These Are Not Rules of Fantasy

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A big headache for genre writing is that nearly every reader has their own set of rules about how that genre should work.  They have their favorite authors and all others get compared to those ‘elite’.  Any deviation is met with disagreement or outright rage because god forbid you have two fantasy authors who take different approaches to the genre.  So I’m going to have a little fun here and go over a few rules that have been hurled my way over the years:

  1. YOU HAVE TO KILL CHARACTERS–  No I don’t.  Just because you have a disturbing blood lust doesn’t mean I have to give you a body count.  We can’t all write ‘Game of Thrones’, which is actually a rarity in terms of death.  8 of the 9 Fellowship members survived Lord of the Rings.  Drizzt is still kicking around since the 1980’s.  Conan is still alive.  Percy Jackson, Will Treaty, the Pevensie Children, Harry Potter, and so many others make it through their stories.  Just because the popular series is all about characters not being safe from the author’s reaping doesn’t mean every author has to fall into line.  Besides, I find it’s a lot more interesting to torment my characters and have them continue walking on until they are forever changed instead of saying ‘time for you to become worm food’.
  2. TOO MUCH/NOT ENOUGH SEX–  Make up your mind, people!  When did we start thinking that graphic sex was part of fantasy?  Well, one person said April 17, 2011 is when this occurred.  This is a really silly thing to get on an author’s case about since every person has their own thoughts on the matter.  For example, I don’t feel comfortable writing a graphic sex scene.  I’ll do the making out and the afterglow, but I’ll never go into detail about the act.  Some people say this goes too far and makes it erotica.  Others say it doesn’t go far enough.  Either way, the author and both sides of this coin are right.  Just like death, there’s no rule about how much sex should or should not be in fantasy.  So stop getting angry about it.
  3. A WIZARD DID IT IS NOT AN EXPLANATION– ‘A wizard did it’ is a comical response toward somebody asking too much about something that requires a level of disbelief.  Massive dragons flying, fireball spells, flying cities, and a lot of the fantastical aspects of the genre come under scrutiny for being unrealistic.  Try and really wrap your head around that one.  People want there to be plausible, real world explanations for magic and monsters.  Most times it’s not even everything that confuses them, but one or two aspects.  Flinging lightning bolts in battle is good.  Waterfalls that run up instead of down is a travesty.  Goblins and elves are cool.  Dragons wouldn’t be able to fly on those kinds of wings.  Sometimes you simply have to release your inner child and go with it instead of tearing the magic out of the story. (Clarification Edit) And, Authors, this does not mean go wild with the crazy.  Consistency and sense within the world is still important.  At the very least, you can have an explanation to hand out to the question even if you can’t find a clear place in the book to explain it.  Seriously, who stops a fight with a troll to explain their regenerative powers or why they’re as flammable as gasoline?
  4. THAT IS SO CLICHE!–  Fantasy has a lot of standard creatures, so using any of them can bring on this ‘rule’.  Elves get this more than anything because they always tend to be the pretty, snobby blondes.  Because of this mentality, you have a lot of authors avoiding monsters and magic races altogether.  Those who continue get derided for not bringing in anything fresh.  Well, this is a flimsy argument.  Humans, swords, armor, battle, politics, religions, magic, and just about everything in the genre can be pointed at as a cliche.  I think this stems from people having their favorite books and hating everything that doesn’t match those stories.  For example, early on I had someone telling me that dragons are so cliche in fantasy and said I should write something like ‘Game of Thrones’.  I pointed out that there are dragons in there and they promptly claimed that it was ‘different’.  If it flies like a dragon, has scales like a dragon, and people scream ‘look out for the dragon!’ then it’s a FUCKING DRAGON!
  5. THE THIEF SHOULD BE SUSPICIOUS–  This is a strange one because it is promoting a cliche under the guise of the author missing an opportunity.  Now, a thief that is worth his skills wouldn’t be suspicious unless the author wants to make it obvious.  In that case, the reader either groans at the lack of suspense or keeps wondering if it’s a trick.  Either way, a thief doesn’t have to be distrustful and on the verge of betraying everyone.  Variety in character types is a good thing, readers and authors.
  6. THE FEMALE HERO CANNOT ACCEPT HELP–  This is a minor one, but it bugs me a lot.  If you have a female hero then you get praise for as long as they remain independent and never need any help from a male hero.  The moment she is saved or protected, you get people complaining about ‘damsel in distress’ syndrome.  God help you if you have her cry.  I’m all for strong female characters and those are something I strive for, but there is a limit for both genders.  Some days it feels like you can’t have any character cry because they’re either a ‘wimpy guy’ or an ’emotional woman’.  Bullshit!  People cry when upset and they need help when in trouble.  There is no rule that says you can’t have a strong female character getting saved when she’s being overpowered.  It’s realistic and the same goes for a strong male character.  Heck, take a look at Luke and Nyx in ‘Legends of Windemere’.  They’ve saved each other countless times, but for some reason Luke helping Nyx is seen as weakening her character.  If that is true then Nyx helping Luke should weaken his character, but people see that as ‘girl power’.  And people wonder why so many fantasy books have all male casts.

Beyond 1,000 words here, so I’ll stop the rant.  This went longer than expected because I was having fun.  The key point here is that everyone has their own preferences and thoughts on a genre.  You just have to accept that not everyone will agree with how you think a book should be written.  Also, I may pick on ‘Game of Thrones’ a lot, but it’s only because I tend to get 90% of my flack from those fans.  Early on, people were even telling me to change my books to match ‘Game of Thrones’.  So that’s where most of the comparisons aimed at ‘Legends of Windemere’ comes from even though the two series are extremely different from each other.

Any ‘rules’ that I missed and you want to bring up?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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95 Responses to These Are Not Rules of Fantasy

  1. K. A. Brace says:

    Good one Charles. Though as you know I’m not a fantasy buff, it made a great post. Best>KB

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    • Thanks. I’m sure the list could go on all day too. 🙂 Honestly, I find people who aren’t fantasy buffs to be the most open-minded and fair when it comes to discussing genres. They don’t have many locked in ideas about what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

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      • Nancyy Purcell says:

        It seems no matter what genre someone writes there are people ready to critique them on the can or cannot do aspects of their work. Fantasy is not my fav but I admire anyone with the ability to pull it off. I say write what you write and do your best to polish the work and the piece will sell itself!

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  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    Charles makes some great points here – why not pay him a visit and tell him anything he may have missed out 😀

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  3. Angela Misri says:

    Agree on all points especially the strong female character – which I would extend to be true for all of fiction.

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    • Definitely. Though I do get the feeling that fantasy has the longest road to travel for strong female characters that can also show some weakness. Spent far too long with the damsels and chicks in chainmail. Same goes for the emotional male character.

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  4. I agree with every word you say, and I definitely wasn’t there on April 17, 2011, so none of that for me either. Who needs big wings when you have magic anyway? 🙂

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    • That was the day ‘Game of Thrones’ debuted on HBO, so it was another joke. Honestly, I remember hearing about it when it was only a book series and fans weren’t nearly this rabid toward other authors.

      Some dragons don’t even need wings. 🙂

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  5. The nice part of being a Fantasy neophyte is the rules aren’t well known. I’m glad you write your books the way you do. I don’t think I would like the others since I like the fact that the rules you have discussed don’t apply to Legends of Windemere

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    • I think it works a lot toward personal preference even among genre fans. I know a lot of people who love the dark fantasy with high body counts. I prefer those that aren’t out to punch me in the heart every 10 pages. This is why I get rather frustrated when a person sends me a message telling me how to write my books. It always comes off as the person trying to transform me into an author who already exists.

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  6. sknicholls says:

    Great post Charles and most of these could apply to any genre. That’s why books fall into genre categories, because of the rules they follow (or at least most) deviating from the “Norms” can get you into all sorts of trouble, and not deviating get you called cliche. Damn and double damn.

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    • All us poor authors are damend. 😉 You mention a good point too. I think genre is a lot less defined than we think they are. At least on the surface. Each one deals with a certain setting or focus of the story. Romance involves love, but doesn’t denote a specific setting or time period. Fantasy involves magic, but the levels and other aspects are author’s choice. You can even use Earth instead of a fictional world, which is where the high and low fantasy comes from. Science Fiction tends to be more tech heavy, but it can be outer space or on Earth.

      Basically, a genre isn’t as strict as people seem to think it is. Somewhere along the line we decided that they were inflexible systems, which is very far from the truth.

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  7. Harliqueen says:

    A really excellent post. I’m writing a fantasy at the moment, and I remember doing some research and was overwhelmed by the amount of ‘rules’ that you were supposed to follow.

    It’s a story, it’s supposed to be fun, just enjoy it! 😀

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  8. Colline says:

    This rant was an interesting read.

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  9. Cannot agree with you more on the first one — people need to seriously calm down with the whole “let’s kill everyone!” thing. Yes, characters involved in violent events run the risk of dying. No, that doesn’t mean you have to kill them. Like you said, mentally or physically tormenting them instead of killing them can be just as powerful — even more so, in many cases! For example, Anakin Skywalker goes dark side and kills a bunch of cute little kids. Do we kill him? No! We chop off his limbs, burn him severely, and condemn him to live in a suit of armor for the rest of his life. Way more impact than if he’d just died.

    As for point C (A wizard did it!), if I may be so bold … sometimes, yes, people are just stupid and have some random problem with dragons and small wings, or whatever. A lot of people do have trouble suspending their disbelief over the most random things, and that’s their issue, not ours 🙂 But I think that sometimes they do have a point — by which I mean, a story needs to be internally consistent. Sure, there can be massive dragons flying around in the sky — but the rest of the world has to follow logically. If there are dragons, then they have to eat something. What do they eat? Where do they live? How do they relate to each other? (e.g., Are there dragon families? Are they loners?) How do they interact with other species? Are there groups of dragonslayers who go around chasing dragons? Etc. etc. etc. That’s what I actually really love about Game of Thrones — yes, there’s dragons, but there’s also the *consequences* of dragons. So you’ve got three big, bloodthirsty, fire-breathing reptiles flying around in the sky … and then you’ve got farmers coming to Daenerys in tears, carrying the charred remains of their children. I mean, you can absolutely take a bunch of random fantastical elements and shove them all together willy nilly with no explanation for how it all came to be, but then you have to acknowledge that it really doesn’t make sense. Which is fine — books like Xanth and Discworld embrace the insanity and run with it! Otherwise, there’s got to be some sort of internal logic tying everything together — fantasy and logic, hand in hand 🙂

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, such as they are! Oh, and I quite enjoyed the rant 🙂

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    • Another good example of tormented hero is Frodo. He went through the wringer, but didn’t die.

      I agree about consistency and should have clarified to mention that. My issue stems from when people try to disprove or tear about a fantasy world. To answer all your questions does being in another threat. Info dump! You need some reason for that information to appear. A book where dragons appear as threats and are mysterious won’t always have the answers in the text unless they are the main plot or a subplot. For example, I have yet to explain a lot of Windemere dragon nuances because there hasn’t been an opening for it. They feed off the ambient magic of the world and use solid food as supplements. They rarely eat meat.

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    • Hi Michelle,

      I hope you understand that if you as much as touch one of Varrin’s hair, my wife will hunt you down and go all Misery on you… 😀

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  10. Jack Eason says:

    As writers Charles, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
    While I normally write either science fiction, adventure or a combination of both, I did write one fantasy anthology back in 2012.
    It follows the trials and tribulations of five goblin brothers and an old one eyed raven. Regarding the goblins, I broke the rules by making them likeable. Despite the fact that the book has four and a half out of five stars, and the majority of the reviews are favourable, unlike my other books it simply doesn’t sell. In fact I’m lucky if it sells one copy per month. If you want to take a look for yourself, let me know and I will give you the link. 😉

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  11. I kill characters from time to time in my writings, but only if the story demands it. I don’t feel obligated to do it, or to keep them alive. Sex: there is some in my SF book that has human characters in it, but it’s not graphic – I really don’t like stories with erotic sex. My other books are about termites; only the Queen and King of the fortress are capable of sex. My books lack dragons, although they do have monsters, and they aren’t governed by magic, although Seers’ prophecies play a large part. In a word, I don’t write cliched heroic fantasy, even though I retell epics. See my blog post Defining Fantasy According to TermiteWriter http://termitespeaker.blogspot.com/2013/10/defining-fantasy-according-to.html

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    • Thanks for the link. I admit that I work off the heroic fantasy with major attention to how the characters handle the pressure. I find it interesting when a character is in a position where thinking about the future might be futile. That’s a great thing about writing though. Almost everything is right if you craft it correctly.

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  12. Kurt Springs says:

    A long needed rant IMHO.

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  13. jmcobbrn says:

    Reblogged this on Juliana Writes and commented:
    I’ve had a few of these things said to me in both the fantasy and sci-fi stories I’ve been working on.

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  14. Kate Sparkes says:

    Agreed, especially on the point about female characters. I’ll be happy when all characters– male, female, or whatever else– are allowed to be human and have weaknesses. Luke and Nyx sound like a couple of my characters. One male, one female, constantly using their personal strengths to save each other’s lives (or mess things up). It doesn’t make a man weak to be saved by a woman, and it doesn’t make a female character a “damsel in distress” if she sometimes relies on someone else to save her butt. Characters should be true to their experiences, skills, and personalities, not to reader expectations about what makes them strong.

    My heroine cries and pukes when it makes sense, and then does what needs to be done. I like that about her.

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    • Kate Sparkes says:

      Oh, and don’t even get me STARTED on the Fantasy types who think female authors are ruining the genre by bringing in romance or making the genre appealing to audiences other than “typical” Fantasy fans.

      Sorry, guys. Everyone gets to sit at the table, now. We all like magic and adventure, some of us just like it in a slightly different flavour. Suck it up.

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      • That is an annoying argument that people throw out. I think it has something to do with a big push for female authors in general. Look at the big ‘new’ authors of our time and you see a lot of female authors. Many times articles and promotions revolve around their gender too, which is really strange. Then again, years ago I had an agent tell me that I’d be better off pretending to be a woman or having my wife be the face of my books to get anywhere. So I have an odd view of the entire thing.

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      • Kate Sparkes says:

        I’ve heard men being told that for romance. It’s crazy. A good book is a good book.

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      • I know. Gender shouldn’t be a marketing point.

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      • Kate Sparkes says:

        Agreed completely.

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    • Very well said about truth to themselves. One thing I’m planning on at some point is a male hero attempting a rescue and needing to be saved by the damsel. In fact, Nyx occasionally mentions to Luke and Delvin that they’re really bad at rescuing her. Half the time she needs to lend a hand or one of the other heroes has to bail all of them out.

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  15. MishaBurnett says:

    This is why I do my best to avoid genre designations altogether.

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    • I’m curious. Do you find readers trying to put your work into a genre or categorize it in some fashion?

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      • MishaBurnett says:

        Generally people call it Science Fiction, but I think that’s a designation of last resort. Since I don’t use recognizable “fantasy-type” creatures most people don’t consider my books Fantasy. (Although I have them listed that way.)

        Many of the scenes in my books involve the horrific, but I don’t fit the mood of Horror–James isn’t usually frightened, and I’m not writing to scare the reader. (Gross out, sure, but not scare.)

        So I get put into Science Fiction because that’s the place where you put everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Which is fine with me, my literary heroes mostly published their work under that heading for the same reason–it let them write whatever they wanted and not worry about definitions.

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      • That makes me think most readers need some type of category to help them figure a book out. Almost like so much has been done that they need a basis to work off of.

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  16. tjtherien says:

    Enjoyed this post Charles. I would be reluctant to call myself a Fantasy Writer, although I have written a Fantasy…I still haven’t had anyone say “Scrolls” is Cliché, or doesn’t follow the rules of Fantasy. In fact I kind of threw the rules out and made up my own. For example how many Fantasies play off a good vs evil theme, mine is not a book about good vs evil, those lines are very blurred. I actually prepared myself for many Criticisms in the way I tackle the story, the genre, the general themes, how I portray the Races and also the stuff that people might read into the book that isn’t meant in the context some will perceive it to be…

    Anyway, regardless the genre, I think a writer should write the story they want to read, the rest of the world be damned… Also you have to be true to your literary voice and write a story that compliments it. Your voice doesn’t suit gratuitous sex, or death for death’s sake (no offense, I honestly mean it as a compliment) You have a very unique way of story telling, stick to it. Besides if you start killing everyone like I did in “Scrolls” you’re going to end up like me trying to figure out who out of my cast of characters is still alive and usable in future stories… My series may be short lived as a result, but I just can’t help myself. I spent too much time reading Shakespearian Tragedies and so everyone must die… lol…

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    • I’m pretty sure you count as a fantasy author. 😉

      There’s actually a rise in fantasy books that blur the lines between good and evil. It isn’t as highly promoted in the mainstream, but it is growing because you have a more jaded population. The idea of pure good especially irritates people because it seems impossible in this day and age.

      It’s funny how sex, death, and violence seem to be the cornerstones of fantasy writing these days. As if characterization and in-depth worlds aren’t important.

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      • tjtherien says:

        my focus in the initial writing of “Rise of the Dark Queen” was putting together a story with no holes and in the narration and historical feel I wanted it to have, (written in third part omnipotent past tense) during re-writes and edits my focus switched the writing itself and the building of depth in characters and the world around them… really if it didn’t play into the story or advance the plot I didn’t focus on the sex, death or violence. I classify my book as adult in nature not because of the graphic nature, it really isn’t graphic and the strongest profanity I use is the word bitch, (twice I think I use it) it’s the themes the book explores and some of the subject matter which I believe make it an adult book, that and there is no real Hero… although there are plenty of villains… to tell you the truth in many ways I prefer your story telling and your story to my own… Hope runs much stronger through your books (the two I’ve read) whereas my book is a lot of foreboding and forecasting of doom… your world is a much more fun read than mine… and fantasy should be fun…

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      • This raises a question in my mind. Do you use any character building subplots or is the story mostly, if not entirely, about the events?

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      • tjtherien says:

        I use characters to drive plots and subplots, Rianon (the Drow Queen) drives the main plot, Cadfrawd (newly installed Captain of the Guard) and Cadfeal (old Captain of the Guard and newly installed Master of Poisons) are my versions of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern (Hamlet) and drive two subplots, Morfran (Drow Master of Spies) and Derwena (Kidnapped Elven Princess) are my anti-romantic interlude, the Five Sages are very important to understanding the world, The Characters really drive the story… there are also subplots among the Dwarf, Human, Elven, and Orc characters and everything kind of intertwines… O and can’t forget Prince Maelgad, the former Drow Master of Assassins (Highest rank a male can receive) turned Drider… the almost thirty thousand words I added to the original text were mostly in dialogue and showing the reader and not telling the reader…

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      • Anti-romantic interlude?

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      • tjtherien says:

        well Elves bond for life, the princess and her kidnapper bond with one another, but it’s not written like a typical romantic interlude, both characters actually struggle with the idea and the princess only confronts her feelings when they are pointed out to her… the true romantic moment comes at the end during an anti-romantic wedding (arranged marriage) but it’s not the couple getting married…

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      • I think I get. Kind of thought it was something against romance from the original wording, but it sounds more like a forbidden love type of thing that might end poorly.

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      • tjtherien says:

        well I give them a fighting chance at the end, but that is because in the next book they are used to introduce the Troglodytes who are a brief mention at the end of the first book… I really haven’t decided how it is going to end for them, good or bad, but I do have a few ideas…

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    • Jack Eason says:

      “Anyway, regardless the genre, I think a writer should write the story they want to read, the rest of the world be damned…”
      Here, here TJ. 😀

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  17. Popped over to read your post from The Story Reading Ape, and I couldn’t agree more. Then again my fantasy series has magic, dragons, other magical creatures, a stack of romance (and sex) and lots of action fighting too. Should I be worried? 😉 Nah, even non-fantasy readers say that they like my stories, so I must be doing something right. And no, not remotely like ‘Game of Thrones’ trust me on that one!

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  18. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    What Rules 🙂

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  19. M T McGuire says:

    Loved this. Very well put. I also dislike the idea that a strong heroine is just a man with boobs: kick arse fighter never cries etc. strong women are strong, and strength shouldn’t be confused with masculinity.

    Cheers

    MTM

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    • Oh god, the man with boobs thing is such an odd creation. It’s as if a heroine has to sacrifice femininity to be a strong warrior. Think I had a post months ago about this issue.

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      • M T McGuire says:

        I’m sure you did and I am pretty sure I posted a comment along the lines of ‘amen to that’. It does say rather worrying things about the outlook of the writer doing it.

        I’ve just signed up to your cover reveal.

        Cheers

        MTM

        Like

      • Thanks. You probably did mention something. I tend to get a lot of traffic if I mention women in fantasy. Seems to be a hot topic.

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  20. Great post – glad Jack Eason shared you. Totally agree on your points.

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  21. estyree says:

    I have had people ask me why I chose to have an evil sorcerer INSTEAD OF A WIZARD. Seriously people? That’s the issue?
    I’ve seen people upset because you don’t use an evil wizard, or because the barbarian has a family (ok but, a barbarian hunter who goes home to a wife and kids explains a LOT).
    And on the subject of dragons (you didn’t really think that I would miss out on that one, did you?)…there are people in this world who don’t understand how Flamingos can stand up on their super tiny thin legs. It is just how they are made. The wings may not look like they could hold up the bodies…but their muscles are dense and strong and the membrane of the wings thin but durable, the wind catches and gathers underneath like a kite.

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    • To date, my favorite criticism was that I named a dog breed ‘Noble Shepherd’. It was obvious that it was a German Shepherd and this person was confused on the breed name. Failed to notice that there’s no Germany in Windemere.

      So far I haven’t received any flack for having a polite, well-spoken, and wise barbarian. They’re more of a branch of humankind that has mastered a primal rage and can unleash it at will. Their connection to this instinct makes them be closer to nature.

      Great point with the flamingos. Long ago, I heard someone wonder why ostriches couldn’t fly since they had wings. People seem to jump to conclusions with wings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • estyree says:

        And Windy Shepherd would have only applied to a portion of the breed 😉

        Great point with the Barbarians. People seem to think that they are all the crazy yelling horde but they are often just better at controlling the outlet.

        With all the ‘gay agenda’ etc there should be an animal rights movement about how wings are just wings and the power to fly is a birthright, not a choice.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Something about the barbarians is that the most famous one (Conan) wasn’t an idiot. He was brutal and savage, but he had a cunning intelligence at times. At least in the stories. The movie was rather iffy.

        You kind of lost me on that last thing, but I’m hungry and waiting on pizza, so it could just be me.

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      • estyree says:

        It was a fart joke…I apologize

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      • estyree says:

        (For the record, I type before I think it through sometimes,,,please don’t lynch me for the last comment!)

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  22. kyrahalland says:

    Great post. I don’t use fantasy races, because I haven’t seen the need to so far; humans have sufficed for my purposes (with the occasional god thrown in). But I do like to read fantasy races that are well thought out without falling back on the prefabricated types, where there’s a really good reason why they have to be elves, dwarves, whatever and not human.

    I also especially like your points about killing all the characters and one-dimensional female characters, and BECAUSE WIZARD. But it’s all really good stuff to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tend to use elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, gnomes, and the usual along with new ones. I gave twists to some of them like elves have no central government due to originally being an evil race. Dwarves are probably the only ones I left alone for the most part, but I rarely use them beyond minor characters. The series I’m reading now only has humans, so the fantasy races certainly aren’t necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Jemima Pett says:

    I started reading Fantasy in the 1960s and none of these rules applied – in fact when I started writing what I considered fantasy, no-one recognised it as such. The genre should be huge – these silly rules about it being all sword and sorcery and fantastical beings is just one (or two) trope(s).

    Keep speaking out – I love it!

    Jemima
    PS For Pete’s sake don’t make anything like GoT – it’s so boring!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the rules came about recently. Everyone has an opinion and the Internet allows them to voice it at the drop of a hat. It gets problematic when people declare their opinion as a rule, which is plain strange when it comes to writing.

      I promise not to write anything like GoT unless I get a good idea that happens to run along the same lines. So far I’m pretty happy in heroic fantasy. Though I expect to get some heat for my second series, which delves into the vampire culture of my fantasy world.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Good for you. All good points. Game of Thrones is fashionable right now, but it’ll pass. I don’t write fads. Of course, killing everyone sure saves on character development, but few are noticing that because they’re too wrapped up in being shocked. Whatever. 🙂

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    • Some times I wonder why people are shocked at the deaths in Game of Thrones. The high body count is a selling point for the TV series, so I’d be more surprised when a character avoids death. Still, you’re right that it’s the fashionable one right now. Before this it was Lord of the Rings, so you saw a major interest in heroic fantasy. Seems to always bounce back and forth.

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  25. That’s a great list.

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  26. Another great post, loved it!

    About dragons, one of my biggest surprises as a kid was seeing a Chinese dragon. It took me forever to figure out that this non-winged creature was, indeed, a dragon and not a particularly ugly and garish worm… 😀

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    • I think Falcor from Neverending Story helped me with that. Though I never really questioned these things as a child. Kind of made up my own reasoning. Strange thing is how winged dragons have such a fearsome presence most times while the wingless rare oddly serene.

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  27. Pingback: The Triple Curses – Internet Trolls, Cheapskates and Giveaways | Have We Had Help?

  28. SleepyDragon1320 says:

    Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    Couldn’t agree more and I think a few of these apply to all fiction. Head on over and add what you think he missed.

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  29. My favorite “rule” to hate: THERE IS ONE, TRUE KING. Everything is about that mysterious hidden heir. This has been a theme since King Arthur, and made even more famous by Tolkein’s character Aragorn. Once the heir is found and installed on the throne, life will miraculously be better for everyone.

    I always wondered what the heck was wrong with Boromir or Faramir sitting on the throne. Both men were well intentioned (at least before Boromir caught sight of the Ring) and brought up in the role of leaders. They should have been perfectly decent kings of Gondor.

    I also wondered how hard a time Aragorn had in trying to work with an entrenched bureaucracy, all of them put into office to Denetor, who must have looked much askance at some Ranger coming in from parts unknown and claiming to be their True King.

    For that matter, the “hidden heir” always seems surrounded by dozens of adults with clear minds and strong wills, who would make good rulers. Yet all of them are ignored — especially if they are women. Nobody will follow anyone except the True King.

    Stop me now, or I’ll match your 1,000 words of rant.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Reblogged this on writersobsession and commented:
    This is a great read and I suggest this to all writers.

    Like

  31. Pingback: The Strong Female Character. | L.S. Engler

  32. C. Miller says:

    I’ve had this up since yesterday because I felt like I had a lot to say about it, but couldn’t work it out in a cohesive way. I blamed it on reading this after just waking up, but I sat on it for a day and still don’t really know.
    I think most of my >.< over this came from the GOT aspect(s). I can only imagine how frustrating it is to catch flak over that. I could say more here, but . . . I'll just say that I can imagine it's very frustrating.
    Also, I caught the clarification edit, and I agree with that. Sometimes there isn't any place where some explanations 'fit' into the story. The opportunity passes due to whatever circumstances (fighting with trolls, to use your example), then the story moves on. I dunno. I suppose you could find a place after the fact, but then there's flow and all that.
    Completely agree with what you said about crying as well (along with pretty much the entirety of this post in general). People cry. That doesn't make them weak. People cry when they're upset. Some do it when they're angry, or happy, or just overwhelmed. And I don't see how a female character getting assistance when she's being overpowered would make her weak. Obviously men would need the same sort of assistance in the same sort of situations on occasion as well. That's what would realistically happen. I mean, obviously people don't need any help from anyone ever in their lives. (Sarcastic font on last sentence there.)
    Sorry this was so long. I had/have a lot to say on the subject. (Also sorry if it doesn't make much sense. I'm not entirely coherent yet.)

    Like

    • It’s really become a cross between frustration and mild disappointment. I keep wondering how people can have such tunnel vision when it comes to anything based on imagination. It isn’t like there is a strict right and wrong.

      As for the clarification, maybe that missing info is way you see bestiary books and handbooks. These are where you can grab the behind the scenes info that the author couldn’t fit into the story.

      Like

      • C. Miller says:

        I can understand that, the frustration/disappointment. ‘Different’ doesn’t mean ‘bad’. It’s such a shame. :/

        Good point about the bestiary books/handbooks. They can be really useful sometimes, and are also good when you just want more.

        Like

  33. mystiparker says:

    Amen, Charles!!! Wow, you took all my thoughts and listed them so eloquently! Rules, shmules, I say. Anything goes if you do it well enough. Anytime I hear someone bring up a “rule”, I cringe. It’s ludicrous to try to fit any genre into one neat little box. I write what I want, and if readers like it, great. If not, they can go read G.R.R. Martin and complain about me breaking the rules. 🙂

    Like

  34. Pingback: Throwback Post: These Are Not Rules of Fantasy | Legends of Windemere

  35. eranamage says:

    Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    Interesting post from one fantasy author. What ARE the rules and is it OK to break them?

    Like

  36. eranamage says:

    Excellent post. My books have elves – but not the standard elves as they are largely enslaved. My books have sexy scenes – don’t like em? Skip past. Every book has good features and bad – and what makes a ‘good feature’ is reader choice.

    There are cliches in fantasy – as there are in any genre. But sometimes they work – people look for the familiar, they are comfortable with short, beardy folks with large axes, a love of drink and mining; tall aloof pointy eared forest dwellers, or huge flying firebreathing monsters.

    Sure do something new if you like but there are plenty of readers who like the tropes. Besides very few books are truly original – think about it. How much of fantasy is influenced by much older stories? Tolkien was, the Harry Potter books were. Myth and folklore infuse our society.

    Female heroes – sure go for it. But male or female if they aren’t afraid when the midden hits the windmill or shed a few tears when their mate dies then they aren’t real. We all need a little help sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cliche thing is a little odd. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about this, but then call something stupid when it diverts from the cliche. If not stupid then they use an older work to explain how the new thing doesn’t make sense. It remembers of an article I read yesterday about movies. People are clamoring for something original that isn’t an adaptation, remake, or sequel. Yet that’s what most people are going to see and the riskier movies are being left alone.

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  37. olganm says:

    Maybe we need a ‘Scream’-like book about Fantasy writing… I guess one of the beauty of a genre is that there are some parameters and people feel they know what they are getting, but if the rules are set in stone you might as well just read one book in the genre because you will have read them all.

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    • Good point. I don’t think people realize the downside to locking in rules. I’d think a ‘Scream’ fantasy book would have a lot of 4th wall breaking or a sassy narrator that’s only there for the paycheck.

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  38. Pingback: Writer Wednesday | creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

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