Monday, 5 November 2012

Thoughts of Fantasy

I didn’t quite explain myself very well yesterday when I mentioned the new schedule. Mondays are about writer/novel based thoughts while Wednesdays are all about progress. Finally, Fridays are focused on my experiences of writing. Today I’m going to focus on the Fantasy genre and my thoughts on this. But first I just want to tell you all that this post almost didn’t get written. Not because I don’t know what to talk about but because I’m exhausted. I’ve proved to myself and the people that I work with that I need to get at least 8 hours sleep if I’m going to be a functioning person. Not falling asleep until half past 12 at night and then being woken up at 4 before getting up at 7 does not make me an awake girl. So if this post seems a little weird and rambling, completely lacking in coherence that’s why. Anyway, on with the post.

I’ve always loved fantasy. It was the first kind of story that I read. How could it not be when my childhood readings consisted of fairytales and Enid Blyton stories. Yes, many of her short stories, aimed at the younger children were fantasy. How could they not be when they featured princesses and elves and magic, all set in a far away kingdom long ago. I loved them all. They just gave me this chance to escape into a land of make believe and that need for escapism has stayed with me, even today.

When I got older I started to read The Hobbit, before taking a brief foray into the world of R.L.Stine and other horror writers. I was always drawn back to fantasy though. And I’m talking old school epic fantasy here; The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Shannara. That last one is one I know I’ve mentioned before, in particular here and here, and there’s a reason. I started reading the series when I was about 12 and since then have continued to read it. I like seeing how Brook’s writing has developed and how, as he’s grown more confident in his writings he’s moved away from common fantasy tropes and instead worked with some very original material of his own.

The one thing all epic fantasy shares though is that fight for survival. The characters are always striving to combat and beat a foe that is much stronger than them, a foe that threatens to destroy the world the good, and not so good, guys live in. Always though, the author manages to make this epic idea a lot more personal for the characters, showing their families and homes, essentially the things that the protagonists are fighting to protect. It’s a nice thing really, showing what it is that these characters that you follow, for almost 500 pages, are willing to risk their lives to protect. Often they die and that makes their sacrifice bitter sweet. The thought that the authors have so much skill that they can make a huge analogy about the battle between good and evil and bring it down to the bare bones, personal level is humbling. It’s the mark of a good fantasy writer in my book.

The inability to do this, is in turn, the sign of a bad one. If there’s no real threat to the world, if the challenge isn’t dire enough, if there just isn’t enough motivation, personal motivation for the characters to battle on then the words seem wooden and the characters lacking. I rarely see this in the books I read. I don’t know if I’m just lucky or the writers of fantasy are just that good. There’s also the struggle with creating a good antagonist faced by many authors. It’s too easy to create a villain that’s just hammy or just plain rubbish. Occasionally too much is revealed too soon and the tension goes; particularly if the villain is so laughably one dimensional that you’re left wondering how on earth they got to be such a threat in the first place.

Most appealing for me about fantasy is the Worlds they are set in. Vast tracts of land with centuries of history and culture created for these stories to unfold in. It amazes me that one person can keep all of this on track and under control, particularly when I can barely remember what I did last week. The art of world-building is an interesting one, it has dozens of websites devoted to it, but many of the great fantasy authors created their worlds before the advent of the internet. They created them when resources and books were hard to come by or lugging a 700 page book on human anthropology back from the library was painful and inconvenient. I have the greatest respect for those authors, particularly as I work on building my own world.

I could go on for many more words but they would more than likely be hopeless fan-girling and gradually lose all meaning. Or I’d start repeating myself. So, before I get any more incoherent than I may already be I will end with this;

I have moved away from epic fantasy in my reading, and my writing, particularly in the last year or so. This is quite sad for me really as it’s a genre I love. Now though I’m turning back to it, particularly once NaNoWriMo is over. Ideas have started to form, I’ve gotten some amazing sounding epic fantasy novels lined up for reading and the stories are coming together. I see bright things for fantasy in my future; once NaNo is over. I see bright things, new and interesting things that I plan to share with you all once I’ve got them straight in my head.

Keep Writing.

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