1. Holo
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    Holo Senior Member

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    The Fantasy Kitchen Sink

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Holo, Feb 14, 2012.

    The Fantasy Kitchen Sink is a trope name that refers to a setting in which there are multiple types of fictional beings living together in the same story. Currently, I am stuck between two ideas in which one involves a fantasy kitchen sink so to speak (werewolves are the main characters but there are also witches, vampires, faeries, etc.) and another idea in which there are just witches and werewolves. Though I like both ideas, I cannot choose between the two.

    I know it depends on how you write the story to make something like this work, but I would like some opinions on the two setting premises. What do you like and dislike in stories that feature only one or two preternatural creatures? What do you like and dislike in stories that have every fantasy creature you can name?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Then you have missed the point entirely. The premises have no value but what you put into them. What anyone tells you aboiut preferring one premise or the other is the potential that writer sees if he or she wrote the story.
     
  3. LemonDrop
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    LemonDrop New Member

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    I tend to like the "fantasy kitchen sink" because I like seeing how each and every fictional race interacts with the other. Each group does not necessarily need to play a significant role in the plot, but it is cool when you see a group of different fantasy creatures working together. Honestly it does depend on how you write it, but that is just my preference. In stories that have only vampires or only werewolves I begin to wonder why only that creature exists but not any others.
     
  4. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    Hi Holo,

    Like you said, it depends greatly on how the story is written.

    But as a general opinion, I find that the use of too many fictitious creatures really clutters the setting for me, and ultimately causes me to dislike the story. One or two races are fine, but if I'm encountering a new type of being every few chapters, I'm going to get a little bit irked, especially if these creatures are stereotypical/cliche creatures (such as vampires and werewolves).

    Of course, I've read a few books that were well written enough to incorporate multiple fictitious beings, so I guess it's really up to your abilities.
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate to sound rude, but did you read the post? Holo was asking about it from a reader's point of view. He understands how it is from a writer's point of view. He's asking about how we feel about those premises from a reader's point of view. Because no matter how well some people think it's written, Lord of the Rings feels derivative to me because I read derivative fantasy before it. No matter how well some people think it's written, I think Twilight has a stupid storyline. No matter how well anything is written, stories are still subject to the opinions of the readers and the critics. Stories mean nothing if they aren't read. Without being read, they do not exist.

    Sorry if I'm being insensitive to your post, Cogito. I just happen to think that your post missed Holo's point entirely and was all too quick to judge him harshly. I apologise if I'm incorrect (I'm not, though, reread your post and look at his questions), but I think discussing reading preferences is different to discussing writing preferences.


    So yeah. In answer to the question: I like things like Harry Potter. It had all the fantasy creatures and animals, but the wizards were the main ones. It showed humanity as it is; we'd hunted giants to extinction (almost) and centaurs held their domain in the forest only.

    Things like True Blood/Southern Vampire Mysteries are somewhat annoying because there is every kind of were-creature as well as vampires as well as shapeshifters and maenads and witches and spirits and it's just kind of terrible. It has that feeling that there's way too much going on.

    I find it unlikely that Dwarves and Elves and Humans and all that would ever coexist in a world without one race absolutely dominating. I mean, it's an interesting thought to try and have them equal (oh look, the dwarves live in the mountains and the elves in the eastern/western forests and the humans are along the coast and in the middle kingdoms and far north is the tundra and the plains of the dark elves!) but no, I think we know ecosystems too well to think that could ever happen. It is the domain of sentient creatures to overexist. Humans are the apex predator of earth because of opposable thumbs and a large frontal lobe and a hell of a lot of behavioural adaptations. We're not necessarily dominant (if you know as much about ants as I do, well, you KNOW we're not dominant), but we're big and we exist almost everywhere. Why would we ever let anything take that from us?

    It's even more annoying in fantasy stories when people think that all the different races need their own area. They don't. They need to have their racial territory wars like ordinary animals.

    /rant
     
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  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think both can work, kitchen sink and selective.
    I was thinking about the same thing, and also what cruciFiction mentioned about True Blood. I really like that show, (haven't read the books, I tried but didn't get into it, writing style bothered me a little, although I'll give them another go) but every new season, before I get used to the characters, I feel like she is "upping the anty" by adding more and more fantasy creatures. In the first season, a telepath, vampires and shapeshifters was it. But when faeries, and werewolves and what not started popping up, I was like, hm... But I still liked it, it's my favourite show.

    I am writing a vampire book, and in it, there are only vampires, some of them shapeshifters, and the reason for that is scientifically explained. I will have witches too, but not like wizards, more like healers. But I am planing a sequel or two, and I just don't know, maybe I'll reach for more "creatures" if I feel I need to, so don't discount both possibilities.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I totally agree with everything CF said. I agree with Cogito's frequently-mentioned point about how it's a bad idea to seek validation for your ideas. However, there's a HUGE difference between writing out a long synopsis and asking "so what do you think?"/"should I do it?" and what the OP is asking. From what I read, Holo just wanted to know what tips people had in terms of likes/dislikes when they read books including multiple types of fantasy races.

    People can ask for input and tips on big-picture ideas without it being a case of needing validation or a case of "I'm torn between two plots, please choose for me." It's not always a cut & dry issue.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, Mallory, I stand by my position. If two or more variations have sufficient merit to raise such a dilemma, then the question is really, "which one will I write first?" And the answer again comes down to which one the writer can get behind.

    Why is asking about the readers' feelings about other works bearing similar characteristics harmful? Because it's still a popularity poll based on a few discrete criteria which have nothing to do with the final product. If the writer writes from the heart, from his inner fire, he can infect the reader with his enthusiasm.

    If only one of the stories can be written, the answer must come from within. If that isn't good enough, reach into your pocket. Pull out any coin or token with different content on its two surfaces, and propel it into the air with a spin along a diameter axis, and choose based on the face that looks skyward when it comes to rest.

    That is every bit as accurate and meaningful as polling a forum, and does not delude the writer about the arbitrary nature of the choice.

    Because self-delusion is what most gets in the way of the writer's truth.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think there's anything wrong with the act of writing in order to get published, and to be honest, sometimes you do have to tweak your MS in the direction of what the general readership will want to read, not simply what you wanna write as a writer. I know that's shattering the very modern concept of "art" and the artist's (or in this case, writer's) freedom - but it's not so long ago that writers wrote for a living, writers wrote for the sake of putting bread on the table, writers wrote for the sake of getting published because they need to pay the rent. And if we're writers, we naturally want to get published - you can write to your heart's content and say "I am satisfied" but if no one ever reads it, then it's pointless (unless you're doing it just for pure pleasure and hobby, in which case, it's not pointless - but a writer whose work never gets read, I can't explain it or put it into words, but that's a sad existence for any writer). So we're agreed, writers want to get published - and what's wrong with gauging public opinion and doing a bit of market research before embarking on such a lengthy and exhausting project like a novel, to make sure it wasn't a waste of time and it has a chance of success?

    I've made enough changes to my MS based on how my readers would react to certain things - and often times I've found it to be a reliable compass. There's a reason why certain things are hated by the majority and of course, you should embark on it anyway if you have a very good reason and you're an excellent writer and you just love a challenge. But it could also tell you some well-tried roads that are best not journeyed upon again because the travellers before you have already walked it and found it to be undesirable.

    Now to Holo - write the scenario that would make your story richer. The point is NOT in "which do the readers like?" The point is actually in: "What does my story need?"

    Do you NEED your vampires and fairies and trolls or whatever else you have in your kitchen sink? How would it make your world richer, more colourful, more unique? What purposes do these other races serve, or did you throw them in just for the sake of it?

    When you find a purpose for their existence, then you'll know if you should include them. And if there's no purpose for them, and they do not get fleshed out and will be there for the sake of being there, your reader will catch on, and it would serve as a negative to your story.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you whore yourself out compromise yourself to a herd consensus for a perceived reader preference, you are doing yourself and your readers an injustice.

    As long as you don't violate the genre requirements of the publishers you submit to, you should remain true to yourself. And if you must step outside genre expectations, it may be worth fishing a shallower publishing pool.

    Nobody respects a brown-nose. Readers respect truth and sincerity. Just write to the best of your ability, and don't try to please everyone. You can't.
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I really fail to see how this post is "whoring" or "brown-nosing."

    If any post seeking the input of others is "whoring" than why would this forum exist in the first place? You know, Cogito, I really do agree with your sentiment when it comes to threads where the author is literally asking permission to write a certain story, but not every thread is like that, and nor is this one. ALL threads here are for the purpose of sharing ideas.

    I'm surprised that a former moderator of a creative forum about writing can't recognize the value of bouncing new ideas around and discussing creative preferences with others.
     
  12. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    Like: That there are only one or two. Too many weird and wonderful creatures in a story just seems like overkill or the writer getting carried away. The only guy that got away with a completely jam packed world was JRT and you'd have to walk a long way to find another like him - that and he kinda broke the genre wide open. Too many copies has cliched the Middle Earth idea, methinks.
    Dislike: Vampires. Id rather set my ears / eyes on fire than hear / read / see aything more on vampires. Done to death in my humble opinion.


    Likes: Not much. Shrek because it parodied the whole idea.

    Dislikes: Too much unnecessary rubbish. If you write a science fiction novel you dont throw every invented idea into the mix just because you can. In a murder mystery, you dont shoot, stab, poison, melt, have the dead guy eaten etc. - you write a good story about something. Same idea follows for fantasy. Pick a topic and stick to it...even if it is vampires for another nauseating time...


    Anyway thats my two cents - you did ask!
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I think that in a story with multiple types of creatures, each one should be well-defined and fleshed out by the author. Now, if you want to have a few predatory races that are kept somewhat ambiguous for the creepiness factor, go for it, but what I mean is that you shouldn't use the same standard "fair and noble elves," "stocky, bearded dwarves," "ethereal faeries" etc. just because it's what other authors have done. There's nothing wrong with something having a few features that appear in other places, but make each thing your own.

    Also, each species should have something unique that it can bring to the table for the story. And think about how they typically interact with each other.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm going to uncork a short rant here. What the hell is it about FANTASY that means the writer has to imitate everything that has been written before? Why does FANTASY always have to involve elves/dwarves/wizards/vampires/werewolves/unicorns/dragons/zombies? Isn't there anybody out there with an original idea for a FANTASY story?

    This thread is called the Fantasy Kitchen Sink. Why does everybody feel like they need to be limited to what fits in the tiny little it's-been-done-before kitchen sink? Use your imaginations, people! Create something! FANTASY should be fantastic. It should blow the reader's mind. If it doesn't, it's just a yawn, a waste of your reader's time. If your reader is just saying, "Yeah, yeah, vampires, werewolves, dragons, whatever, blah blah blah," then you've failed. It isn't enough to just rewrite Harry Potter. It isn't enough to rewrite Twilight or LOTR or Narnia or whatever else.

    Write something new. Surely, in the realm of FANTASY, which is, by definition, unlimited, you don't have to repeat earlier writers.

    Please, amaze us!
     
  15. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    ^ Seconded. There's lots of other threads out there that address exactly that.

    Granted, though, we don't know whether or not Holo's story is a rewrite of LOTR/Narnia/Twilight etc. He/she could very well have made the fantasy races his/her own. No way to know without reading it.
     
  16. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I think that's a little idealistic, to the point of being naive. Agents are there to read the market and represent what's selling. Publishers are there to sell it. How is any author supposed to get anywhere if they don't listen to what the industry professionals are telling them? My agent had just such a conversation with me yesterday - basically you have to identify your audience and write to it. Within that mandate there is scope to 'be true to yourself' or whatever other notion of creative integrity lets you sleep at night, but if you want to be published, you have to accept this one dirty little secret: commercial fiction is all about pandering to popular demand. Period.
     
  17. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    This is totally true. Additionally, sometimes it's not even about the publishing world. Sometimes it's about simply wanting to discuss ideas with others in order to better the original idea. I know that for me personally, my ideas get way better when I talk about them with other people -- and it's not because others spoon feed me ideas, but rather because talking about different possibilities out loud helps new stuff pop up in my head.
     
  18. Jayyy1014
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    Jayyy1014 Jerrica Contributor

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    Ah, the person who created this thread was only wanting some tips and help to help strengthen up his/her story. I do however believe that this is the place you go correct? Okay, Cog, I do however agree with you on the posts that others make who basically want permission to write something they've thought up of, they should go ahead take the initiative and start writing. I do not believe that you however should have said what you did. People are on here for help and people in the community to talk to that are stuck in the same boat as them. This person just wanted tips, and I'm going to give this person some tips.
    Whatever you do, as long as it is original and pleases you that is all that should matter. No matter what you write, you'll never be able to please everyone. Now since you're writing Fantasy, the boundaries are limitless, you can write WHATEVER you want. It's your time for that creativity to flow. :) That's the best part of Fantasy.
    Also, if you need help figuring out which story you do want to choose; a good way to pick one of them is this:
    You can bullet all of the things you like about the both of them, and it will also help plan your story out. Basically pre-writing. I do this to all of mine that I cannot decide between and whichever one interests me the most I go with, because you can always go back to the other one at a later time. Just do whatever pleases you! :) That's all that truly matters. In my opinion though, which you obviously don't have to listen to, I cannot stand cliches. Just don't do a re-write of another story, and you'll be just fine. Good luck with your writing. :) If you ever have any questions feel free to message me at any time!! :)
     

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