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What do you miss from fantasy novels?

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

  1. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Contributing Member

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    Hmm I guess fantasy does have a tendency to have its fair share of Mary sue's (and the male equivalent I can't remember the name of).

    I will freely admit that I partly made this thread to figure out what I can do to make my own fantasy setting stand out more and already have a lot of inspiration ^^
     
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  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, missed this reply earlier.

    You'll really want to read Perdido Street Station, the first of China Miéville's Bas Lag novels. If you like Dark Fantasy, you should dig it. It's set in a London analogue called New Crobuzon. It's a creepy, dark, scary, wet, unstable place where magic is science and science can range from clockwork automata to spectacularly messed up "moths" that feed on the nightmares of the citizens, leaving them comatose and ravaged. There's no medievalism, no trite, faux archaic English, no prithee tell, or whither goest thou? There's no quest, but instead a mystery (of the police sort) to be solved. There are left wing rebels and right wing reactionaries. Miéville is a very political creature.

    Leave the chainmail and swords behind. Abandon the wattle and daub farm. Strike down every wizard or magician that dares call himself such. Get out of the woods and forest. Stop returning the calls of your elvin friends and delete your dwarvish pals from snapchat. No castles. No wars for thrones. No fucking dragons.

    Once you've emptied your table of all of that, decide what you want to say with your story, because your story is NOT the props and costumes; those are incidental. Once you know what you want to say, start thinking of ways to say it that don't have to happen in the real world, or maybe it's a fucked up version of the real world. Just don't write anything that may at some point even hint at someone eventually uttering the phrase, "M'lord."
     
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  3. IlaridaArch

    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Well one thing I find bit tiresome that we have this amazing universe with all sorts of beings roaming about, and yet the protagonist is always a human. At least with major publications.

    It can't be because it's easy to sympathise with humans. I find that to be belittling towards readers. I believe they would do just fine with another race as our point-of-view.
     
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  4. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Contributing Member

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    I see what youre getting at and that would indeed be an interesting take.

    Not something I could do in my own story as I've only got humans and monsters ^^
     
  5. froboy69

    froboy69 Member

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    Effort. Hahaha, but seriously, sometimes I feel like certain stories/series recycle familiar aspects in fantasy without trying to do something risky and different to it. Now by all means it is hard to be original depending on how you're approaching your story telling, but I can't help to yawn whenever I review other people's work.
     
  6. Ebenezer Lux

    Ebenezer Lux Member

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    I think to an extent, we crave those familiar tropes or there is a bizarre disconnect. That debate will go on forever however. I think fantasy is missing humble protagonists, lately anyway. Maybe that's a call back to the old stuff.
     
  7. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Contributing Member

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    What do you mean by humble protagonists in this case? not sure I follow.
     
  8. ToBeInspired

    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    I mean, new subgenres are always coming out.

    LitRPG started off in Russia, but only came out due to virtual technology advancing.

    Science-Fiction is probably going to get more popular, but I see Fantasy mixing with technology more.
     
  9. G.A. Kainne

    G.A. Kainne Member

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    My issues with stories today are that many characters seem bland and the story line is not as developed as I would like, so I guess the easiest way to describe this is lack of depth in some works. Fantasy is not what's lacking it's some peoples laziness showing through the pages.
     
  10. ToBeInspired

    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    It's simply becoming easier and easier to produce a novel. Also, the market is becoming flooded. It's like singing or acting, there will be people who would be terrific if they pursued it... but the harder it becomes to become successful the less likely some people will be to try.
     
  11. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Active Member

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    I like when fantasy takes something from the modern world and allows us to examine it closer. I once wrote a paper in college for a professor who was very dismissive of the fantasy genre- the paper was "In Defense of Fantasy". In it I examined the qualities of fantasy that make it such a compelling genre for so many. One of the major points I came up with was that "fantasy is the bars of the cage between us and the monster". The "monster" being something that scares us, something we are afraid to discuss. Take for example, Mercedes Lackey and her Heralds of Valdemar series. There is a particular trilogy I am referring to here- the books Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, and Magic's Price. Written in the early 90s, they feature a prominent gay couple and the love they feel for each other. By taking what, at the time, was a very controversial subject, and placing it in a fantasy realm, it allowed readers to view it close-up without feeling as threatened by it.
    Love and death are two major topics that tend to scare people on some level. Fantasy deals with these things in ways that allow us to examine them closely without feeling like they are too real and in our face. Hence my metaphor, that it is the bars of the cage between us and the monster. It gives us that safety net to examine controversial subjects. And that, I think, is what is too often missing from modern fantasy. There are fewer and fewer "monsters" confronted.
     
  12. Iridium

    Iridium New Member

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    If the question was about what I miss, then I'm just going to go and say that I don't miss anything. That funny feeling I sometimes get when I start reading a new book and it reminds me of Lord of the Rings? I'd say it's nostalgia.

    If the question is about what is missing (a completely different question), then ooh boy... I am not really sure that I could objectively point something out. Sometimes I think that I've just read too much fantasy and it doesn't feel as exciting anymore. Now I haven't read Game of Thrones, but the series really made me feel like I am child again, looking at my very first, stunning (although quite brutal and unnecessarily pornographic) fantasy piece. I am also a huge fan of grey characters, but I feel like they are incredibly hard to write well. Passion from the side of the author is often missing nowadays. A lot of people seem to get into the industry just for the money and whatever other reasons they have. It is also the fact that so many people are publishing in general. Men, women, children, vegetables, everybody wants to get published. And since there are so many ways to do it, they go for it. I could write a long erotic fantasy novel about an elf who is really into dwarves, and make them use magic to create their sex toys. And after 50 shades of grey got published, who the hell knows, maybe my novel will also be really popular. Quality is lacking. And don't get me started on how the humanity is degrading, because we are. Today people will stuff all their questionable values and principle into books and TV.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like to be surprised with something new. The way I was surprised with Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy. Or Terry Pratchett's Diskworld series. Or Kage Baker's Company series. (Well, basically ANYTHING by Kage Baker surprises me, in a good way.) Or Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. What I don't want to read is another Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings. Those are good/great stories, but they've been written. I don't want something derivative of theirs, I want something new.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Baker is always great.

    You might look at Devices and Desires, by KJ Parker; The City and the City, by China Mieville; Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books, of course; The Red Tree or The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R. Kiernan; or Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I read the Mervyn Peake trilogy many moons ago ...although I can't say I've ever re-read it. It was a difficult read, for many reasons. I've read a bit of China Mieville, but only short stories. He's definitely on my list. I'll certainly keep the others in mind. Thanks for the recommendations.
     
  16. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's missing is authenticity. Not all non fantasy novels achieve this, but most fantasy novels by default don't. If I pick up a fantasy novel at random, I will almost certainly feel like I'm reading a book written by a pale nerd who wouldn't even be able to lift a sword, let alone know how to use one.

    Who wrote authentic fantasy? Well, Tolkien, because he effectively invented a genre, using real mythology. Lord Dunsany- the guy was a baron in an Irish castle. Mervyn Peake, because Gormenghast is more literary than fantasy, and I consider literary fiction (also, historical) to be authentic by nature.
     
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  17. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    I'd like to see the social and political impacts of the introduction of magic : laws and ethics concerning the use of magic, revolutions in warfare, etc.

    Without that, fantasy is just alternate reality medieval with flashy lights thrown in.
     
  18. Seraph751

    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole... Contributor

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    The adventuring aspect. If you are going to create a world and various cultures show it off. I love the uniqueness and quirks of these various worlds. Especially the hysterical cans and can't do's of the different adventurers culturally.
     
  19. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Active Member

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    I love fantasy, it's by far the most inspirational, giving permission to create and be unique. My problem is that so many fantasy worlds only take it so far, enough to not seem just like the last one. That's sort of what I'm doing with my novel, trying to break out from the rest of them. If there's magic, and any good fantasy has it, then it's usually always the same in some way. Spellsinger was one that had a unique twist, but while I enjoyed those books, the talking animals and stuff really drew me out of it, and it seemed more like a spoof rather than a legit, serious fantasy world. When it got to the action, I couldn't take it seriously enough to feel a threat.

    Anyway, what I'm writing, and what I want to see, is a true sword and sorcery world that revamps the rules a bit more. I'm also tired of the standard dwarf, elf, goblin, troll combo. I like dragons too much to just get rid of them, but even they may need to be tweaked a bit. Don't get me wrong, I like elves and dwarves and stuff, but it's been overdone, let's leave them in the past where they were good and thrived in the genre. I'm recreating my elves, for example, and they won't be called elves, but at least will let everyone know "this is the elf that you get for this book". I'm not using dwarves at all, instead created other races entirely. I'm probably just going to have the "humans" be the miners and such (created a name for them as well since that's rare in most cases).

    I'm making the changes that I'd like to see, and honestly it's rebuilt from the ground up. I'm borrowing some ideas, and mixing them with others, but nothing is ever 100% unique either...this is just as close as I can get it is all. I'm also changing the formula for how the plots develop. The MC doesn't start out as a badass...they become one over time, and in a very interesting way I might add.
     
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  20. rktho

    rktho Active Member

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    How do you feel about Urgals?
     
  21. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I know it's a little unfair to react this way, but I do that too. But I guess that's just what I want as a reader: authenticity, and if it's not in the book, I'll put it away.

    I don't expect especially medieval fantasy writers to go and learn horseback riding, fencing, archery, or how to survive in the wilderness, but I do want to do that stuff myself for real. Writing gives me the best "excuse" to take up new hobbies and do the stuff my characters do. So I ride, I've learned fencing and grappling based on medieval manuscripts, and even took up archery even though I'm absolutely terrible at it.

    It's perfectly possible to write about these things convincingly without ever having straddled a horse, but I guess I like to have that first-hand experience myself. And I love it when a fantasy book conveys a sense of authenticity--despite being fantasy.
     
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  22. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're right, but I also think too much authentic experience can sometimes be a trap - authors either get obsessed with passing along every single detail of what they've learned, or they refuse to bend authenticity even a little bit even if it would make the book a better story, or, and this one is trickier...

    There's sometimes an element of truthiness (borrowed from Stephen Colbert) in fiction, a phenomena where an untrue thing becomes so widely believed that it takes on power of its own. Someone who researches travel by horseback will likely come to realize that while it's physically easier than walking, it's really not that much faster over long distances, not if the same horses are used for the whole trip. But we're used to the fictional version of horseback riding, so if we write about someone on horseback starting a day after someone walking and not easily catching up, we'd think it's a plot hole. So then the author has to either spend a load of time explaining this truth to the audience or ignore it and go with the more popular version of horse travel, with the reality niggling away in the back of her mind as she writes...

    None of which is to say that we shouldn't try to get authentic experiences. I just think we have to make sure we're using the experiences to write effective fiction, and I don't think that's as automatic as it might initially seem.
     
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  23. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I agree with you there, 100 %.

    I also don't want three pages of the author showing off how much they learned on their first horseback riding class. Like "ooh, look I did my research, wheee!" Nah, in the end I value a good story and compelling characters over technical detail. The Witcher books are utterly ridiculous when it comes to combat, but I'm entertained, so I gobble them up like it was ice cream on bacon.

    And you know, sometimes my reactions are stupid and irrational in any case. I was reading this urban fantasy novel and the author dared insult Glock owners. I'm like, f*ck off. You clearly know nuthin' of guns!!!

    But I do appreciate a touch of authenticity, and it does niggle me--even with the Witchers--when something silly or "unrealistic" happens.
     
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  24. Lifeline

    Lifeline Out of the Night Supporter Contributor

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    Hold on here! 'Unrealistic' is not a mark of wrong authenticity. It's a mark of bad writing. In fantasy, in any genre really, happenings must be realistic (i.e. following a chain of logic that I can follow, however twisted that may turn out to be) within the framework of the book and the setting (and yes, that includes magical setting), or you annoy me to no end and I won't finish the offending book.

    'Authenticity' spells something deeper: it's a step further than realistic writing. I admit, that may be a philosophic preference. Authentic writing tells the reader 'Yes. Been there, done that.' You find this kind of writing usually in memoirs, and the authenticity is NOT transferred by the author stating at the start that this is a memoir. The writing itself spells it out in the way it tells its intention: to tell a specific truth.
     
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  25. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't understand the first sentence in your post, sorry. What's wrong authenticity? Something inauthentic? Other than that, I'm not sure if I'm astute enough to tell a difference between authentic story-telling and realistic story-telling. I mean, if I were to describe a thriller by Chris Ryan or Andy McNab, I think I'd use those words interchangeably. They are fiction writers (well, they have published non-fiction too), who've "been there, done that."

    By the way, I put unrealistic into quotation marks for a reason. This is because I've grown wary of using that word to describe something fantastical or non-credible; it's a fairly subjective word.

    That aside, I think realism and authenticity are related. Most people have probably thought to themselves "pfft, that's unrealistic" when something that doesn't seem quite right happens, like some noob picks up a sword and puts some professional in their place in a duel = something the pale nerd @123456789 mentioned might write.
     
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