1. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California

    A Question for Fans of Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Irish87, Mar 21, 2010.

    I love fantasy as a rule, but I've come to despise it as well. Every novel I read seems to be plagued with the same old stereotypes and the same old cliches that I've heard and read at least a hundred times. As a writer I am intellectually offended that we so lackadaisically rely on the brilliance of others to make our work look decent. I think that alone is the reason why I've left the fantasy genre altogether. Even when I found fantasy that is drastically different (Steampunk comes to mind) I find that while one or two or even three of those books are original, there is an incursion of copiers who come in the thousands.

    So, with all of that said and explained, I want to know what you, whoever you are, find interesting about fantasy. I also want to know what you hate. The reason I ask this is because I honestly enjoy writing fantasy, but it seems from afar that if I'm writing anything that does not involve orcs, british wizards, swords, or dragons of some type I will find no audience and fewer supporters. I've always said that I write for myself, and I do, but if I want to be published one day I would be a fool to ignore what fans of fantasy want.

    P.S.: Feel free to rant, it gives me something to think about.
     
  2. fadedstar27
    Offline

    fadedstar27 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2010
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0
    As far as fantasy goes there are a lot of things that seem to tick me off now a days. They use the same plot lines with a few twists that are different, mind you those twists aren't really all that different anyways, or locations. Maybe even time periods only they forget to do their research about what is really different. The thing that bugs me more than anything it taking something like a vampire and modifying it to be glamorous. Like Twilight. Vampires don't sparkle! Sorry.. moving on. The only thing I liked about those books were the way the werewolves were set up but even that wasn't original that was based on legend and stereotypes of Native Americans.
     
  3. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    What specifically are the stereotypes and cliches that are frustrating your enjoyment of fantasy?

    Terry
     
  4. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California
    I suppose its not simply the stereotypes and cliches alone that bother me. There are plenty of those that exist that I don't pay much heed to. Instead, what bothers me is how so many people so willingly rip off some of the best fantasy writers. Its as though the idea of originality is to be shunned, that we should instead make all orcs evil brutes, all elves dainty tree huggers, and all dwarves alcoholic blacksmiths. Oh yes, and humans are stupid, greedy, and eternally young.

    Now, if I were to start a list of the cliches that I do hate, I know on the very top would be the whole "everything that is evil is either dark or black in some way and everything that is good is white". I understand the reasoning behind it, but it just seems so absurd. I also find myself quite annoyed at the lack of female heroes - instead its always the same male lead with the same attributes. The only women around are either in taverns or are warriors who lack armor and exist solely to cut things in half and flirt with the main character. Admittedly, those tend to be in a certain type of fantasy novels, but certainly many of those attributes exist in many genres. I love dystopian novels, but its rare for me to find a female main character. Instead its the brave male who thwarts the mutants, the roving groups of bandits, and the evil corporation/military/alien/insert stereotype here.

    I hope that some of this makes sense.
     
  5. Dermit
    Offline

    Dermit Member

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2008
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Iowa
    Sounds to me like the problem is that you're reading bad fantasy. If the book you're reading has poorly thought out plot devices and a poorly conceived world, well, chances are you're reading a poorly written book. Look elsewhere - but don't blame fantasy in general. Crappy books plague every genre.

    I think some good fantasy authors intentionally flirt with the cliches, sometimes ironically, sometimes because they simply enjoy the cliches.

    You've elaborated on what you don't like about the genre - alright, but what DO you like? What keeps you coming back even after you've read another fantasy book you didn't care for? Pin that down, and I'd be more than happy to recommend a few good titles :)
     
  6. Marcelo
    Offline

    Marcelo Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    841
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Sonora, Mexico
    Many readers rely on fantasy purely for entertainment and suspension of belief, they don't care whether the book they are reading is similar to Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings or other original stories in the genre. Not every book is written with the intention of becoming a masterpiece that will make the author's name famous for as long as humanity keeps recording history; some authors write simply for the enjoyment of it or only for money, and cliches and stereotypes sometimes go hand-in-hand with both situations. Really, have you never thought about writing a story without evading every situation or event found in other books? It certainly gives your mind and creativity a rest. I'm not saying that any of this justifies plagiarism or the hideous act of stealing from other's works, but this has existed since hundreds of years and it will continue being that way. The most we can do to avoid this is swimming against the current. ;)

    PD: Sorry for rambling on, it is quite a mouthful. :D
     
  7. Sabreur
    Offline

    Sabreur Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    1,119
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    At the combination pizza hut and taco bell
    George R.R. Martin. One opf the few fantasy authors I really read nowadays.
     
  8. bahloo
    Offline

    bahloo Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Canada eh!
    Things I love about Fantasy:

    My hyperactive imagination goes nuts with the (usually pretty unrealistic) descriptions which allows me to forget about real life.
    Huge, intricate plotlines, woven together to somehow form great stories.
    MAGIC or something abstract that influences life in the book.

    Things I dislike:

    The obsession with time periods (Medieval, Bronze Age, whatever).
    Every book has to "save the world" (it seems like)
    Twilight. Nothing further needed here.
    The protagonist always wins/saves the world.
    This is mostly in long epics like WoT, but in some novels, NOTHING HAPPENS.

    These are the reasons I love reading Fantasy. And I hope to write something different in this genre one day, so all y'all won't be talking about this issue anymore. :)
     
  9. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    When I write I try to avoid a good number of the clichés and well-trodden plots/themes, but in the end there is nothing totally new out there.

    Honestly, one of the problems I found when trying to sell my fantasy novel was that it didn't quite fit into any one niche. It made it out of the slush pile several times before finally having a publisher accept it, and the publisher indicated that they'd accepted it because they thought it was something that would fit with other works they had and could sell to their audience. The other publishers that ultimately rejected it didn't say it was poorly written, although one did indicate it wasn't quite quirky or different enough for their taste.

    And therein lies, I think part of the answer. What publishers accept because they know (or believe) what will sell to the broadest audience. And often that does include some of the clichés and such. As it was indicated above, people read for simple enjoyment, and in truth, many people like to go for what they're comfortable with. People fall into routines of what they like (such as restaurants or clothing) and tend to stick with it--at least for a while.

    That may be why the bookshelves are stocked with titles that are in some (if not many ways) similar.

    I prefer works by Zelazny, Brust, Donaldson, Turtledove and Ringo. They tend to avoid some of the concerns raised, which makes them fresh I guess. They're also the writers who have influenced my writing. I'd recommend them if you're looking for something more than a little different.

    I also believe that writers tend to write what they'd like to see on the bookshelves. So if you're not happy with what is out there, strive to get your work there. Maybe it's the fresh thing readers are waiting for. Sadly, of course, follow-on writers will then be using your work as a baseline to create something similar to attract readers. ;) Just part of the business, I guess.

    Terry
     
  10. Mila
    Offline

    Mila Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Newcastle, UK
    I'm a fantasy fan and writer, but like you I dislike a lot of what is out there. Have you seen the Fantasy Novelist's Exam spoof ? Google it ;)

    What I hate:
    Any characters who are Chosen. I don't mean those randomly picked on by meddling gods or whatever, but those whose existence has been Prophesized down the centuries and everyone knows - except him of course, poor farmboy that he is.
    Elves in Celtic mythology-based fantasy before the Norse or Saxons got here.
    Wise old sages
    Evil stepmothers
    Quests
    Stories more than three books long. Please, I have a short attention span. I don't want to spend the same time reading your story as you took writing it, mmmkay ?? There are others out there. Where is it written - sorry, Written - that fantasy has to be epic ?

    Things I like:
    magic
    fantastical worlds
    fantastical humanoid creatures who can do stuff humans can't
    er....

    Books I'd recommend in the genre are few: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Firethorn, Inkheart, one or two of the Pern books, the Hobbit ( a quest for treasure is valid. It's treasure. )

    I do like the Laurell K Hamilton Merry Gentry series because they've taken Celtic legend and brought it into modern times. Plenty of magic, plenty of sex, and even a plot thrown in for good measure ! Whilst I think it could all be cut down to three, four books instead of seven, I don't mind in this case. It's not your average sword-and-sorcery fantasy, and I find it refreshing because of that. Yes there are faults in the writing but for once I don't care :)
     
  11. Lavarian
    Offline

    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Messages:
    4,562
    Likes Received:
    93
    Yes. I also hate when characters try to do something in a book.
     
    1 person likes this.
  12. Mila
    Offline

    Mila Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Newcastle, UK
    Yeah - gets right on my wick, it does.
    Now you know that's not what I meant.
     
  13. Kaichi
    Offline

    Kaichi New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2010
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    There are quite a lot of bad fantasy out there, no doubt about that. I use to be able to go into the book store, pick out a fantasy book with a great cover, and be at least satisfied by the read.

    Like anything popular, people will publish anything that will make them some money. It is like some people aren't even trying to create original stories and characters. Ever read Charlie Bone? Just a badly made remake of Harry Potter. I have read some really crappy fantasy books and like you, I did go through a period of not reading anything fantasy. Nowadays, I try looking for reviews before I read them.

    If you are looking for a really good fantasy book to dive into, I highly recommend Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish. It doesn't have the typical fantasy creatures, the characters are very engaging, and the world is magnificent. One of the best fantasy series I have ever read.

    Things I hate about fantasy:
    Anything dealing with Dragons and Princesses.
    Vampires
    Farm boy discovering that he is not who he think he is
    Good and evil kingdoms

    Things I love:
    Dragons
    Magic
    New Worlds
    Witches/Wizards
    The Impossible happening
     
  14. The Scribbler
    Offline

    The Scribbler New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2010
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    A lot of fantasy cliches were probably reasonable ideas when they were first born. Bad fantasy seems particularly bad for the reason many of you have alluded to:boredom. We read fantasy for new ideas, alternative realities, for that flashing, heart lifting moment when the writer presents you with a place you have never been before or a new idea. I have experienced that plenty of times reading fantasy. Walter Moers City of Dreaming Books springs to mind as the most recent. My problem is once I start reading, the book has to be a real stinker before I give up on it...
     
  15. PhoebeMarlow
    Offline

    PhoebeMarlow New Member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    North Carolina
    why stereotypes are good and some suggestions on female heroines

    Well, first off, I have to say that in my opinion a certain amount of stereotypes is usually necessary to fulfill the reader's expectations. I mean, if I buy a romance book, I honestly expect some easy reading, a female and a male protagonist, that are kept apart because they don't admit to their own feelings and in the end: they are together. If I buy a romance book that hasn't any of those elemnts, I will be disappointed. Same about most other genres. Look at crime-stories or mystery-books...
    Fantasy also needs these elements. Saving the whole world is usually one of them :) What I love about fantasy is, that it makes the reality go away and take you to another place like no other genre can - and leaves more room for your own imagination as a reader.

    Now back to the complaint about female heroes / heroines. Well, I agree, that there are not a lot around, but there are some:
    Have you ever read the following:
    Marion Zimmer Bradley: she usually she wrote about female heros, very complex characters (my favorites are "The mists of avalon" and "The firebrand")
    David Eddings: in his Belgariad Polgara and Ce'Nedra are more than just pretty accessories
    Tad Williams: Otherland is defintily a unique piece of fantasy and has a female hero...

    Hope that helps :)
     
  16. InkDream
    Offline

    InkDream Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    the Evergreen State
    I agree, Irish. I completely stopped reading fantasy for that reason. The books were so predictable it made me want to puke. There are some good ones out there. Problem is there's even more of the homogenized, generic, drivel.
     
  17. Rei
    Offline

    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Messages:
    7,869
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    Kingston
    There is nothing wrong with going with something that is familiar. What makes it unique and good is not plot elements or what kinds of magical beings exist in the world, but the execution. Taking a familiar story and making it your own is a great skill in my opinion. Be as quirky and different as you want, or as familiar as you want. The fact of the matter is, there is only so much variety it terms of types of characters, settings, and plot and story devices. The uniqueness comes from the personality and values of the writer. If you want to always see something that you've never seen before, stick to watching/reading programs and articles about the most up-to-date scientific discoveries.
     
  18. DanielCross
    Offline

    DanielCross Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2010
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    0
    Right now I'm writing a fantasy set in Napoleonic France. Kinda of new I guess, but i can't figure out what kind of magic system to give it, if there will be one at all. Any suggestions?

    I'm thinking of parodying the "pick a spell at the start of the day" D&D system :p
     
  19. Lavarian
    Offline

    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Messages:
    4,562
    Likes Received:
    93
    You should check out Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel.
    Same time frame, but in England.
     
  20. Moggle
    Offline

    Moggle Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2009
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    1

    Am I to assume you have oodles and oodles of amazing original fantasy stories waiting to be published without an ounce of cliche in them?
     
  21. DanielCross
    Offline

    DanielCross Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2010
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think we have to take into consideration that nothing is original anymore. Nothing. Everything is merely an innovation on something else.

    It's the writing that separates the good and bad. You can use a plot that revolves around hobbits tossing jewelry into volcanoes and French sailors being interned on island prisons so long as you obey the cardinal rule: You are able.

    Every story consists of kidnapping the reader and forcing him through the plot, and if you succeeded, he'll have developed Stockholm and he'll want to come with you the rest of the way.
     
  22. Lankin
    Offline

    Lankin Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Germany
    Thank you very much for the Exam reference.. Just laughed so hard about:
    36.Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
    Actually the only question I can answer with a clear "yes" is
    72.Is "common" the official language of your world?
    That's because what it is called in the World of Warcraft universe. Not my choice.

    Another question was missing though:
    "Does your character have more than 3 scars, tatoos, brandings, piercings, or glowing runes on certain parts of his body?"

    No but serious.
    I mainly try to write WoW-related stuff, though e.g. Shadowrun also interests me. I also play online, though not much these days.
    What I really hate is advice taken from rp-wikis of some servers, like: "Warlocks are despised by everybody. The are not allowed to show their demons in major cities or admit their profession." It somehow insults my intelligence.

    What I like about roleplay is that you meet people in a world where a common base is established by the lore and the surroundings. But how you play your role is up to you.
    I also play a lot with-real life friends of mine. We have some great role playing moments from time to time.
     
  23. HeinleinFan
    Offline

    HeinleinFan Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2007
    Messages:
    483
    Likes Received:
    33
    Great characteristics of fantasy:
    1. Worldbuilding - lets my imagination explore a non-Earth or alternate Earth
    2. Heroic deeds - people fighting against impossible odds, regular guys tossed into some crazy situation and having to deal with the fact that if they don't act, bad stuff will happen
    3. Aliens! I love non-humans that are genuinely not human in their thoughts.
    4. Magic systems. Oh god yes. I love these things.
    5. Different paths history can take, in particular a well developed exploration of this
    6. Different ways a society, culture, technology can develop
    7. Powerful characters who are nonetheless fully human

    Characteristics of fantasy that bug me:
    1. Mary Sues, the second definition. Not the author inserts, but the author's favorite, the hero who is Perfect and Amazing and for whom the author will blatantly cheat. I mean, you have a world where wizards have a single Talent, and then the Mary Sue has three because she's Special. Or the world in which dragons explicitly have never dealt with humans (which are, after all, small weak prey animals) and the Mary Sue instantly learns their language and becomes best friends with the king of all the dragons (even though it is elsewhere stated in canon that dragons have no government). Examples: Richard Rahl, post-transformation Eragon, Anita Blake, (arguably) Bella Swann since humans can't have babies with vampires UNLESS THE AUTHOR LURVES THEM enough to make her the only exception in the tens of thousands of years of known vampire history.
    2. Magic systems without limits. Author, this is called Cheating and will cause me to flip your book off. Seriously.
    3. Villains who are evil Because.
    4. Prophecy played straight, particularly if the hero has no idea.
    5. Any thing with a blatantly obvious Designated Love Interest who has no other purpose to the plot, including being interesting on their own
    6. Stupid villains. Also, villains who want to conquer the world Because.
    7. Fantasies in which the author is a blatantly obvious urbanite with no idea of how technology actually works, how farming actually works, how effing difficult winter travel on foot can be, how effing dangerous untamed animals are, how effing dangerous cold and lack of water can be, how hard fighting is, how important shoes and shelter are, how languages evolve . . .
    8. Heck, just rephrase #7 as "Writers who do not do the bloody research, and then wonder why this MIT student wants to choke you because you have your heroes riding for days on end at top speed on half-wild stallions." Dear god, people. *whacks those authors over the head with a rolled up reference book*
    9. Heroes who are untouchable. The ones who are so awesome that nothing hurts them, even though they really ought to be beat up from what they have gone through. Injuries will cause pain. Lack of food and shelter has a physical effect on the sufferers. Fighting for any significant length of time is desperately exhausting. Seriously, authors, your hero should be affected by his world, and if that means you have to slow the plot down so your hero's leg can mend, so be it.

    That said. Awesome fantasy books. These are ones which avoid or play around with the worst cliches. Special awesomeness will be noted where present.

    The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (cool magic system, heroes who get beat up a lot)
    The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris (shows the downside of telepathy)
    Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (how would you train a wizard?)
    The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (cool alternate world politics)
    The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (heroes who get beat up a lot)
    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (heroes who get beat up a lot, cool magic, how would you train a wizard?)
    Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (awesome politics and magic)
    The Book of Taltos by Steven Brust (heroes who get beat up a lot)
    Transformation by Carol Berg (heroes who get beat up a lot)
    Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling (awesome politics, heroes who get beat up)
    The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans (toys with cliches)
    The Magicians by Lev Grossman (how would you train a wizard?, cool magic)
    Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop (alternate societal setup, cool magic)
    Dragon's Teeth (novella) by Alex Irvine (cool magic)
    Storm Front by Jim Butcher (hero who gets beat up a lot, cool magic)
    Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (cool magic, alternate societal setup)
    Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher (cool magic, alternate societal setup)
    Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (heroes who get beat up a lot, cool magic, how would you train an assassin?)
    The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (heroes who get beat up a lot, cool magic, alternate societal setup, how would you train a professional con man?)

    You might also check out Kushiel's Dart, The Dark is Rising, Burning City, Sabriel, The Curse of Chalion or Tigana. They're all pretty darn good.

    *walks away pretending that membership in the MITSFS did not drastically increase my summertime consumption of excellent fantasy books*
     
  24. Leaka
    Offline

    Leaka Creative Mettle

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2007
    Messages:
    5,825
    Likes Received:
    36
    You should try the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett Its older, but its extremely unique and very very funny.
     
  25. Unit7
    Offline

    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    59
    I always love going into threads like these. Mostly because what most people hate about fantasy are found in my book. Unless they just outright high fantasy and then... well tough luck.

    Because I know I have two strong female characters, no Good Kingdom vs Evil Kingdom. The Current King is actually fair and well liked. Well there are some who hate him but thats hard to avoid. No Prophecy and a Chosen One in the sense that the Goddess chooses him because of his deeds alone, to help the world any evil.(which he plans to do anyways) lol
     

Share This Page