Hot answers tagged

67

Short answer: J.K. Rowling claims never to have read a fantasy book in her life, and she did just fine. For that matter, J.R.R. Tolkien hadn't read much fantasy either. Long answer: who considers the books on your list "best" in their genre? I haven't heard anything other than ridicule for Wheel of Time and Shannara, and I'm not too fond of Harry Potter ...


54

To answer this question, I think it would be useful to look at The Lord of the Rings. We are explicitly told that Frodo is "chosen" for the task: Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, book 1, chapter 2 - The Shadow of the Past) Yet we do not feel, at ...


42

As a female reader of SF/F who enjoys fantasy books with protagonists of whatever gender and plot, my advice is: Make it interesting. It doesn't matter if the basic plot structure is older than dirt. Your details are what make it fresh. Make the characters people I can believe in, and care about. Don't just write "a strong female protagonist." Write an ...


40

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C Clarke There's a reason that science fiction and fantasy are frequently shelved together - separating the two is usually a fools errand. The Dragonriders of Pern features a preindustrial society where flying, firebreathing, teleporting, and telepathic dragons defend the ...


38

So this is a bit of a frame-challenge answer, but I think it's worth answering: Maybe it's the abilities the MC has, maybe there is a prophecy, maybe it's something in his/hers birth or upbringing: it doesn't matter how, but often a character is, somewhat, "chosen". No one else could fill in his shoes because the MC is not-replaceable. One of these ...


34

First of all, what you list as the "best" books is far from an established canon of fantasy. It is a mix of classics (LotR), modern books with a wide fanbase (Sanderson, GoT) and fresh titles that are hyped and may or may not become classics with time (Red Rising). Note that I'm not bashing your selection, but pointing out a fact: ask a hundred fantasy fans ...


32

Horror works on building tension. Humour breaks it. On the face of it, you've got two cardinally opposed directions here. How do you mix the two? First, there's gallows humour. Gallows humour doesn't undermine the dark tone of the situation. If anything - it drives it home. At the same time, there's strength in being able to laugh at a hard situation, which ...


31

A little before Einstein's time, people were saying there's no sense in going into physics, since almost all the questions have already been answered, we understand everything that can be understood, there's only one or two unanswered issues, and those are going to be solved soon. Then came Einstein and his Relativity Theory, and we discovered there's a lot ...


31

I notice the books you don't like you consider "too long", "too long for something to happen", "too boring"... Despite you saying you like characters, longer books without much happening are likely character-driven; i.e. there is less plot and more character development. There actually isn't a lot of character development in Harry Potter, it is much more ...


31

Add other characters who also fit all the "not replaceable" chosen-one requirements. You could have several heirs, a highly trained merc squad, a prophecy which covers all first-born daughters conceived under a sickle moon, etc. It happens that your MC is the person who's available to do the job, but if she wasn't there, someone else could potentially fit ...


30

I can think of three specific cases where genre conventions can be an important part of the writing process: You are writing a formulaic book, where the familiarity of it is the core of the appeal. It might not be a book that you or I might want to read or write, but well-written formulaic books have a stable core audience that craves the specific, ...


29

Well, it's a very old question, and one that is not likely to get a definitive answer. It is perhaps worth making a distinction between poetry and verse. Verse is a literary form that is characterized by the use of rhythm to achieve literary effects, the most foundational of which is simply to make it easier to remember. Verse arises out of the oral ...


26

This is literary science-fiction. I identified it by taking the genre it definitely must fit in, and then looking for a commonly used, readily understood modifier that subtracts the "gee whiz" elements of the genre, and adds in what for-lack-of-a-better-word we might call more "literary" qualities. It is a well-known, critically acclaimed, and reasonably ...


24

It depends on your target audience. If you are writing for adults, go with the flow and let terrible things happen as long as they make sense in your paradigm. If you are writing for young adults, you might want to pull things back a trifle. My current work is very dark and violent, but I leaven it with humor on occasion. One thing you should do if you ...


22

Are these many layers of misery inflicted upon innocents too much for a reader to handle? You must be careful here: the way you phrase that statement, you appear to be laying the blame on the reader - "the story is good, but the reader is too weak for it". Consider instead the alternative approach: the reader is good, but you have not given him enough ...


22

I think you may be thinking a little too hard about things as the writer. Instead look at things from your characters' perspectives. Unless you're writing an engineer or someone actually building X, they probably won't actually know how it works. Heck, even an engineer building X would only know about the tiny portion they actually work on. The rest is ...


20

The only caveat I would offer to mixing SF and fantasy is not to scramble the level of technology. We are all steeped in Papa Tolkien's example of fantasy, which is Middle Ages technology and pastoral Merrie Olde England settings. This level of industrial advancement doesn't mix well with Star Trek spaceships. So there are a few things you could do to ...


19

Other than an explicit "disclaimer" in an author's note or something, I really don't think you can. If I buy five books set in a dystopian fantasy (I might), I will be disappointed if the sixth book is a romantic comedy. My best suggestion would be to be explicit in a sub-title or something, and call it out. Call this the "XYZ Worlds" series and in the sub-...


19

Books set in the future are Speculative Fiction Speculative fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing fiction with certain elements that do not exist in the real world, often in the context of supernatural, futuristic or other imaginative themes. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, horror, utopian and ...


18

Your novel has a major supernatural element in it: people come back from the dead. No matter how you spin it, the central premise of your novel is supernatural. Correct me if I am wrong, but if you remove this element the story is not at all the same. This supernatural occurrence is a major plot device which the characters discuss in-world. Even if it's ...


17

There is a continuum between poetry and prose. Some prose is very poetic, and some poetry is deliberately prosaic. At one time, the distinction was easier to draw, because poetry was chiefly practiced in strict forms, with set rhythm and rhyme schemes, and thus easily identifiable. Absent the formal markers, I think the core distinction between the two is ...


17

The reason this is often recommended against is because by mixing them you find yourself unable to meet certain genre conventions. Fantasy readers want swords and lords, sci-fi readers want spaceships and aliens. Even more importantly fantasy readers want epic tales of good versus evil, while sci-fi often want to grapple with trans humanist ideas. But trying ...


17

If you can make a good case, you could potentially group the short stories by whatever common thread you want, including author. You can also subgroup them. Some examples: Main point in common: author Secondary point in common: genre This is the most common, I feel. The best of Stephen King's short-stories will definitely be all in the same genre. But you ...


16

This is an interesting question, and while I don't believe there is a "prototypical" plot, let me try to find the answer by defining a contrast between typical male and typical female protagonist. I beg everybody's pardon in advance if my generalization will look offensive. Please keep in mind that the following is my personal observation of genre's tropes ...


16

Being original is more than just avoiding what everyone else is doing. In a sense, doing exactly what everyone else is doing, and doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing are equally derivative --both are just reactions to what you've read before. What readers are actually looking for is a unique sense of you as an author. That's something which ...


16

"Scientific plausibility" can be tempered by exoticism, time, and distance. It can also be flatly ignored because it's just a plot convenience, or substituted as a metaphor for the real story you are telling. "This technology is so exotic that we barely understand it ourselves!" The technology's narrative role is that it pushes credibility, or is difficult ...


15

You know when you are going against the conventions too much when you are feeling forced to go against the conventions just for the sake of going against the conventions. The work then starts to feel like hard work to not be like everyone else instead of putting the effort into meaningful progression of the plot and working on the character traits of your ...


15

is there any room left for not being able to explain odd happenings? Yes, the flip side of high tech detection is high tech concealment. Criminals can know all the tricks used for detection, and have their own high tech to conceal what they've done, or mislead the high tech equipment, or fake the high tech evidence. Or use exactly the same high tech as the ...


15

Keep in mind, genre isn't an exact science, it's a marketing tool, and cross-genre books can actually do very well. Neuromancer is science-fiction noir. Star Wars is science-fiction fairy tale. Harry Potter is fantasy/mystery/teen-series. Books fall outside the lines all the time, that just gets glossed over in the marketing materials! What reader is ...


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