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:
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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?