Monday, April 20, 2009

Fantastic Fantasy

Fantasy is one of the oldest writing genres on the planet, going back to Beowulf, King Authur, er, Arthur, and other mystical, magical beginnings.

It's a style with no rules, and when science started catching up, it spawned two related genres, Sci-Fi and the more fantastical of horror. These three genres intertwine like a handful of worms.

Fantasy is also the most liberating genre of all, because, frankly, anything goes. If you want your vampire to be all sparkly and pretty, sure, go for it. Wood elves, trolls, goblins ... do you want your elves to be good elves, or something darker and more foreign? Doesn't matter, there's no right or wrong way to do it.

In fact, the more novel, the more unique, the better. Books that give us a new look at an old topic are all the rave. Look at the success spawned by Wicked. Imagine, taking the old witch from the Wizard of Oz and making her someone you cared about.

I think this is one of the reasons I was drawn to the genre. After all, reading is, in a way, escapism, and if you're going to escape, why not go to a world so completely different than ours that your fascination with the world brings you more colorfully and lucidly into the story.

Look to the success of games like Dungeons and Dragons. If you liked the first Harry Potter, you loved them all, and you lived the story along with Harry, Ron and Hermione all the way to the end.

Fantasy allows the author a freer hand than any other genre. The science in Sci-fi has to be palatable, if not provable. Mysteries have to walk the line between being too easy and too hard to solve. Westerns have to be ... um ... I dunno, I don't read them. But the horses have to be vegetarians and have four hooves, all of which touch the ground.

When I wrote my Adventures of Guy series, I didn't intend on them being fantasy at all. My heroes were three college roommates and a mother from up the street who get involved on a Quest. Of course, every quest has to have an elf, sorcerer, Unbeliever, a warrior and attorneys, er, otherworldly evil creatures.

But fantasy? Nah, I just wanted the freedom to have whatever I wanted to happen in the stories happen , and if it took a bit of magic, so be it.

Still, though, I have to admit to some surprise when reviewers started using the word 'fantasy.'

But with my upcoming book, Fang Face, all pretense is thrown away. It's definitely fantasy ... a vampire story, cut and dried. And I get to make the rules. The vampires don't sparkle, can't come out in the day once they are fully Undead, and they can't tolerate Doritos.

And believe me, I love the freedumb ... freedom ... to do whatever I want.



Mary Cunningham said...

I couldn't agree more, Norm. My love of fantasy began with "Alice In Wonderland," and graduated to "Lord of the Rings." I loved reading about other worlds and putting myself into them. Which is probably why I love writing fantasy, too.

To me, it's all about being able to read and write "outside the box."

This week at Teen-Seen is gonna be so much fun!


Stef said...

I was never into reading fantasy. (Too farfetched for a realist such as me.) So imagine my surprise when I sat down to write a book and out came 90,000+ words of pure fantasy, which I titled, "Be Careful What You Wish For ... The Story of: Gwendolyn the Great, Savior of Idlebury, Protector of the Universe.”

While writing my book, I discovered how much my brain craved to be set free. Much to my delight, my imagination ran wild. And truth be told, I didn’t want it to stop.

Readers of my book have asked me how I came up with the names of characters and kingdoms, sayings, situations, etc. I always tell them the truth—I don’t know. They just popped out of my head.

The beauty of fantasy is that anything is possible. It stretches the imagination. It delights the soul. It tickles the funny bone. It teases the brain. It celebrates possibilities. It suspends belief. And it takes you to places that you’ve never been before. And that’s true for readers and writers!

My plan was to write one fantasy novel and then move on to writing either a nonfiction book or historical fiction. But my brain had other ideas, and before I knew it, I was writing the sequel to my first fantasy novel. It’s titled, “A Force To Be Reckoned With… The Story of Thane: Prince of Magic, Mayhem, and Marvelous Things.” How could I not? My brain needs some playtime.

Ophelia Julien said...

Fantasy is written by authors who want to share the worlds they live in. The hard part is making themselves look normal in the "real," workaday world. Way back in the day, the Moody Blues did a song that included the lyrics "Living in a world of fantasy, trying not to let it show..." The first time I heard that I thought, Wow! Someone summed up my life to music!

What I write doesn't fall under the category of fantasy (at least not for me. This stuff is all real). But Norm, your reasons for writing fantasy all struck me as the same reasons I write YA - unlike a lot of adult genre, the rules don't apply. And the readers like it better that way. Nicely put!