Signs You Might be Reading/Writing a Bad Fantasy Novel

I’ve gotten some flack for open dislike of most modern fantasy writing.  Ironically, I like the genre itself but I just find myself sorely disappointed with the gristmill of novels over the last few decades.   Most seem formulaic and shallow much like the industrially produced Romance genre.  With that in mind, I offer up this check list for fantasy writers and readers; Signs You Might be Reading/Writing a Bad Fantasy Novel*:

1) The quality of the novel is inversely proportional to the number of new words the author invents to describe common items. Bonus points if the term is never adequately explained OR is explained to ridiculous encyclopedic lengths.  Example: The Harplesh (foot soldier) splintered the Bevdek (shield) with his mighty Lammaphoon (sword).

2) The Golden Age (aka “Back in My Day…”).  There invariably exists a previous era that was more advanced and/or superior in some way; Socially, Technologically, Magically, etc. Example: The Pandoori of Fleghmar (Street Magicians, see rule 1) were said to be able to produce rabbits from their top hats with mighty magics lost to our age.

3) The Impossible Possible.  Some commonly held aspect of the world that defines will obviously be broken or overcome by the Hero/Villain. Bonus points if this event has been Prophesized Since the Days of Yore.  Example: But the last Pink Dragon died eons ago!  Come Chapter XIV…. Hey look, I found a baby pink dragon in the haystack!

4) The Nobody at the Center of the Universe. The most important person in the story must be an absolutely nobody.  Bonus points if the “nobody”  is secretly an “extreme somebody”. I don’t think I even need to point out the sympathetic ego-gratification at work here between character and author/reader.  Example: Darla the Dungherder saved the Kingdom! Who ever thought a Dungherder could wield such an awesome Lammaphoon.

5) Widgetus Maximus.  Some object is invariable more important and world defining that any of the people that interact with it.   Example: Boofang knew that all that mattered was returning the Pandoori Top Hat to the Temple in Flegmar before the author introduced the far more interesting Elven Princess in Chapter XXI.”

6) The Increasingly Inaccurately Named Trilogy (apologies to Mr. Adams).  Faced with the cummulative pressures of rabidly single-minded fans, mounting debt from a success-inflated lifestyle, the inability to create a new series, and Mephistolean Publishers, the author’s original Trilogy is now a Quadilogy of Dodecahedrons.

7) Puns are a Hate Crime.  If I ever tell you a pun (and I will), its an act of cruelity, but that’s no excuse to base your entire Quadilogy of Dodecahedrons around a never-ending series of them.  This is the one exception to the disclaimer about being first to use any of these devices. Don’t, just don’t.

* Authors that were the FIRST to use any of these devices receive a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, non-transferrable to new works/series or relatives.

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2 Responses

  1. Speaks says:

    Actualy #4 is a standard trope in all storytelling. Luke Skywalker, Mohammed, Jesus, Jason, Oedipus, etc. I could go on and on.

    Go read Joseph Campbell.

  2. Mystech says:

    I think that brings up an important difference between oral/cultural tradition and commercial/industrial entertainment (all but one of your examples arguably falls in the former category).

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