Writing in the Fantasy Genre by Melissa A. Joy
For some time now, many fantasy authors and some readers have come to the conclusion that some of the more adventurous and iconic aspects of the genre are either outdated, clichéd or overused. However, can that not be said of all genres? Literary fiction typically covers different aspects of everyday life, romance is about falling in love, and crime often involves murder (sometimes involving a whodunit scenario) – just to name a few. I’ve read a few articles recently from writers complaining about the use of: dragons, elves, dwarves, goblins and other well-known fantasy races and beasts; plots about prophecies and chosen ones; third-person omniscient perspectives; prologues; and last but not least, novels that run in a series. If I may be completely honest, it bothers me. Why? It bothers me because some of the best fantasy I’ve ever read has been about adventure, and has involved one of more of these supposedly outlawed concepts on the basis that they’re outdated, clichéd or overused.
Most novels I have read in the last few years have not necessarily been bad, but they’ve ground almost to a halt; they’ve become, for want of a better term, quite mundane. It’s not always a bad thing, for sometimes if you’ve been reading about adventures for a long time it’s like having been on a very long holiday. You may sometimes need a break from all the exhilaration, but when you start noticing a distinct lack of adventure if you’re a fan of adventurous “wild” fantasy like me, it becomes frustrating when you can’t find anything new that gives you the fix you’ve been searching for. That was when I started searching for older fantasy novels. Some of those I chose I’d read before, and others I hadn’t, but I was glad of them. They gave me that “ah, finally something adventurous I can immerse myself in!” feeling. Many authors I’ve read the work of lately have had fantastic ideas and interesting stories, but they’ve not really taken them to the kind of level that could have made them truly great. They’ve come across as a bit too “tame”. Where then does that leave me as a fantasy author?
First of all, at the time of writing this, I’m new. In fact I’m very new. I’ve been working on the development of my first novel, Keys of the Origin, and the world it is set in for well over a decade. I make no secret of the fact that I: write about dragons and elves; include prologues; have a plot about chosen ones and prophecy (though with a bit of a difference); a third-person omniscient narrator; and I will be typically writing stories in series. So I’m doing most things these people are calling for to cease. I will make no apologies for what I’m doing. There are others out there who probably feel much the same way as I do, and as it has been said many times before, if you cannot find the kind of book you want to read you should write it yourself. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. The fantasy and science fiction genres have such broad scopes for possibilities that I think it’s safe to say that fantasy and science fiction authors should write whatever they want to write. None of us can ever hope to please everybody, so why restrain yourself just because a handful out there happen to be bored of the traditional concepts that authors such as Tolkien set the benchmark for? Admittedly I’m quite the critic and I can usually find several things to complain about when reading books, but I’m sure some will be equally as critical of my writing at some point.
Fantasy writing should always be imaginative and immersive whether it’s wild and adventurous or more relaxed and tame. I never want to be sitting looking through a window into another world; I want to feel like I am actually there in that world, so the writing really needs to be of good descriptive quality for me to consider it exceptionally well-written. Otherworldly concepts must be thoroughly thought out and as many of the creases need to be ironed out before publication, otherwise if you find you start struggling to make sense of your own inventions, it might be too late by the time your book is published. For example, the world of Aeldynn has a complex world system with racial hierarchies in the usage of magic, an intricate network of realms, and thousands of years worth of history and lore. Keeping track of it all is a bit of a chore, but it’s nevertheless rewarding and well worth the effort. I consider myself privileged to have been gifted with such a vast imagination, and it is my firm belief that all fantasy and science fiction writers – whether already published or as yet unpublished – should honour their own gifts far more than they actually do. Dreams don’t need to remain only dreams; if you work hard at the worlds and characters you create and don’t give up on them, you may one day find yourself published in one form or another.