View Full Version : Elements of a good fantasy novel

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Pages : [1] 2

December 31st, 2001, 06:11 PM
Hi. I know just about every genre has staple elements to it. What do you think are the the most critical elements for a writer to include in a fantasy novel?

December 31st, 2001, 08:10 PM
Good characters that you haven't read a hundred times before. Too many fantasy novels take these cookie cutter character types and throw them into some story we've read before, only it all has different names. A character needs to have a personality, one that a reader will remember belonging to that specific character. Often times, long after reading fantasy novels, the characters become nothing more than a name. You don't really remember any details about the characters, because you've read a million others like them. This is, in my opinion, something to take note of.

I think creativity is also an important factor. It's nice to read fresh ideas. It's nice to read a story that feels like nothing else you've ever read. Sticking with convention, unless you have a good twist on it or can really write that "conventinal" style well, is usually not all that gripping. But stories that provoke thought or take you somewhere you've never imagined are usually some of the best books.

There are, of course, many many more things to consider, but I'm tired at the moment and am having trouble keeping my eyes open http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif.

December 31st, 2001, 10:58 PM
Above all, a good novel to me is defined by the power of its story. So many of the books I've read are filled with wonderful characters and well-written narrative, yet suffer from a severe lack of direction, continuity, amd most important of all, plot!

IMO, it seems that some of our modern-day storytellers have forgtten the most important part of writing a novel: a good story!

January 1st, 2002, 08:51 AM
Hmm... I have to disagree with erebus on that. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif I think that the characters are the most important element in writing (that doesn't mean I think the plot not important!). But this really goes down to person taste. Personaly, if I don't find any of the characters interesting enough... hmmm... perhaps I won't quit the story --I rarely do that--, but I won't be satisfied either.
Anyway, people usually tell me that what they like in my stories is the characters.

January 1st, 2002, 04:16 PM
Like everything with writing, the answer is totally subjective.

There are certain elements that should be present in any work of literature, be it fantasy, mystery, romance, or any other genre. I think many inexperienced fantasy writers forget that the story isn’t about magic or the fantastic, the story is about the people.

There is nothing inherently wrong or shallow or even lazy about writing an epic adventure story that has already been done a dozen times. We are writers. We write stories to entertain. Sometimes we only want to entertain ourselves. Sometimes we want to create something that will reach beyond ourselves. There is no denying that the public wants those epic adventure stories, otherwise Jordan, Eddings, and others would not be “best sellers”. If you want to write a story that will reach those masses, then you will pay attention to all the elements of writing: plot, characters, point of view consistency, spelling, grammar, sentence and paragraph structure, climax, and a dozen other details.

So I guess my opinion is that the story (plot) is what is important, and the story (plot) is about the characters.

January 2nd, 2002, 02:56 AM
The staples of fantasy, in my humble opinion (I hate abbreviations, pet peeve, no ofense to those who use IMHO)...

1) A novel set in a world which could NEVER be, as opposed to sci-fi which sets its stories in worlds which could POSSIBLY be.
2) Although many would disagree with me, I believe the existence of or belief in magic to be a quintessential ingredient to fantasy.

From there, it's all in the writing. You could write a story using dragons and elves and set in a traditional Medieval European setting, or you could write a story set in Stone Age North America peopled with humans and mastadons...but what makes it fantasy is the element of magic or fantastic aspects which our physical universe does not allow. You dig?

January 2nd, 2002, 05:29 AM
Hello, first let me say, this is my first post... I've been lurking for a week or so. Cool place here.

I'll give my take on this one:

Writing, Characters & Development, Story - All must be good, or the book goes back to the library. Any genre. This is a must and it should go without saying that all of these are expected to be of a certain quality.

I feel the story can be a re-hash of old tales, or a totaly new story. There are those who would argue that all stories are just retellings of ancient tales (7,10,14, ??? depends on who you talk to) I'm fine with reading a story that is very close to another I read last year, as long as it's told well and the characters are engaging.

I feel the most important part of the story is the pace. The author has to keep things moving or they loose my interest(I stopped carring about Rand by the 5th book and quite after the 8th, sorry Jordan, you lost me, although I still miss Perrin... Zelazny and Amber are great, I re-read them every year or two just cause I can read the Corwin Chronicles in a week!)

Through my reading I've appreciated it when the author sticks to the "Public Conception" of his species. In otherwords a Elf is what Disney calls an elf, and not a freakishly strong winged poison spitting badass(think Tinkerbelle). An Ogre and a Dwarf are never to be confused. Dragons are big, fly, sometimes breath fire, and generaly don't like humans. Their monetary status is up to you to determine.

I appreciate it when the Author creates new words or languages, and uses them in the story, but they must make sense... If your not going to develop the language don't bother trying, Kings can have interpretors(sp?) The big no-no on languages is when they take common words(the kind you can look up in Websters) and redefine them. This is often compounded by not adding a translation section in the appendix.

The elements of a Fantasy novel?

I personaly define Genre by two things; Transportation and Weapons. Fantasy = Horses and Swords/blades. Sci-Fi = Space ships and Lasers... Basically this is determined by the level of the Technologies. Fantasy worlds, to me, are low tech, no electricity, machinery is driven by natural forces(water, wind, steam pressure).

Magic is great, but I'd say is not manditory. It's just a nice tool for the author to get around certain 'Sticky' things, like traveling/communicating long distances. But I think we currently live in a world without magic, why can't we write Fantasy novels without magic?

For me the books I liked most described the happenings of the story at many different levels. So you'd see what the King/Govt was doing, then you see what the chef thinks of it, then you see a resident of the city and how his community responds... At war time you follow the Hero, but you also see the opposing side, you see the wounded in the triage, and you see the neighboring nobility and their planning according to who wins... It can get to be big and cumbersome, but when done well it's very fun to read.

Alright, I've gone on long enough...


January 2nd, 2002, 11:20 AM
Commas, lots and lots of commas

January 6th, 2002, 07:03 PM
Silas/Lifino - welcome. That was a great first post, you had some very interesting points to make...

fluffy bunny
January 12th, 2002, 02:25 AM
As has already been said, something different
isn't essential- i like my hero and villan stories as much as the next man.

Also not an endless series like wheel of time- plot out ur series from the start- give the thing direction and plot.

Good characterisation's important to me- above the world/universe ur in.

Don't get carried away by the thought of writing ONLY fastasy into the book- feel free to incorporate other genres- this orc, dwarf, magic malarky can get boring.

Then again I'd like to see sci-fi ships and lasers vs fantasy's magic and monsters done well.