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Thread: "Low" Fantasy cont...
July 25th, 2012, 11:18 PM #1
"Low" Fantasy cont...
There is an interesting thread in the fantasy section about what low fantasy means/is.
It struck a chord with me because for the longest time, I would never have confidence and faith in my fantasy writing skills or stories.
I have always felt more confident writing traditional pulpish, beach read, fiction, like [insert your favorite traditional action adventure author here] or Ludlum, Cussler, Rollins etc...
I have self published some political thriller short stories just because it came easy to me.
But when it comes to writing what I truly love - fantasy, I always panic and think it stinks. I always feel like its too thin, not "bloated" enough (and I don't mean that in a negative way. I love bloated fantasy). I don't describe every stitch of a character's dress, every plate of a 72 course meal, or every hair on Brienne's chest.
I thought I just couldn't write fantasy, until I read that thread. I realized that maybe there is nothing wrong with writing a fantasy story the same way I write contemporary thrillers. Maybe I can have as strong a character development as Martin and a deep history like Tolkien without trying to force the bloatedness.
Those who have read my work always say I do a good job keeping things going forward.
Brust comes to mind as does Michael J Sullivan. They seem to pull this off and are able to keep the story moving at all times.
Not sure why I posted this, just found it enlightening for some reason that it might be ok to write traditional fantasy themes in a contemporary, dare I say, non-bloated style.
July 26th, 2012, 12:23 AM #2
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- Nov 2009
- Texas, USA
I wish I knew what you meant by "bloated" because I've never seen it used except as a negative. (It does not mean the same as "long" for instance.)
But of course you can write fantasy that's more or less layered, more or less complex, more or less "broad" in its approach to its setting and its characters. Fantasy comes in many forms. Write what you want to write and don't worry about it.
July 26th, 2012, 05:18 AM #3
It's always interesting to read fantasy that's written in a different style. I know what you're getting at when you say "bloated"--you just mean "detailed". The worlds of some fantasy authors are just brimming with history and juicy details while others just give you what you need for the story to progress while also dangling something in front of you to keep you reading.
That's why I love this genre. Fantasy can be interpreted in any way you want. I personally love creating fantasy worlds, but I could never claim to be the sort of person who goes and writes pages and pages of background information to flesh my world out with. The story that I'm writing is a fast-paced journey into the unknown and it takes place across perhaps four distinct regions/countries. So, I make sure I flesh out those regions, give each one a believable, interesting feel and make sure they help to drive the story forwards. The surrounding areas are still clear in my mind and I know a bit about their history, but I don't go into nearly so much detail for this particular story, because I don't need to. I make sure there are a few mysteries and unanswered questions and tie those into other aspects of my world and I dangle this in front of the reader to get them hungry to explore the rest of the world I've created.
Anyway, I've rambled for long enough. This is my style. Back when I first started getting involved in writing fantasy, as a teenager, I would spend months on typing up fictional historical events, legendary characters and religion/magic systems. Now, I kind of just want to finish writing a story and I focus more on the story itself over the worldbuilding. Some authors spend years just dreaming up a world while others create it as they go and keep the details sparse on purpose. I like both approaches and think both work. I'd love to read a piece of fantasy that's written in your particular style
July 26th, 2012, 12:27 PM #4
You can do pretty much whatever you want with fantasy, because frankly, there doesn't seem to be a clear definition of what fantasy is. Many genres are self-defining, like mystery is about something unknown or hidden, and romance is about physical attraction. But some genres are more expansive, and can even envelop other genres.
If anyone even tries to make a list of criteria that are required for a story to be fantasy, I can pretty much guarantee that someone could give them a long list of books that do not fit the criteria that are still considered to be fantasy.
It seems to me that ultimately it's the authors who define what fantasy is.
July 26th, 2012, 03:09 PM #5
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- Mar 2009
- Los Angeles
All this classification and sub-classification of fantasy or SF or whatever might be useful to a cultural anthropologist or a literary theorist. But it's little help to a working writer.
In one sense writing is simple. It's about people, and what they want and need (often two very different matters), and what they do about it. And what other people do in response to those striving for what they want.
"Do," I should mention, includes not only physical action, but emotional, mental, and social action. Some stories might have little physical action but much mental action, as in detective stories. Or lots of emotional and/or social action, as in many young adult stories, with a little mental action thrown in.
"Bloated" – are you sure you're a writer or working to be one? But let's fast-forward over that and substitute "detailed."
Some books biggest appeal is the world they create or re-create. The action, of whatever kind, is a minor part of the appeal. Tolkien's world for many (but not all) readers was wonderful and they wanted to revisit it. And did through re-reading the trilogy or reading Tolkien's imaginative histories about the trilogy's background. Or buying other books which re-visited Tolkien territory in some way.
Star Trek fans go even further and get together in costumes to briefly live in the ST universe. Ditto a lot of comics fans, as witness the enormous popularity of San Diego and other comics conventions.
Historical fiction is another area in which the imagined world in all its details is part of the appeal. So are many nostalgic main-stream novels about life in small towns or in the early 20th century or whatever.
This is not to devalue action, but to put it in its proper place as only one of several parts of a story which are important to readers.
If you examine many very popular "action-packed" stories of book or film, which the ads say are "relentless" or "fast-paced," you'll notice that they have mini-vacations along the way in which the reader/viewer can stop and smell the coffee. Can appreciate the beautiful or grungily compelling backgrounds where the action takes place. What I call "the tourist factor." The James Bond films are perfect examples of this side of many "action-packed" stories.
I think successful writers have to be like orchestra conductors, or composers, weaving a complex tapestry of many weaves. Or painters, who will slash a broad stroke of bright color across part of the canvas while adding swathes of complex and subtle colors and textures elsewhere. Or painting some canvases all in broad strokes, while devoting whole other canvases to the complex and subtle.
So don't worry about "bloat" versus streamlined, or low versus high. Each of them have their places in writer's palettes.
July 26th, 2012, 05:53 PM #6
Fantasy is clearly defined because it's a story with certain elements -- fantastical ones. But fantasy is not a writing style and that's where the confusion comes in. People confuse the notion of fantasy fiction with types of story structures.
A large war story in a pre-industrial setting is one type of story structure. Why would it be the only one? A large war story in a pre-industrial setting can be written in any number of styles and tones. Why would there be only one?
Contemporary fantasy favors suspense and many titles are virtually identical to political and crime thrillers, so that's a good place to look for those styles and structures. But that thriller approach is also used in secondary world, a lot in historical fantasy, certainly in dark fantasy and also in some comic fantasy. Try Glen Cook's Garrett P.I. novels if you haven't read them, Glelas. I think you'll enjoy them.
July 26th, 2012, 08:33 PM #7
August 5th, 2012, 12:24 AM #8
I used to think that i wasnt being detailed enough in my writing. If you compare your work to the likes of Robert Jordan for instance, it can certainly seem so. Whenever i gave my writing to somebody to read i was getting the same comment alot. Its too wordy and there too many big words. I never understood because if you read some of that epic fantasy, its really detailed. Then i picked up a David Baldacci novel and could not believe how sparse he was with some of the details. The little he gives did an incredible job of painting the picture though. Later on down the line i was reading some Robert Jordan and really thinking that he needed to get on with it and stop gabbing so much. I think part of it has to do with what your accustomed to reading but you can get the job done eitherway. For me, providing the very last detail all the time was exhausting and felt forced. So i decided to try to just forget all that and write. The thing i learned was just because i thought my writing was good didnt mean anybody else would even care to read it. The opposite should hold true as well.
August 5th, 2012, 03:27 PM #9
I hear this sort of thing all the time: I thought it was supposed to be done this way so I did it even though it was forced, but then I realized/other people said/etc. that it was bad so now I write the way I write. This is why I am a tools, not rules person.
It's a form of really mild myopia. We have a lot of fans on these forums who read only secondary world fantasy, and not only that, but only certain types of secondary world fantasy and usually mostly the top names of those types. And that's normal. But the assertions about fantasy fiction, writing and the market that come out of that are deeply akin to the parable of the seven blind wise men and the elephant.
August 12th, 2012, 08:53 PM #10
We really can get so bogged down in defining what we write and/or read it can become crippling.
Consider this: Faulkner and Twain can both be called "southern fiction" writers.
They could not be less similar. They could certainly not be less brilliant, either.
Do what you love and do it down to your toes. The readers will find you.