I backed and forthed on whether or not to namedrop the term ‘fantasy’ in the title of this article. If you do, you immediately put off a bunch of people who are above such nerdery. But if I say ‘speculative fiction’ then I put off sci-fi and horror fans as soon as they twig it’s all about magic for me.
So I guess that point makes a good number one…
You think people hate Fantasy
No matter how well Harry Potter sold, how many people watch Game of Thrones, or how many people subjected themselves to the god-awful Hobbit trilogy because they wanted back in Middle Earth, there will always be doubt.
It comes with the territory: we are writers, we doubt ourselves. We doubt the market is there, the fascination is deep; we doubt our own ability like we’re being paid to.
And snobs are everywhere. Bastards. It’s a weird and sad fact of life that discrimination fuels a lot of human behaviour, but here we are.
A for instance? In a seminar group about the novels we all wished to write, there were two – count ‘em, two – fellow students who didn’t pitch speculative novels, out of a class of maybe eleven. One of them seemed perfectly fine to be surrounded by nerds, the other though insisted on trying to belittle us before pitching his learnéd idea for a boring novel about boring real-life situations.
Happy ending P.S: Our lecturer, also determinedly into writing Literary Fiction, gave a real f*ck-you of a question for him afterwards, regarding his characters: “Okay, so why should we care?” Then he dropped his mic, and we all screamed. It was dope.
The lesson you should really be learning is that the market is there. It’s freakin’ huge. And you deserve your place, so go for it.
You have to write the boring bit too
So if you’re like me (in terms of wanting to write Fantasy, nothing else necessarily), then you probably got the beginnings of your big idea under the subheading of premise right? In spec. fic., it’s usually required even before plot. And we all love plot, don’t we? Unless you’re a literary snob. Then you can f*ck off.
You may have written really bitchin’ descriptions of dragons, and have an awesome bit of dialogue about how the earth really is flat, or maybe you spent all day writing out a radical, but not OP, spell-sheet for your witch. Maybe you did all of these things (and congrats if you did), but you will eventually have to write the parts of your story that don’t excite you as much.
Because, if you aren’t just as capable with character, pacing, and style as genre-less writers, then the snobs among them win. (I swear this article isn’t actually just me attempting to validate my life choices to anyone…)
For me, the boring part of every Fantasy book that’s set in a place/time where the fantasy element isn’t known about by the majority of characters is the drawn-out reveal.
I guess the reveal itself is fine, but the aftermath, jeez. Because it’s unrealistic to write a character who’s never known magic who takes it into their stride. I’m trying, and getting criticized for it, it sucks.
Point is, I still have to get through it. And then, I have to go over it to make sure the sentence “I still have to get through it” isn’t evident in the writing. It has to be as fun to read as it isn’t to write. Tricky line, right there.
For you, it could be putting all your characters into one place so that mayhem can happen, and all the right people can die, without the characters’ assembly seeming contrived. Good luck with that, I used boats.
Characters have to have character
Okay, that heading may sound like I’m you patronizing you (patronizing is when you talk down to people), but it applies to the spec. fic. writer more than literary one. No, not because they’re better at characterization, but because they only write about humans ’cause they’re boring.
Here’s the thing though: you have to write humans. Not literally, please, write as many werewolves, aliens, and angels as you like, but know that they should be as deep in character as humans, and they should act and react like humans do. Note the vagueness here, I haven’t given you any constraints for character writing, because the term ‘humans’ covers a hell of a lot of personality types. Some are ruthless and dispassionate, and some are shy and reserved – they still don’t have to be reality-TV stars, or action heroes then. Good.
My demons are often confused by the behaviours of humans around them, but it’s little more than culture-shock really. You don’t have to have your non-humans go full Spock on anyone. (Sorry Trekkies, I’m sure he’s a very well rounded character really).
You think you’re writing for teens
… Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’d love to get teenagers into my work (figuratively), because they make up the majority of all the most avid fandoms. But you don’t have to cater for a certain-sort-of-reader. Well you do, kinda. The publishing world is strange. But really, people read what people like, and there’s not much more to it.
Are you a teenager? Our survey says ‘probably’! Good, go write for people like you who want to hear about what cool stuff flops out of that head. Are you an adult? (For the purposes of this article, just assume I mean >19*). Awesome! Write for you! And write for teens too if you want.
*This writer accepts no officially adult responsibilities just because he is >19.
The truth of the matter is, we are the Harry Potter generation, and we’ve grown up. We want more of what got us into reading, and we want something with us in mind. That’s why adult fantasy is such a burgeoning market right now, and that’s such good news for every aspiring fantasy writer.
Good luck you mad nerds, I love you.