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Does a fantasy adventure novel have to have magic?

Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by pamedria, Dec 3, 2016.

  1. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a marketing term, so its meaning is determined by the market. Which means that looking at where bookstores would shelve such books is the perfect way to determine how such books are marketted and what terms should be used.
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't add magical elements if magical elements don't fit your story. The fantastical element of your story is the world itself - not the magic, but the fact that it doesn't match up to our history. If you write a novel about the trials and tribulations of a group of citizens building a cathedral in feudal England, that would be medieval fiction (historical fiction). But if you're setting your book in world with countries that never existed, rulers that never existed, etc., then it's fantasy.

    And you're right that you need to figure out how to classify your book, rather than waiting for the publisher's marketing department to figure it out, because you'll need to specify genre in your query letter. The marketers may or may not change/refine your definition, but you need to have something fairly accurate to say before you ever get to that stage.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
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  3. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributing Member

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    I have exactly the same question as @pamedria. My story happens in a fictional time and space that could be Europe in its passage from Medieval times to the Renaissance. Kings, peasants, priests, merchants, all made up. No magic, no mythical creatures.
    All my writing life, I've had a hard time explaining to people when and where the story took place because of this. I grew up not knowing there was such a thing called fantasy, neither did my friends. They kept asking what country and century that was. It had such a devastating effect on me that I stopped writing completely for more than a decade, convinced that I had to write historical fiction or nothing at all. It was very painful and it kept me from evolving in my writing.
    So yes, it's that important.

    This forum was the first place where I had an inkling of what type of fiction I'm writing, so thank you. I was completely in the dark.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Take a look at Guy Gavriel Kay's novel The Lions of Al-Rassan if you want to see an example of the sort of thing you are talking about. Just one example of many, but a good one. I think I posted a longer list of such books in one of the other threads on this.
     
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  5. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, if everything is made up, it's fantasy. I'd say, to earn the genre "historical fiction," it would have to actually offer the reader fairly researched history, even if some things were modified.

    If it's a made up story in a made up place that fits within the confines of our real world at some point in history, I personally am leaning toward general fiction.
     
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  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Did anyone but you and the person that you seem to be parroting express concern about the difference between marketing terms and literary terms?

    And, really, aren't there threads that are more conducive to condescending insults than this one? Or, you could just go outdoors and pick a fight with somebody.
     
  7. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Agree with @ChickenFreak ... I can't understand why everyone is getting fussed about 'genre' being a 'marketing term'? Who actually cares about that? The reality is that when you send your manuscripts off to publishers... you will need to categorize it yourself. You can't just say "let your marketing team decide what this is. I haven't thought about it because it isn't of literary means'. During the process of publishing a marketing team will of course step in... but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm still writing. I just wanted to know whether I could call my book fantasy. Damn. Thanks to those who helped though.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    It's not worth conversing with someone determined to stay uninformed. Other people in the thread are having an actual discussion...
     
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    The fact that it is a marketing term is irrelevant to the discussion. You're correct. The genre still has boundaries, otherwise it wouldn't be much use for marketing or anything else. Most everyone in the thread has realized we are discussing those boundaries, so stick with those folks.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Some of the books I'm talking about are well-researched. They're set in what are basically analogs of the real world. They're fantasy, though, because the real world does not exist in them.
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    @123456789 actually, some reviewers, and perhaps even publishers, have taken to calling such works "historical fantasy," but I think the idea you need such a category for them is a bit much.
     
  12. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    I'm sorry, @pamedria. I didn't mean for my comment about letting the marketing team decide the genre to upset you, if it did. But you started talking about adding elements to your story to suit what you thought was expected of the genre and I didn't want you to think you had to do that. My intention was to encourage you to write your story your way and to not worry about the genre right now. You're still working on it and things might change.

    My story has gone from sci-fi to cyberpunk to gothic to Western to some kind of literary monster. I have no idea what it is. I'm still writing it and adding elements typically associated with certain genres. In the end I'll have to decide what genre best describes it. In the end. When it's done. Then I can look at it as a whole and make a better assessment.
     
  13. mikasa

    mikasa Member

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    Agreeing with hawls on that, adding that if I were writing a story, I wouldn't want to be obligated to put elements in that don't fit. If you start it as fantasy but it evolves into something else, then it is what it is.
     
  14. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Contributing Member

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    Of course it can be fantasy without magic...theres low fantasy and high fantasy.

    Personally I prefer low fantasy.
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't have defined low fantasy as fantasy without magic... is that how you're defining the term?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    It is defined in different ways. One definition is that the world is more normal, with less or even no magic. But it's not synonymous with "no magic."
     
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  17. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Contributing Member

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    For me low fantasy is non magic or a world where magic is very uncommon (the people aren't used to seeing it).
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yes, that's one definition. Magic doesn't have to be eliminated (though it can be, see KJ Parker's engineer books, or The Company), but it is either reduced or eliminated.

    Some people define low v. high fantasy in terms of the characters, themes, &c independently of how much magic is used.
     
  19. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Contributing Member

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    It is a rather confusing topic indeed.
     
  20. Shimario

    Shimario Member

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    I don't think it has to be. Game of thrones doesn't really have magic in it and its friggin popular as hell.
     
  21. Sam Woodbury

    Sam Woodbury Member

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    Although genres overlap, this seems to be fantasy because it is a made up world with a pre-industrial technology. I don't think that magic, elves, or dragons are necessary for something to be fantasy, but the primitive technology seems to be an important element. Star Wars also consists of made up worlds but FTL space travel, laser blasters, and other futuristic elements don't quite fit into my idea of the fantasy genre, although I have heard it described as "space fantasy".

    Richard Adams Shardik and Maia take place in a made up low tech world populated by humans with different religions, but no magic that I recall.
     
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  22. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    There are actually many fantasy novels with current or futuristic technology levels. Most urban fantasy is set in a modern world setting. Plenty of fantasy is set far in the future, where at least remnants of advanced technology are still around. The WH40K setting has space ships, FTL, and the like.
     
  23. Sam Woodbury

    Sam Woodbury Member

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    Sounds like fantasy as a genre is kind of hard to pin down, especially if the distinction between that and other genres has blurred. I would consider Harry Potter to be fantasy and that is set in today's world.

    I generally thought of futuristic settings as science fiction, but ones like Star Wars or Dune probably are better described as fantasy even though they involve interplanetary travel and advanced technology. My introduction to fantasy was JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, and David Eddings where the formula included magic, a setting similar to medieval Europe, and mythical creatures, whereas science fiction was Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, Asimov, Heinlein, etc because it involved interplanetary travel. Now that distinction seems less clear, especially if science fiction is taking on a more focused definition that perhaps places more emphasis on science.
     
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  24. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    @Sam Woodbury the mention of Brooks highlights the difficulty in a way, because those books are set on a futuristic earth after a nuclear holocaust or something.
     
  25. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting discussion. I've only delved into fantasy a couple of times in the past, so I'm not what you'd call an expert by any stretch of the imagination. And reading this discussion has brought to mind a few questions about the story I'm working on now.

    I'm in the plotting stage and this story has:
    • magic,
    • an immortal,
    • a dead mage,
    • a mage-in-training, and
    • a spell that—if it isn't cast—will mean the end of the world as we know it.
    But it has no dragons and it takes place (mostly) in the present day as we experience it.

    Would this be classified as Fantasy? Perhaps, to be more specific, Urban Fantasy?

    It also has tie-ins with science, so perhaps it's Science Fantasy?

    Have I given enough information so someone can make a determination? I can post a blurb if that'll help.
     

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