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Fantasy Faux Pas
by Steve Lazarowitz   

Last edited: Sunday, August 03, 2003
Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2003

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Originally published as a Shattered Fragments column, Fantasy Faux Pas is a tongue-in-cheek look at genre conventions.

Shattered Fragments
Steve Lazarowitz

April 2001


This month's column addresses fantasy writers. If you're not a fantasy writer, stop reading this instant and go away. This is inside information. Secret stuff. Hidden lore. You are NOT invited.

If you are reading this paragraph, you write fantasy. In this case, I'm talking about high fantasy, swords and sorcery and works of that ilk. Here are some of the things I can not stand to see again in a fantasy novel or story. If you have one of these elements in your story, you should be forced to spend the rest of eternity reading nothing but sappy romance novels.

Your villain will NOT explain his entire plan to the hero when he catches him, just to show how clever he is.

Your demons will not do stupid things that allows the hero to escape. The hero must depend on his own resources, not the enemy's bungling.

You will not include cute creatures in your otherwise dark book, just so you can have a merchandising tie in and sell a bunch of toys, unless you are George Lucas.

The whole good versus evil to save the world scenario is played out. If you can't provide your readers with a new twist, don't write it, unless you are Robert Jordan.

Magic should make sense and build throughout. If your magic can be used indiscriminately then your warriors are worthless. Mages need weaknesses too.

If your single warrior is going to take on twenty evil, undead soldiers by himself, he'd better get hit at least a couple of times. If you have a group fighting against overwhelming odds, seriously consider killing off one of your characters, unless you are George Lucas.

If you're going to write about elves, don't send me a copy to review. Ditto for vampires. If you can find something that hasn't been written about these two groups already, you're a better writer than I.

Avoid evil for the sake of evil. Evil characters are much more interesting if you give them realistic motivation.

Do not have an army come out of nowhere and save your adventurers at the last minute. You are NOT Tolkien... and even he wouldn't get away with it these days.

Only use excessive gore, if you don't know how to write and you're trying to cover up the fact. The same goes for excessive sex scenes.

If you find your characters continually shocked at the villain's latest atrocity, find yourself some smarter characters. After a while, shock wears off. File this under melodrama.

Your villain will not use some long and drawn out insane method of killing your protagonist, thus allowing him to escape. He will stab him with a sword or shoot him with a crossbow.

Your protagonist will not be named Myjrtvzqlnmaoliazza. If I can't pronounce it, I won't read it.

Your villain, who has been evil throughout the story, will not suddenly have a change of heart and become good. Unless, of course, you are George Lucas.

You will end the story, where the story ends... not eighty pages after the climax, to tell us what happens to everybody and their grandmother.

You will NOT spend fourteen pages setting up your world before introducing your characters.

And finally....

If you must rip off another author, don't rip off JRR Tolkien. Better writers than you have already done so.

These are not hard and fast rules. These are my rules and I'll stick to them. But for every person that gets away with one of the Fantasy Faux Pas listed above, another hundred earn themselves a rejection slip.

Web Site: Dream Sequence: The Writings of Steve Lazarowitz

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Reviewed by bowencat 8/3/2003
Great Article. Love the tongue-in-cheek style and some great advice to boot.
A must read for all future fantasy writers.
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