This was a post I had had on my mind for a while.
It's about four + one (of many, I'm sure) pitfalls that many writers, particularly myself, had fallen into while writing fantasy. If I had known that these were lies when I started writing, I would have saved myself so much time.
I don't know whether writers particularly put pressure on these issues, but I know that from reading fantasy myself, I thought these were necessary things that would make my story a good, solid fantasy novel.
But as I later found, I didn't need any of these things. And if you're having trouble starting your fantasy novel, this just might help.
#1: YOU NEED A "NORMAL-LIFE-BEFORE-CHAOS-ERUPTS-SCENE TO OPEN YOUR STORY.
Alright, this was one I believed for a really, really long time.... and it's a total lie. Trust me.
While a "normal life" scene is pretty classic (typical?), it's not necessary, no matter how bad you feel about the upcoming trials in your character's sorry life.
I mean, sure, your young hero strolling his little fairy-tale happy (or small, insignificant) village before his aunt and uncle die *cough* or whatever, sounds like a fun scene to write. And I'm sure you may see it as a great character development opportunity,
But here are some reasons you should forget it:
"Normal life" scenes are:
1) generally boring/pointless.
2) unwanted brakes on a rolling, rollicking story (even if there was an epic, action-packed prologue right before)
3) opportunities for extravagant telling, commonly about your hero's personality, hair/eye color, etc...
4) Nothing but description oftentimes. Tedious description.
5) Overly formulaic and extremely obvious
The thing is, and I'm not making this up, I've been studying all the fiction I've been reading of late and I think it's a fact: jumping straight into the action, or at least into something new, is the best way to go. Backstory can be clued in in small doses, later.
The reader should be able to discern what "normal" was by how the hero reacts to the abnormal changes in his life.
Take Ender's Game, Percy Jackson, or The Ruby Key for instance: each of those opens with a change of routine, something out of line.
Even though information is given about "normalcy," it's delivered appropriately, and is necessary information while avoiding the pitfall of extravagant telling/history.
Communicating that information about "normal life" isn't wrong. But you don't need a whole scene for it. Throwing your reader straight into the new and exciting with your hero is much funner. :) We don't care what his morning routine is, we want to know how his adventure goes.
#2 THE PROTAGONIST HAS TO BE BETWEEN 15-18 TO MAINTAIN THE READER'S INTEREST.
I know. We've all taken our cue from Luke Skywalker. There seems to be some unspoken rule that the hero has to be some young buck in his teenage years for the reader to connect.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with placing your hero in this age range. Nothing at all.
But don't let that age stereotype hem you in and keep you in a box.
Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth novels are about a 20-something hero (those books are not recommended by me, though...). The first book in L.B. Graham's Binding of the Blade series is also about a 25-year old. And the Sword of Lyric series starts off following a protagonist who is the mother of an older teenager, plus other kids. Certainly not a heroine in the 15-18 age range!
And on the flip side, The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle are about a brother-sister duo who are 14 and 12 (if my memory serves right...) and Suzanne Collins' Underland Chronicles series is about an eleven-year-old.
The point is: there are much more important things that make the hero relatable to the reader than age. So don't let the stereotype of fantasy heroes limit you.
#3 PROLOGUES ARE A MUST.
Far from true. While they can be utilized and are necessary for some novels (BotB for instance), if you don't feel one coming to you, then don't even worry about it. Prologue does not make the novel, young grasshopper.
Actually, even if you already have a prologue, but it seems to lose it's impact in hindsight, you won't be evil if you cut it out in the editing process. I had a prologue for Dantere's Story, but since then I've done a POV change, and I ended up dropping it even though I really liked it :) [I am considering putting it back in later, but for now I'm not thinking about it.]
#4 I HAVE TO USE BIG WORDS AND/OR PERFECTLY EMULATE TOLKIEN IN SCOPE AND STORY.
Now, now. Learn this now: Tolkien is Tolkien. You are not Tolkien.
I mean, use big words if you want. But don't do it because Tolkien did.
Besides, as much as you would love it, no one really wants to read an LOTR-wannabe. (*cough* Eragon...) Yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it's definitely not the highest form of writing. o_O
Sure, get inspired and learn as much as you can from whatever epic story you just fell in love with. Just don't rewrite it all over again.
I'm going to pretend to hate to tell you this:
You did not write these books. Nor will you ever write these books. But the great thing about stories is: there's always a story that hasn't been written. It's your job to find it. Never mind the stuff that's already been done.
But whatever you do, make sure you're writing the way YOU want to. Writing like someone else never really works. Copying someone else's plot also never works.
#5 I CAN'T HAVE SOME ALL-POWERFUL DEVICE THAT IS THE OBJECT OF EVERYONE'S DESIRE AND CAUSES THE GREATEST WAR KNOWN TO THE WORLD OF MEN
Actually.... that's not a bad idea. :) It's worked before, after all. Multiple times. The only possible problem with that, though, is that it's already been done.
Try to avoid it if you can, because people automatically think "Ring of Power!" but, if you can "disguise" that similarity well enough, go for it! I mean, as long as this all-powerful device doesn't:
a) need to be destroyed
b) turn you invisible when worn
c) turn people into raw-fish-eating creeps
d) all of these at once
then you should be good. ;)
With that: write on, friends, and don't be held back by the norm of fantasy.
And on a side note, please be inspired by the following random pictures: