What would you like to see more of in fantasy books?

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Myles Alexander, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. Myles Alexander

    Myles Alexander Killed in the battle against the Mad King

    I was wondering what things you would you like to see more of in a fantasy book?
    Do you think there needs to be more depth in terms of the characters, plot or theme - or maybe more battles, quests, romance, for example? Looking forward to your replies!
  2. Blastoise

    Blastoise Got in a fistfight with Dresden

    Personally, I would like to see more epic fantasy series with:

    1) Political games, ala Game of Thrones/ASOIF. This is a really underrated part of the series, IMO. It's a game of sorts and trying to figure out who is trying to do what is exciting and fascinating to me. Of course, I enjoy this aspect within the great world of battles and such- the twists, turns, ah-ha moments, etc.

    2) Character POV chapters. I love having chapters written from different characters perspectives. When written well and believable, it is so impressive to me. Really shows writing talent and an understanding of different people and relationships. Being able to put yourself in the mind of an 8-year old girl and then a 40-year old man and all ages/genders between while writing realistic dialogue is such a treat for me to read. Obvious examples: ASOIF and First-Law Trilogy.

    3) Character mortality. I need to believe that the characters I am following, when placed in sticky situations, are legitimately in trouble and could die. I can usually tell quite quickly whether or not a series will involve this or that predictable ending of everybody coming out unscathed. Good characters, bad characters, and everything between. I don't need characters to die for the sake of it, but when done within the scope of the story/book, I really enjoy it. It sucks when one of your favorites die, but it gives the story more gravitas to me and it immerses me further because I'm on the edge of my seat wondering if they're going to make it or not.

    4) Grey characters. I find these sorts of characters the most interesting and I appreciate the realism. Having black and white characters within these stories is good too- I just want the full spectrum. Good guys getting by with all of these unrealistic mechanisms in order to avoid having to do unpleasant things (such as killing people) bores me to tears and makes me roll my eyes. And as an add-on to 2), I would like characters from the full spectrum to have POV chapters, showing the good, bad, and everything between.

    General comments:

    Magic. I don't necessarily need it to be or need it not to be super magic heavy. What I care about most is that what is presented is consistent and coherent. My gripe with heavy magic comes when it is used to cover up lazy writing and typically leads to these unbelievable things that make me roll my eyes and come out of the story (things like oh, at the last second there is this magical thing nobody knew about that saves the heroes with no prior mention, build up, etc). By all means, build up a huge magic system/world, just make sure it doesn't become a crutch.
  3. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I agree with all of Blastoise's comments. Let me add one thing though:

    Realistic (romantic) relationships: A lot of authors seem to get this wrong. Examples are Jordan (relationships seem to be based on a pubescent interpretation on how relationships work), Sanderson (way too clinical on the one hand and sappy on the other hand. Also: no boning at all, which is weird) and Abercrombie (everything is hate filled and love seems to be out of the question). I feel George Martin does this better. And Hobbs. Love, relationships, intercourse; these are very important aspects of human nature and these things even qualify as basic human needs. They're in the base of Maslov's pyramid, together with food, water and shelter (although some put it in the middle, along with other psychological needs). Be that as it may, there's no self improvement or self-fulfillment when these basic needs are not met. It pisses me off no end if these things are not handled properly in fiction or ignored altogether.
  4. rudyjuly2

    rudyjuly2 Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    Character Mortality - totally agree with this. We don't need to be George Martin and kill off a ton of major characters but just knowing that they COULD die is huge. When they escape huge trouble for the 7th time it's something that can really bother me. I will quit a series if I haven't been sucked in far enough.

    More Magic - I think too many fantasy books are getting away from magic. We need more of it. But magic should not be too powerful imo. With some series you wonder why they even have armies as magic wielders seem to be worth 100,000 soldiers. That's nuts and can lead to a lot of unrealistic (within context) saves for the heroes. Old fashioned things like runes, wards and spells seem like they are dead to the modern fantasy world but I'd like to see a return. Magic users should still be in the minority imo. I don't want everyone running around wielding it.
  5. Alucard

    Alucard In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge! Staff Member

    Variety of characters
    I see no reason why a fantasy book couldn't have a 60-80 year old as a protagonist. But I can see that it's hard to write a 60 year old female perspective when you are a 30 year old guy/girl. Much easier to reach for the chosen one 17 year old because we all know that.
    Or why we can have complex evil female characters. I long for a complex female villain. Or even a female anti-hero. But the stereotype that women can't be evil and that only guys are that is alive and well even today.

    The reason I want this is because having different type of characters to standard tropes make books more interesting. It's not because of political correctness or imaginary quotas. I actually really hate when writers do that. I want characters with a substance, not personifications of politically correct checklists.

    Variety of mythologies
    Sure, Norse mythology is hot. It's well preserved and familiar. But we all know Thor and Odin. I wish authors would take time to inspire themselves with the rest of what the world myth has to offer and try to incorporate that into their writing.

    More standalones
    I have trouble committing to a 5 book epic fantasy series. I get bored and I get tired of waiting for next installations. I wish writers would strive to do more standalones. It would be liberating and creative for them as well, because they don't have to commit to creating this massive backdrop with a huge world and hundreds of characters. They can experiment and get creative, tell a smaller contained story with rich, well developed smaller cast of characters and a tighter plot line. I honestly think writing those would be more fun and reading them wouldn't be as much of a commitment. You could actually enjoy it for what it is.
  6. Sneaky Burrito

    Sneaky Burrito Crazy Cat Lady Staff Member

    Yeah, I hate this too. In the past few years I've read some science fiction short story collections where I swear every story had at least one gay character (even though the collections weren't LGBT themed, in which case the stories would've been chosen for that aspect). I have no issues with gay characters and sometimes it is really important to the story (like with Gil in Richard K. Morgan's fantasy series, the name of which I'm totally blanking on right now) or it explains something like
    Jezal's wife and her "friend" in The First Law series
    but most of the time it is just checking things off a "look, see how progressive I am?" list and that is irritating.
  7. rudyjuly2

    rudyjuly2 Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    You should read the Fifth Season. You've got gay, straight, bi-sexual, transexuals. It's got it all lol! It seems like it's all in a similar percentage too rather than something that represents our modern society although that may be the point of the author since it's a different era. (This sexual stuff is a very minor part of the book fyi).
  8. Sneaky Burrito

    Sneaky Burrito Crazy Cat Lady Staff Member

    That sounds a lot like the Mirror Empire series by Kameron Hurley. One society has three genders (male/female/non-binary) and one five (the same as the three but sorting male and female further into passive and assertive). One society has family groups with 3+ adults of varying genders all getting along together happily. Most characters seem equally attracted to all of the other genders.
  9. Myles Alexander

    Myles Alexander Killed in the battle against the Mad King

    Agree that books need to have chapters from different character's perspectives... something I need to do more of in my own writing.
    I'm definately not a huge fan of the use of magic - there's something a little bit superficial about it for me - it detracts from the authenticity of the story.

  10. Myles Alexander

    Myles Alexander Killed in the battle against the Mad King

    How about fantasy that intertwines spiritual and philosophical themes and ideas into the story, without it detracting too much from the overall fantasy feel?
  11. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    On the female villain thing, I think the difficulty with this is that most fantasy worlds don't have established routes to power/leadership for female characters, so any female that makes it to the top really struggled to get there, and you have to sacrifice reader admiration of that effort if you want to write the character as bad. This is something GRRM doesn't get enough credit for, IMO. Cersei can be an insane tyrant because Cersei had believable access to power despite her gender and the life-long training to be an effective ruler. GRRM did it flawlessly without the world feeling contrived, like he was trying to make a political statement.

    My list:
    1) More stories told from limited 3rd person but in character voice. This is already the trendy style, but more is better.
    2) Truly original societies. Stop copying medieval Europe!
    3) New, innovative magic systems, preferably with minimal gimmicks
    4) Stories that span days or weeks instead of years. There's an urgency to stories like Heroes Die and some of the Locke Lamora stuff that just can't be written into the long quest stories.
    5) At least primitive science in worlds with magic.
    6) Politics that actually cover politics. If it's just a question of who will sit on the throne then ignore their citizens, I'm not interested. The First Law did this right, though the politicians ultimately ended up powerless. They fought over rights for the nobility, the trading class, and the laborers.
    7) Gods that don't exist. It seems to me that being able to do magic would make you more likely rather than less to invent religions. Why are all the Gods in fantasy actually real?
  12. Nuomer1

    Nuomer1 Journeyed there and back again

    I/we (I write with an old friend) tried that. We use a system of magic closely based on the mediaeval traditions of Like to Like, Part to Whole in an environment where repetitive actions can cause such a 'magical link' to appear spontaneously. We thought long and hard about it, and decided the environment was quite severely limiting for science and technology.
    To start with, your traditional village blacksmith learns to store his metal a safe distance (we chose 50 paces minimum) from his workshop - otherwise he could find his stock re-shaping itself on its own, as he worked on a job. Worse - the iron nails that hold his door in place could turn red-hot, burning down his house etc. Copper nails, holding leather hinges!
    Anything electrical would simply be a joke - induction could happen pretty well any time, any where, a close magnetic flux linkage would be unnecessary . . . motors would burn out as soon as you turned them on, or spin too fast and fail - and if you happened to be nearby, holding a piece of electrical conductor at the time your chances of a severe burn and/or electrocution are pretty high. Don't even think about an electric telegraph - the clicks would all run together . . . . .
    Forget firearms - carefully load your muzzle-loading flintlock, add priming powder, take aim, pull the trigger . . . the gun goes Bang, but so does all the spare powder in your cartridges or powder horn, leaving you with severe burns at the very least, and if you hung your powder horn carelessly you might well blow your own *** off.
    We concluded that steam engines were probably limited to Hero's Wheel - the step up to a turbine is just too large, though a Pelton Wheel might work reliably. Water and wind mills are open to further discussion - we allowed them because otherwise the whole environment falls apart and the people go back to hunter-gatherer, or die out.
    Technology would likely be limited to hand forged weapons and the hand-operated printing press.

    Though I must admit, those conflicts could lead to some fascinating arguments discussions!
  13. Maark Abbott

    Maark Abbott Journeyed there and back again

    What about female villain protagonists? I got me one of them.

    Regarding point 5, my book also has that. It's technically labelled as 'magitech' because it requires magic to activate, but there is technology - airships, a prosthetic limb, and there is a faction of researchers who are dedicated to scientific progress in there, too.
  14. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    More fantasy set in Ye Olde Times with a mix of stuff happening as young people fulfil their destinies and more importantly, become an adult. I love it and I haven't read a good new one of it in nearly for ever. I guess that's what happens when a lot of the genre's major talent is busy broadening the boundaries.

    More Weird Stuff. I'm talking Cities of Crystal where man-shaped Hippogriffs live and practice magic by burning their feathers for no other reason than "They're gonna wear your face!"

    More use of non-NW European mythology. Its such a great untapped resource after all.

    More mixing of High Adventure and Domesticity. I'm thinking the way a lot of GGK alternates between the adventures and the doctor/merchant etc.etc.

    More Pre-Medieval Fantasy. There's some really interesting time periods there and its relatively unused. I also think that in a lot of ways, the societies lend themselves more to wonder than the medieval.

    More short incident stories, like Darwin mentions.

    More magic drawing from real world occultism/mysticism with uncertain/subtle/non-immediate effects.

    More mythic type Superhero characters. Actually, more mythic Fantasy in general - I got into fantasy because I loved those heavy echoes of myth and legend but its been something of an unfulfilled desire.

    More Elves, Dwarves and other non-human races. Like number one, I feel like its been a long time since I've seen this done well.

    And more good romances, like Silvion says.

    Oh! More seafaring fantasy.

    This is only true if you believe women acquiring power and taking on leadership positions was an uncommon thing in the time periods fantasy mostly apes. I suppose its a common belief, but there are a huge number of examples to go against it - women wielding power wasn't the norm, but it was relatively common, and in most cases the achievement boiled down to a) Be lucky, particularly in your birth b) Use the power when you're given it. If Cersei feels uncontrived, its because she's Elizabeth Woodville, only with better birth, more incest, and turning into Margaret of Anjou. And to think the cunning old fox reused the whole Woodville motif again with Robb.

    Besides, this is just talking about political power, and if its fantasy, there are all other sorts of considerations. Having magic/a dragon trumps being strong as a means of power, which means in a lot of fantasy worlds, the rules should look a little different.

    Ah! That reminds me. More societies that are shaped by their magic.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  15. kenubrion

    kenubrion Journeyed there and back again

    That was a great, well thought out list, peat.

    And I haven't listed anything because all I want more of is pages, but as a long time sailor your suggestion of more seagoing fantasy sounds good to me.
  16. MorteTorment

    MorteTorment Knows Who John Uskglass Is

    This! I just want magic! I just want some awesome magic!

    OOOOH! Love subtle magic like in Night Angel!

    I hear ya. it'd be so cool if fantasy novels stuck to the rule of either standalone or trilogies.

    OOH! You're a fan of Heroes Die too? Awesome! It's one of my faves. Saving the sequel for when I get super super depressed! and i'm with you btw
  17. Anti_Quated

    Anti_Quated Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune

    I'd like to see a reversal of fortune and fate. Take a thankless, truly unpleasant villain, one seemingly crippled with envenomed contempt, belligerence, and malevolence, and have the proverbial holes in their armour filled not with bile and hatred and self-loathing but a slow accession and cultivation of empathy, integrity, compassion, and heroism. Instead of another anti-hero rape-apologist power fantasy, take the vulgarity and obscenity and irascible nature of the character and transform it into something more noble - maybe the villain finally has a light-bulb moment, and sees another path they may walk beyond incessant depravity, cruelty, and wilful destructiveness.

    Thus begins the long, arduous work of redressing their evil, perhaps not to find redemption or forgiveness, but to at least dismantle and bring down every instrument and artifice of ruin and wretchedness they wrought - to make way for something brighter, to alleviate wanton suffering, or to delineate the strain of finding a new way to do things; demonstrative of that rare tenacity required to break old, despicable habits and forge one's destiny anew. I can imagine how fascinating it would be to watch a villain, a real bastard, burdened with the yoke of their own evil working through sweaty brow and calloused hands trying to effect and implement meaningful change for the better, and in doing so, cultivating a world they no longer belong. A tad fatalistic and grim, but something I'd be inclined to explore.

    Standalones sounds great, too.
  18. rudyjuly2

    rudyjuly2 Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    Antiquated - that evil to good character reminds me of the Hound in GOT.
  19. kenubrion

    kenubrion Journeyed there and back again

    Looooong books. Minimum of 500 pages but 1000 is the sweet spot.
  20. Bierschneeman

    Bierschneeman Journeyed there and back again

    1) permanency of death: To bring the shock crowd it seems the Inthing is to kill off main characters. The loophole is they keep bringing these characters back to life, thus rendering the death meaningless and cliche. I'd like to see characters who stay dead.

    2) paragons of character types written well. ( I will heavily use d&d references to show what I mean just to make it easier. Since these were designedafter fantasy tropes)


    are all used to the loincloth wearing buff barbarosi (teehee) who chops through enemies three at a time with his two handed great(weapontype). Or the strider wannabe who broods in dark corners of taverns and deads enemies through the eyes from a mile away . These are old boring tired cliches that wont die and usually written very poorly. But I feel like fantasy writers are trying too hard to distance themselves from these cliches turning everyone into a grey mass of ambiguity. Having characters that unreadable is good, having all your characters like that is unrealistic.

    The alternative is writing the cliche but giving them a hook. That's even worse

    What I would like to see is some honest creativity with the paragons. (D&D examples) paladin. In d&d it seems most people think of a paladin as a one dimensional character (colloquially known as lawful stupid) typically reads as an unwillingness to think out its actions whose sole purpose I to attack evil with a full charge. An unbending rigid conformity to moral code stricter than monasteries. Or based too heavily on a modern morality.

    But this isn't so restrictive. You can play paladins as poet warriors. A paladin of hammurabi would be a revengeful one carrying our eye for an eye judgments in the streets ( chopping off their hands). You can devote yourselves to a nearly evil presence.

    Blonde beefcake Armstrong from full metal alchemist, and Jamie Lannister are both good examples of this type of paladins but what I'm after would be like the game of thrones female paladin sworn to protect the stark girls

    True paragons of character types need not be cardboard cutout s , and in a world grey they stand out as realistic characters that seem real world.

    3) some black and white would be nice. We can blur the edges. I'm just sick of this grey on grey "whose the real villain", or "there's no evil or good" history is written to paint them as evil and us as good. Acknowledging that good isn't alway good and evil isn't always evil I great. And I get that this might be blowback from the current political climate (where whoever is speaking paints themselves as pure good and their opponents as pure evil often evoking Godwin s law) but it seems that nearly every book I've read written in the last 20 years is either
    a) that guy is evil because I'm reading a POV so my protagonist must be good
    B) whose the villain... When they alll look grey its like a lame night shamalongadingdong film
    C) 3rd person or multiple sides of POV, "no ones really the villain"

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