1. jamesE
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    jamesE Member

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    Is this not advisable? -- using a Men, Dwarf, Elf, and orc race system

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jamesE, Sep 7, 2011.

    there are many races in my fantasy world. the most prominent are those four. The story is centered on the race of Men, with a couple of Dwarfs and Elves as secondary characters.

    The race of Men is very unique and different from anything done before, with a new culture and religion that i created. But the races of Dwarves and Elves are pretty similar to the Dwarves and Elves of the LOTR (ie elfs are proud and haughty, dwarfs don't use bows well, many dwarfs live underground, etc). Will this turn off an agent or publisher? Because one of the most important elements in a book is originality.

    Should i change the name of these races, and call them something else?

    Should i change details of their appearance and culture, so they would not be similar to the races of LOTR, or any other book or movie for that matter?

    (btw the book is already written. but i will change what i must to make it shine)
     
  2. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I don't think it would turn off an agent or publisher per se, especially if the book is really well-written.

    But you will get points off for un-originality.

    I don't think there's a need to change the names of the races. If you have short dudes with beards and who love mining, drinking, and smithing and who have vaguely Scottish accents and you call them "Fexcappians", I don't think you'd convince anyone. And plus that's just a really silly name change - they're still stereotypical dwarves.


    One idea I think you can try is to draw inspiration from different world cultures. For instance: Why not have elves with a culture inspired by medieval West Africa? That'd make them cavalry-riding, gold and salt trading kingdoms living in the savannah instead of being tree-hugger immortal hippies they're always portrayed as. Or have the dwarves inspired by the Polynesians, and have them be seafaring explorers who are better at farming than at smithing. Or have the orcs be inspired by 16th century Ottoman Turkey, and have them become a colorful and sophisticated culture with deep roots in religion in also achievements in siege warfare, the arts, and so forth.


    DOing this might force you to change some aspects of the story, especially if the cultures are radically different. But I think this is the surest way to ensure that you don't have another tree-hugging elf or sword-smithing dwarf. Those are considered to be trademark cliches of fantasy precisely because nobody breathes new life into them - there's no problem with having them, actually, but there is a problem, I think, if you don't make them something a bit more original. Sure, you don't really need to have your elves modeled after the Kara-Khitan Khanate of medieval Central Asia (that is something that did exist, by the way), but that would be pretty cool, and at the least it wouldn't hurt to give the different races some new traits to pick up instead of the old ones. I think that's the easiest way to still have them, and still, well, have them, but it might require some story changing. Having a Polynesian-esque dwarf as a major character will require some changes since he probably won't act the same or live the same style or in the same setting as the old Scottish dwarf stereotype.
     
  3. jamesE
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    jamesE Member

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    thanks for the advise so far, cybr. btw if anyone has a better forum where this would belong, please let me know. And, were there ever any successful books, besides for lotr itself, that used a race system similar to that of lotr?
     
  4. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    There's no need to worry. People who complain about the unoriginality of a story's setting are completely missing the point.

    Bull. Originality is meaningless when a book is horrendously written.

    Edit: Dare I say the Inheritance Cycle.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I agree with the idea that it's how you write it that matters. That's what everyone is going to tell you, on a post like this, by the way. ;)

    But I will admit, I think the men/dwarves/elves thing is overdone a bit. I'll still read a book if it's a great story, but I think there are dozens upon dozens of fantasies using the Medieval Times/LOTR races scheme, and they all seem to get lumped together after a while. I'll read it if it's good, but for it to stand out and shine among the others, you'll want more originality.

    Then again, I've never read the book. Perhaps you've achieved that originality in ways other than the races of your characters. I wouldn't know. :)

    I'd also like to congratulate you on having written an entire book. Revised yet or not, it's still a huge accomplishment.
     
  6. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I don't think agents and publishers will shut you off with unoriginality, but they will do it if your book doesn't stand out from the other fantasy centered novels inspired by Tolkien.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If they are Men, Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs, call them that. Changing the names will fool no one, and will look like the cheap dodge it is.

    There is a market for that style of fantasy, but your races must be true to the fiction of that market. If you aren't going to target that market, your races should be entirely distinctive, and not in name alone.
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Just write it. As long as the plot's original, characters well-developed, etc, it doesn't matter if you use that template.

    Some fantasy stories I'm entertaining have those things, though I plan to modify it so they're not flat, basic fantasy stuff. (dwarves live underground, etc.)
     
  9. DBTate
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    DBTate Senior Member

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    I believe it's ok to draw inspiration from other fantasy creatures / characters / races, so long as you only do as much.

    If you want to create a race similar to Elves, do so. Though, as Cogito mentioned, do not simply rewrite the Tolkien Elves, and call them something else. This will be as subtle as a nuclear bomb.

    If you want to have a race that live primarily underground, don't use bows well etc. why not make them human-like in physical features, though pale from their obvious lack of sunlight. (Why is it necessary to have them short?) Their inability with bows and alike could be formed from their apparent lack of knowledge of such weapons, as all they are accustomed to using in warfare are weapons fashioned from the abundance of rocks that surround them. Namely, slingshots, or simply sharpened rocks.

    They may grow beards, enjoy a drink that lowers their inhibitions (though this particular drink is crafted from spring water deep in the mountain), and possess all such other dwarfish mannerisms... Though in truth, you have altered them enough to:

    A) Fit your story
    B) Be unique

    Inspiration and blatant plagiarism are very different, and very noticeable.

    And believe me, there is nothing more rewarding than successfully creating your own race / species / world / character... It's as close as you can come to having a child without indeed conceiving one, and certainly costs a lot less ;)

    Happy writing!
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I see no problem using these standard Fantasy races if that is the kind of story you are telling. They appear in substantially the same form as Tolkien in any number of fantasy works, and readers who pick up that kind of fantasy story will already have notions of what these races are like, and in many cases may be expecting to see just that. There's no reason to change them just for the sake of changing them.

    I agree with Cogito - if you keep those races, use a normal name for them. If you haven't succeeded in your portrayal of these races, giving them a new name isn't going to help (and in fact is more likely to irritate a reader than anything).
     
  11. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    One question,
    Has anyone ever said "Humans are over done, they are cliche, unoriginal?"
    The majority of stories are of humans.
    People still read about them.
    So if you can make them interesting people will read it.

    Hey, If I only had bearded women to look at, I think I might need an adult beverage or two.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a lot of scope for variation within that. The humans and dwarves in Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies are like those of LOTR, but the elves are complelely different (though much more like the elves of folklore). Although there's a reason dwarves tend to be associated with mining -- their strength and short stature makes them good at it (elves would keep knocking their heads). That's probably the more important rule -- make the races and their characteristics logically consistent, and your readers will allow quite a bit of variation. You probably have to keep dwarves short and stocky, though (Pratchett has one that isn't, but that's because he's adopted), orcs ugly (except to other orcs, presumably) and so on or there's no point in using the names.
     
  13. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's exactly what I thought. You don't see people asking, "Hey! Is writing stories about humans in a fantasy world, a sci-fi world or the modern world at any period in human history unoriginal?"
     
  14. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I don't see a problem with using established races in a fantasy (but then I've done it so maybe I'm biased). I tend to think that it actually helps the reader a little with envisioning the people, whether from LOTR or their favourite RPG or whatever, it gives them a handle to work with. (It works with my imagining). My thought though is that if you use traditional races, tweak them yes, to fit your own vision, but don't make massive changes as others have said. Those who love elves are going to be a little pee'd off to find that elves now have shoulders like blacksmiths, carry guns and can fly.

    If you deviate a long way from a traditional race, make it a new race,so readers don't feel cheated or wronged. I mean if you've ever played RPG's and wizards of the coast ones in particular, you'll know that players get wildly upset if you change a race away from its core or class. Better to make a new one.

    Cheers.
     
  15. jamesE
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    jamesE Member

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    @ Quezacotl-- oh, of course how you write it is important. it is perhaps the most important element of a book. i said that originality is from the most important elements, and i still think it is.

    think of any famous fantasy or sci fi novel. invariably the world and races used were extremely original, things that had never been done before (lotr, enders game, harry potter, just to name a few). A unique world is very important. but my world is only partially unique. Unique central race, but secondary races not original. so i am considering changing things to make them more original. in fact, a highly successful published author has already advised me to do so. i just wanted to get a second and third opinion, because it is a big change to make.

    If you try to writer a fantasy or sci fi book that doesnt have unique races, world, and cultures, you will not get very far im afraid. Worldbuilding is a very important element of the genre.
     

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