manmade stuff isn’t magical” pitfall completely and isn’t a romance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Don’t forget that asphalt can be on fire too. Apparently relatively easy to put out, but still. Also, if there’s a Tesla in that lot and the battery is on fire, go for the dragon. You can at least kill the dragon to put out its fire.

    Liked by 2 people

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