1. Tobinobin
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    Tobinobin Member

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    Stereotype fantasy worlds

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Tobinobin, Apr 14, 2009.

    Hey, its been a while since I've been here. I've been trying to come up with a new world, with different races etc. The problem I'm facing right now is avoiding going with the typical dwarves/elves/trolls steriotype fantasy. The problem I'm facing is to not make it too alien/strange that people get put off by it. My idea is to take say elves and change them to make them very different from your typical elves. My question is, do you think its better to stick with your typical slightly overused 'dwarf/orc/elf' type of fantasy setting, or be creative and use your imagination. Do you enjoy reading a typical fantasy story, or one thats completely different and new?
     
  2. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    hello,

    there is a thread now dedicated to sci/fantasy discussions in the General Writing Forum.

    i'm unsure if they want discussion in the writing thread any more but if you post your question in that other forum, i'm sure you will get the help you need or ideas on where to look

    welcome back
     
  3. Tobinobin
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    Tobinobin Member

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    Alright thanks for the advice!
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Castles, that other thread was a specific discussion of what defines sci-fi vs fantasy, This is a different question, worthy of its own thread.

    My anser to THIS question is that it is your story. Some people may be turned off by "different" elves/dwarves/etc. Others may find it refreshing.

    Write the story the way YOU want. As Shakespeare wrote, "To thine own self be true."
     
  5. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    ah, i see, my point was i didn't see other discussion threads in this forum in particular and so directed him to where others were discussion since i seen a thread today where you were telling the reviewers there was a discussion forum. That was why i mentioned this, thanks for the correction, was trying to be helpful.
     
  6. Tobinobin
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    Tobinobin Member

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    I understand Cogito. Its just hard to choose - you want your story to be unique and revolutionary whilst keeping in mind that people like a bit of familiarity. A bit like the hanging valley theory. Ah well, if you have anything to add on to this point do so, I think I'll just wing it and see how it goes.
     
  7. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    in the latest story ive written i have based my creatures on humans but they have mystical powers, like faries in disguise. some people might find this a bit childish but wn the story i wrote it works quite well. so my advice is get an every day creature human/animal and change its natural charactoristics
     
  8. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    I think we all wrestle with the "am I original enough" question when working with genre fiction. There is no right or wrong answer. As Cogito said so eloquently, be true to yourself. Do not force your originality, because it'll only come off as contrived and will likely bring your story down. Be original with the story you want to tell, how you want to tell it, and your characters, and don't worry about whether or not other people have done the whole <insert fantasy noun here> thing before.
     
  9. David Forbes
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    David Forbes Member

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    I wrestled with this very issue early on and decided to stick with humans and a few separate races of my own making. There are no analogs for elves or drawves in my novels. I didn't want to repeat Tolkien and I couldn't think of an original enough spin to put on them, so I simply didn't use them. My story didn't require it either, so that certainly helped.

    I wanted to create a fantasy world that was unique enough that my story could only be told in that world. If your story and world are generic enough that they can be lifted and take place in Middle-earth or Osten Ard or Midkemia or Westeros, then you probably need to work a bit more on the originality of both story and world.

    Dave
     
  10. ManicParroT
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    ManicParroT Contributing Member

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    Here's a suggestion.

    Don't worry about the elves / humans / orcs things. Start with cultural frameworks, and work from there.

    See, I suspect that the reason a lot of fantasy ends up being generic is because it just takes a basic, Western feudal framework, and fiddles with it slightly. You could recast LOTR with humans, and it wouldn't even be particularly bizarre. The Orcs would just be German barbarians, the Elves would be from France and Gondor would be populatedw ith sturdy AngloSaxon yeomen. The Hobbits are solidly British.

    Check out Ricardo Pinto's Dance of the Stone Chameleon. That book is incredibly different, and it's largely because it's writing about a very different culture - I think one reviewer described it as a blend of Chinese and Polynesian influences.

    Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is also very different to conventional fantasy, and I think this is again because he manages to write about a culture that is very different to the standard pseudo-Medieval European thing that you get in most fantasy books.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    You want your story to be unique. Well, we all know that every person is unique, so the only solution is to be yourself and not worry about what others are doing. One thing that helps is reading about the mythology and folklore of other cultures that don't resemble what you see as "typical". In some cases, building the world first and letting the story come out of that is a good idea. On the other hand, you could create the story first, and let yourself discover the world as you write it. Naturally, in revisions you'll write it so that it doesn't look like you made it up as you went along.
     
  12. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry about putting people off by using fantasy characters that are unfamiliar. If you try to write based on what you *think* other people will think, it won't be as good as if you just write what you feel needs to be written.

    If it's something you're still anxious about, why not try posting a bit of what you've written for review? That way you can see if people are uncomfortable with the characters or if they like them.
     
  13. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I'm not sure if I should mention this before I post this because parts of what is below may be seen as some kind of religious statement but nothing could be further from the truth. Please don't be outraged or offended.

    My opinion of the common fantasy races of elf, dwarf, orc, halfling, etc is that they each embody an extreme human flaw. Or, to take it further, they each represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

    Elves are Pride. Dwarves are Greed. Orcs are Wrath. Halflings are Gluttony. I can't think of a race that embodies Envy, Lust, or Sloth except in general terms but, for some reason, humans are the middle ground. They are neither naturally exceptional nor unchangably mundane. They can excel and become greater than the other races who are necessarily limited by their outlook.

    Elves live in domains high in the trees that are inaccessable except to those that have proven themselves great and dwarves live in closed off communities deep in the earth that are inaccessable except for the outskirts. Orcs will kill if they get the chance and halflings will eat or smoke or indulge themselves at a moment's notice. (I suppose that halflings could also be Sloth...) Dwarves are short so they can carry more without falling over, elves are tall so that when they stick their noses in the air they don't have to look at anyone but other elves, orcs are big and strong to smash things good, and halflings are small and short so they can eat the same amount as other and feel even fuller.

    Another way to create the fantasy races would be to base them on the various extremes of the world they live on. I'm not sure of the specifics of your world so I can't offer too much in the way of suggestions but don't forget the old fire, air, water, earth thing.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I find it rather odd that the term Orc is not under contention in use outside of the original works of JRR Tolkien. The word Orc is not from a particular culture or group of people, but directly taken from the writings of one man who lived well within modern times and wrote within the era of copyright law.

    I mean, I really would not expect to get away with writing a random story and just shoehorning in some Jedi Knights who are off to save Harry Potter from the evil clutches of Cruela de Vil.
     
  15. David Forbes
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    Tolkien did not invent the word orc. It is an Old English word for demon, and variants of it appear in various places throughout medieval literature.

    He did modify its meaning to relate to a goblin-like race of creatures, and that does seem to be his own invention. But that is apparently not enough to halt others from using it, or I'm sure CJRT would have attempted legal action a long time ago.

    Dave
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It would appear.
     
  17. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am thinking about writing a fantasy/horror story in which elves and dwarfs are also vampires and werewolves, respectively. Every month during the three day period marked by the last day of the waxing Gibbous moon, the full moon and the first day of the waning Gibbous moon, warfare erupts between the vampire elves and the transformed dwarfs. Battles rage in the streets of the human village that separates their worlds. Unfortunate humans caught in the fight suffer transformation according to the source of their infection and become either a vampire or werewolf.

    One night, Casey, the local cobbler's teenage son, loses track of time while fishing and attempts to sneak through the elf/dwarf warfare to the safety of his home. He fails and is infected simultaneously by both an elf and a dwarf to become the first ever vampire-werewolf. The story chronicles his conflicted life as he's torn between howling at the moon and seeking victims for his blood lust. His fiancé, the lovely princess-virgin, De-anne of Chowderville, fails to notice his unusually heavy beard just before each full moon and agrees to marry him. Little does she know, children of this marriage are destined to be short; short and cute or short and ugly, but in either case, short. And breastfeeding might be a terrible problem.

    Sorry for the silly crap. I just find the OP's question to be a simple problem. Unique or common, traditional or unconventional . . . doesn't really matter. The criterion that will determine the success or failure of the story will be the quality of the story-telling. A great tale doesn't necessarily have to be "unique". It can be a common theme told in a thrilling way or an uncommon storyline, also written with great skill. The common denominator is the quality of the writing. Success or failure of the story will rest solely on the way the story is conveyed. So, write any theme you want and have fun with it.
     
  18. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Use your imagination or put a clever—and not just for the sake of being clever!—twist on the old tropes. If you really believed these tropes are overused, then don't use them! "Overused" sounds like even you are tired of them. I can tell you that most fantasy readers (well, the ones who don't just read Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms) are as well.

    Unless you're simply a damn talented writer and plotter, your novels will fall flat now in the age of R. Scott Bakker, Steven Erikson, China Miéville, etc.

    David, Wreybies' (haha, I love this name by the way) point remains valid. No one devises a race of demons with the label Orc.
     
  19. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I believe that everyone here is saying: Be as unique and novel as you desire, because no one doubts the readability of an original story.

    I mean, the 'common ground' that you are afraid of losing is right in the main character. What ever creature he is, as long as he has emotions and feelings, people should be able to relate to him in some manner and thus, find comfort in that as they venture into this incredible world which you desire to create.

    I intend to do the same.
     
  20. somebill
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    somebill New Member

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    Do you want to write about elves and dwarves? If you do, do. If you don't, don't.

    I don't mean to be short about it, but there isn't much point to writing something you don't really want to.

    So, I get turned off by stories with conventional fantasy elements. I'm sure there are plenty of people who feel the same and would rather read something different. Then, there are a ton of people who love that Tolkien influence. Somebody's not going to like it either way. So make it so you do.
     
  21. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Create your own humanoid species.

    “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”
    -Albert Einstein
     
  22. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I'd have to go with what a lot of others are saying...if you want to write elves/dwarves/etc then write them. If you want to create you own race, then create it. Just make sure *you* enjoy what you're writing and don't worry so much as to how other people will react. Writing something that feels *wrong* to you will feel wrong to a reader as well.

    ~Lynn
     
  23. Jeredin
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    Jeredin Member

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    Evolved fantasy.

    I happen to be writing my own fantasy book and have decided to use classical races with my own twists, but not always with dramatic changes. What I did and you may want to try, is focus your races on how they came into existence and why.

    Like, my story has Vampires for example. They're classical characters for fantasies sure, but I changed how they come about in my story. One aspect of my vampires is, they don't hunger for blood, but rather spirits of life - potent ethereal unemotional "elemental" beings in a sub-plane of existence. My vampires can feed off of any living thing, but their thirst is best quenched by the potent spirits that reside in humans. They became "vampires" because of a failed experiment (a story in itself).

    So as you can see, I based my modified classical characters on how my universe/societies came into existence and the priorities/necessities to their survival. They have "evolved" this interesting way in order to survive. I hope you get the idea. Its a trickle down effect, in that as you create one aspect of your world, the ideas for those races become relevant.

    So yeah, I'm using classical races, because those mental images are already in peoples minds, but justifying unique modifications through the creation of my universe.

    This might be a sci-fi way of going about the process, but it worked well for me and I hope in some way it can help you. :-D
     
  24. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I prefer some originality such as Abarat and The Never Ending Story. Although I don't care for how Clive Barker writs, he does have good stories.

    For inspiration of creatures go to deviant art and check out the fantasy section. Art is a great way to get cool ideas.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I will agree with Architectus on this point. Remember that the realm of Fantasy and Weird Fiction differs from Science Fiction in that a creature need not be plausible from a physical or evolutionary standpoint to exist.

    In Fantasy you can have a character with a shoe for head. No reason why not.
     

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