1. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    What do you miss from fantasy novels?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Safety Turtle, Sep 30, 2016.

    I just bought a new fantasy book today, "The painted man" and looked at some reviews on amazon (tons of great ones).
    Did see some talk about "same old tropes, yawn" etc and that got me thinking: what do you feel is missing from many of the tropy (yes, it's a word...at least, now it is!) fantasy novels out there? what do you wish more fantasy authors did more often with their stories?

    Personally, I'm into the dark fantasy part of it, so I love a morally grey character and would also like to see more not-strictly-happy endings.

    What about you?
     
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  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    If I knew what was missing I'd bottle it and sell it ;)

    Seriously, I quite often felt something missing in the fantasy genre as a whole. But I can't really put a finger on it what it is - I only know when I read a work that is not missing anything. Usually that's non-fiction, these days. However, I've thought and thought about the difference, but I can't put it into words. Must do some more thinking, because if I find out what it is I can write it. Yeah, I know that this answer is not satisfying :D
     
  3. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Hmm good point actually...guess it's not that easy to put a finger on!

    I guess there are so many tropes in fantasy now that it's hard not hitting just a few of them...and I guess people kind of expect a fantasy novel to do that.
     
  4. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    This is a good question. Made me think & realize I do miss something. I miss Fairy Tales. The princess was always sweet and good when I was young. AND I miss young teen romances. I remember going to the library when I was in elementary school and scarfing up every book I could find about how Sally loved Johnny but she was only 15! :) And all the school stuff that went along with it. Sally always kept a diary. Now she has her iPhone - which is cool too!
     
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    It's not about tropes at all. I don't have a problem with tropes (apart from the 'boy/girl has a destiny' part). It's about depth, about reality. Guess 'fantasy' as a genre is prone to be taken lightly, and I think it is difficult to say the least to make a complex story, a complex world, complex characters. And I am not talking about a Tolkienesque way of describing everything here.
     
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  6. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    I enjoyed fantasy when I was young. Then somewhere along the way I stopped enjoying books and movies that 'weren't real'. I've always wondered about that. Probably best to not go there.
     
  7. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Interesting, I have the opposite problem, I can't enjoy stories that "are based on real events" or happens in our normal, every day world.
    Well, except for historical movies...but one could argue that most of them have very little to do with the real world if made in hollywood (sorry...going off on a rant here).

    I guess it also depends on what you want from a story, personally I don't need it to be deep or complex (I'm one of the few people who loved the Doom movie exactly because it wasn't :p).
    I guess fantasy does struggle quite a bit with "he's an elf, all elves are like this, so that is what he's like"...sort of like how in sci-fi, usually an alien race has a planet, where they're the only race and they're all okay with eachother (unlike here on earth where we hate the people next door...because they're the people next door).
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Cydney: Yeah, looks like we mean the same thing. 'Being real' is not something which can be written offhand if the author hasn't lived through the events, or talked to them that experienced them. But that's what I miss with fantasy, and I have no idea (or only a very hazy one), about how such a thing can be written.
     
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  9. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Well does a story being based in a fantasy world have to be that different?
    I mean a character can go through the exact same things as we do.
     
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  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I miss the pre-Peter Jackson Era ability to include Fantasy stories that are Fantasy stories, but which aren't High Fantasy stories as Fantasy stories. I feel like we exclude so much work that - were it brought back into the fold of the definition - would fill out and rectify all the things people think are missing or have gone stale in today's rather narrow approach to what Fantasy is.
     
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  11. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Can you give some examples? I'm not sure I completely follow I'm afraid.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think, from what I've seen discussed on the forum, there might be a problem with excessive concern about hopping from plot point to plot point, as opposed to realistic character development and believable characters. Also, too much concentration on magical powers (which can oversimplify a story) and the preference for stories that seem to be all about good versus evil. As in Good versus Evil. But what really hurts modern fantasy is the copycat trend.

    I know it's hard to believe, but when The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings first came out and became popular, they did so because nobody else was writing that kind of thing. You look back at around that period, and you'll see that nobody was copying anybody else, really. Some folks (like Tolkien) drew heavily from mythology and were clearly fantasy writers. Others wrote stuff that was almost sci-fi. Dune was a good example of a sci-fi/fantasy blend, with excellent characters and a very complicated world and storyline. There were many others as well. Of course there were a few, like Terry Brooks, who tried to ride the coattails of Tolkien, but in general, original Fantasy bloomed—for a short while at least.

    Then, suddenly, everybody started copying. Suddenly fantasy had to have dwarves, wizards, orcs, quests, Forces of Good versus Forces of Evil, etc etc. Warriors whacking heads off one another. The Chosen One. Instead of being the most open and potentially unique storytelling category, suddenly fantasy became very same-y.

    A few famous authors have risen above the saminess ...George RR Martin, Kage Baker, Terry Pratchett, Joe Abercrombie, Phillip Pullman, JK Rowling, China Mieville, to name a few. But in general, at least for me, fantasy quickly lost its creative edge.

    You can do anything you want in fantasy, as long as it makes sense within whatever world you've created. So why just copy what other people have done? If you've read it before, don't write it again. That would be my mantra, if I were a fantasy writer.

    As a fantasy reader, I would love to feel the same way about new authors that I felt when I first read Tolkien, Abercrombie, Baker, Pullman, Pratchett, etc. I felt as if I was in uncharted territory, and LOVED being there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2016
  13. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    You do have a point and it's also what burned me out with regards to roleplaying games back then...as many others I started out with Dungeons and Dragons, but at some point you just get tired of orcs, elves and dwarves and when I started LARPing it was the same thing over and over again.

    I do feel I have a sort of fear of falling into that "samey" category with my own fantasy story, even though I try hard to be original.
    One can hope that the people like R.R Martin start a new trend, especially with his books being made into a series.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think what I would like to see is NO trend. Something completely new.
     
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  15. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    But do you think "completely new" is even possible at this point?...I mean, most things have been done by now.
    I guess there's also the fear of it being "too different" for people...I mean, they've made 6 (or is it 7?) fast and furious movies and people still go and watch them.
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    @jannert gave a good example: China Miéville. Have you read his Bas Lag novels? Or, even better, The City and the City? When he and a few other "new golden boys" came into the spotlight, everyone was quick to seperate their work as something apart from Fantasy and called it the New Weird Fiction. Why? Because there are no elves or dwarves or wizards in the traditional sense? Because none of it is set in a homogenized/romanticized vaguely medieval setting? No dragons? No drakes? No rings or quests in any sort of traditional way? Well, isn't everyone griping that "Fantasy" (and I put it in quotes to mean the overly narrowed take on the definition) is too littered and glutted with exactly those kinds of stories? Why push these other works out from Fantasy and get pedantic about whether they are or aren't Fantasy when they give the very thing everyone is bemoaning is lacking in the genre: a fresh take, a fresh story, a fresh setting.
     
  17. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Ah okay, gotcha.
    Yes true, I haven't read those books but I see what you're getting at and I agree...it's almost like with music (metal in my case) where people keep adding new sub-genres, because some people think it's not "true".
    I'm even wondering a bit of the term "Dark Fantasy" is even needed, or if we couldn't just call it "fantasy".
     
  18. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    You know the part in The Secret Garden where Mary discovers the garden door. I miss that.

    And then she finds the key and opens the door to the garden. I miss that too.

    The feeling you get when you know that beyond that door is something so magical and enchanting and probably bursting with all manner of wondrous things. And the feeling you get when you find the key and fit it into the lock and turn it and slowly push open the door to reveal that world.

    I miss having my childlike expectations lifted, and vastly exceeded.
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I was (and still am) a total sucker for fairy and folk tales, because of their longevity and their sense of 'story.' However, what was comforting about them was knowing what was going to happen ...or, rather, what the end would be. The princess and the prince would get married, the foolish brother would win all in the end, etc. Wandering off the track from the European-based fairy and folk tales could throw up a few surprises, but even those had their own formula. If the prince and the princess had NOT married, then I would have been hugely disappointed as a child. It was the 'it'll all come out all right, you'll see' aspect of these stories that kept me coming back for more.

    Then I grew up.

    Now I look for Fantasy that has no formula. Some of these tropes may even exist ...wizards, warriors, etc ...but I love not knowing how it's going to end. I'm in the middle of re-reading one of my favourites in that line, Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, and I'm struck again by how innovative he was. I truly had NO idea where the story was heading, and many aspects of the actual ending took me totally by surprise. That's what I love about Fantasy. Being taken by surprise. All of the authors I listed above have managed to do that for me.
     
  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Gonna' play devil's advocate here and say that - in my opinion - Martin brings absolutely nothing new to the table of the High Fantasy Glut. Does he work well with the existing threadbare and hackneyed tropes? Sure, of course. But there is nothing new in his work. Not. One. Thing. And as much as I myself love the HBO rendition of his franchise, let's not pretend that that show doesn't have an engine that runs on boobs, the occasional (rare) wiener shot, and lots and lots of murder.
     
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  21. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    It's interesting how you mention having no idea where the story is going, because I've seen several people say that you have to make it clear what the plot is early in the story, or people will not continue reading.
    It may not be what you meant though but I agree that I do like surprises...especially if it's a story I think I know how will go.
     
  22. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Well true, but that just leaves me wondering what exactly one, as a fantasy writer, must due to break that and do something really original and different...because for me, Game of Thrones was that, compared to your Lord of the Rings etc.
     
  23. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Thank you! I'm so relieved I'm not the only one who doesn't think he's a genius. What he did was take traditional High Fantasy and simply make a perfect mirror-image. Just take a standard High Fantasy and change the signs, y = -x instead of y = x. Once you see what he's doing it's hard for it to hold your attention. Or at least that's my impression.
     
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    cydney Banned

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    I enjoy fantasies that are based on real principles - like good triumphing over evil in really strange circumstances and I always love a little romance mixed in. I wish I could remember the science fiction author a boyfriend of mine always wanted me to read because 'we were like them' he said. I read one book - and he was right! I just couldn't get involved enough to read any more. You know, now that I'm thinking about it, was it Andre Norton or someone like that? I'll look it up. But I do remember that particular book was morally strong, in my opinion. Maybe a lot of science fiction novels are like that. I don't know. Science fiction & fantasy kinda the same thing? Not sure. ??? Seriously. :)
     
  25. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    Oh, and C.S. Lewis - love that guy! And anything written by him.
     

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