Okay, maybe not "faux-pas" but it started with an 'f' so I went with it!
This week we are blogging about what five things we would like to see in the genre we write in. So with that in mind, I have a confession to make. I don’t read books in the same genre that I write. Now before you start throwing things at my head, I do read Epic Fantasy, just not anything released in the last five years. I prefer to watch fantasy movies rather than read the books. Why? Well, that is what I’m going to blog about today. I quit reading Epic Fantasy because of these things.
1. Voice and Style – I find sometimes that Epic Fantasy novels are written in such a way that I have to make myself smarter in order to read the book. I don’t feel the need to have my old English dictionary handy in order to understand the story. If I can’t understand the story without a dictionary, I lose interest in reading it. Usually if I don’t know a word in a story, I can at least understand the meaning based on context – what else is going on before and after the word was used. However, in some fantasy that I have read, I can read a page two or three times and still have no clue what is going on. This isn’t the most important thing that this genre needs, but it is the main reason why I prefer movies over books. It might not happen as often as I think, but it did in the books that I happened to pick up. And it's not just actual word definitions - it's merely the style the story was written in. I'd like to see Fantasy stories that aren't -- well I guess the word would be 'poetic'. A more relaxed style would be nice to see, I think.
2. Dragons – This has two points really. I hate stories where dragons are portrayed as the evil ones or the villains. They eat people and destroy villages. I also don’t like dragons that have this obsession with becoming human. This goes along with originality I guess as it seems that many stories I read about dragons have one of these elements in it. I prefer stories where dragons have a more positive influence. I see dragons as guardians and protectors not out right killers.
3. Faeries – (Yes, with an ‘e’ not an ‘i’) Besides my spelling pet peeve over this word, I also find two things missing with faeries here. 1 - Lack of faeries in stories geared for adults. Elves usually seem to take the spotlight here. 2 – When there are faeries they follow the same pattern of being tiny creatures that help things grow and the seasons change. While that’s cute, I would like to see more faeries that do NOT do these things. In my novel I purposely avoided the faery stereotypes in order to have this in my genre. I’d also like to see a more adult type of story with faeries in it as main characters. (Oh and as far as artwork is concerned, there is a lack of male faeries depicted. I'd like to see more male faeries become great heroes in stories and art.)
4. Character Development – Movies even lack this point to me. The stories focus on the magic and the world and the epic adventure the characters are on but it seems to lack deep character development. Now, this is merely my opinion. I’m sure others out there will disagree with me on this point. However, this is just what I see in what I’ve read and in movies. However, given the amount of fantasy I used to read, I can honestly say I don’t remember a single character out of any of those stories. But I remember the plot and the world they were in. Tolkien did a FANTASTIC job with his characters. Perhaps he just spoiled me and I subconsciously compare other books to his. Do I hate plot driven stories? No, of course not. I would just like to see more memorable characters come from this genre. This relates to numbers two and three really. I want characters that stand out, that make me love and hate them, that make me laugh and cry. I want to feel like I made a new friend.
5. And this last point might be more of a technical thing rather than an actual story thing. I want to see Epic Fantasy (or all Fantasy for that matter) to separate itself from Sci-fi. Sci-fi is great, I’m not knocking it. However, I have searched for magazines and groups to join, but pretty much every time it’s a combined thing. I have also seen Horror grouped together with these two! It would be nice to see the genre itself be able to be on its own. Is there a Sci-fi Fantasy combo? Yes. I’m not talking about things like Avatar. But in my head, I don’t see how Lord of the Rings relates to Star Wars. (Okay that was a huge leap, but you get my point.) Sure, they are both epic stories of adventure and the battle between good and evil. But look at the differences. Steel swords vs light sabers. Elves vs Wookies. So, I’d just like to see Epic Fantasy (and Sci-Fi) branch out to stand on their own in groups and magazines. (Which most likely means a demand for more people to write in these genres, especially Epic Fantasy. There are a lot of Fantasy stories out there and authors too. However, it seems the authors I actually meet nowadays are Urban Fantasy writers.)
And on the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars analogy, the more I think about it now, the more I realize how much in common they do have. So, it might be a bad analogy but still. One is clearly Sci-fi and the other clearly Fantasy. Hopefully you got my point anyway!