What's the worst thing fantasy authors do?

What's the worst thing fantasy authors do?

  • Infodump

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • Overly graphical sex or gore

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • Take too much time writing next in a series

    Votes: 15 41.7%
  • Kill off favoured characters

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Make up words

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • Fail to engage with their readers

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Be too familiar /presumptive with their readers

    Votes: 1 2.8%
  • Rehash old ideas

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • Get defensive about their work

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • Add lots of rambling description

    Votes: 15 41.7%
  • Become obsessed with relationships in their work

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • Exploit feminity in some way

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • Deus ex machina

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • Consider themselves morally enlightened and wise

    Votes: 10 27.8%
  • "Of course, as you know..." Protags explaining plot

    Votes: 7 19.4%
  • "Nebulous, poorly explained magic systems"

    Votes: 4 11.1%

  • Total voters
    36

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#21
Obviously the craft of the author is to use one's skill with words to ensure as many readers as possible take away the same impression but its always going to be imperfect. I know there's been times when I've seen people going "Oh yeah, that's X" and I'm like "Oh... I never ever saw that". And vice versa.
So be kind to authors here, for sometimes what you see through keeps a lot of people guessing. *pauses* Well, sometimes. Some people are just being inept.
Yes, I’m sure pleasing every single reader is an impossibility. Life itself.

Just out of curiosity, don’t you authors have a kind of imaginary reader sitting on your shoulder (Jiminy Cricket type)? Someone who defines who your target audience is likely to be? Also, don’t you set yourselves a tone, a level in your readers' intellect, in your syntax, lexicon etc under which you wouldn’t consider going?
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#22
Its been a while since I last opened up Gardens of the Moon but I recall there being things I'd consider info dumps there.
*opens it up*
Such as most of the prologue.
I don't see it.
It's 4-5 pages long (it's hard to tell for me, I have an ebook), and most of it is dialogue.
It's not a setup, it's largely incomprehensible for a first time reader, and it would only make sense for someone who is re-reading. It's not an infodump.


Violence against women, especially sexual violence.
Underwear as armour.
WAFF (Weak And Feeble Female) syndrome. "Oh, alas is me I am so delicate and incapable of rescuing myself I must rely upon a man to do that" etc.
I rarely encounter this in new works. Old fantasy? Yeah, but it doesn't bother me one bit.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#23
I don't see it.
It's 4-5 pages long (it's hard to tell for me, I have an ebook), and most of it is dialogue.
It's not a setup, it's largely incomprehensible for a first time reader, and it would only make sense for someone who is re-reading. It's not an infodump.
I remember reading it for the first time. I didn't know what the hell was going on. Kept flipping to the back of the book to read the drmatis personae, and then flipping back again. Still got totaly confused though. Until I let go and went with it. From that moment on it grabbed me by the balls and didn't let go.

I'd argue Erikson's books are the antitheses of the info-dump. I've never caught him doing it.
 

Hand of Fear

Journeyed there and back again
#24
Made up words in Red Queen really did my head in, I know it's a YA book but words such as Greeny and Telki made me want to throw the book at the wall.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#25
Made up words in Red Queen really did my head in, I know it's a YA book but words such as Greeny and Telki made me want to throw the book at the wall.
I hate made-up words too, especially when there is no need for it. The Golden Key had me wanting to pull my hair out.
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#27
Note - this isn't me going to the barricades for GotM's prologue being an info dump, but merely me explaining why I see them this way, what I see as an info dump, and why using this definition I believe authors without info dumps are less believable than Santa Claus.

For me, any scene in which we receive more information about the world/characters than we do plot development or action of any sort is an info dump. It does not have to be paragraph upon paragraph of description and exposition. It can be dialogue - of course, as you know, it frequently is, even by the strictest definitions found. It doesn't have to be all info - just majority. For me, spaced out info dump is still info dump.

And it doesn't have to make sense. Seemingly random or pointless info is still info. I don't regard the info dump as being necessarily antithetical to figuring things out yourself for this reason. You can still dump random info on people and leave it to them to work out what's going on. The coroner's report that starts the murder mystery is just as much an info dump as the "Tell me about the magical kingdom of Expositia grandfather".

As such, I'd argue the prologue completely qualifies by my definition.

If we just mean paragraph after paragraph of info, then no it doesn't. But I don't see the point of differentiating between those paragraphs with nothing in between and those paragraphs spaced out with nothing of particular interest going in between, or those paragraphs disguised as a conversation.

And by these standards, everyone does them. They're unavoidable.

But even the standard paragraph after paragraph info dump doesn't have to remove all mystery. Any set of answers that doesn't present more questions simply isn't trying.

Yes, I’m sure pleasing every single reader is an impossibility. Life itself.

Just out of curiosity, don’t you authors have a kind of imaginary reader sitting on your shoulder (Jiminy Cricket type)? Someone who defines who your target audience is likely to be? Also, don’t you set yourselves a tone, a level in your readers' intellect, in your syntax, lexicon etc under which you wouldn’t consider going?
I don't, at least not consciously. I guess if I have one, its me - I write books I find interesting and hope other people will too.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#28
That's too broad of a definition compared to standard definition of infodump for me Peat.

Definition:
  1. A long paragraph or series of paragraphs in a work of fiction that reveals often tedious or dull expository information through the voice of the narrator.

Stretch the meaning of the word far enough, and it won't mean anything.
 

Tanniel

Journeyed there and back again
#29
Tanniel - Ah, really can't agree with you on the magic. For me, there's far too many fireballs, which I'd argue are a worse thematic fit for medieval magic. I'd agree that mostly mind based magic can be difficult to write, but I love it when people make the effort and there's not enough of it for me.
Well, that's fair, I am not that huge a fan of fireballs either - in general, I think magic is very challenging to write about in fantasy, because it is so difficult to describe to the reader, get them to imagine it visually, while also showing its impact/progression on the plot etc. At least for me it's too easy to disconnect and not feel I can properly grasp the scene. I can better follow when it's fireballs than when it's psychic, I suppose, and I've just had an overdose of psychic lately. Out of curiosity, can you tell me any examples of magic from fantasy books that you think have a great thematic fit with the setting?

...and "Nebulous, poorly explained magic systems" for @Tanniel
Much obliged! Great topic, also.

Just out of curiosity, don’t you authors have a kind of imaginary reader sitting on your shoulder (Jiminy Cricket type)?
My ideal reader is basically me. Which sounds narcissistic (and probably is), but it has its purpose. Knowing my own taste in plot, character, setting etc. as I do, I have a fixed guideline for what I want to include and what to exclude. I don't waiver on whether I should tell this or that kind of story, have this or that character included etc. If I would like to read about it myself, that's good enough. If it doesn't appeal to me, even though I know it would appeal to many others, I leave it out. This also lets me set the level of complexity of the plot, for instance; if I start to feel myself that this is too simple or too complicated, I have to correct course and adjust the story. Lastly, it really helps with the motivation to keep writing. Writing the kind of story I would like to read myself keeps me excited about my project.

I did meet some old study friends this weekend, one of whom had read my book; having his own MA in literature, he's a sharp reader too, even if he only knows a handful of fantasy works. He pointed out some things he had deduced on his own, e.g. why one character is buying mistletoe in a passage though the mistletoe is never referred to again, and I eventually exclaimed, "you're my ideal reader incarnate in the flesh".
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#30
Can't really see where the stretch is there, particularly as most definitions don't demand that it be through the narrator's voice, not that I see why you'd differentiate between the narrator's voice and a character's voice. Its a series of paragraphs revealing expository information right enough and I found it a bit dull and tedious. But there we go. I know not everyone's going to agree with me here. edit: the main point of this was to demonstrate that when we were talking about info dumps vs being in the dark, we were talking about different things... so if you disagree with my definition, mission accomplished ;) /endedit

That said, using that definition, I don't see how the bit of writing before chapter 1 beginning 'In the eight year' isn't a textbook definition of an info dump, subjective opinions on its entertainment value aside. Erikson info dump light? Sure, although I don't really remember enough to argue. Info dump free? Doesn't look like it to me.
 
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Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#31
Dont agree Peat, sorry. Pull any dictionary definition, it doesn't go along with what you are saying. I gave that as an example, but you can check any dictionary.


any scene in which we receive more information about the world/characters than we do plot development or action of any sort is an info dump.
spaced out info dump is still info dump.
Google definition
a very large amount of information supplied all at once, especially as background information in a narrative.

So yeah, there can be more info dumps throught the book of course, but what you are arguing is equating any exposition, as identical to infodump in your first quote. Exposition ≠ infodump.
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#32
Out of all of those, for me 'consider themselves morally enlightened and wise' is the worst. Apart from anything else, my immediate reaction to being told what to think is to go, "Fuck you, I'm doing the opposite". Because I'm mature that way.

It's probably a character flaw.

I had to stop reading anything in the Guardian because it was pushing my politics so far to the right that Donald Trump would probably have said, "Steady on, that's going a bit far, don't you think?"

I liked it much better when I was reading the Times, when the remonstration would have come from Karl Marx....
 

Peat

Journeyed there and back again
#33
okay - so it won't let me edit my fudge brained spelling of femininity (which I can't seem to read as anything other than feminininininty)...
So let's be clear, it's a catch all for three types of gender issue:

Violence against women, especially sexual violence.
Underwear as armour.
WAFF (Weak And Feeble Female) syndrome. "Oh, alas is me I am so delicate and incapable of rescuing myself I must rely upon a man to do that" etc.

It's not just doing these things, its the fact that they are used to explain a plot progression or justify a bit of mental voyeurism.
That any better?
I've no particular brief on violence against women in particular, but something I don't like is repetitive casual brutality without some sort of narrative meaning. Its a bit distasteful and, crucially, its boring. Oh another village got the death and rape treatment. How innovative. Is the avenger going to kill the one who wishes to make amendment for his sins or the big brutal one who's planning to rape them as well?

Of course, a lot of time that brutality is directed against women...

Don't care about underwear as armour for either gender.

WAFF syndrome - it sucks if every woman is that. Its odd if none of them are. Where it really grates is when the big damn heroine suddenly catches a case of it in a situation where you just know that if the situation was reversed the big damn hero would get out because a hero can. But that's more about inconsistent characterisation in general.

In general, the thing that I think the genre does wrong by women is just not really think about them.
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#34
Well, that's fair, I am not that huge a fan of fireballs either - in general, I think magic is very challenging to write about in fantasy, because it is so difficult to describe to the reader, get them to imagine it visually, while also showing its impact/progression on the plot etc. At least for me it's too easy to disconnect and not feel I can properly grasp the scene. I can better follow when it's fireballs than when it's psychic, I suppose, and I've just had an overdose of psychic lately. Out of curiosity, can you tell me any examples of magic from fantasy books that you think have a great thematic fit with the setting?


Much obliged! Great topic, also.


My ideal reader is basically me. Which sounds narcissistic (and probably is), but it has its purpose. Knowing my own taste in plot, character, setting etc. as I do, I have a fixed guideline for what I want to include and what to exclude. I don't waiver on whether I should tell this or that kind of story, have this or that character included etc. If I would like to read about it myself, that's good enough. If it doesn't appeal to me, even though I know it would appeal to many others, I leave it out. This also lets me set the level of complexity of the plot, for instance; if I start to feel myself that this is too simple or too complicated, I have to correct course and adjust the story. Lastly, it really helps with the motivation to keep writing. Writing the kind of story I would like to read myself keeps me excited about my project.

I did meet some old study friends this weekend, one of whom had read my book; having his own MA in literature, he's a sharp reader too, even if he only knows a handful of fantasy works. He pointed out some things he had deduced on his own, e.g. why one character is buying mistletoe in a passage though the mistletoe is never referred to again, and I eventually exclaimed, "you're my ideal reader incarnate in the flesh".
I think we have discussed these motivational categories somewhere else. You seem to be writing for your own growth and you don't place value in other aspects. I'm sure it must be very rewarding when you have a clear concept of what you want to write without being influenced, confused or even tempted to try something, which wouldn't reflect who you are as a writer and also as a mirror reader. How are you getting on with the Chronicles by the way?
 

rudyjuly2

Journeyed there and back again
#36
I do not like long delays in books. I fail to see how Patrick Rothfuss shouldn't have finished his final book although I think it will end up being 4 and maybe not until 2020.

As for the actual writing, one of my biggest pet peeves is deus ex machine (and I don't really like that phrase either so I'll be peeved at myself). The good guy having 9 lives and realism being broken too many times will irritate me. I can accept the reality the book portrays and can look the other was a couple times but if you stretch reality too far I get annoyed.

Example: The Promise of Blood by Brian McClennan. I thought the story was interesting and I liked the characters but realism gets broken too much. The main characters are captured instead of killed waiting to be transported back to be killed in their home land? Is this Scooby Doo? At the beginning of the second book (I only read the sample) they find a miraculous tunnel that gets them around bad guys? I quit immediately. Too much stuff like that. Batman The Dark Knight was so full of garbage in the second half my head was going to explode if I ever watched it again. SW Rogue One had the dumbest writing/reasoning behind the final strike that it was laughable. People might say "It's just a movie" but I can only stretch reality so far, even within the context of fantasy/sci-fi. The Wheel of Time pushes the envelope here at times too but not beyond my limit.

Lastly, coming up a with too many side characters and then not refreshing my memory when you bring them back into the plot hundreds of pages later (or books later) and expect me to remember. Child please!
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#37
Lastly, coming up a with too many side characters and then not refreshing my memory when you bring them back into the plot hundreds of pages later (or books later) and expect me to remember. Child please!
How did you handle Malazan with this? :D
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#39
I didn't lol. Read the first book and quit. Didn't hate it, didn't think it was that great. (And yes I know everyone says the rest of the series is better but book one did not sell me on that committment).
:)
Aww, well if there ever comes a time where you feel a bit masochistic and in a mood to annoy yourself, please pick up Deadhouse Gates :)
 

Tanniel

Journeyed there and back again
#40
@rudyjuly2 if you will forgive me for being pedantic, what you describe are more like straining the reader's acceptance of the story or plot holes. Deus ex machina is when the conflict in the plot is resolved suddenly by an external force, hitherto not (or only barely) involved in the story. It comes from Greek theatre when an actor dressed as a god was lowered onto the stage via a contraption to resolve the conflict in the play (because gods, even just actors dressed as gods, were not allowed to be in contact with unholy ground, and Greek tragedies by virtue of being tragedies would always have had some kind of atrocity taking place on the scene).

Most (in)famous example in fantasy are probably the eagles in Tolkien's works.