Monday, July 18, 2011

Don't do this

Someone asked me the other day, "You've discussed what good fantasy must contain.  How about telling us what we should not do in writing fantasy." 
Alright, me buckos!  Strap yourself in.  It could be a bumpy ride.

Almost any fantasy series you read today is, basically, a 'quest' story.  A group of misfits get together and they go off trawling through dangerous waters in search of some sacred stone/sword/orb/temple/book/ or recipe which is going to save--or destroy--all of mankind.  Year in, year out . . . fantasy boils down to a quest story.  You could say even the Harry Potter series was a quest story.  But with a difference.

The Potter tales disguised the quest tale (the quest being to first, figure out why Harry Potter survived his first encounter with Lord Voldermort--and secondly, finding a way to destroy the arch enemy)  by wrapping the tale up in the garments of a 'coming to age' story.  So that's my first 'don't'.

     1.  Don't make your quest tale so damned obvious.  Better yet; don't write a quest story at all!

A copy of of a copy of a copy, brother.  Ever pick up a novel and start reading and by the time you got to page six you'd swear you had read that story--and knew all the characters--like the back of your hand?  Writing a quest story is bad enough.  But writing one using the same kind of characters that just about every other fantasy writer have used is really getting to be a nuisance.  So here's rule number two:

    2.  Character development!  Throw a midget in the mix as maybe the main hero.  Or
         a rat.  Or a demented hair dresser!  Find someone else other than  the heroic figure
         to be 'the man.'

Throw in Harry Potter's Dumbledore and Lord of the Rings Gandolf (at least in the movies) and what do you get?  The exact same figure. Both magicians!  Both with long beards!  Both all-knowing!  They might as well be twins.  Hell, they may be!

Rule number three:

     3.  Does everyone have to stay in the same damp castle/swamp/cottage?  Or ride the same damn

We limit ourselves when we do not take the time to describe a scene properly.  And what is the proper way to describe a scene, you ask?  My answer;  describe something to give it three-dimensions.  Or a personality.  Or a quirkiness.  Be brief in your sentence structure.  Don't overlay it with all those adjectival clauses.  But don't skimp on description.   And make no mistakes, brother;  this is the hardest rule of all.  Deciding what is too much or not enough.  Only you will know.  But it'll take a hell of a lot of practice.

One could go on and on with rules.  So I'll be brief and jot down only one more rule.

    4.  Screw the rules!  Just write a damn good story that's full of color, life, and a sense of adventure!

Some of the greatest tales told broke just about ever rule written about how to write a good story.  If you got the talent, baby, don't limit yourself with a bladder full of useless rules!  Explore.  Imagine.  Be creative!  Become a story teller first--and then sit down and write.  Observe the world around you.  Read, for chrissakes!  Read everything.  Leave nothing out.  You'll be surprised at what might come along while you're reading about the sex life of a Tsetse Fly.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Thank you bunches for answering my question so quickly! I've discovered from what you've said, that I'm doing it about half right and half wrong. So, being an optimist about my own writing, I was very encouraged by this blog!