1. tjoudega
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    tjoudega New Member

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    Fantasy world troubles

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by tjoudega, Sep 15, 2013.

    Dear all,

    I have a problem concerning an idea that I have been working on a few years. The concerning story is set in a fantasy world. But with all the tidal waves of fantasy coming our way after the Lord of the Rings movies, I feel like just creating my own world, with all these made-up names and places, would be to kind of do the same thing as people have been done for a long time after Tolkien. I have been thinking of ways to make the reader put less of an effort in, just to believe the world. It's a problem difficult to describe, I find now while I am writing this, but I hope some of you get my point. I don't want to bombard the reader with world maps and characters and histories and just hope they will buy it.

    One possible solution I thought of, was to leave it in the middle altogether whether this is fantasy, because that's not really the point, and let them find out for themselves. It's about the characters anyway.

    Well, I hope you have some thoughts and would like to share :)

    Yours,

    Thomas
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum.

    It sounds to me as if the real issue is a lack of enthusiasm for the whole fantasy world thing. I would suggest a real-world story in which you can devote your full attention to character and plot development without having to worry about the particulars of your whole new world.

    Good luck.
     
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  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You cannot "leave it in the middle altogether whether it is fantasy" - you're either writing fantasy or you're not. Do you have magic in your story? Well, it's fantasy - it might be urban fantasy, but it's still fantasy. You don't have magic but it's in a world that doesn't actually exist? Fantasy. There're many different types of fantasy, many sub-genres, but it's still fantasy. If you're not sure of which genre you're actually writing in, trust me, all you'll be doing is give yourself a headache and waste God only knows how many years of work.

    Also, you seem to have one misconception - fantasy is also about the characters. You don't think it is? Do you think people read Harry Potter because they couldn't care less about Harry? Do you think people read LOTR because they couldn't care less about Frodo and all the other characters? These books are loved precisely because of the character. The fantasy setting gives it flavour, the detail behind the worlds gives the worlds a sense of reality and allows the reader to fully engage because it's a world they can understand - but none of it would be there without the characters. Have you ever read a novel without any characters?

    It sounds like either you don't enjoy fantasy, in which case you shouldn't even write it, or else you're too worried about not being original enough. You want to be fresh and you're too worried that what you'll write would just be old news to the rest of the world. Well, I have only two wake-up calls for you.

    Number one: every story and plot under the sun has been done and done to death. You want full originality? Never gonna happen, so if you're gonna let that stop you, then stop writing, 'cause you won't write a thing. Originality is in HOW you handle the elements and plots and character, not in the concrete plot itself. Look at how loved Harry Potter is - now tell me, haven't prophecies, dark immortal lords, school of wizardry and orphan boys been done and done to death? Yes. What made the masses love it then? It's how the story is weaved together, the development of the characters, and even in how you handle your world.

    Number two: Write it because you love it and stop worrying about what anyone thinks. If you love the story, likely you'll find others who will love it too. But don't doom yourself before it's even written by caring so much about how your story will come across to people who just don't care. There will always be people who'll accuse you of cliches and being uncreative. You don't write for them. You write for those who will love your book - and if it happens to be fantasy, well, guess what, your fantasy readers WANT stuff like LOTR and Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. That's why they read fantasy. Those are the people you write for, so what're you afraid of?
     
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  4. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    ^ Above is accurate. If you're going to write fantasy, do it. Fantasy has more tropes than any other genre. Dwarves and magic and dragons and prophecy. You say cliche, but Mckk is right in that it's not what's done but how it's done. And besides, the fantasy readers WANT to see those tropes. That's why they read fantasy.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hey Thomas, welcome to the forum. I'm a tad confused by your question but I see you also had a hard time describing it.

    I have a hard time keeping track of weird character and place names in some stories, so I'm all for not confusing the reader. But fantasy worlds don't have to resemble Middle Earth. And like zombies and vampires, there are some unoriginal trolls, elves, orcs, and wizards out there.

    But a story comes along with some of those elements and manages incredible originality from time to time. And sometimes a new trope seeps into existence.

    It's the writer that pulls it off, be it a new world, or a new take on an old world.

    What is the story you want to write? There are many options for creating the world and characters to tell the story. If you find yourself with an original story, but an unoriginal setting, write the story and set out to learn more about world building. I've had to do that. Sometimes it's hard work, but I'm convinced it is a learnable skill.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hm. Fantasy—in my mind anyway—is a story that takes place in a setting you've made up. That's it. There are no 'requirements.' You just make it up. It doesn't have to follow any particular pattern. Just make sure you follow your own 'rules' for what can and can't happen in the world you've created. And, as McKK suggested, create strong, memorable characters.

    AND ...you don't have to do research! What's not to like?
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    LoTR style fantasy is only one kind. Creating a map with well defined regions, kingdoms, landscapes, and races has become very popular for nerds. But there was a time, in stories by Lord Dunsany or Peter S Beagle, where the settings were much more vague, and part of the fantasy came from not knowing exactly where you were, or what locales were adjacent. It was more of a subjective experience, as opposed to creating a surrogate world.
     
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  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    It's true, Lloyd Alexander wrote four best sellers without ever drawing a map. Of course all his characters/names/places/legends were Welsh, so I'm not sure that helps.

    I have an idea.
    Set it in historic England at least call it England, but give it none of the details of England. Have a king and an army and lords (that you make up), and leave it at that, the way Shakespeare did with Henry V.
     
  9. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd think about the story you're trying to tell. What elements come into play? Then describe a world that includes these elements. You could do this partly at the beginning and partly as the story unfolds. There is no need to mention anything that is not relevant to the story.
    It may be useful for you to have a map, so you don't trip yourself up concerning which direction various locations are in but you may not need to include it in your work.
    History would be relevant if it sheds light on the motivations of the characters and makes their actions more believable but this history can be generalized.
    For things to be believable, they need to make sense. Show me that it makes sense and I'll suspend my disbelief.
     
  10. tjoudega
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    tjoudega New Member

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    Thank you all for your replies! As a first-timer here, I didn't know what to expect, but I really appreciate the support.

    Regarding my question, I got some ideas from you all. I think I am close to an answer for this particular story, and am going to set it in continental Europe, in fairy-tale land (a Hanzel and Gretchen world, if you will). So I can use geographical places like the Black Woods in Germany but give it a little wonder.

    I also thought about my problem, as I didn't describe it very accurately (maybe because English isn't my native language). But I think the core of my problem lies in the fact that when I indulge myself into fantasy others create (may it be a novel, a movie, a comic, a videogame, or any kind of medium), I am often appalled (or is this too strong a word?) by - as it seems to me - random names and places. I ask myself the question: why is this named this? Why is this here? Why does it look like this? And too often the best answer I can come up with is "because that's fantasy".

    So there it is: I just don't want to (for example) put dwarves in the world just because it's fantasy and often times there's dwarves.

    How do you handle this? Do you feel the same way, or not at all? (This question especially to writers of Fantasy fiction but it's probably also applicable to other genres).

    Side note: I can come up with the simple answer that elements in the book have got to do with the story, but then does the world really come alive? I feel like there has to be something just behind this corner, just across that hill, to get a feel of life and mystery surrounding the characters.

    Thanks again for your replies, and I hope you have some ideas concerning these thoughts.

    Yours,

    Thomas
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Then maybe your kind of book would be something like LOTR or Game of Thrones, where the history and cultures are detailed and concrete. But as with real history and real life, sometimes it's ok to leave some things unexplained I feel - where's the mystery otherwise? The mystery can't be in something major to the plot - that's got to be fleshed out lest the reader feels cheated - but background details that could add flavour don't necessarily need an explanation. People read novels for the stories ultimately. If they wanted a history book, they'd go buy one. If they wanted a fantasy history book, they'd go and buy all those companion books out there to various series. In a novel, there's only so much space, you can't expect everything to be explained. It's fiction and it's fantasy, a suspension of disbelief on the reader's part is sometimes required, and I don't think that's a fault. By virtue of being fantasy, you kinda need that :p

    Couldn't tell at all that English wasn't your native tongue btw!
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It means you're growing up.
     
  13. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can relate to your problem because I, too, dislike it when characters/places/things are given fantasyish names just for the sake of sounding fantasyish (or, rather, like Tolkien) but without much or any understanding of linguistics/languages, i.e. the end result is gibberish.

    I've written some fantasy with KaTrian, and we usually base our stories in alternative realities, usually in alternative versions of medieval Europe. Sometimes there's a little magic involved, but we prefer to keep it very, very subtle, almost to the point where non-magical characters can't tell if it's really magic or just sleight of hand. We also base our names in actual languages (most frequently Middle English, but others as well). We study linguistics, so we have access to some pretty knowledgeable professors when we hit a brick wall ourselves. Since the worlds are so similar to ours, the readers don't need to really adapt much except for the time period and some changed place names (although always in the same language as their real counterparts).

    As for making it original, being a song writer, I imagine taking some really worn out piece, like Scarborough Fair, and then I try to come up with an original way to arrange and perform it (e.g. try doom metal or funk or ambient or any combination of any genres). It's not about picking some genre at random, it's about finding the heart of the song and then listening to it in your head to find out how it should sound like in your opinion. We do the same with our stories. Like was said above, it's not what you do, since everything's already been done, it's how you do it.
     
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  14. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    Tjoudega, I would suggest 'appalled' is a rather strong word. Perhaps 'unimpressed' and really irked by what appears to be a patchwork approach to a naming convention and geography? A lot of published writing is terrible - or so they say - and fantasy is no exception. Fantasy has the extra requirement of making the reader feel like the world continues beyond the page. It doesn't have to be a lot and can be exposed as the story progresses and nothing more (i.e. no dinner menus or jousting lists like George R R Martin), but it has to be there and has to feel consistent.

    Another issue is that when people think of fantasy, they think of Medieval-esque Western European civilisation, and blank out all the other time frames and cultures one can derive a great wealth of inspiration from. It's tired, and it's often done with little appreciation of real Medieval history.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
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  15. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    I don't think many people really judge a story just because it has a huge new landscape and or people and culture. It's making it come to life that matters. Other examples of works involving this are Harry Potter, Eragon, and Graceling. All have vastly different worlds and names, but I consider all to be great works of fantasy. (Yes I know there are people on here who may be nit-picky about Eragon, but it was a good book for having been written by a twelve-year old.)

    Now, not all of these books had maps or complete guides to them (Harry Potter for example). In fact, I'm writing my own book in a world that is completely different than our own, and yet familiar enough that I don't think my readers will need a map. It has three different races, but i try to keep the names relatively simple, if not exotic. Keitsumah, Batos, Arrcafah, and Daxiim are just a few of the characters i use, but i make sure each character has a specific role to play and is very easily distinguished from the others. Most of them are also secondary characters, with the main ones only amounting to two. And yes, i have read books where there are too many to differentiate from easily, but this is actually a minor problem if you play your cards right.

    Overall, I'd say the biggest thing to do is just to make your world fairly familliar. Go back to the basics for your fantasy world if you don't want to have to use maps. I use general feels for places. Aka: a forest-filled valley with a village, a dark fortress tucked away into the side of a mountain facing a long row of cliffs that drop to the ocean, or an underground city that has been lost to time. Two of these places are literally right on top of each other (the village and the underground castle), with the other being across a mountain range and a bit further north. See? easy-peasy. No map needed to get a general layout in one's mind.
     
  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to CWF, Thomas! You've gotten pretty useful replies by now, but one thing I'd like to add; even if you feel squeamish about adding the "required" maps and weird names and complicated magic systems, at least you can have it all in your notes so you'll keep the story and the world consistent but won't smother the reader with details. I have a pretty detailed idea about how the fantasy world works, but it's only the tip of the iceberg that makes it to the story.

    Good luck!
     
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  17. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    Since you mentioned dwarves, Thomas, I'd just like to add that you don't need anything like dwarves or elves in fantasy. In fact, it's better to research real world mythologies and derive your inspiration from those - it's what Tolkien did. He researched and strove to understand stories from various cultures, and it was from this he came up with elves, dwarves, orcs and everything else.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013

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