Elements of Fantasy: Part 2

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As promised, today I will be answering the second half of the question I started answering yesterday: What elements do you see in other genres that you wish you saw more in fantasy books/movies?

Everyday Conflicts

Most fantasy-fiction (and most spec-fiction, for that matter) tend to deal with WORLD ENDING EPICAL BATTLES GALORE AGAINST THE ULTIMATE EVIL VILLAIN OF VILLAINOUS VILLAINS! Which is awesome. I love a well-written Good vs Evil story. I have to, because I wrote that kind of story myself in both Yorien’s Hand and the upcoming Minstrel’s Call.

Gandalf: What did you hear?
Samwise: N-nothing important… that is, I heard a good deal about a ring, and a Dark Lord, and something about the end of the world…

But sometimes it would be nice to see these fantasy heroes on a more everyday scale. It doesn’t always have to be an ordinary hero going up against a Dark Lord bent on ruling the world. Sometimes, it can be an ordinary hero going up against an ordinary conflict, and that can be fantastical, too. Second Son and King’s Warrior lean more towards that scale.

This is one of the reasons I love H.L. Burke’s books so much, because her conflicts tend to be on a more everyday scale. They are serious, but not always world-threatening.

Mystery

One of the reasons I love the Dresden Files or the show Grimm, is because we get more of this everyday sort of conflict. (Not to mention that Grimm combines two of my favorite kinds of stories: Fantasy + Crime Show). I’d love to see some detective work and sleuthing skills used more in the fantasy-verse. This is one of the reasons I loved The Beast of Talesend, as well, because at its core, it was a story about a private detective in a somewhat ordinary/modern day world — that had the capacity for magic and other fantastical elements.

Speaking of world-building…

Deeper Worlds

I know that this may seem a bit contradictory to what I said yesterday when I mentioned world-building. However, because fantasy stories take place in worlds that are completely new, sometimes we only get to scratch the very surface of them. Also, because they tend to draw from the medieval era of our own history, they tend to have political systems we are familiar with but don’t really understand, and the politics of how the kingdoms work is often glossed over. We don’t really get to delve deeply into these worlds.

This is one of the reasons I love the Chronicles of Narnia — it is one of the few fantasy worlds that we get to see from Creation to Armageddon.

Also, though I did not enjoy the story very much, showing this minutiae of the inner workings of the world is something Brandon Sanderson does fairly well in the Mistborn trilogy.

Normal People

Have you ever noticed that fantasy is replete with only two classes? There are the peasants, and the royalty. There aren’t a lot of “middle class” folk who show up in fantasy. You are either following a Prince or Princess, or you’re following a peasant (usually an orphaned peasant) who has some sort of prophecy laid upon him or her and is destined to save the world! I would love to see more ordinary people ending up on adventures… which is one of the reasons I love The Last Motley by DJ Edwardson, because Roderick is as ordinary as they come… and his quest ensues because of his character, and not because of any kind of destiny. He actually CHOOSES to go on the quest, because he feels it’s the right thing to do… because he really doesn’t have to, and I love that about it (full review coming soon, I promise! I have to finish the book first, though!)

Speaking of normal people…

A Variety of Jobs

I know blacksmiths are cool. But there were so many other professions and trades in the medieval era. I’d love to see more fantasy stories about weavers or tailors or school teachers or candle-makers or shepherds or famers or really anything other than blacksmiths!

Speaking of school teachers… I’d love to see more fantasy stories include schools… but not schools for magic (those are easy enough to find). But ordinary schools like the ones in Anne of Green Gables, or boarding schools like the one in Ella Enchanted or A Little Princess are great settings for good stories… and could incorporate a lot of the elements I mentioned above.

Interestingly enough, now that I look over this list, the things I’d like to see most incorporated into Fantasy stories kind of all share a similar theme: ordinary-ness. I love the fantastical, the magical, and the imagination that resides in the fantasy genre. But, as one of my commenters said yesterday, it can’t just be window-dressing. It has to be part of the story, it has to invoke a sense of wonder and enhance the story in some way. Which is probably why stories like the ones I mentioned above all appeal to me so much. They do an excellent job of blending the fantastical with the everyday, and they do more than simply entertain — they teach me something about life, or people, or myself.

What about you, dear Reader? What are some things you’d like to see incorporated more often into the fantasy genre?

~ jenelle

4 Comments

DJ Edwardson

Surprise, surprise, I totally agree with your sentiments about “everyday” heroes.

Sam from the Lord of the Rings is always my inspiration when I think about how the heart of a hero doesn’t always have to beat inside that of a great warrior or wizard. And of course the Pevinses also are about the most average children one could imagine, but somehow the “Narnian air” makes them do great things.

Tolkien (as usual) said it best, I think:

“Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

Really enjoyed this two part post!

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jenelle

I love that Tolkien quote!

I love this one, too: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.

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Madeline J. Rose

I totally agree with this! I would love to see fantasy on a lower scale. Nothing world-threatening or anything, but a good mystery. Maybe some danger. The town’s in trouble and they have to save it. Just an everyday, relatable fantasy story. :)

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jenelle

Nice to know I’m not alone! :)

The Fellowship of Fantasy: Indie Book Club has some great reads that fit into this category. I’ve enjoyed getting to see some variations on the usual world-threatening villain point. :)

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