Does fantasy need to be original?

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  1. #1
    Member Moonbeast32's Avatar
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    Does fantasy need to be original?

    As a truck driver, I've visited many truck stops. Among the most prominent travel stations are the ones with gift shops. I once saw a table full statues such ad these:
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    You've seen them before. It's usually that same pair too. A fairy, a dragon, or both. If its digital art instead of a statue, there's often a dark forest backdrop glowing with an otherworldly light, regarded upon by a full moon so bright that it sparkles.

    Im afraid the whole prospect seems all too generic to me, and painfully so. Perhaps there are those who enjoy this type of imagery, but as to myself, I'd wager that they were designed by one who has never read a fantasy novel in there lifetime; someone who sought to capture the raw abstract essence of fantasy whilst paying no need to the nuances and reasoning that has made the genre successfull throughout the centuries.

    Seeing these statues did not make me angry, however. Rather, it caused me to introspectively ask some questions. Is Fantasy as a genre judged based on its originality? Is Fantasy that appears generic solicit negative reactions from more than I? Are successful fantasy authors lauded because of their creative take on the older methods, or because of their skill in the craft?

    If asked these questions myself, my answer at one point would have been a yes to all. After all, I believed it was the lack of originality that had caused all my previous fantasy attempts to fail.

    Now, I've taken notice of several fantasy examples that have grown quite popular whilst beeing as uninspired as the harshest of fairy statues. Some such examples being the Elder Scrolls series, any movie following the same formula as Lord of the Rings, ECT. Dungeons and Dragons comes to mind as a medium that appears to be generic by design. Hey, even I enjoy the occasional D&D.

    So why do I so often hear harsh negative rhetoric concerning fantasy novels that fail to be different?

    Let me know what you think, should fantasy be judged based on their original concepts and ideas?
    Oh say, what is truth? 'Tis the fairest gem
    That the riches of worlds can produce,
    And priceless the value of truth will be when
    The proud monarch's costliest diadem
    Is counted but dross and refuse.

  2. #2
    It doesn't have to be original - it has to be YOURS.
    There is nothing original about a pepperoni pizza. Sliced meat, mozzarella cheese, on tomato sauce and a bread crust.
    There are lots of pizza place around me, and every one makes pizza different. Some I like, some not so much. There's lots of variation in how they make it. Somehow. And the differences matter. I can tell when they have a different pizza chef in the kitchen at my favorite pizza place.
    Fantasy is predictable. TOO predictable, I agree, it's much better to use only one or two of the fantasy elements at once instead of the generic salad. But the important part is that YOU MADE IT, and it is in your voice, done well.

  3. #3
    Member Guard Dog's Avatar
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    In my case, I don't think fantasy needs to be anything more than what it was originally, only brought out of the 14th century and into the present.

    It can still be exactly what it was, just in a new time period and a new environment.

    I don't know if that really makes it all that original, but it can certainly make it different.

    I mean, dragons at a frat house instead of a castle? Dryads playing business manager?

    How 'bout a sorceress with a fondness for flowered sundresses?

    Or a college history professor that's the head of an ancient coven of witches?

    Remember, all those characters were current in their respective 'modern times' when they were created. And if someone wants to tell a story of those times, that's fine. But it's still 'ancient history' and has already been gone over many times before, no matter how you tell it, or which way a person comes at it from.




    G.D.
    Let me be painfully clear: I do not know what the hell I'm doing with this writing thing.
    And if I suddenly start acting like I do, would somebody please punch me in the head?
    Thanks.
    G.D.

    "The world is not what we wish it to be; it is what it is."

  4. #4
    I don't think any writing needs to be anything. Even if you add in the qualifier of "in order to sell well" I don't think there are all that many needs and I don't think any of them involve setting or originality/familiarity.

    There are successful fantasy books that are essentially Tolkien fanfic. There are successful fantasy books that are wildly different. It's a big genre with a lot of readers and a lot of niches.

    I think what fantasy needs is what most genre writing needs: a mix of characters, setting, plot, and style that make readers want to keep reading. That mix can be original or familiar, and there's a market for it either way.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Moonbeast32 View Post
    Let me know what you think, should fantasy be judged based on their original concepts and ideas?
    I'm a big fan of originality, so for me, original concepts (or an effort at being original) will score the author higher marks.

    There's so much one can do in the fantasy genre. Really, the only limit is one's imagination. Literally anything can happen. One could write a story about a planet that develops a consciousness and decides it wants to be a three-legged horse, and goes around looking for larger planets to inhabit so it can find an alchemist to transform it into a living beast. Or a story about a ghost that gets trapped in a twentieth-century faucet, and then falls in love with the house's second resident, doomed to try its best to court her using only the power of water.

    To me, those kinds of offbeat concepts are far more appealing than another indistinguishable LOTR/GOT-esque plot.

    Or, hell, if you're going to tell another Middle Earth kind of story, why not tell it from the POV of a goblin who falls in love with an elf, and make it a Forbidden Romance instead? That, I'd read.

  6. #6
    Member Moonbeast32's Avatar
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    So all three of you say it doesn't need to be anything, and that is something I can agree with. However, i still feel like so many books have been slammed upon for their failure to innovate. It just feels to me like it's something that people value. Am I the only one who feels that way?
    Oh say, what is truth? 'Tis the fairest gem
    That the riches of worlds can produce,
    And priceless the value of truth will be when
    The proud monarch's costliest diadem
    Is counted but dross and refuse.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Moonbeast32 View Post
    ...i still feel like so many books have been slammed upon for their failure to innovate.
    People also slam on fiction for containing tropes, which is a little bit like slamming on a house because it contains walls and a roof. People slam on things simultaneously for being "Too X" and "Not X Enough". People slam on things for any number of idiotic reasons. Pay them no mind and work on perfecting your craft.

  8. #8
    Member Guard Dog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moonbeast32 View Post
    So all three of you say it doesn't need to be anything, and that is something I can agree with. However, i still feel like so many books have been slammed upon for their failure to innovate. It just feels to me like it's something that people value. Am I the only one who feels that way?
    Let me ask you something... Are you talking about fantasy, as in, anything can happen, due to magic or some other 'impossible' force at work, or the tropes of a particular type of fantasy? Dragons, armored knights, goblins, faeries and that sort of thing?

    Because these days, the latter is sort of a sub-genre... A particular aspect of fantasy.




    G.D.
    Let me be painfully clear: I do not know what the hell I'm doing with this writing thing.
    And if I suddenly start acting like I do, would somebody please punch me in the head?
    Thanks.
    G.D.

    "The world is not what we wish it to be; it is what it is."

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