Friday, September 21, 2012

Dissecting Genre: Fantasy

I have always loved fantasy--light and whimsical, or dark and devastating. I grew up on Narnia, Oz, Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Jordan, and Sarah Douglass. And I don't think it was the sorcery or the ancient prophecies or the excessive usage of "e"s (Ye Olde Taverne) that compelled me to read and write fantasy, either, though those elements didn't hurt! It all comes down to one awesome feature:

You get to write the rules.

Heterochromia = an exceptional talent? Done. Brain inhabited by squawking bagpipe players? Make it happen. Sorcerers hoarding gemstones they popped out of dead folks' belly buttons? Shine on, you crazy diamond.

(Those would be Graceling, Seraphina, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns, for those keeping score.)

Fantasy lets you pull on the Power-Glove and  magic up whatever bizarre, surreal, unbelievable, or frighteningly believable world you can imagine. If you need that mountain ridge to curve just so to explain two thousand years of tension between kingdoms, then you can do it. If you need to build a whole cultural zeitgeist around something to conceal a major plot point, that's well within your right.

But there's always a catch.

You have to live and breathe your fantasy world. Your characters have to inhabit whatever maniacal, goofball, dreadful world you've created for them, and sell us on its feasibility. We have to see the way things are in that world--in as unobtrusive a way as possible, of course! no infodumping!--and understand why your characters have to interact with their world in the way they do. You can write whatever rules you want, but once you've made them, you have to own them.

Sell us on your world, and the plot and characters that inhabit it, and you'll have mastered fantasy!

What do you love about fantasy? Is it the common fantasy setting itself--swords and sorcery and pseudo-medieval politics? Is it the possibility? Is it the idea of interacting with a plot on an epic, world-shattering scale? Share your favorite parts of fantasy--and your favorite reads--in the comments! I'm always dying for new recommendations.

Here are some of the Tangled girls' favorite fantasy reads:

Christina- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Lindsay-Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Danielle-Fire by Kristin Cashore
Ariane-Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Cindy-Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Patricia-Firelight by Sophie Jordan



  1. I love a good fantasy story! I always think of fairy tales when I think fantasy. Dragons, magic, make believe that makes you believe:) I love creating a world that I can inhabit and feel at home while writing.
    As for reading, the story must grab me from the first page. It has to make complete sense. IF I am confused, or even get one small feeling of, "What?" or, "No way!" then I can't read the book. Like you said, fantasy books can be whatever you want them to be, but if I can't see the way the characters see, then I put the book back on the shelf.
    My favorites? Graceling, Throne of Glass and Firelight:)

  2. Hi there Lindsay, I love fantasy. I've published my first fantasy novel at Amazon with good reviews so far. What I like about fantasy is you can do almost anything but it still has to be believable.
    I get inside the heads of my characters and try to think like they would and the something magic happens. They create a life of their own. They feel, love and hate, and they do it in a world or worlds that you create.
    Its the best feeling in the world when you ask someone what they loved about your book and you watch their faces when they are telling you the story like you never heard it before