Who here doesn’t love the fantasy genre? (What’s that? You don’t? … Um, you may be following the wrong blog, sir/ma’am.) It’s got everything, doesn’t it? Heroes and villains, epic adventures, luscious romances, battles and glory; in a way, it encompasses nearly everything that entertains us. And with such a massive, widely-known, and widely loved genre as it is, at this point in its history there are, quite simply, certain unspoken (or sometimes spoken) truths and rules to it that are kind of set in stone. I’d like to take a look at a few of them today.
(The following truths are in no particular order.)
Despite what people say, they’re far more likely to connect with the familiar than something out of left-field.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I’ve mentioned this point briefly in another post on this blog, but it’s worth saying again. People are attracted to those things that are similar to whatever other thing they experienced that made them feel. Yes, just feel. How many of you had a favorite T.V. show that you used to watch ten to fifteen years ago that’s been long discontinued? Ever thought or remarked, Man, I really wish they would make a series like *whatever your show was*. That was a great show. But hold on! Aren’t you saying that they should *gasp* do something that’s already been done??!! What happened to making things fresh and new?? HOW COULD YOU!!!
But, yeah, that’s exactly what you’re saying, and that’s exactly what people mean in general when they say things like “fresh and new.” At this point in time, there is literally no completely new story that anybody can tell. It will somehow at some point cross paths with another story that has already been told. All we want is for the story to be presented to us in a different way. A way that makes us feel those familiar feels that we’ve felt before, but also makes us see things from a different perspective.
That is so largely what fantasy fans thrive on. There’re more hero-goes-on-epic-quest tales, assassin/thief-antihero tales, magical-being-and/or-told-from-the-point-of-view-of-what-are-usually-considered-bad-guys-such-as-orcs-or-whatever-serpentine-anthropomorphic-being-one-decides-to-come-up-with tales than there are realms of the earth! But so long as people get the “feels” from the story and it makes them think or see things in even a slightly different light, they’re more than happy.
Your novel ain’t no novel if it’s under 80,000 words long.
Do you think I’m kidding? Check out this list from Goodreads of the “Best Fantasy of 2018.” (https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-fantasy-books-2018) Now click on any of those books, any of them, and check their length.
It’s basically an unspoken rule these days that one’s fantasy book must attain unto a certain length to even be considered epic in the proper sense. This has had some interesting effects on the author’s community. On one hand, there’s a nice niche for those who prefer to keep their books to a more compact length (novellas are a big thing, you know). On the other hand, those with the pluck to find, wrangle, capture, and subdue 80,000 words or more into a single, flowing narrative find that they have attained a nod of recognition from the fantasy powers that be.
People like novels of any length, generally speaking, but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a large swath of fantasy book readers that preferred novels of longer length. Personally, I think that this is due to the fact that since we read fantasy to get lost in a new and intriguing world, we want our experience in that world to be as long as entertainingly possible. Neither of my novels (available for purchase here!) are below 100,000 words. But that’s not because I set out to reach a great and lofty word count, but because the story I wanted to tell required its proper space (and I haven’t heard many complaints about the length so far, just sayin’…).
Fantasy authors are almost never “normal.”
Now before anyone jumps to any conclusions here, hear me out. Name five, no, three of your favorite—key word—favorite fantasy authors. Now answer the following questions: Do they write under their own name, or a pen name? How is their biography worded? How do they present themselves in their bio photos? What are their social media accounts filled with?
If the answers to at least two of these were unconventional ones (to say the least), then you probably see what I mean. Fantasy authors are the ones who prattle on about ancient cultures and the connections to mythic realms within real ones. Our drinks of choice are either coffee, tea, or wine (take that one to the bank). We say weird things on social media and in real life, and all our friends think we’re…let’s just say odd. But that’s just who we are. We’re the eccentric individuals in a mass of norms, and we output that in our writing. I always say to people who ask, that, “The best way to get to know me is to read my work.”
Truthfully though, it’s our job to be weird, contemplative, disorganized, and peculiar as authors. It’s what gives us our zing. And what’s so bad about that?
Good fantasy always makes better books than movies.
This might be a hard one to accept for some people, but it is so truly the case. Good, solid fantasy, stories that pull us into new worlds that we believe in, whose characters speak with voices that we can hear, whose adventures keep us up late at night turning pages, never measure up the same way on the big screen. Why, you may ask? I’d say two reasons.
One is that no matter how true a director tries to stay to a story, the creative license that is taken to turn a book into a workable film is always vast. As awe-inspiring and tremendously well-done as the Lord of the Rings films were (we are NOT talking about The Hobbit films), so much creative license was exercised over the source material that it’s not funny. It worked and succeeded so well, however, because the director did his best to stay true to the original story. But the changes were made, and even though most of them (most) were done for reasonable reasons, there were still a surprising number of people who actually were not happy with said changes.
Which brings us to reason number two: No matter how well done a movie made from a novel is, it isn’t going to make you feel the same way that the novel did. Why? Because with the novel, the author guided your mind with his or her writing to see the story for yourself. All of the joys and triumphs, sorrows and failures, love, hatred, and departures with no return were seen through your own mind’s eye. With a movie, you are watching a director’s interpretation of the story. One of the greatest examples of this truth is just how many people complain at whatever actor is cast to play a main character from their favorite stories. “That’s not what Sheila Hammerfist looks like! Her hair is red, not blonde!” “Why did they cast a kid to play Kerrin? He’s seventeen in the book!” “I can’t believe the guy they chose to play Tarr the Warrior. Tarr’s got muscles on his muscles. That actor looks like he couldn’t lift a sandwich!” And so on and so forth.
But this is one truth that I, for one, quite like. Let the books, the original creations of the authors, stand proud in the strength of their tales and love of their fans. It is the things that affect us the deepest that we remember the longest.
Anyway, those are some of the more prominent unspoken truths and rules of the genre. Do you guys agree or disagree? And what do you think are some others?