PRATIE PLACE

Friday, April 28, 2006

Tips for Fantasy Writers

Found at Pub Rants:

Extracts from
The Fantasy Novelist's Exam
By David J. Parker (Additional Material By Samuel Stoddard)

Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too... Frankly, we're sick of it, so we've compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering "yes" to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.
  • Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?

  • Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?

  • Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?

  • Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?

  • Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?

  • How about one that will destroy it?

  • Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about "The One" who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?

  • Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?

  • Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?

  • Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?

  • Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?

  • Does "a forgetful wizard" describe any of the characters in your novel?

  • How about "a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior"?

  • How about "a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons"?

  • Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?

  • Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?

  • Would "a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword" aptly describe any of your female characters?

  • Would "a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan" aptly describe any of your female characters?

  • Is any character in your novel best described as "a dour dwarf"?

  • How about "a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage"?

  • Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?

  • Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?

  • Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like "The Blasted Lands" or "The Forest of Fear" or "The Desert of Desolation" or absolutely anything "of Doom"?

  • Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you've read the entire book, if even then?

  • Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?

  • Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?

  • Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you're still many sequels away from finishing your "story"?

  • Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?

  • Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?

  • Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?

  • Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?

  • Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named "Tim Umber" and "Belthusalanthalus al'Grinsok"?

  • Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?

  • How about "orken" or "dwerrows"?

  • At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?

  • Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don't?

  • Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?

  • Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won't break the plot?

  • Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?

  • Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?

  • Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?

  • Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?

  • Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?

  • Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?

  • Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?

  • Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an "on the road" meal?

  • Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?

  • Do you think that "mead" is just a fancy name for "beer"?

  • Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?

  • Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?

  • Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?

  • Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?

  • Read that question again and answer truthfully.


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70 Comments:

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

Heh. These are good. Of course I'm saying that mainly because I survived the test.
:-)

 
At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked the exam but a lot of people already wrote abote those. I want mine to be unique, like Christopher Polonie's books

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you going on about? Many of the great tales out there revolve around the yes of those questions. Typically Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and whatnot. CS Lewis and Tolkien were both great writers. Frankly, the answer to the questions you wrote are exactly like their books. And the way you based your questions, I hardly think you'd approve any of other fantasy stories out there. If you hadn't noticed, Tolien and Lewis weren't the first ones to create a whole new world... it's been around for ages! Ever since the Classical times, so basically it was modern people who just based their stories off the myths and made it their own. This was stupid... it doesn't determine if anyone could write fantasy. And I'm not saying that because I didn't pass, I'm saying it because your questions answer at least one yes to every fantasy novel out there.

 
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment by Anonymous in that nearly every fantasy story has "yes" to at least more than one of these.

You must realize that some(not all) of these things, particularly the parts of a young lad growing into a hero, are rooted deeply in our cultures and represent our very lives, albeit in a symbolic manner.

Ever heard of an concept called the Hero's Journey? I think fantasy is a perfect catalyst for an undertaking of the classic hero quest, and is a perfect getaway from our daily troubles and reality. (*cough*cough* 9/11 *cough)

I do realize that one could get very jaded from reading about elves, dwarves, and dragons for the umpteenth time, but the very archetypes and symbols each concept implies has become deeply rooted into our very psyches; intentionally deleting them just for the sake of being different may end up harming that inner message or story you wish to tell. Of course, I'm not saying you can't be creative and stray from these old archetypes; just don't show contempt for them as that is just plain immature and arrogant as a storyteller.

In short, write whatever you want; don't let this dumb list faze you!! Just write about whatever tickles your fancy and share that inner message of yours!

 
At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the two comments above...sure you don't want to have a story that's a complete rip-off of something like Lord of the Rings, but every good fantasy I've read involves at least a couple of these elements...I'd like to read a great one that doesn't! i think the key is to have a central idea which is unique, but involve stereotypical elements...that way you can produce a hit.
and another point...its often how the story is written that grabs you attention, so to be a good fantasy writer you need to be a good writer period. the knowledge helps, but you don't want to fill it up with gobbledegook.

 
At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wel,, i'm guessing you're looking for individuality fo works, and these are stereotypical views, but asking if your story has a main character thats a warrior or wizard? Well youre not going to use a old woman on the verge of death to kill the uber bad guy are you? Secondly, the questions about inhuman strength, and horses riding all day. That's just plain idiotic, it's a FANTASY novel, these are the things that capture people, and if you read recent novels, i.e David & Leigh Eddings, Phillip Pullman, most of their works are based on humans with no powers. Also the two questions about female character either frying-pan wielding or sword weilding, this means you cant use any female as a main or support character, period. Lastly, the 'Is this a rip of Lord Of The Rings'... well any book that isnt Lord of The Rings, no matter how similar is still not Lord of The Rings, therefore youre questioning is completely stupid, and would probably put off most aspiring writers as youre ripping apart their ideas of fantasy, especially when thats the basis of fantasy. People have to start there and then they eventually grow down a certain path, and theres nothing wrong with using stereotypes, as long as you mix other elements up. People need something to cennect to, away from their daily lives and the reason these 'stereotypes' are used so often is because they work so well, so before you slate them all because you think you know better than anyone else on the tips of fantasy writing. Some of these points made me laugh, as they are true, but it doesnt mean you shouldnt use them, it is all down to personal opinion. I answered 'yes' to about three of the questions, and they were the basic ones, e.g 'does the main character grow up to gain power to defeat the bad guy. There are so many ways this can be acheived that slating it is the worst thing you could do, i think you should revise your list to be more writer friendly instead of telling everyone to basically stop writing fantasy so you can cash in on a dying art. If you actually read this and the three comments made before me, thats 75% of the comments made were against youre silly list, maybe you should rethink and revise, sincerely an aspiring fantasy writer

 
At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These days, people are very obsessed with 'breaking the mold' or 'cliche' to the point where it is a cliche to avoid cliche's. This test is laughable, simply because obviously the creators have no understanding of classical literature, just a brainwashed theory that the only book allowed to have these mystical creatures and character types are by J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. However, i post this comment, on the rare chance that some impressionable mind will acctually be shot down by this silly quiz, i wish it remembered fellow fantasy writers: don't listen to people who just want to whine about something.

Everybody on the earth has some bone to pick, most of them silly.

 
At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: At 9:42 AM, Anonymous said...
I liked the exam but a lot of people already wrote abote those. I want mine to be unique, like Christopher Polonie's books

I'm sorry, but who the fuck is Christopher Polonie? Did you mean Paolini?

Anyway, I think this test is completely legit- even though I failed the question about apostrophe's and dashes, as well as the 3-syllables one.

 
At 2:59 AM, Anonymous Karol-Jay said...

Well, Some of those questions were reasonable but others were down right silly. Have you ever tried writing a fantasy novel, instead of telling other people what makes a good one? If you haven't I suggest you try it.

A lot of those topics you bought up are to be expected in fantasy novels. Just because you found Lord of the Rings and Narnia interesting that doesn't mean that they are the only fantasies allowed to have those characters. Most likely, those characters were based of other characters from other books.

If you have written a fantasy novel before, I'd ask you to read that quiz and answer the questions yourself. Then post up some of the chapters in your story so we can see what a story without any of those things in it is like.

 
At 5:58 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Karol-Jay and others, I posted these because I thought they were funny, and also because I know (from reading blogs by writers' agents) that the same elements are presented again and again by aspiring authors and the agents laugh them off. However, they do say, "there's an exception to any rule, as long as the writing is good." I myself don't write fiction of any kind.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHOEVER WROTE THIS TEST IS A FUCKIN' HATER WHO PROBABLY CAN'T GET SHIT PUBLISHED AD WANTS TO MAKE SURE THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN, LIKE HONESTLY ARE YOU REALLY THAT FUCKN CYNICAL TO NOT KNOW THAT EVERY READ FANTASY ANSWERS YES TO A LOT MORE THAN ONE OF THESE QUESTIONS. YEH, LETS SEE YOU NOT ANSWER YES AND LETS SEE HOW MUCH OF A FUCKN FLOP THAT NOVEL IS. HAHA

 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

"WHOEVER WROTE THIS TEST IS A FUCKIN' HATER WHO PROBABLY CAN'T GET SHIT PUBLISHED AD WANTS TO MAKE SURE THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN, LIKE HONESTLY ARE YOU REALLY THAT FUCKN CYNICAL TO NOT KNOW THAT EVERY READ FANTASY ANSWERS YES TO A LOT MORE THAN ONE OF THESE QUESTIONS. YEH, LETS SEE YOU NOT ANSWER YES AND LETS SEE HOW MUCH OF A FUCKN FLOP THAT NOVEL IS. HAHA"

There's someone who answered 'yes' to more than a few of the above questions. XD Really, though, I think having a few cliche fantasy elements is a good thing in a story. A book doesn't have to be COMPLETELY original for it to be good. For instance, I think it's ridiculous to say any other book that uses elves & dwarves (dwarrow, whatever) stinks. I mean, Tolkien didn't invent them. I did get a laugh reading those, though. A similar page is http://xepher.net/~dcbueller/guest/guest6.html, with fantasy RPG cliches.

Man, that thing makes me want to write something that answeres 'yes' to ALL those things, just to be unbearable. =D

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

christopher paolini is NOT original

also, i adored this test. it's so silly nnad stereotypical... i ALMOST passed it!!!

it really annoys me to read the smae plot over and over again. i know it's completely impossible to have a truly original plotline, but really, the thing about the heair-to-the-kingdom/ villain's-son thing is so overused

and just for the record, i hate christopher paolini's books

 
At 7:58 PM, Anonymous hannah: future writer said...

Wow. Thats Hilarious! I Feel That Way Mostly Because I Am Currently Writing A Fantasy Story. (Mines About A Magical Key). Those Things R Sooo True. Most Fantasies Are About The Same Stuff No Matter How Many Times You Have Already Read It.( Im Trying Desperately 2 Be Original.)

 
At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

heh. no elves dwarfs etc. how about people with tacos for heads? yeah you have to have a cliche' in a fantasy novel. its just a matter of how you shape the cliche'
"the elves and the dwarves are at war" is a cliche. so how do you tweak it? make the main character or a central character involve in making it happen. on purpose, for the sake of their quest, or whatever. if your desperate to find a way out of the cliche loop, you could always try for a time space paradox arc.

 
At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, if it weren't for Paolini, I wouldn't be posting this. His work has been my inspiration.
I found this test really stereotypical. A lot of already-popular novels wouldn't have passed, so what's wrong with a few "yes"es? Granted, a RPG-based book is a bad idea (there are enough of them as it is), but what about the apostrophes in a name? How does that prevent a novel from being considered "good?"
Anyway, I almost passed. And no, there are no elves or dwarves in my story. (Dragons and sorcerers is another story... no pun intended.)

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Papillon said...

"Also the two questions about female character either frying-pan wielding or sword weilding, this means you cant use any female as a main or support character, period."
Are you suggesting that there are no other kinds of female characters in fantasy? How terribly sexist of you. I have to say, most of the items on this list - although many professional writers use them with great success - are completely legitimate. Many fantasy writers do not actually think about these things, which are really quite logical. Even the most surreal fantasy has to have some degree of logic to it, or else it loses all credibility. Call it 'godmoding'; a writer who simply does whatever the hell they want without even thinking about whether or not it would be plausible in the world they created always ends up being a disappointment. And Paolini, the guy everyone loves, ripped off just about every popular fantasy novel ever written. I defy you to name me one original idea or twist in that series.
On another note, I think I just about passed the test. Of course there will be something from past literature in your story - it's inevitable. But that doesn't mean you should write off the entire list as 'stupid'. Going through and removing some of the cliches from your work makes it far more interesting and draws a greater audience. Everyone could benefit from this; there are quite a few published authors who abuse them, much to my chagrin.

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the blogger's correct: the fantasy genre has been suffering from what I call the "Tolkien Headlock" since the 1960s. And frankly, I'm fucking sick of elves, half-eleves, dark elves, dwarves, orcs, wizards, and magic. ISN'T THERE A MIND OUT THERE THAT CAN COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL THOUGHT INSTEAD OF RIPPING OFF THE DEAD OLD BASTARD FROM ENGLAND?

 
At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I can, and I survived the entire test except for those two sexist female ones.That is mucked up it made me bloody angry. Basically, your saying that if I use an old woman in my story then its stuffed... Gosh

OMG? Eragon isn't unique! Let me lay it out to you: A young boy who lives in a poor family finds a dragon egg in the forest and it hatches so now hes a Rider. Just that much isn't the least bit unique! Sure its loved and all but Christopher Paolini actually admits that he based alot of it off books like LOTR and the dragonriders of Pern and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon hatcher (whatever the fuck that is) But even though he ripped off heaps, if you think about it, everything is a rip off of everything else.

But its easy to be original and I thought the test was funny except for those two female ones. I wouldn't want to read a book that is as sexist as that (thankyou two posts above) it would be like flicking through a bundle of dribbled shit!

Nice test but those two female ones majorly fucked it up mate...

 
At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: At 9:42 AM, Anonymous said...
I liked the exam but a lot of people already wrote abote those. I want mine to be unique, like Christopher Paolonie's books

Just for the record, Christopher Paolini's books are the most cliche and ripped off bestselling fantasy (plagiarising Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dragonriders of Pern, Wizard of Earthsea) i've ever read. And i don't see what's wrong with the female questions. It is possible to create female characters that aren't either super-feminst kick-arse women or demure, stereotypical damsels/maids/housewives or whatever. I think that's all the test is saying. I agree the test is a bit over the top, but I don't think it's meant to be taken too seriously.

 
At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I passed :)

 
At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly guys, if you passed the test, i don't think anyone would want to read your fantasy book. This person pretty much took away everything that fantasy was about. I mean lets face it, I think it is pretty safe to say that everything has already been done before at one point or another in the world of fantasy. They're a lot of authors out there that say 'don't recreate the wheel.' which is a good saying to follow. But i say make the wheel better!

 
At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Eddings was the only author i can think of that wrote a decent fantasy novel that only had human races but there were so many different human races. Story i'm writing at the moment only said "yes" to two of those questions.

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummmm, yeah, i dont think its very good to have most of these things in fantasy nowadays, but a few are alrite. I only had one yes, and its only a semi-yes on the question about travelling alot. Im trying to be totally original, but i think a few thinsg are fine.

 
At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHATS WRONG WITH HAVING A TRILOGY PLEASE TELL ME WHY THAT IS BAD I HAVE A TRILOGY IM WORKING ON NOW SO WHY IS IT AUTOMATICALLY ABD!

 
At 7:54 AM, Blogger JJ said...

This test is quite useless. If you could write a book about a boy who grows up, finds out his father was the king and finds a magical weapon that returns to him and makes friend with a bard and still make it original, why not? This is the type of nonsense that only discourages new writers from entering the world of writing. I'm almost finished with a book that could go through as a stand alone or be published in a trilogy later or whatever if I desire it later on, so why not? If the publishers like it then it's settled isn't it?

 
At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, if the Inheritance series by paolini is such a ripp-off of other's including LOTR, then why is it so much more fun reading it than LOTR or Star Wars?

 
At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahahaha, I passed the test...
Well, maybe the same way I passed my math final: 78. Because I DO have a trilogy in mind...and I haven't even written two chapters of the first book. Other than that, great test!

 
At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a hater and yes I did answer yes to some of those questions. To be honest this is a heap of bullshit. I'm not saying that because I'm jealous or for any reason other than it really is. Did the guy who wrote this article ever write fantasy? I don't mean a book but even for fun. Did he, really?
Either way here are a few points for you:
Writers shouldn't stereotype. Tbh nobody should but especially not writers criticisng other people. If you break down most books you can answer one of those questions as a yes, easily.

I write but I've not got a book together yet. Mainly I write because I love it, not because I want a bestseller, although it would be nice. As far as I am concerned (I am not referring to myself here in any way before anyone decides to have a dig) really good writers should be able to take a subject, virtually any subject, and alter it to be different. If you look at it simply, yes there are lots of books with elves. But a good writer should be able to make their elves different.

If two completely new races created by a writer hated each other, regardless of anything else, they would be compared to the elves and dwarves, even if they are not based upon those races.

So to summarise, you can spout your rules and questions all you want, at the end of the day you know nothing about writing. Again, this isn't out of jealousy or for any other reason, it's the truth. If you read a lot of books and study them closely you would see my point, but I doubt you are that interested in good books. You'd rather just criticise other people's work. Bye.

 
At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy who posted before me nailed it. I wonder if the person who made the test ever had a book published?

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at the spirit of the thing...it's a silly quiz meant to highlight all of the cliches out there. It's a reminder that there is a lot of trash being put out by poor authors simply because you can use a formulated story plot to get your book published. It is meant to remind us to use our heads and be original. Keep in mind, the fantasy genre is still not taken that seriously in most circles, mostly because there are too many books out there with too many cliches...hence this quiz.

 
At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Christian Skoog said...

Very good questions. Most of them were both fun (Made me laugh, actually) and well thought-out. However, I agree with what many else have said here. Many good, new fantasy books contains some of these elements. Like that one about the farmboy. You surerly know of Eragon, don't you? Well, thought so. Christopher Paolini's answer to that question was yes, and now he's famous.
So even though you answer yes to some of these questions, you can write not just a good, but perhaps a very good fantasy story.
Good luck all fantasy writers.

 
At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know it's really sad that trilogy question. I had a prequel to a non-existent trilogy, which follows the prequel question. so I got double-whammed. haha

 
At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL i would have answered yes to the elves/dwarves question but i changed elves to fairies coz i really really didn't want to learn/make up the elven language. way to time-consuming. And coz dwarves were never in it to begin with, hehe.
I think i only answered one question with yes. So my character gains power and defeats the bad guy. Big deal. It would be boring if it was about randoms just walking around doing nothing.

And whoever wrote this seems to be in the mind that no one ever wrote fantasy before JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis. Well that is just silly. People have been writing fantasy like that for years and years and years before they were even born. Why is it such a crime now? And you think they invented elves and dwarves and unicorns and dragons and every other european creature you can think of? NO. they just did their research, hehe.
And for the record....my series is four books. bahahahahahahaha! lol.

And i know this has been addressed before but whoever said that Paolini's series was unique is seriously deluded. His is the most cliched fantasy book there ever was. But there's nothing wrong with it. I still enjoy it. Mind you...the third one did disappoint me, hehe :D

 
At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yai, we got ourselves a laugher!

Seriously, the test was a joke, aimed at all those cliches on the market nowadays, it wasn't even serious.

 
At 2:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, this was if nothing else, an entertaining quiz. However, It offers little in the way of describing what makes the Fantasy genre proper or improper. Of course the genre has become flooded with horrid accounts of "literature". But, in my opinion the same can be said for just about every other genre as well (science fiction, mystery, and *shudder* romance to name a few).

In light of this, our question ought not to be, "how do we change fantasy?", but, instead, "how do we reinvigorate the genre?". The answer, quite plainly, is not by turning one's back to cliche, but by embracing the true meanings of the elements which made the writings of men such as Lewis and Tolkien so endearing.

Before that, however, it must be said that by no means were these two men the progenitors of modern Fantasy. At least give credit where credit is due. In this case to men such as the great William Morris (The Well at World's End) and Lord Dunsany (The King of Elfland's Daughter). Both of these men (as well as many others)were major influences in the occupations of both Lewis and Tolkien.

Another powerful factor in determining the brilliance in both Lewis' and Tolkien's works was knowledge. Let's face it, every "run-of-the-mill" fantasy author out there has one basic education: high fantasy written in the 20th century. Lewis and Tolkien were men who knew the Classics. They read Austen, Shakespeare, Euripides, Virgil, and Homer. The could recite entire sections from the Iliad and The Faerie Queen. Do not think for a second, that such a thorough education of literature was not represented in their writings. They knew how to to write "bildungsromans" (which, by the way, are historically some of the most pivotal novels ever written; consider Herman Hesse.), they knew vocabulary (they did not tote around the thesaurus as Paolini so proudly proclaims to), and they certainly appreciated literature as an art form and not merely as mindless entertainment.

All of the above examples are important in defining Lewis and Tolkien's fantasy, but there is one more thing that was of absolute importance. It was a foundation and cornerstone of their writing, and what I believe is pivotal to all good fantasy writing. This is the idea of morality. It has been said that no leftist ever wrote a memorable piece of wholesome fiction. And, this was especially true in the day of Lewis and Tolkien. In an age where relativity was quickly becoming the factor by which all men judged morals, they spoke out and declared that there was a right and wrong. Then, they expressed it in the best way they knew how: literature.

It ought to be fairly apparent that both men expressed their Christian values frequently in their writing, and, in my opinion, this is what makes them so remarkable. They do define a battle against good and evil. Good always does triumph. People live simpler lifestyles (both Lewis and Tolkien had an extreme distaste for technology and industrialization). Harmony is found in hard work (the way of dwarves) and living upon a green earth(the lifestyle of elves). Most importantly, they also define sacrifice as the ultimate struggle of love over hate. Frodo wades through what might as well be Hell only to save the world that he knows and cares for. Aslan is willing to sacrifice himself to save a boy who knowingly wronged him.

Such concepts are not "cliche" elements. They simply resonate with us. They leave us with something extra: hope. Both Lewis and Tolkien created entire mythos (Tolkien's son has banked off the Silmarillion) in order to define singular moments in their "worlds'" histories in which good triumphed over evil.

With such things in mind, therefore, it is hard for me to comprehend many of the questions in this quiz. Queries which seek to drive out much of what makes fantasy great and different from other genres. Fantasy is an opportunity to be transported to another world and see a sliver of our past. A past which can never be recaptured (only dreamed of). In conclusion, consider this quote from Samwise himself in The Lord of the Rings: "It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something... That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."-J.R.R. Tolkien

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger Fantasy Writer said...

hehe a lot of angry voices on all the comments! :) Personally i liked the test, it was funny. And people don't take it too seriously. But i think a lot of stuff was true, because after Harry Potter, Eragon and Twilight i don't think anyone wants more books about wizards, dragons or vampires, it won't sell...
Anyone know where you can get more tests like these?

 
At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of people's posts. Great Fantasy involves plenty of these elements. Taking them away may make your story unique, but it also may make your story boring, irrelevant, and dream-crushing. I admit that no one wants to read yet another knock off of a great fantasy writer's story, but that doesn't mean to make a story so unique that no one identifies with it. As someone great once said, good writers plagiarize, great writers steal. That's the point of being a writer in general, taking what other people have said, and putting it in your own words, adding a little of your own personality. Let those who read your writing see your point of view. Just because it may be close to someone else's, doesn't mean that point of view is a bad point of view.

 
At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW. All you that complained about the blog...are stupid. You totally missed the point.

 
At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone who is whining like that is just mad 'cause they cant be anything other than cliche. I loved the test.

""Just for the record, if it weren't for Paolini, I wouldn't be posting this. His work has been my inspiration.""

If thats your inspiration, Im seriosly scared of your finished work. Must be awful!

 
At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good test to check for originality of your book and for entertainment, but I don't think anyone should worry if they said yes to a few of the questions.

Sometimes, it is okay to take some ideas from other books, just not too many. Just look at Eragon, many ideas and places were taken from series like "The Wheel of Time", but it was still a good read. So was "Harry Potter",even though the entire idea came from the series "The Worst Witch".

 
At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

u IDIOTS! Of course some of these were in Star wars, lord of the rings, harry potter and so on. But THAT'S why YOU shouldn't be writing it once again! Unless u want your story to be boring container fantasy just anyone could write, try to be a lil innovative and think of something no one else has yet. And christopher paolini is NOT, i repeat NOT unique in any way. about 80 % of the book's just a lord of the rings rip off.

 
At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

U cannot be thinking, well, i Christopher Paolini got thru with it, i can too.

Don't u see? He already did! People will just think your books boring.

 
At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will admit that most of the list made me laugh, however, there are some ideas on there that did get my blood boiling.

To say that if any of the above on the list are in a book, that you wont read it is pretty much admitting that you don't like fantasy. Period.

Now I understand that there are those who use the same basis of ideas from other books and place them in their own, but . . . the missing portion of why they fail is, quite honestly, simple to understand.

It's not WHAT you're writing about, it's HOW you're writing it. A different voice can have more of an impact on the story plot, characters and everything in between that will catch the attention of the readers and be deemed worthy of originality. It's a simple method that's used in movies, however, you don't have to stress about if your lead guy/gal will show up on time for the shoot.

Thing is folks, we are all different and by this, we have different ideas on what type of story sounds good - even if it sounds like a classic written in the past. Though you may not realize it, we all copy ideas from others just as they did, so this shouldn't be something to argue about. There is not one idea out there that hasn't been made into a movie, written on paper, or re-created in song or on the stage - let alone, been thought about. But again, it may all have the same likeness, it's actually the telling of the tale - in as many different persectives - that truly makes it an original piece.

Keep that in mind.

 
At 3:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol Loved this quiz I passed!!! yay... except for the trilogy question. Trilogies have been and will always be extremely important for plot structure in many genres. I am personally tired of picking up a book and reading the same old damzel in destress crap.

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger ch3rry4de said...

That was funny, if a little smug. These are indeed the staples of godawful cliched fantasy fiction, although there are talented authors who can take one or more of these tropes, turn them on their head and make something wonderful or truly original.

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger ch3rry4de said...

Just to add to my reply - some of these elements aren't cliche in and of themselves, they're just often used in a cliched way by authors with no sense of irony or who aren't aware of what's come before. Plots/dramatic setups are rarely that original, but settings, characters and worldviews are. I mean, these things showed up in mythology centuries before Tolkien.

Also sometimes, strained originality can be far more painful to read than cliche.

(Also don't agree about trilogies. Trilogies are popular for a reason, it's a very natural structure for stories to take, especially stories encompassing such a large scale.)

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger ch3rry4de said...

When it comes to ancient prophecies about 'The One', I can't help but think of Joe Stracznski's Babylon 5 (yes it's TV and not strictly fantasy, humour me. It's definitely an epic with 'hero's quest' elements) and the ingenious way he turned that old chestnut on its head.

 
At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two 'Yes' with 'but,' and I have seven books in mind. I'm quite allergic to trilogies nowadays, and this quiz made me realize how much I hate cliches, difficult names, and superficial elves...

 
At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Did some idiot actually just say that Paolini is an original author. Google search "Eragon vs Star Wars and click the first link to see a compare and contrast of the two. I personally hate Paolini. I passed most of this test, but you know what, what is fantasy is not illogical at all!

 
At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Bekah said...

Quote: "Answering "yes" to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once."

While this is hilarious, I think it should be more like 3-5 questions, and you'll simply need editing if it's more than five. The only reason you should ever abandon a novel is if it answers yes to, oh, ALL or close to all of these questions? Because then you're really in trouble.

As for the whole female-character thing, MY female character is an awesome fighter, but she can cook, she can garden, she can take care of kids. In fact, the whole reason she can fight at all is because she's had so much experience defending her village's kids from a magical war. Reading the novel in which the aforementioned character stars is free at myexplodingcat.com, under Books and then under Star near the bottom on that page.

What we need is a test that shows whether the novel needs editing or not, or whether it's "good enough" to get published. You know?

Other than that, I cracked up at some of these. Take them for what they're worth and nothing more!

 
At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most commenters seem to miss the point that this exam is probably to point out over used cliches and tropes, but not to say their bad. Now having more than e few in the same story just leads to a horrible unreadable mess unless done well so I can agree with trying to be original.

 
At 9:27 PM, Blogger Huknar said...

This list is not accurate or 100% correct AT ALL, I will agree that some points should be avoided, but that is my personal preference. What you have to understand is that all authors have different writing preferences and have an idea of what a fantasy novel should be about.

You also have to take into account the target audience, I am sure young readers will want to read about valiant knights and damsels in distress, so such an avoidance should not be deemed as all occasions.

The comment about trilogy or series planning is a very negative attitude towards structure. All good authors plan ahead, and by setting a series of novels down a writing will have his boundaries marked. Trying to cram everything in a single book makes for a chaotic action-all-the-time novel, and leaves you no space for the small things, though a series of books stretch your confines and give you space and direction as to how the story will unfold.

I shall agree that elves are very overused and I myself have avoided their usage in my own writing, but that is not to say they should be abandoned at all costs. You can take the basics of all elements and grow them into something new. The idea of human-like creatures with an affinity for magic can me linked to elves but still feel refreshing.

I completely disagree about the comment of having apostrophes in names. I feel that this is a powerful tool to mark a name, and what I mean is draw attention to it and give it an ID of somewhat. For example the game Runescape uses apostrophes in every Kal'Gerion demon, and a race of lava golems who use many hyphens in their names of everything.

I think the remark:"Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about "The One" who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?" is also unfair as the basis of most "Epic" fantasy novels will have some sort of version of this, be it twisted and warped but still similar, and personally I think they work for rather good novels.

I also feel that "Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?" is an invalid point, that is if you define "Nothing" as large action, because many books start with slow and simple things to introduce the reader to the world and immerse them. I agree that there should be some small action, be it a basic quest of sorts but a book that does not have a large battle between two forces in the first 50 pages should not be requested to be scrapped.

I think in this list your outlined the basic elements that EVERY fantasy novel will boil down to, and if you are asking people NOT to write in any of these, you are asking them not to write a fantasy novel at all.

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that some of the questions make sense for making for a cliche fantasy novel, like the "Desert of Desolation" one. But really, a lot of them don't make sense. What on earth is wrong with including elves or dwarves in your book? Including those races really makes it bad? And the female questions. There is nothing wrong with having a cook or warrioress. I found those rather sexist. And putting all of them together in a trilogy makes it bad? What is wrong with a trilogy? There are a ton of original, successful trilogies out there. Saying a series is bad because of the number of books it pretains is like saying a story is bad because it has characters. I really dare you to write a fantasy novel without answering "yes" to any of these questions. You'll get at least two "yes" answers for just about every great fantasy out there.

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that some of the questions make sense for making for a cliche fantasy novel, like the "Desert of Desolation" one. But really, a lot of them don't make sense. What on earth is wrong with including elves or dwarves in your book? Including those races really makes it bad? And the female questions. There is nothing wrong with having a cook or warrioress. I found those rather sexist. And putting all of them together in a trilogy makes it bad? What is wrong with a trilogy? There are a ton of original, successful trilogies out there. Saying a series is bad because of the number of books it pretains is like saying a story is bad because it has characters. I really dare you to write a fantasy novel without answering "yes" to any of these questions. You'll get at least two "yes" answers for just about every great fantasy out there.

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, people here need to chill out.

This test (taken from rinkworks.com) is purely a parody and meant for entertaining purposes only. If you're currently writing your masterpiece novel and found a little too many of these to be true, don't bitch about it on the internet, no-one cares.

Personally, being a fan of Salvatore and some of the other WotC authors who have pretty much included all of the above mentioned cliches, I think that this test was awesome, and as a previous poster mentioned, if you're novel actually contains more than 5-7 YES'es on this list, you should reconsider soome of your work in progress.

And I believe I can speak for a lot of fantasy fans when I say that the whole "all dwarves/halflings etc are witty, smart-arse and purely for a comic relief" is starting to get annoying. Same for the whole Elves vs Dwarves-thing.

 
At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The questions are meant to test wheather or not your book is stereotypical or origional. Of course the questions will be asking things that are similar to Lord of the Rings and other well known fantasy books.

 
At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All right, I admit, I answered "yes" to the elves and dwarves bit. but other than that, I'd say i went through without fail. I'M ORIGINAL! XP

 
At 10:46 AM, Blogger MorGothDoom said...

Heh, I narrowly survived this test. I agree that a lot of these questions are incorrectly biased. My manuscript contains no previously existing race except humans which I may change later on. What about a character who gets accidentally transported from a fantasy realm to the real world? Seems cliche as well, but it wasn't on this test ;-P

 
At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Writing my Own Reality said...

I am a soon to be published sci fi author and I have to say, shame on you. Your opinion of what makes bad books, sorry plot lines, and so on is not the opinion of the reader. Given, not all of those bold enough to begin a novel will amount to having it be more than a hobby, and their plot lines might be plainer or predictable, but that is their baby. Characters birthed from their very dreams and imagination. How dare you think you can tell them to give up? Stereotypes exist because much of the time they are true, and so what if the character (LIKE ERAGON from the INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER Christopher Paolini) has iffy heritage and is a farm hand? He gained momentous success. Being original doesn't mean refusing to follow stereotypes, it means to re-write them.

 
At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you people really not understand the word satire? Gawd. Stop getting so uppity. The article is a joke article. What is wrong with you all?

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

REAL nice. I was searching for a site that would inspire me to write, but this just completely deflated my hopes.
WHY did you put this on here? Does it really matter what others write? Anyways, if it is not good enough, then it won't even get published. So you don't have to worry about that.
And maybe some people actually LIKE good stories, about elves and dragons and magic and that stuff. So don't just put this stuff on here just because you feel like it- it really could hurt some people.

 
At 12:42 PM, OpenID kzackuslheureux said...

So if I changed my "chosen people of the unseen covenant" to be anything else beside "elves" I think I would be okay.... The family does travel a lot though, but check out my world: http://kzackuslheureux.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/this-is-a-map-of-the-world-i-am-working-a-new-story-through/

They have to travel to the Four Corners! :)
Thanks for posting such a list, I like it.

 
At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And these comments sum up exactly what is wrong with fantasy fiction writers. Stop taking yourselves so seriously, kids. And really, go look up satire- it might even help you become a better writer.

 
At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the list very entertaining, actually. And a lot of them pose good points. Its not about denying every fantasy cliche. Or saying that having those things in "a" novel makes it bad. Its that having it in "your" novel isn't advisable. They've been done, they've been read, and they were successful. This person never said that novels with it were unsuccessful or terrible. It said that they were tired of people trying to put out their novel with these as their major points, because its more akin to writing a fandom than your own story.

The only point that I disagreed with is the one about "a character that comes into adulthood, gains power and defeats the bad guy". That's not a cliche, its an archetype which defines our culture and will always be prevalent in our writing, in our movies and in our world. Tales of coming into adulthood aren't just in fantasy, either. There are many classical novels with no fantasy element that work off this idea.

My novel is about growing up and maturing, as well as many other things. I don't write about elves and dwarves, but it doesn't mean some day I won't. Cliches help you fit into a market, as well. If you don't adhere to some cliche, then you'll never sell, because publishers want to market their books to readers who want a specific thing. When a bunch of people all want the same thing, its because they enjoy it and they've read it in certain novels before, so its been done and they liked it.

But you should avoid a lot of the things that are spoken of in this list. The character that keeps information from themselves so as to not throw off the plot is a horrible thing. As is the character that simply drops in to give useful information. That's not a character, its a device and readers will see that and they won't care as much about your world because of it. It loses the sense of realism, the suspension of disbelief that all writers should strive to attain.

My novel is about a kingdom in the midst of an industrial revolution. It takes place in the capitol of this kingdom, where right across the river a refugee camp has been built to house the people left over from the last war the kingdom was in. Its about cultural differences, prejudice, and a country in the midst of a lot of changes. That's the background of it. Then in front of that is a plot that entails revolution, conspiracy, plenty of action and fighting and romance. But in front of that is the character story. About a boy trying to find his place in the world, growing into adulthood and learning about his heritage, and yes...gaining power and defeating the "bad guy". Its called layering your story. There needs to be a theme, then there needs to be a plot, then there needs to be character motivation and emotion. The emotion and character drives the plot, which in turn reveals the theme. And yet through this its a fantasy novel. There's magic. There's the conflict of good versus evil (or in my case the corrupt, not the completely evil). The use of cliches are necessary to create a marketable piece of fiction. But what's important is that your story isn't obvious about its cliches in a way that makes you roll your eyes and say "Yeah, I've seen that before". So go ahead and include some of the elements above. Just don't base your novel around them.

 
At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the list very entertaining, actually. And a lot of them pose good points. Its not about denying every fantasy cliche. Or saying that having those things in "a" novel makes it bad. Its that having it in "your" novel isn't advisable. They've been done, they've been read, and they were successful. This person never said that novels with it were unsuccessful or terrible. It said that they were tired of people trying to put out their novel with these as their major points, because its more akin to writing a fandom than your own story.

The only point that I disagreed with is the one about "a character that comes into adulthood, gains power and defeats the bad guy". That's not a cliche, its an archetype which defines our culture and will always be prevalent in our writing, in our movies and in our world. Tales of coming into adulthood aren't just in fantasy, either. There are many classical novels with no fantasy element that work off this idea.

My novel is about growing up and maturing, as well as many other things. I don't write about elves and dwarves, but it doesn't mean some day I won't. Cliches help you fit into a market, as well. If you don't adhere to some cliche, then you'll never sell, because publishers want to market their books to readers who want a specific thing. When a bunch of people all want the same thing, its because they enjoy it and they've read it in certain novels before, so its been done and they liked it.

But you should avoid a lot of the things that are spoken of in this list. The character that keeps information from themselves so as to not throw off the plot is a horrible thing. As is the character that simply drops in to give useful information. That's not a character, its a device and readers will see that and they won't care as much about your world because of it. It loses the sense of realism, the suspension of disbelief that all writers should strive to attain.

My novel is about a kingdom in the midst of an industrial revolution. It takes place in the capitol of this kingdom, where right across the river a refugee camp has been built to house the people left over from the last war the kingdom was in. Its about cultural differences, prejudice, and a country in the midst of a lot of changes. That's the background of it. Then in front of that is a plot that entails revolution, conspiracy, plenty of action and fighting and romance. But in front of that is the character story. About a boy trying to find his place in the world, growing into adulthood and learning about his heritage, and yes...gaining power and defeating the "bad guy". Its called layering your story. There needs to be a theme, then there needs to be a plot, then there needs to be character motivation and emotion. The emotion and character drives the plot, which in turn reveals the theme. And yet through this its a fantasy novel. There's magic. There's the conflict of good versus evil (or in my case the corrupt, not the completely evil). The use of cliches are necessary to create a marketable piece of fiction. But what's important is that your story isn't obvious about its cliches in a way that makes you roll your eyes and say "Yeah, I've seen that before". So go ahead and include some of the elements above. Just don't base your novel around them.

 
At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because its written at a fifth grade level, making it easier for morons like you to follow along.

 
At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are really good. I was like " No, no, no.. Heh, I did the exact opposite."

My story is actually mainly about six Elements( Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Ice, and Darkness. Darkness was banished) and in those six, Fire is the true main character. Fire in the form of a young princess called Freya. She is forced to fight in a war which ultimately destroys her. Going to Earth, the last place that knows Fire, she lives and prospers.
( Trust me, this is far from Zena.)

 
At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I think the old woman thing is a good idea... 0_0

 

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