Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 34
  1. #1
    WordDruid wdavidson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Reading, UK (apt, huh?)
    Posts
    39

    The Trouble with Elves/Dwarves etc

    In this month's flash fiction competition, some of the feedback I received has started me worrying about an element of the novel that I am now quite a long way into writing. It is a fantasy novel, and borrows from the "epic fantasy" tradition, although in what is hopefully (i.e. intended to be) quite a fresh way. A consequence of this, however, is that, while not a central part of the story, it does involve Elves, Dwarves and other traditional fantasy elements...

    Like some of the people who commented on my flash fiction entry, I have always regarded these elements as very much embedded in the Middle Earth/ Tolkein(esque) story-telling (although of course they originate from much older Germanic and Norse traditions). For me though, that presented a challenge, to see whether they could be reimagined in the way that other classic figures (Vampires/Wizards/Superheroes) are able to be reimagined, and to be made more relevant to a modern audience.

    What worries me is whether by doing this I am likely to alienate a proportion of my potential readership, by including elements that would turn them off from wanting to read the book.

    As such, I would really welcome the comments of anyone who can relate to the instinctive reaction that I am describing, to help me understand whether I am creating problems for myself by going down this route, or whether actually people would be interested in reading something that tries to take a fresh approach to these classic fantasy ingredients.

    Thanks in anticipation/apprehension,

    Will

  2. #2
    G.L. Lathian G.L. Lathian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Western Australia
    Posts
    256
    Quote Originally Posted by wdavidson View Post
    In this month's flash fiction competition, some of the feedback I received has started me worrying about an element of the novel that I am now quite a long way into writing. It is a fantasy novel, and borrows from the "epic fantasy" tradition, although in what is hopefully (i.e. intended to be) quite a fresh way. A consequence of this, however, is that, while not a central part of the story, it does involve Elves, Dwarves and other traditional fantasy elements...

    Like some of the people who commented on my flash fiction entry, I have always regarded these elements as very much embedded in the Middle Earth/ Tolkein(esque) story-telling (although of course they originate from much older Germanic and Norse traditions). For me though, that presented a challenge, to see whether they could be reimagined in the way that other classic figures (Vampires/Wizards/Superheroes) are able to be reimagined, and to be made more relevant to a modern audience.

    What worries me is whether by doing this I am likely to alienate a proportion of my potential readership, by including elements that would turn them off from wanting to read the book.

    As such, I would really welcome the comments of anyone who can relate to the instinctive reaction that I am describing, to help me understand whether I am creating problems for myself by going down this route, or whether actually people would be interested in reading something that tries to take a fresh approach to these classic fantasy ingredients.

    Thanks in anticipation/apprehension,

    Will
    The people that frequent this forum are not your 'general reader.' They have an eye for critiquing and often find tropes annoying and jarring.

    Remember that they have their own perspectives on writing styles/ways of setting a story, etc,. Much the same as large publishing houses who have knocked back countless best seller novels for such reasons.

    The fact is that Elves and Dwarves are extremely popular for a reason: people like them. Eragon is a great modern example of how these types of races can capture a readership.

    I say, if you like writing about Elves and Dwarves then do it. Don't worry about what people say in regards to the races you chose to build your story around. Your only worry should be about doing it well.

    A good story will sell, regardless of tropes - that's been proven countless times before...

  3. #3
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    The Great Arch
    Posts
    1,072
    Cononomous said it better than I could, so I'll just agree. Go with it, if it's good, it will sell, elves or no.

  4. #4
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    5,557
    Blog Entries
    18
    I haven't read your flash, but ditto what Cononomous and Wulfen said.

    I know that when I first started writing, I wrote what I thought was the standard fantasy fare but with what I thought was a different twist. My peers shot me down quick. Some of that was warranted, some of it wasn't.

    But what it did help me realize is that it is all about characters. What they look like and their accents are just window dressings. It's nice, and imperative in some cases, to have great window coverings, but the underlying characters have to make sense and matter to your readers.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    G.L. Lathian G.L. Lathian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Western Australia
    Posts
    256
    Quote Originally Posted by tmso View Post
    I haven't read your flash, but ditto what Cononomous and Wulfen said.

    I know that when I first started writing, I wrote what I thought was the standard fantasy fare but with what I thought was a different twist. My peers shot me down quick. Some of that was warranted, some of it wasn't.

    But what it did help me realize is that it is all about characters. What they look like and their accents are just window dressings. It's nice, and imperative in some cases, to have great window coverings, but the underlying characters have to make sense and matter to your readers.

    Good luck!
    The truth!

  6. #6
    LaerCarroll.com
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Posts
    1,303
    One of the big challenges for writers is to take standard elements in any genre and breath life into them. It could be the lone gunfighter riding into town in a Western or seen-it-all private investigator as well as elves, dwarves, etc.

    My favorite writers do it in a couple of ways. One is to change some stereotypical trait of a character or class of actors. Such as vampires. They are often supposedly dead during the day and alive at night. But what if this was a myth that vamps themselves have spread around? So that vamp killers would stroll into a vamp camp during the day and not take any special precautions. Result: food delivers itself for a nice lunch.

    Another way is to develop the characters of the, say, elves as well as you would ordinary people. Elizabeth Moon has her Paksennarion rub elbows with specific elves and learn their individual natures as well as their general natures. They ceased to be standard flat figures and became multidimensional PEOPLE. Laurell K. Hamilton's vampires come in all kinds, including ordinary people desperately trying to fight their blood thirst.

    So don't wonder WHETHER to use fantastic characters. Wonder HOW you're going to make them real and believable to your readers.

  7. #7
    Book of the Black Earth
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Central Pennsylvania
    Posts
    785
    Blog Entries
    69
    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    One of the big challenges for writers is to take standard elements in any genre and breath life into them. It could be the lone gunfighter riding into town in a Western or seen-it-all private investigator as well as elves, dwarves, etc.

    My favorite writers do it in a couple of ways. One is to change some stereotypical trait of a character or class of actors. Such as vampires. They are often supposedly dead during the day and alive at night. But what if this was a myth that vamps themselves have spread around? So that vamp killers would stroll into a vamp camp during the day and not take any special precautions. Result: food delivers itself for a nice lunch.

    Another way is to develop the characters of the, say, elves as well as you would ordinary people. Elizabeth Moon has her Paksennarion rub elbows with specific elves and learn their individual natures as well as their general natures. They ceased to be standard flat figures and became multidimensional PEOPLE. Laurell K. Hamilton's vampires come in all kinds, including ordinary people desperately trying to fight their blood thirst.

    So don't wonder WHETHER to use fantastic characters. Wonder HOW you're going to make them real and believable to your readers.
    Excellent reply. As long as you aren't using "dwarf" as short-hand for "short, stout, likes gold, drinks lots of ale/mead, fights with an axe", you have so much room to develop your characters.

  8. #8
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Southern Oregon, USA
    Posts
    884

    Elves, dwarves, etc.

    This has been a good thread w/ plenty of helpful insight. I'll add something that I haven't seen mentioned: making sure there is a connection and a reason for the fantasy elements you use.

    For example, using Scandinavian-style dwarf characters in a setting resembling ancient New Zealand is going to pull your reader right out of the tale... unless there's an interesting reason for the characters to show up in the out-of-place setting. Otherwise, you're better off going with characters that arise from the tradition and location you have selected.

    -- WB

  9. #9
    aurea plectro goldhawk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    The Great White North
    Posts
    567
    Blog Entries
    3
    I would say that for each person who won't buy because it has elves and dwarfs, there's one who will. Write the story you want to it write and write it well. A well-written story will always sell.

  10. #10
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,356
    I don't understand, did someone say you had to have Tolkein stuff or something? The fantasy field is not narrow and neither is its audience.
    Elves have been done from everything from monsters who eat people to four and a half billion years old demi-gods. This is in part because elves, like fairy and goblin, is a catch-all term for all sorts of mythological creatures. There are numerous different myths about elves that have been raided by authors over the decades. We've had elves who work on race cars and elves who live in the sea. Dwarves are a sub-species and they vary too. Most of the myths about dwarves makes them on the shorter side, so there's not as much differential on size usually, but mythologically, as we discussed once here, dwarves have been everything from ghouls in graveyards to small barn fairies.

  11. #11
    WordDruid wdavidson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Reading, UK (apt, huh?)
    Posts
    39

    Lightbulb

    Thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to reply to this thread. I do think one of the most valuable things about this forum is the level of support that people are prepared to give to one another, and there is a lot of food for thought in these posts.

    In particular, I think that I had for a few moments slightly lost sight of the concept that a novel or short story cannot be all things to all people. In mitigation, it's been a long week and I am in the midst of my fourth (and with any luck final) redraft, so perhaps a bit more vulnerable to preying doubts than usual!

    Anyway, thank you all again.

    Will

  12. #12
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    1,739
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Sprunk View Post
    As long as you aren't using "dwarf" as short-hand for "short, stout, likes gold, drinks lots of ale/mead, fights with an axe", you have so much room to develop your characters.
    This is exactly it, and for "elf" read "tall, willowy blondes who live in the forests and are like totally in tune with nature, and all awesome archers and stuff".

    If you can do it differently (and in your Flash you did, and I liked it and voted for you) then great, but sooooooo many people seem to pick up a D&D monster manual and go "oh yeah, dwarves, they live underground in something that I can't call Moria but is basically the same thing" and give them an axe and a horn of ale and away we go that it just gets tiresome to be honest.

    Kat's absolutely right that these terms (especually "elf") can mean wildly different things, but sadly they usually don't.

  13. #13
    Registered User SilentDan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    A house on a hill somewhere in Australia.
    Posts
    189
    Blog Entries
    4
    That's why I'm defying cliches in my fantasy book. It still has elves, dwarves and so on, but the protagonists are non-typical ones. It's D&D based, but I'm making some of them classes that you wouldn't expect - like a dwarven druid, for instance (and a bartender who's pleasant and amiable, yet a dwarf... he might even abstain from alcohol!). Or a hobgoblin wizard with class (in the social class meaning, not the character class/role/job meaning, although it's a player class so...). Or a drow barbarian. Or a gnome fighter. Or a city-elf rogue (was going to go wood elf but then woke up to the fact that's been done).

    And you know what? I'm having a lot more fun writing this way - messing with cliches - than I've ever had writing stereotypes.

  14. #14
    Registered User Hellsfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Bay Area
    Posts
    176
    I say write how you envision your races, but just flesh them out into being fully developed characters.

    You can also turn a few things on their heads. I have a dwarf historian in my fantasy series...yet I don't remember why I did that.

  15. #15
    Registered User SilentDan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    A house on a hill somewhere in Australia.
    Posts
    189
    Blog Entries
    4
    Dwarf historian! How about, drunk elf who gets into fights a lot? I may use that at some point, actually...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •