What's the worst thing fantasy authors do?

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by wakarimasen, Jan 26, 2017.

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What's the worst thing fantasy authors do?

  1. Infodump

    9 vote(s)
    25.0%
  2. Overly graphical sex or gore

    3 vote(s)
    8.3%
  3. Take too much time writing next in a series

    15 vote(s)
    41.7%
  4. Kill off favoured characters

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Make up words

    5 vote(s)
    13.9%
  6. Fail to engage with their readers

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Be too familiar /presumptive with their readers

    1 vote(s)
    2.8%
  8. Rehash old ideas

    3 vote(s)
    8.3%
  9. Get defensive about their work

    2 vote(s)
    5.6%
  10. Add lots of rambling description

    15 vote(s)
    41.7%
  11. Become obsessed with relationships in their work

    2 vote(s)
    5.6%
  12. Exploit feminity in some way

    2 vote(s)
    5.6%
  13. Deus ex machina

    9 vote(s)
    25.0%
  14. Consider themselves morally enlightened and wise

    10 vote(s)
    27.8%
  15. "Of course, as you know..." Protags explaining plot

    7 vote(s)
    19.4%
  16. "Nebulous, poorly explained magic systems"

    4 vote(s)
    11.1%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Olli Tooley

    Olli Tooley Told lies with Locke

    Ditto what Maark said. I am talking about a character from my book, hence "one of my chars."
    Mine is published but will not threaten the New York Times bestseller list any time soon.
    I was just using him as an illustration for the idea that, while fantasy characters may have superhuman powers, there can be plot devices why they don't simply cut through armies, even if they could.
     
  2. afa

    afa Journeyed there and back again

    Very interesting topic. I'll go ahead and steal @Silvion Night's tactic, and give my thoughts on the choices. Plus, I'll add a couple more that I think should be on there. This way, I get to satisfy my urge to write interminably long posts that no one reads in full.
    1. Infodump: I'm fine with it. I think infodumps get a bad rep. Fantasy novels are set in a completely made up world, a certain amount of infodump is kind of unavoidable. Sure, if it gets too on the nose, then it's annoying. Like the example Silvion gives about a character basically infodumping in dialogue by telling someone something they should already know; that's a poor way to infodump.
    2. Overly graphical sex or gore: I don't know if I've encountered any book in which I would say either the sex or the gore was 'overly' graphical. Either this means I haven't read enough, or it means I like sex and gore.
    3. Take too much time writing next in a series: As annoying as it is, I can forgive it if it seems reasonable. For instance, Sanderson took 4 years between Stormlight 1 and 2, and this will be year 3 before the third is released. Also, we know he has a whole bunch of Mistborn novels planned, but they are many years away. However, this is all reasonable because he is working according to a certain long-term plan, and books will take their time. And it's not like he is idle in between; he has written several books in the intervening years. On the other hand, you have GRRM and Rothfuss, who don't even have the excuse of being busy writing other things. (As an aside, I want to throw some respect Mark Lawrence's way. I wasn't overly fond of The Broken Empire, but the guy has determinedly set himself on an annual release cycle. The first trilogy was published on August 2011, August 2012 and August 2013; the second on June 2014, June 2015 and June 2016; and he now has a new book coming out in April 2017. If I had to guess, I'd say the sequels can be penciled in for April 2018 and April 2019.)
    4. Kill off favoured characters: I actually can't remember this happening very often. I know the popular example here is ASoIaF, but really, how many 'favoured' characters die there? Ned and Catelyn Stark, maybe? (Though as the patriarch and matriarch of the family, they were unlikely to be the main protagonists, anyway.) Who else?
    5. Make up words: It's fine to an extent. If you are referring to places, creatures, magic or other things that do not exist in the real world, then of course made up names are required. I can even stomach the occasional made up swear word.
    6. Fail to engage with their readers: I despise authors who engage with their readers. Shut up and get back to work, you fool!
    7. Be too familiar/presumptive with their readers: Not really sure what this means. Like when an author 'speaks' to the reader through the narration?
    8. Rehash old ideas: This, too, is an overrated 'problem.' It's been seventeen hundred years since someone had a totally new idea; I'm fine with an author giving a new 'take' on an old idea.
    9. Get defensive about their work: It's only human, so it's fine. Except for GRRM and Rothfuss, who get defensive about their delays, and they totally deserve the hate.
    10. Add lots of rambling description: Depends on the type of description. I find if it is something I'm interested in, then I don't mind. Like Sanderson magic-splaining Allomancy. What I find annoying is when authors describe every day mundane things, like what meal a character is eating. I get it, he's eating food. That's enough. I don't give a shit how it was prepared and garnished. This isn't MasterChef.
    11. Become obsessed with relationships in their work: I don't recall ever noticing this in a series, other than to second Silvion's point about Kvothe and Denna from Kingkiller Chronicle. Note to Mr. Rothfuss: no one gives a shit about the Kvothe/Denna will-they-won't-they, unless it's "will they or won't they die painfully."
    12. Exploit feminity in some way: Like others, I'm a bit confused by this one.
    13. Deus ex machina: I would say this is pretty rare, but yes, it would be annoying.
    14. Consider themselves morally enlightened and wise: There's no way any author is foolish enough to think he is smarter than me, so this is not an issue.
    Bonus - other things that annoy me about authors:
    • Making Up Ludicrous Sounding Names To Impress The Reader With Their Knowledge Of Omlauts And Accents: Related to #5 above, what's more annoying are impossible to pronounce made up names with weird accents and apostrophes. "Hi, my name is Garönd'elsar. And this is my daughter, Ellévo'sh'a're'han-An. You can call her Ann."
    • Forced Miscommunication: Yes, communication is important and bad things can happen when it goes wrong. But it seems quite common in books (and movies and TV shows for that matter) for characters to have a misunderstanding not because they 'miscommunicated' but rather they chose not to communicate at all, instead settling on silent suffering or, "he wouldn't understand, anyway." Maybe he will, dumbass! Give it a shot, at least!
    • China Miéville
    • Strong Women: What?! Who? How?? What the hell are you talking about you close-minded pig?! The reason for including this is simple - 'strong women' in books usually just end up seeming like men who happen to have boobs, or they are just loud and annoying. For some reason, authors seem to think that "strong = argumentative/confrontational."
    • Romance: Sure, if it's done well and is organic in the way it develops, it can be good. But not everyone does it well. And yet, everyone does it. Why? Does every single author think they know how to do romance well? Or does every single author feel they have to include some romantic sub-plots?
     
  3. Sneaky Burrito

    Sneaky Burrito Crazy Cat Lady Staff Member

    Don't agree with everything you said, but I am 100% with you on this.
     
  4. rudyjuly2

    rudyjuly2 Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    I agree with the info dumping. It's not so bad if it's done at the right time and gives me interesting and valuable info. I don't care for it when it's done through certain flashbacks. When a flashback takes me back prior to the time period the book started, that is OK. When the author fast forwards a scene and then recalls a conversation that just happened 10 minutes ago or yesterday I don't fully understand why they do that. But I'm not close to being a writer. I was a B/C student in english in high school.
     
  5. TomTB

    TomTB The Master Tweeter Staff Member

    If, say, there was a 15 page prologue that was purely there to set the scene of a book, so basically a 15 page infodump, I'd have no problem with that whatsoever. In fact, I can think of several books where that would've been quite useful.

    Saying that, I don't have an issue with infodumping in general...
     
  6. Maxal

    Maxal Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry

    What's wrong with China Miéville? I haven't read it, so... I have no comment, but Afa's post right up here confused me.
     
  7. Brandon Stubbs

    Brandon Stubbs A Muggle

    My biggest annoyance is vague magic systems. Some authors (TV shows and movies also) use magic for whatever the plot needs. Magic needs to operate like science. Even Harry Potter seems inconsistent with the abilities of magic - some of the spells are oddly specific, some enchantments which seem banal in the universe would have crazy implications, the physics of the magic makes no sense. Tolkien, on the other hand, has a very consistent and limited magical system in his universe - it isn't overused, it has clear limitations, and it feels grounded.
     
  8. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    What about old takes on old ideas? Also...

    People must bug the hell out of you :p
     
  9. Maark Abbott

    Maark Abbott Journeyed there and back again

    How does a 150 page prologue strike you my sir
     
  10. TomTB

    TomTB The Master Tweeter Staff Member

    Sounds more like a prequel than a prologue!
     
  11. afa

    afa Journeyed there and back again

    Oh, no doubt. People are the worst...
     
  12. Sneaky Burrito

    Sneaky Burrito Crazy Cat Lady Staff Member

    He's kind of polarizing as an author. Some people here think he's great, but I am not one of them. (I have read two of his books.) I feel like he sits there writing with a thesaurus so he can use bizarre, obscure words. (It's not that I don't know what they mean -- I am a well-read native English speaker with a reasonably large vocabulary. It's more a feeling of the author knowing he is intelligent and trying to show off for everyone else. There are other instances as well -- jokes about graduate school and such. I think I'd just like to see a bit more humility. Or less author intrusion into the story.) He is especially obsessed with synonyms for filth, dirtiness, etc. (not in a sexual context, just actual dirt and grime). I have a very hard time finding any characters to root for in his books (most of them are not very likable people) and I thought Perdido Street Station had possibly the biggest, most irritating example of deus ex machina in a book I have ever seen.
     
  13. Maxal

    Maxal Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry

    Oh thanks. It doesn't sound like a book I would personally enjoy.
     
  14. Alucard

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

    I'm a fan of China Mieville. What Sneaky said about thesaurus is kinda true. I'm not a native speaker but that didn't bother me, mostly due to kindle functionality of one tap and you have your definition. But I also don't think he uses so many obscure words that you can't enjoy the book. He uses slightly more than other authors, but that didn't stop PSS from drawing me in that world.
    One of the other authors I was warned about, as a non English native, using difficult language was Steven Erikson, but I never felt like I was unable to immerse myself in Malazan world because of that.

    In any case, I think Mieville has merit in being read. His imagination is unlike any other fantasy writer today. It's really out there and it's probably why he fits so well within a subgenre he writes which is weird fantasy. His world in PSS although extremely unconventional is fleshed out so well, and the races of "people" inhabiting it, couldn't be further from the cookie-cutter races that fantasy writers reach out for.

    There is a deus ex machina ending, but by that point in this 700+ pages book Mieville has developed his world so good, told an amazing story and supplied us with original, truly original characters, that I personally can forgive him for that ending.

    I went into PSS without any knowledge about the author or the book, and he wowed me. Aside from Erikson, I can't remember any author really wowing me with his creation.

    So for all you readers who haven't read Mieville yet, I would suggest reading PSS at least. You'll get a good glimpse into what kind of author he is with that book and you'll then know, not just guess, if you dig it or not. I really dig it.
     
  15. Alucard

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

    I don't agree. At all actually :D
    I prefer it more 'organic' and natural to the magic being, without much need for systems. Like in old folklore, or fairies. Magic systems suffocate magic in my opinion. I always preferred witches to wizards for that reason, at least witches as I know them from my ethnic background. Their magic is organic and they are part of the natural order. They haven't studied it in magic academy, it comes to them from natural world as well as their own essence. There are many magical beings in Slavic myth and the nature of most of them is an amplified reflection of a characteristic or a personality trait of us as human beings. The spells and magic they operate with is more like expression of art than science.
    The kind of magic I like can be seen in Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Or Neil Gaiman work. It may also be why I don't get along with Sanderson's books.
     
  16. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    Over-focus and explanation on magic is very close to being one of the worst things fantasy authors do for me.
     
  17. Darwin

    Darwin Journeyed there and back again

    "IMO, this overexplaining phenomenon is a particularly strong argument against Sanderson-style rule-based magic systems. I'll take a nebulus, poorly explained magic system over an overexplained one any day. IMO, poorly explained magic makes sense. Let's take any 5 random people from our world and have them explain the 'rules' of biotechnology or particle physics." -me, a few pages ago

    If magic is natural and as complicated as any other natural phenomenon, a pre-industrial society should have a hell of a hard time investigating the underlying principles. If there are rules to magic, a pre-industrial society should just have scratched the surface of them
     
  18. Maxal

    Maxal Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry

    When it comes to magical systems, I do not mind them, I tend to enjoy them, but I wish for the story to serve the characters and the narrative, not to exist just so the readers could get glimpses of any given functionality of magic. Sanderson can be guilty of doing this, at times, especially in Mistborn, but as long as he doesn't abuse, I will close my eyes and keep on reading.
     
  19. Peat

    Peat Journeyed there and back again

    I'd add that the focus on magic can be done right, but so often is done wrong, and I tend to treat people talking about it as a selling point as shorthand for "mediocre to great characters and plot" with great success for my personal tastes. The average magic heavy book seems to belong to a sub-genre with a style I don't care for.

    Okay. This. And, with it, a closely related phenomenon where the author keeps upping the stakes of what the characters are dealing with. Both are bad because they good stories into bad ones. They steal away all the dramatic tension and, at their worst, pull the reader out of the story to go "What the actual Mary Poppins am I reading?"

    I'd add that whenever an author ups the stakes unnecessarily, they're pulling us away from the story concept they sold at the beginning. That's a way to lose readers when you do it wrong.

    And when you up the odds unnecessarily, to the point where plot armour is needed to get the character out, the author is kinda saying "Hey, this character isn't capable of taking on a genuinely interesting fight" aka "This character sucks".

    Fantasy authors - learn when not to go back to the buffet for more.

    p.s. This may lie behind my dislike of some of the very hyperbolic stuff out there, or maybe my dislike of hyperbole lies behind this.
     
  20. Maxal

    Maxal Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry

    I seriously dislike when an author makes it absolutely impossible for the heroes to win because it then forces him/her to rely on implausible plot twist sounding more like Deus Ex Machina than satisfying resolution in order to resolve it.

    Goodkind does it in the Sword of Truth series. Obviously, this is only but one problem with the series, but it was a very disturbing one. The author presents the enemy as a foe our heroes cannot possibly beat: he has armies counting millions of soldiers, endless resources, they can get to him, hence the only available option to solve the climaxes is to have Richard invent a piece of magic.

    Butcher also does it in Codex Alera when he present the enemy as someone they just can't kill with impossibly large armies growing faster than anyone can blink their eyes. It isn't as grating as Goodkind, but I felt in his desire to have Tavi be the absolute, and only, hero, he has failed at occasions to untie his climax in a more satisfying way. In other words, he had other characters: Tavi didn't need to be the one to kill the queen. Having him do it ending up into an impossible anti-climatic fight whereas the author could have through a twists on us and have "someone else" do it. He had characters which were in a favorable position to do it, but no it had to be Tavi, always Tavi.

    Hence this leads me to another element of bother, for me, as a reader. Whenever authors focus too strongly on their hero, having the hero be resolving every single climaxes. I understand the concept of "heroic fantasy", but no story can have only one character work on all fronts all at once. Stories need to variate their climaxes and many authors need to learn to further explore their side/secondary characters.
     

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