1. BruMeister
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    BruMeister Member

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    What do you look for in a medieval fantasy novel?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by BruMeister, Dec 20, 2009.

    When it comes to medieval fantasy novels such as Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, Realms, ect, what do you all look for? What do you think makes a good medieval fantasy novel? What elements do you all look for?
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I look for/expect a plausible plot, action--fast moving, interesting characters and events.

    Terry
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't read a lot of fantasy, but here are some things I look for: great writing, good story, memorable characters.
     
  4. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    As others have said good plot and characters are a must. A little originality doesn’t go amiss either, or failing that old clichés given a bit of a twist are always fun.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't look for anything in any book that applies to a particular genre. Anything I want in a book will exist in almost good book, regardless of the genre. The only concern is making it not look like you were using ideas just because they worked in other books. If you use certain concepts, types of characters, and settings, make sure you are using them for the right reasons, not just because they have been popular in the past.
     
  6. ArckAngel
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    ArckAngel Member

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    Names that aren't ****ed up.

    I'm still waiting for Steve the Knight, and Frank the Necromancer.
     
  7. rikithasta
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    rikithasta Member

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    I definitely agree with the others about good characters and good plots. Characters need to go beyond the stereotypes. However, I also look at the world building.

    If you're going to introduce magic to a medieval world, you need to follow through. What are the consequences on disease, warfare, the reigning class, trade, standards of living, religion etc. If it's random little pieces inserted into a world, then it's going to fall flat.

    Also, if you're looking at D&D based books for inspiration, I don't know if you are looking at the rule books too. If I'm reading a story and can figure out fairly quickly that the character is a, say, fifth level sorcerer with an intelligence of 20, and this spell list it completely disrupts the story. This goes for characters, monsters, battles, and whatever. It's one thing to take inspiration, it's another thing to force it into the story. Unless it's Order of the Stick styled, and you're doing it on purpose as a satire. Then you're fine.
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey, ArckAngel, wait no longer.

    My novel Flank Hawk has a Lesser Enchanter Jonas and a Belinda the Cursed. Okay, there are some odd names like Road Toad and Imperial Seer Lochelle. The main 'bad guy' is generally referred to simply as The Necromancer King, nothing fancy ;) And looking at your screen name here, you might be interested to know that there's a fallen angel in the novel too (although he doesn't consider himself as such).

    Terry
     
  9. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hopefully a cast of characters with unpronouncable names. I don't mind if a few have them, but yeah.

    Great characters that are entertaining to read about and can truly care about. But this applies more for any book really.

    Avoiding stereotypes. I don't mind if there is a clan of Dwarves that love mining and blacksmithing, but does every dwarf have to fall into this? Same with Elves. Do they all have to be these majestic powerful creatures? Why can't some of them be drunkards who love starting bar fights?

    That sort of thing.
     
  10. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    I'm all for the action, plot twists, and overall - suspension of disbelief.
     
  11. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    I look for an interesting setting.:D
     
  12. Thetalpha
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    Thetalpha Member

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    I can just agree with what the others have said, but there's one thing you'll HAVE TO do, which is draw a map. Seriously. There is nothing that comes across more daft than when you have the Village of X right next to the City of Y in one chapter, then in the next chapter they're miles away.

    Also, don't just draw a world map, draw a map of the most important cities and villages. If you have your protagonist jumping from roof to roof or shooting an arrow somewhere or simply walking somewhere, this is EXTREMELY handy. Cause then you know for example that to travel between A street and B lane you have to cross the flee market, unless you take a shortcut through C park, or a detour through D drive.
     
  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I normally avoid this genre like the plague, because most of it seems like yet another LOTR or Harry Potter ripoff. So I would say any fantasy book that has something truly fresh to deliver and prove to me that there are exceptions, they're the ones I'm looking for. If it has pointy hats, elves or a longhaired protagonist with a big sword, then I'm not gonna touch it.
     
  14. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    A treatment of religion that is not:

    1. The only religion in the world.
    2. Universally accepted as true/false without reason.
    3. The Inquisition ver 2.0
    4. Composed entirely of greedy bastards who want nothing more than to oppress the poor masses.
    5. A parable about the evils of religion.

    Edit: Also, an original world that is thought out in a "If things are like X, then Y would happen." manner instead of "I need Y to happen so things are like X."
     
  15. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    1. Character's that seem real to me written in a way that makes me care about them and what happens to them.

    2. Adventure (but nothing too over the top, suspension of disbelief is still important in fantasy).

    3. If it's "readable." When I read something of the sci-fi/fantasy genre it needs to read easily. Meaning if there's a lot of language mimicking old English or a thick accent I put the book back on the shelf. A prime example of this is Joseph in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I skipped over anything the old goat had to say because slowing down to translate his dialogue interrupted the flow of the story for me--unacceptable.
     
  16. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Besides what everyone has said, exploration of the world is important IMO to bring that sense of wonder readers love. I also have to agree with the name thing. Ordinary earth names are best.
     
  17. deltaquid
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    deltaquid Member

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    1) A believable setting that makes sense, but in its own way.
    2) Not just a black and white morality.
    3) A map. Seriously. It's a fantastic way to cut down boring sentences like "they travelled for 4 days along road X to reach town Y..."
     
  18. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only time I read 'medieval fantasy' is when people realise that it's a fantasy book, and they shouldn't try to base it on 'medieval society,' which doesn't exist any more than a 'modern society' does. The whole 'medieval' thing is what makes these books so similar - people force themselves into stereotypes.
     
  19. Oak7ree
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    Oak7ree Member

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    Dimesional characters, interesting plot twists and gripping cliffhangers are the things I want. And also grey morality - not black and white characters. And too cliched plot is a minus.
     
  20. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Obviously the things like good characterisation and plot go without saying for all genres. For fantasy specifically I think world building is very important. You have to feel immersed in the world, which also means things can't be completely esoteric: Some grounding in real life is needed I think. I love geneaology in fantasy as well, though that's just a side note. What I most love is morally ambiguity. I love it in all stories really, but it stands out most in the typically black and white land of fantasy.
     
  21. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    The same thing that I look for in other novels, great characters, plot, and pacing. I'm mainly a fantasy reader but I wouldn't have been if it wasn't for A Song of Ice and Fire, one of the best examples of writing and character development out there. That sort of conditioned me into wanting to read just fantasy, but there's hardly any fantasy books on that same level; some come close, but the majority fall flat. I've been shifting into more modern based books now, although the bulk of what I read is still fantasy.

    I thought by reading fantasy I was looking for something different, but what I'm really looking for is how characters are treated and affected differently in a medieval setting compared to a modern one.
     
  22. Soodanim
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    Soodanim Member

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    A Song of Ice and Fire is terribly paced!

    Don't get me wrong, I love it, G.R.R.M. is one of my favourite writers, but the pacing is atrocious. It waxes from intense action, drama, suspense, mystery and extreme fantasy only to wane into drawn out periods of exposition and set-up and long-winded descriptions of food and heraldry and politics. Which is why I like it.

    For me, a fantasy novel has to have great characters and characterisation. The overall story while needing to be decent isn't what drives me to continue reading. A good example of what I consider to be a poor fantasy series is The Wheel of Time. The characters were mostly dry and uninspiring cardboard cutouts that were characterised with the same descriptions over and over and over and over and over and over... and then over again. They never really evolved and yet at the same time weren't internally consistent which is a feat that requires a concerted ignorance. And then the plots just repeat themselves as well.

    A good example of what I consider to be great characters and characterisation is the original Dragonlance trilogy and subsequent trilogy sequels. Now, before you roll your eyes, yes, it was a very simply written series aimed at a young audience but the characters were memorable and easy to associate and sympathise with because they were characterised well. They all evolved, for good and for ill, and even twenty-five years later, I can recall almost everything about them because they made such a lasting impression.

    Rand al'Thor, however, is just another farmboy-come-god with godly friends that I could interchange with a dozen other fantasy novels that I don't care to recall.
     
  23. Jack Dawkins
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    I loResolutionok for everyting that belongs in any good piece of fiction (Conflict, Action, Emotion, Showing). I would not expect anything less from a Fantasy novel as I would from any other Genre. I myself prefer my fantasy to be light hearted and funny. (Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, etc.) but that's just me, even though I think that the Hobbit to be the best ever.
     
  24. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    Agreed. Probably should have denoted that I don't think A Song of Ice and Fire is paced well with its short story length chapters and pages on pages of medieval eatery and embroidery.
     
  25. iWant iStrive
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    iWant iStrive Member

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    In any book I read I want good characters that the author gives me an emotional connection to. Without that, even the most elegant writing in the world will not make me enjoy it.

    In relation to fantasy in particular, one thing I don't like is when the world is too confusing, or the author doesn't introduce things at a slow enough pace and just expects me to accept concept after concept and remember them all. In the end I become confused which ruins my immersion in the story.

    Also fantasy worlds allow a lot of creativity but beware too much complexity. While there should be a lot of depth to a world it shouldn't confuse the reader.
     

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