I’m not just a writer: I’m a reader. I write fantasy fiction primarily because it’s what I’m drawn to. I read fantasy fiction. In my newly rediscovered passion for writing, I’ve been reading a lot of books on what to do, what not to do, and that sort of thing. Of course, that’s a subject for a completely different blog.
However, in this blog I’d like to address my pet peeves in fantasy writing. Why? Because these are things I do not want to ever catch myself doing. EVER.
Apostrophe abuse: Books infused with obsessive, unnecessary, and prolific apostrophes in names. The only reason I can think anyone does this is to somehow make these names seem “exotic.” They only serve to annoy me. Seriously, people…get over yourselves already. One or two names with an apostrophe I can see, maybe. Using them in certain “tribes” and not in others, maybe. Put every other proper name or place-name is just irresponsible apostrophe use. All it does is distract me from what is going on in the book.
Q and X abuse, etc: Q and X are two of the least-used letters in the English language. As a result, some authors think that in order to let you know the book is in some other plane of existence, they have to have lots and lots of rarely used letters in their place and/or proper names. Really? If your plot and your descriptions don’t give me the idea that it’s a fantasy novel, your Qs and Xs aren’t going to help. The more complicated the pronunciation, the more distracted I am from what the plot is and who the characters are. Pretty much the same peeve as the apostrophe problem and, ironically (or not), you’ll often find these two techniques combined.
Tolkien abuse: (Also occasionally D & D abuse). Tolkien was a brilliant writer. He created a world loosely based off of this world’s folklore, but he made it his. That’s his, not yours. Leave his elves, dwarves, and dragons alone, dammit! If you want to use them, that’s up to you…but when I get the feeling that the person is just playing in Middle Earth, I lose interest. Calling a Hobbit a Halfling isn’t going to fool me, either. That just means you’re taking a page from the D & D Player’s Manual. Elves, dwarves, and dragons are fine…but why can’t you make your own rules with them? Change it up a bit? I guess this wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t so prevalent out there…What I love about the fantasy genre is that you’ve got this wonderful chance to create an entire world from scratch. I wish more authors would take advantage of it instead of relying on someone else’s imagination.
Arthur, Arthur, Arthur… There was a point in time when I was obsessed with the “Matter of Britain,” I admit it. I still have many of these books: Forever King, The Crystal Cave, Mists of Avalon, along with many, many others. After awhile however, I realized it’s just like the Titanic. (How many Titanic movies do we need, really?) Yes, the Titanic always sinks, and Arthur always dies. The story is always the same. Slightly different takes on the characters, slightly different takes on the time period, but the plot line can’t change. This dead horse has been beaten to a pulp. There are some more-than-great books on the subject of King Arthur, but I think it’s really time we move along now. The Forever King is a wonderful exception as it covers King Arthur returning again…and is exceedingly well done. If you’ve got a good twist like that, go for it. Otherwise…well, I’m not reading it!
Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies, and Mummies: Honestly, I don’t think of these books as being “fantasy” per se, but some certainly don’t fit into the category of “horror” either. Let’s face it, the only thing horrible about Twilight is the writing. (And the acting if we’re talking about the movie). For once and for all kids, Vampires do not sparkle.
I personally do not understand the need to make vampires sexy. I admit, there are a lot of people out there with a vampire fetish. But I think of those vampires as some completely different kind of creature. We really ought to create a whole new term for them, honestly.Vampires, from the folk legends, should be frightening, ugly, and smelly. (Yes, smelly. Rotting flesh is one of the least sexy smells I can personally think of!)
And again, many authors are leaning heavily on other author’s creations. Vampires have now been done, re-done, and over-done. Does this mean we can’t be creative about it? Well, no. Mercedes Lackey (insert bowing and scraping gesture: She’s one of the demi-goddesses of my pantheon, to be elevated to Godhood after her passing from this realm), in a couple of her Diana Tregarde novels had vampires. In Children of the Night she had a couple of different varieties even; bloodsuckers, emotional suckers, and soul-suckers. They were amazingly frightening…well, except for the bloodsucker, who turned out to be an ok-kind of guy. But with other horrifying vampires in the mix, I can forgive her for having one sexy one.
Werewolves fall into the same category of being over-done. They’re also bordering on being over-sexified as well. After all, once we’ve abused and saturated the vampire market, where else can we go?
Zombies and Mummies fall into the same heading for me. There was only one Mummy that ever made sense to me…and that was because of the whole Egyptian curse concept. Otherwise…yeah, not going there. And zombies really piss me off on many levels…not the least of which is that the root of the subject is from a little-understood magical practice in Voodoo…or so they say. Mousie has a fabulous theory about the word “zombie” and where it might actually have come from which would have little at all in common with the concept of physical “walking dead.” If you’re going to animate the dead, leave Voodoo alone. There are actually myths from China that have some exceedingly frightening walking dead…as well as some Native American myths. Go play with those, if you must. Of course, if you’re going to play with those you might actually be writing horror, not fantasy…and good for you if you do! Some things just don’t belong in the happy fluffy bunny world of fantasy.
Happy Fluffy Bunny World: Pretty much gets my central nervous system into convulsions. This is the ultimate combination of all those happy fairy-tales from childhood…unicorns, flying horses, angels, and all the Tolkien creations. Otherwise known as Narnia disease. Build up this pretty little “My Little Pony” world and then create some big bad guy to destroy it all, create unlikely heroes and have all the happy fluffy bunnies band together at the end to get rid of the big ugly bad guy. Put the pen/laptop down and slowly walk away…
So now that I have vented about my peeves, does this mean I’m avoiding all of them? Well, no, not really. Because in writing fiction, it’s pretty much assumed that it will involve some sort of “fairy” type creatures whether Tolkien, D & D, or Narnian. However, I am taking some efforts to ensure that my creations are different. I’m going back into the folklore from my own childhood, looking for the things that resonated with me, the things that scared me silly, the things that gave me nightmares as a child. I’m looking at the different creatures and revitalizing them, trying to think where they would have come from, what they would eat, what their mating and nesting habits really would be. Hell, I’ve even read an entire physics diatribe about whether or not angels and flying horses (pegasi) would physically be able to fly, and what would be necessary in order for that to happen. It was fascinating.
See, these are my creations, in my world, with my rules. They’re also my characters…but again, that’s a blog for a different day…