1. Putin
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    Putin New Member

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    Epic fantasy without the epic

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Putin, Oct 2, 2011.

    I'd like to start with pointing out that this is not for something I intend to write, but pure speculation on why most epic tales are of the farmboy to king nature.
    Also, if this is the wrong place for this thread I apologize and hope that a friendly soul could move it to the right place!

    Is there some inherit problem with the whole genre that makes authors unable to create best selling books without having the typical farmboy, learning that he has some sort of hidden power/son of a king/bastard son to a king/etc, then denying this fact, and the whole series is about him learning to fit in to his new position of power so that he can battle some great evil.

    What I'm asking is, is there a way to make the farmboy->king story more feasible. I have pondered about this for a while now and have come up with a few ideas like a more modern society structure.

    Then there is also the problem with magic, should it be a gift to those born from the right parents? Should everyone be able to learn it? How should magic be limited, how big influence in society should it have?

    Very open questions, but this has been bugging me ever since I realised that almost all fantasy books are the same. How can one distinguish oneself in a genre that appears to ignore anything that's different from the norm.

    It could also be that my experience with these kinds of books is limited and I have just missed the ones that isn't so stereotypical.
     
  2. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Have you read Lord of The Rings? Frodo's only sort of a farmboy and the quest isn't about finding some new exalted position within Hobbiton (if you remember his entire goal until the end is to return home) or discovering magic within himself. Its about friendship, sacrifice, belief and hope, and the battle between good and evil.

    Cheers.
     
  3. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    No there is not a problem with the genre in itself. It is just a tried and true formula that seems to work. While I am not a fan of that particular plot it makes sense why it would have appeal to people. How many people in the real world are actually kings? No in medieval times it would make sense that most of us would be farmers and tradesmen. With that in mind the reason that plot works so well is one can relate better with the characters. It is kinda similar to the whole twilight debate and bella that is on the forum. You can't relate to the life of a king, or a demon from another dimension, or so on but a "farmboy" is a very relateable.

    As for magic that is really up to the author. It has been done in so many ways it is not really worth discussing here as it could/should be its own topic.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Your experience is limited, Putin. Most epic fantasy doesn't follow this formula. Read George R R Martin, Steven Erikson, or Joe Abercrombie, for example. Or Duncan's Acacia. I think you'll find these days that not much of the fantasy coming out follows the old formula you are talking about.
     
  5. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    As Rassidan has said, these are just things that have proven to work for the genre, and yes, maybe it is stale and cliche for some of us (me included), but I'll admit that it does work. But as Steerpike said, not everyone follows this.

    Concerning the feasibility of the farmboy-->king thing, just look up real history. Many times in history there have been peasants or merchants or soldiers or some kind of non-noble person who somehow managed to come to the throne through their wits, abilities, strength, or pure luck. Examples include quite a number of Roman Emperors (who were career soldiers to begin with), a few founders of Chinese dynasties (who were peasants to begin with, or just your average military general), and so forth. I feel that fantasy could use a lot of ideas from history, and it's a great place to start.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it can be done effectively, I just disagree with the premise that almost all fantasy follows this. The fantasy books that follow this formula are in the minority in my experience, and I read a lot of it. In addition to the authors I mentioned above, look at classic authors like Peake, Moorcock, Leiber, or Gene Wolfe. I'm guessing that Putin has read only a small handful of fantasy books and that he has somehow self-selected for those stories that follow the farmboy plot.
     
  7. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    It is a formula that works very, very well. People like it because of the drama, not because they can relate to the character. The farmboy hero is used becuase this character has the least experience with the world, is uneducated, and fits the naive young boy idea.

    And yes, this formula can be changed, but it will be harder to get the same results. These characters are easy to use as both the reader and the character learn about the world together - otherwise there is no easy way to easily introduce the world - you will have to get creative.

    As for magic, it depends on the world and the story you want to tell.

    If you are worrying that your story is not unique, you're doing it wrong.

    There are plenty of books that are not considered 'Epic Fantasy'. Not all fantasy is the same.
    Ex: Mogworld, Chronicles of the Black Company, Geist, the Gunslinger, Redwall Series, Ender's...
     
  8. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    That is the other side of the coin that makes it appealing. It makes for a great cookie cutter character that you can shape into anything you like. I have read quite a few fantasies with this concept and truth be told you are absolutely right about it being easier to introduce the world. The Sword of Truth is a great series that uses a similar concept but replaces the farmboy with an equally and possibly more believable concept character. I always had doubts about a farmboy learning to fight but a tracker is a whole different story. Either way it just makes for an easier introduction to the world.

    The Gunslinger is a different beast all together though. Instead of introducing the farmboy character King chose to pull naive characters into a new world. I love the concept personally as it made Roland have to explain the mechanics of his world. It is not like the farmboy who has an idea of what the world looks like and what is possible in it.

    And I see I have accidentally used the wrong word when I used relate earlier. What I meant by it was it made the reader better equipped to meld with the character thus becoming the character. My poor choice of words assuming everyone would automatically understand my own thought process. Not the first time I made the mistake and won't be the last.
     
  9. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    Make an epic story about a king becoming a peasant :p Shake 'em up
     
  10. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    I actually like that idea! I'm not going to write it, but I'd definitely read it. You could have good character development there, as the former king learns to live on the other side of the fence. The plot could be focused on whatever it was that made him lose his throne, (whether it be betrayal, a case of mistaken identity, war, disgrace, etc.) Seems like it could be an interesting story.
     
  11. Dithnir
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    Dithnir Member

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    I wouldn't say those kinds of stories are in the minority per se, but they certainly occupy the upper echelons of what's considered great fantasy, from Ursula LeGuin, Gene Wolfe's Shadow and Claw, Tolkien I think does count as it's that journey from innocence and powerlessness to high achievement, great sacrifice and world changing consequences...then there's His Dark Materials, I believe that follows the pattern, The Talisman by Peter Straub and Stephen King, Weaveworld by Clive Barker, Stephen Donaldson's magnum opus (powerless man thrown into new world, finds he has some mad power etc. etc.), the Narnia books, Harry Potter - say no more, The Sword of Shannara's Shea Ohmsford?

    It's a sort of bildungsroman that these books follow, and that's always been compelling to readers of stories.

    @Putin, I think you can't blame genre writing for being, you know, genre writing, there's always evil forces, good forces, quests, peril, some sort of magical take on reality, either fictional or our own reality and much of it really does come from the archetypes Tolkien laid down. Science fantasy could be a separate genre from epic fantasy but I think it's a waste of time fretting over it :)
     
  12. thabear637
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    thabear637 Member

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    It's kind of funny, the story I've been writing is about a true heir to the throne, who it turns out isn't the heir afterall, wasn't the kings or Queens true blood.
     

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