Does fantasy need to be original? - Page 3

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Thread: Does fantasy need to be original?

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Quirkiness101 View Post
    Just because eating your cheerios with a post-it-note is innovative doesn't mean that it's not still dumb.
    Pardon my pedantry, but do you mean that the post-it note is an additional ingredient of the meal or used as a utensil? I may have misunderstood the remark.

    Personally I like my fantasy to be just around the corner from reality and maybe even out of sight. A porcupine with saddle sores immediately came to my mind for some reason. It isn't just what happens in the writer's mind but what occurs in the reader's that makes for an interesting story. The saddle sores are just as ambiguous as the post-it note. Had the porcupine been riding something to get the sores or had something been riding the porcupine?

    The originality in fantasy tends to arise from how the components of the story are combined as much as what they are. Offhand the only thing that I remember about the giant in The Neverending Story by Michael Ende is that he rode around on a bicycle (but I very much doubt that he got saddle sores from doing it). The giant was a stock component of such a fantasy but the bicycle was actually the incongruous element that proved memorable to me. Another example of this is a strategic expert from the Pentagon as a character in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson. The chronicles appear to follow the style of LoTR but Donaldson was praised for his originality in many respects and the similarities are superficial, so much so that gamers have incorporated his creations into their lists of creatures. The chap from the Pentagon would probably have Tolkien turning in his grave but his presence is important to the story and not just a joke. The chronicles are my favourite books in the fantasy arena because they so thoroughly worked an extra dimension into what has become a stock fantasy style much as The Neverending Story did.

    Of course the idea of a fantasy world running parallel to the real one is also now a stock concept, but again it is how it is combined with other concepts that gives the scope for originality. In my own solitary novel my characters move from their reality to three successive levels of fantasy, each less connected with reality than the previous one. Some years after writing it I saw the film Inception by Christopher Nolan, which also uses three successive levels of fantasy (or rather shared dream states, but what's the difference?). The fact that I used an idea that I didn't discover elsewhere until later in my life is part of my own personal time-distorting fantasy of course. Therein lies a fundamental issue; what do we mean by originality?

    Interestingly both Inception and my novel have been branded as science fiction because they contain fantastic concepts. Duh! We have to bundle science fiction and fantasy together because there is such an overlap between these genres. For example Anne McCaffrey's stories about the dragonriders of Pern are science fiction dressed up to look like medieval fantasy until the later stages when all is revealed.

    The question originally asked appears to boil down to whether there is an assumption that sci-fi/fantasy stories are more likely to be boringly generic than any other genre. Certainly they allow the writer more scope for defining a whole collection of improbable devices to avoid any otherwise inescapable situations in the plot. Any sci-fi/fantasy writer can easily conceive their own version of "Beam me up, Scotty," to overcome a plot-hole (which is much like a pot-hole but far less forgiving). In comparison it is not so easy to do this in other popular genres such as crime, mystery, adventure and romance. If the improbable devices used in a sci-fi/fantasy story aren't predefined then the reader feels that they have been served up a deus ex machina and loses interest. In a story where improbable devices come thick and fast this is very likely to happen, so readers assume that such a disappointment is almost inevitable. Even in LoTR Tolkien's Great Eagles were criticised for materialising as required by the plot.

    This isn't to say that other genres can't have equally annoying devices. For example, in a crime mystery story it is annoying for the reader to discover at the last moment that a character is really someone else who has gone through the entire story with an assumed name and back history which entirely mask their true motives. Equally all genres may be written badly so that such devices are potentially unfair to the reader and whether they actually are depends entirely on the skill of the writer in introducing information into the reader's mind without their realising its significance later in the story. To my mind good stories are like jigsaw puzzles with the pieces of information initially strewn around waiting to be assembled later. What the writer must not do is hide some of the pieces so that it is impossible for the reader to anticipate what the final picture might look like. Perhaps the problem with sci-fi/fantasy stories is that one has to read a long way into them to determine whether they are actually worth reading, the initial setting up of an alien world being potentially long-winded, so there is a feeling that one shouldn't even bother to start.

    Personally I doubt the value of genre as a way of classifying stories at all. As for fantasy, that can mean anything. How many romances turn out to be just fantasies for example? In the realm of science what about phlogiston, polywater, cold fusion and the "real" planet Vulcan? Weren't they all fantasies? How many crime stories are based on fantasies about the insecurity of security systems? As a computer geek I watch stories on TV where people crack allegedly state of the art security systems in no time and think that they should just have pointed their wands at the system and said some magic spell in Latin that they learned at Hogwarts because that would have been just as true to reality if they had.

    So, if genre isn't actually relevant then the question is simply whether any story needs to be original. I don't think that even needs to be answered here, does it?
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    Pardon my pedantry, but do you mean that the post-it note is an additional ingredient of the meal or used as a utensil? I may have misunderstood the remark.
    Doesn't matter how it starts out, or the intention. Once the paper gets soggy, he's eatin' it, like it or not.


    G.D.
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  3. #23
    Some people like cliches. The problem with cliches is that they cannot make the story predictable.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

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