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Unpopular Opinions About/Within the Fantasy Genre

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I stole the idea of this question from this post on Reddit. I don't think we've had a discussion about this before, so I thought it would be a fun one to have.

Warning: the moment this discussion gets out of hand, the staff members will not hesitate to shut it down by giving a warning, temporarily or permanently locking it, etc. I really don't think that anything will happen that will lead to this being necessary, but I wanted to give a clear warning.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way...

What are some unpopular opinions you have regarding the fantasy genre? i.e. tropes, specific things about fantasy writing itself, general writing opinions, etc.  

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I don't like Tolkien at all.  While I respect his role in the evolution in fantasy literature, I do not enjoy his writing.  A lot of fantasy readers/writers look at me like I'm evil or crazy when I say that, but there you have it.

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Just now, Mynoris said:

I don't like Tolkien at all.  While I respect his role in the evolution in fantasy literature, I do not enjoy his writing.  A lot of fantasy readers/writers look at me like I'm evil or crazy when I say that, but there you have it.

I can't give a full opinion on his writing because I've never finished reading the books. I got as far as the chapter with Smaug when I was in high school and I never finished it, and now the idea of trying to start over and read it, because it's been so long, is...daunting. His writing isn't for everyone. It can be difficult to wrap your head around, from what I remember. I appreciate him and his books, as a non-reader of them, for what they are because he's one of the founding fathers of the fantasy genre. I'm not sure when, if ever, I'll ever bring myself to read his books. Part of me feels like I should be reading them not only because of them being a major part of the foundation of the genre but also because my sister and dad have both read The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings multiple times and I feel kind of left out. I do understand why a lot of people don't like his writing, from what little I remember of it.

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I tried reading Game of Thrones and couldn't get deep into it. The writing wasn't necessarily bad, but it did feel unfocused in the way that it seemed to jump between PoV characters without a clear overarching storyline. So I have never been fond of the franchise as a whole.

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5 hours ago, Mynoris said:

I don't like Tolkien at all.  While I respect his role in the evolution in fantasy literature, I do not enjoy his writing.  A lot of fantasy readers/writers look at me like I'm evil or crazy when I say that, but there you have it.

I can understand this sentiment. I still like Tolkein, but his writing is old fashioned, it isnt super palatable to the modern reader. Breaks a lot of the current rules of writing in terms of pacing, plotting, etc. But still of value to read, see where we came from. It's like going to a museum:)

 

4 hours ago, Tyrannohotep said:

I tried reading Game of Thrones and couldn't get deep into it. The writing wasn't necessarily bad, but it did feel unfocused in the way that it seemed to jump between PoV characters without a clear overarching storyline. So I have never been fond of the franchise as a whole.

I read the first 3 books. The first I read fairly fast but I slowed down after that and began to read begrudgingly. I summarize my thoughts on the books as 'he is clearly in love with his world, and wants to show every nitty gritty detail of it, regardless of how relevant the details are to the actual story.'

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I don't think magic systems need to be thoroughly explained and detailed in order to be good. (Along the lines of the Brandon Sanderson thing, hard magic vs soft magic.)

Related: I also sometimes think less detail is better with worldbuilding and magic. Or rather, just enough. Don't tell me spoilers and don't show me how the magician does the thing with the dove and the hat.

An additional unpopular opinion: I don't think magic is necessary for a work to count as fantasy. (I think Gormenghast qualifies for the fantasy genre.) But that's just me lol.

Like others, I couldn't get into Game of Thrones and haven't "properly" read Tolkien yet cover-to-cover.

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Gotta agree with Game of Thrones and Tolkein opinions here. I read and liked the Hobbit, but LotR is just so dense I can't get into it. I tried reading the Song of Ice and Fire a little while ago but I didn't get past the first chapter.

My biggest opinion are that people who include racism, sexism, homophobia or any similar ideas in their fantasy work for "historical accuracy" are either bigots or cowards. It's fantasy, there's nothing historically accurate about it. If it's part of the plot, whatever I'll suffer through it, but don't have people being horrible to your only female, gay, PoC characters because you can't imagine a world where those biases aren't there.

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I am not a massive fan of YA fantasy. A lot of it seems too much like generic teen romance with fairy-wings clipped on for me. I also don't care for POV chapters named after the character doing the POVving, a technique which seems very overdone at the moment. I apologise for anyone whose style this is; for what it's worth my style is horribly flowery and overblown so please - have at it :) Lastly I find Neil Gaiman's writing intolerably dull. God I feel awful saying this. I feel like I'm popping a squat over hallowed turf, particularly when I've had nothing but nice exchanges with him and his wife over Twitter.

Tolkien though? LotR I do understand but - how can you not like Pm Hfbbit? :)

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2 minutes ago, bdcharles said:

I am not a massive fan of YA fantasy. A lot of it seems too much like generic teen romance with fairy-wings clipped on for me.

Sounds like the entire paranormal romance genre. Is that still a thing nowadays? I remember there were whole aisles filled with the stuff a few years back (for reasons too obvious to need pointing out), but I would have expected the fad to lose steam eventually.

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50 minutes ago, Tyrannohotep said:

Sounds like the entire paranormal romance genre. Is that still a thing nowadays?

Not sure tbh. I just see a lot of it still in beta readings.

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14 hours ago, Penguinball said:

I can understand this sentiment. I still like Tolkein, but his writing is old fashioned, it isnt super palatable to the modern reader. Breaks a lot of the current rules of writing in terms of pacing, plotting, etc. But still of value to read, see where we came from. It's like going to a museum:)

Oddly enough, I enjoy works OLDER than his.  Translations of the Odyssey/Illiad, for example, or works by Jane Austen, LM Montgomery.  Dracula, by Bram Stoker is older, certainly.  Of course, most of those didn't write fantasy, but still, it's not really the overly purple prose style of writing that gets to me.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's not simply the age of the work.  Maybe it's because the characters are so flat, in contrast to LM Montgomery where the whole story IS the characters.

 

53 minutes ago, bdcharles said:

I also don't care for POV chapters named after the character doing the POVving, a technique which seems very overdone at the moment.

Do you mind if the POV character's name is under the title, and not replacing the title, or do you not want to see that at all?

 

11 hours ago, SecretRock said:

My biggest opinion are that people who include racism, sexism, homophobia or any similar ideas in their fantasy work for "historical accuracy" are either bigots or cowards. It's fantasy, there's nothing historically accurate about it. If it's part of the plot, whatever I'll suffer through it, but don't have people being horrible to your only female, gay, PoC characters because you can't imagine a world where those biases aren't there.

Conversely, if it does exist in our world, that doesn't mean it can't exist in fantasy worlds as well.  It shouldn't be the only answer, but making it disappear from all fantasy takes away fantasy as a source of dealing with real world problems.  It should never be accepted or valued, but I can't see them being extinguished completely.

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1 minute ago, Mynoris said:

Do you mind if the POV character's name is under the title, and not replacing the title, or do you not want to see that at all?

Hmm. I'd rather not, to be honest (God, I'm fussy - I know, I know!! :) ). I want the character's voice and personality to project who it is, not for them to have to come with a label each time we meet. Of course this could all be reasonably well got around by not using first person in the various chapters, though that's not a fantasy-specific thing. This is of course just personal preference. I know many people whom it doesn't bother one iota.

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3 minutes ago, bdcharles said:

Hmm. I'd rather not, to be honest (God, I'm fussy - I know, I know!! 🙂 ). I want the character's voice and personality to project who it is, not for them to have to come with a label each time we meet. Of course this could all be reasonably well got around by not using first person in the various chapters, though that's not a fantasy-specific thing. This is of course just personal preference. I know many people whom it doesn't bother one iota.

Well, I don't write in first person, so *shrugs*  In my working copy I use the characters names as placeholder titles so I can easily find where they switch.  However, I doubt I would send in a finished copy like that.

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1 hour ago, Mynoris said:

Conversely, if it does exist in our world, that doesn't mean it can't exist in fantasy worlds as well.  It shouldn't be the only answer, but making it disappear from all fantasy takes away fantasy as a source of dealing with real world problems.  It should never be accepted or valued, but I can't see them being extinguished completely.

I'm not saying any type of portrayed bigotry has no place in fantasy, or fiction in general. One of my favourite musicals(not fantasy but I think still relevant to this) includes a gay lead in the 1960s and it definitely at least mentions the homophobia he's scared of. The difference between that and the type I'm talking about is in the musical it ties into the character development, the theme of secrets throughout the musical, and the subversion of tropes. The type I mean is the one where you read it and you can tell that the author put this into their story not to make any type of commentary or make the narrative stronger, but just because they want it there. It's usually the same type of author that includes horrific slavery, sexual assault, and other things like that under the guise of "historical accuracy" while giving their characters perfect teeth and conveniently leaving out things like smallpox and dysentery. Meanwhile, this accuracy is usually at least partially inaccurate anyway.

This just gets to me because you have control of this world you're writing. Make a point about things if you want, use character experiences to tie into their backstories and arcs, but don't make me watch someone get killed for being gay (usually the only gay character in these types of stories) in a fantasy world just because you think that oppression is a universal truth or that this kind of stuff makes your story "hard hitting". 

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11 hours ago, SecretRock said:

I'm not saying any type of portrayed bigotry has no place in fantasy, or fiction in general. One of my favourite musicals(not fantasy but I think still relevant to this) includes a gay lead in the 1960s and it definitely at least mentions the homophobia he's scared of. The difference between that and the type I'm talking about is in the musical it ties into the character development, the theme of secrets throughout the musical, and the subversion of tropes. The type I mean is the one where you read it and you can tell that the author put this into their story not to make any type of commentary or make the narrative stronger, but just because they want it there. It's usually the same type of author that includes horrific slavery, sexual assault, and other things like that under the guise of "historical accuracy" while giving their characters perfect teeth and conveniently leaving out things like smallpox and dysentery. Meanwhile, this accuracy is usually at least partially inaccurate anyway.

This just gets to me because you have control of this world you're writing. Make a point about things if you want, use character experiences to tie into their backstories and arcs, but don't make me watch someone get killed for being gay (usually the only gay character in these types of stories) in a fantasy world just because you think that oppression is a universal truth or that this kind of stuff makes your story "hard hitting". 

Ahhhh, I understand better now; thank you for clearing that up.

I suppose I haven't read a lot of things were it didn't serve some sort of purpose for plot or character development.  Maybe I've been lucky that way.  Or oblivious.  Sometimes it's hard to tell.  So you don't like it when it's lazy or used for cheap thrills, pretty much?

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4 hours ago, Mynoris said:

Ahhhh, I understand better now; thank you for clearing that up.

I suppose I haven't read a lot of things were it didn't serve some sort of purpose for plot or character development.  Maybe I've been lucky that way.  Or oblivious.  Sometimes it's hard to tell.  So you don't like it when it's lazy or used for cheap thrills, pretty much?

Exactly! It's the same with everything that's put in unecessarily, but for some reason bigotry seems to be the most common in fantasy, especially ones with medieval-esque settings, thus the common excuse of historical accuracy.

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18 hours ago, bdcharles said:

I am not a massive fan of YA fantasy. A lot of it seems too much like generic teen romance with fairy-wings clipped on for me.

I agree, I keep trying to read YA books that get recommended to me, but I find a lot of them really painful. Just bad writing, lots of cliches. I hold them to adult standards because I believe you can cater to a younger audience and still have strong writing, but that just doesn't seem to be the case a lot of the time. 

 

And I agree with the comments about the accuracy and the grittiness. There's a difference between being accurate, and glorifying in the misery.

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On 5/11/2019 at 3:12 AM, SecretRock said:

My biggest opinion are that people who include racism, sexism, homophobia or any similar ideas in their fantasy work for "historical accuracy" are either bigots or cowards. It's fantasy, there's nothing historically accurate about it. If it's part of the plot, whatever I'll suffer through it, but don't have people being horrible to your only female, gay, PoC characters because you can't imagine a world where those biases aren't there.

I plead guilty to having themes of racism, sexism, and xenophobia in my WIP. Usually, it's the unsympathetic characters that express those sentiments, because they're supposed to be the bad guys after all. Mind you, my good characters aren't 100% perfect in that regard either, but they are supposed to adjust their attitudes as part of their arcs.

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On 5/11/2019 at 5:17 PM, bdcharles said:

I also don't care for POV chapters named after the character doing the POVving, a technique which seems very overdone at the moment

XD I admit that I'm currently doing this with Court of Shadows. I think that the thing people need to keep in mind when trying this kind of style with POVs is that 1. you shouldn't do it with a billion POV characters (I'm looking at you G.R.R. Martin, even though I haven't actually finished reading the first book. I know this is a big complaint about his books, though) 2. it needs to make sense for the story and move the plot forward. So, for example, 3/4ths of my POV characters are all in the same place, witnessing the same things, but each chapter has a different event happening that's taking place, so it's not character A talking about something that happened and character B retelling that same thing in their chapter. It does seem to be the "cool thing" to do these days, but like I said it needs to work for what you're writing, because it won't work with every plot. In the case of my current project, I don't think it would be nearly as fun to write or read without multiple character perspectives.

Admittedly, it's not something I've tried doing in the past before - I have one back burner project where I did it, where there were only two POV characters - so that's really one of the main reasons why I'm personally doing it, is because typically I stick to one character's perspective...funnily enough, the drafts where I stuck to one character's perspective are the ones where I never came close to finishing them, whereas I did technically finish writing the first draft of the back burner project, and I just finished the first draft of Court of Shadows two weeks ago. So maybe multiple character perspectives work for me, especially because if I get really stuck then I can move on to someone else's point of view, and that's something I did a lot through writing the draft.

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5 hours ago, Jedi Knight Muse said:

XD I admit that I'm currently doing this with Court of Shadows. I think that the thing people need to keep in mind when trying this kind of style with POVs is that 1. you shouldn't do it with a billion POV characters (I'm looking at you G.R.R. Martin, even though I haven't actually finished reading the first book. I know this is a big complaint about his books, though) 2. it needs to make sense for the story and move the plot forward. So, for example, 3/4ths of my POV characters are all in the same place, witnessing the same things, but each chapter has a different event happening that's taking place, so it's not character A talking about something that happened and character B retelling that same thing in their chapter. It does seem to be the "cool thing" to do these days, but like I said it needs to work for what you're writing, because it won't work with every plot. In the case of my current project, I don't think it would be nearly as fun to write or read without multiple character perspectives.

Admittedly, it's not something I've tried doing in the past before - I have one back burner project where I did it, where there were only two POV characters - so that's really one of the main reasons why I'm personally doing it, is because typically I stick to one character's perspective...funnily enough, the drafts where I stuck to one character's perspective are the ones where I never came close to finishing them, whereas I did technically finish writing the first draft of the back burner project, and I just finished the first draft of Court of Shadows two weeks ago. So maybe multiple character perspectives work for me, especially because if I get really stuck then I can move on to someone else's point of view, and that's something I did a lot through writing the draft.

Yeah. I do actually use multiple POVs in my WIPs but naming the chapters after the characters never even occurred to me as I open with the character doing stuff anyway so it would be clear who it is; eg: most of my WIPs are from Echo's perspective but here are some others that aren't.

Haha actually I just went to scrape an example from my WIP:

Quote

The incident with Echo outside the wine bar had returned unbidden to Ao’s mind as the willowy youth tumbled to the floor.

The name of the chapter? "Ao". FFS :) It's the only one I can think of that is like that and I will probably change it. Here's another chapter called "The Myrda Building", that starts like this:

Quote

Ao cast aside his violin and regarded himself in the full-length mirror that hung inside the door to his rooms. He sighed. His presentation was – passable.

 

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I'm not sure how unpopular this opinion might be, but I often feel like there aren't enough small-scale fantasy stories. There are plenty of fantasy books about heroes and rulers doing things that influence entire countries, or about people with 'exciting' occupations like thieves or assassins or spies, and all that. And that's great. I love a lot of those stories. I just wish there were more stories exploring fantasy settings from other angles. I'd like to see stories about common people living in those small towns that adventurers often pass through; about teachers at magic schools who have to deal with classes and paperwork and finding time to live their own lives with the addition of magic which sometimes makes things easier and other times harder; about merchants and tavern keepers who are just trying to keep their business going after the hero killed the tyrant, took up the throne, and now sure, everyone's celebrating, but what's going to happen tomorrow with the economy and the laws and the taxes. There are a lot of stories about the movers and shakers of the fantasy realms; I want to see more stories about how the common people live while around them dragons are being slayed and kings overthrown, if that makes sense.

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21 hours ago, Sam said:

There are a lot of stories about the movers and shakers of the fantasy realms; I want to see more stories about how the common people live while around them dragons are being slayed and kings overthrown, if that makes sense.

YES, THIS. This is my whole Thing that I'm obsessed with at the moment. Let me know if you write any of these stories!

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On 5/13/2019 at 6:01 AM, bdcharles said:

Yeah. I do actually use multiple POVs in my WIPs but naming the chapters after the characters never even occurred to me as I open with the character doing stuff anyway so it would be clear who it is; eg: most of my WIPs are from Echo's perspective but here are some others that aren't.

Well the main reason I've been doing it is for my own sanity, really, just so I know whose POV it's supposed to be in. You're right that the character's voice should be strong enough in the opening sentences that you know who the character is, but this is also only in first draft form. I'm honestly not sure whether or not I'm going to keep the character names as chapter titles or not, but I'm also terrible at coming up with chapter titles to begin with, so that's the upside to using the character names. XD

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@roadmagician I will! I have a number of plot bunnies in that vein that I really should start working on. If only I had 50 hours in a day instead of 24... :classic_rolleyes:

Meanwhile, have you read The Healers' Road by S.E. Robertson? It's 100% that type of story. Just two healers traveling the country, helping people, reflecting on their pasts and futures and sorting out their differences. It's perfect. Also, right now I'm reading Ravenwood by Nathan Lowell, a story about a number of people in a very small village just going about their lives. I'm only about 25% in, but I love it immensely already.

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1 hour ago, Jedi Knight Muse said:

Well the main reason I've been doing it is for my own sanity, really, just so I know whose POV it's supposed to be in. You're right that the character's voice should be strong enough in the opening sentences that you know who the character is, but this is also only in first draft form. I'm honestly not sure whether or not I'm going to keep the character names as chapter titles or not, but I'm also terrible at coming up with chapter titles to begin with, so that's the upside to using the character names. XD

I like coming up with chapter titles. I even do scene titles. They are a short-hand for me to know what the scene is about. They may or may not end up in the final draft, or I might just keep the chapter titles. In any case, chapter titles aren't necessary. Many books just number the chapters and leave it at that.

I have nothing against naming the chapter after the POV character. I didn't bother me at all when GRRM did it. It let me know right away that the POV was changing and that I could put the book down if I didn't want to start another POV at that time. Yes, the narrative does that anyway and GRRM is very good at that, so the titles probably aren't needed, but I don't think they hurt the story in any way.

With multiple 1st person, I can see using names as chapter titles. Yes, each character should have a distinct voice and it should be clear enough from the context who the POV is without naming them, but naming the chapter after the character removes all doubt from the reader. They aren't left trying to figure it out via the context clues. Also, by naming the chapter after the character in 1st person, the author isn't obligated to force the name into the narrative. It's easy to forget the names of the POV characters in 1st person. Having the name as the chapter title helps in that regard.

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