Reblog Wednesday: The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam

I was browsing through the fantasy thread and found this great post that made me think. How often do we find blogs that make you think? So I decided to share it!

Azra Winters’s blog is a writer’s blog and he writes in multiple genres. The post I want to share is the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam. I love it, it’s great.

I decided to give you my thoughts about my WIP for the first 5 questions.

1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?

via The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam.

1. Does nothing happen in the first 50 pages? Well, what’s the first 50 pages. Is it the first 50 manuscript pages? That’s about 150 words a page so the first 7500 words. Or is it the first 50 paperback pages? That’s 250 words a page so 12500 words. Which is it? Either way, 7500 words in SOMETHING should happen. But what is something? What is nothing? Well, I assume this means: Are your first 50 pages explication/world-building?  I like to tie explication and world-building in with my story. So, something happens in my opinion. But I know for speculative fiction, world-building and explication can take up a lot of space. So watch out!

2. Is your main character a young farmhand with a mysterious parentage? The first two farmhands I think of are Luke Skywalker and Codex Alera‘s Tavi and both, dun dun dun, have mysterious parentage. So do my main characters fit into this? None are farmhands, but Alice does have mysterious parentage. What can you do? I say don’t worry about fitting one but make sure you don’t fit both!

3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it? I know we’ve all encountered this trope but does MY WIP do this? Not exactly. So that’s good… right? But what happens if your characters DO fall into that? I don’t know. You must have epic fantasy on your hands, ha. You can’t win them all, right? Although, Codex Alera‘s Tavi does fit this one too… (Ruh roh, Butcher).

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy? It IS fantasy, come on.  I don’t have a great power, but the other two I kind of do follow but it is pretty hard to escape this trope.

5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world? Nope. Uh uh. I’m safe, but are you?

At the end of this list, you’re going to encounter a story that does at least one thing. But the big question is so what? Codex Alera‘s fit a lot of these tropes, does that make it bad? No, it’s an epic fantasy series. These are kind of the typical epic fantasy cues. That doesn’t make them bad. It makes them fit a genre. It’s HOW it’s done that makes it great.

So when reading through this list and answering it for yourself, make sure you ask: is it worth it? Is it worth it to fit tropes? Is it interesting? This list points out challenges that you’ll face in your genre, not a strict list that says, “Change your WIP!” Keep that in mind every time you read ANYTHING about writing and when getting feedback from anyone.

I’d like to leave you with some eye candy. Here’s another inspiration for my WIP:

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4 thoughts on “Reblog Wednesday: The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam

  1. Arza Winters

    I wish I could say I came up with the exam! You have some great answers too. Number 4 definitely is a hard one to escape. I’d say I love when these tropes are twisted in a subtle way, but that’s probably hard to do without it looking too purposeful, not organic enough. I guess it’s a tight rope to walk.

    Reply
    1. melanie_unabridged Post author

      Yeah, I think a lot of these are really hard to escape. Unfortunately, there are only 2 basic plots: a strange comes to town, a hero leaves on a journey. So if you break anything down enough, it’ll devolve into blah blah bland.

      Reply
  2. Megan Peterson (@OpalescentOkapi)

    Ah, thank you, thank you. I started reading this post thinking, “Oh no, please not another ‘if you fit this, this and this, your book blows’ kind of post!!”, and yet your answers and your take on this is so cool. You’re right, just because your story fits some certain questions or tropes doesn’t necessarily mean jack. Some of the greatest stories can be boiled down to certain characteristics and neat little boxes that may well be shared throughout stories across the genre, or even throughout the broader realms of fiction. But that doesn’t mean that those stories are bad. Some are far, far from it! Thank you for your thoughts on this.

    Reply
    1. melanie_unabridged Post author

      I’m far too well read for that kind of attitude! Every story has already been told, it’s HOW you tell it that matters. Not that I wouldn’t recommend avoiding using too many tropes (without admitting it anyway).

      I’m glad you enjoyed this! It’s one of my favorite posts.

      Reply

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