I love fantasy – I absolutely love it. I love the adventure, the incredible universe, the never-ending twists and turns the characters experience throughout the book. For me, there is nothing greater than a fantasy story done right. The problem, however, is that nearly nobody does it right. Why? Because so many writers who try to step into fantasy writing think that their hook will be the fantasy aspect, while forgetting every other aspect of a good book. People are too focused on creativity that it becomes the opposite, becoming forced and contrived, while letting the story and character elements dangle along in an escapade of cliche and ridiculousness.
Writers are trying too hard in all the wrong places. People think, “oh, I’m going to be a fantasy writer,” and all of a sudden they assume that all they have to do is borrow races, monsters, cities and whatever other generic points they can find, and then they think their work is through. They think that just because their races and cities are out of this world (a.k.a. “fantasy”) that their story is going to be amazing. Hell no, that’s not how it works. Fantasy books should have fantasy, but that shouldn’t be your hold on the reader – you still need an amazing story. It’s exhausting just reading on and on the descriptions of different variations of Orcs, or how many different ways authors can describe a race that is essentially just a Tolkien elf.
But they’re missing the point. Readers want to fall in love with fantasy books from how it makes them feel, not how much bullshit there is between the sleeves. The details are nice, yes, but they shouldn’t be the point of the book, they should be merely details, addons. When I try to remember all my favorite fantasy, from the biggest titles, I don’t think about how many different languages and races LoTR had, or how many talking animals roamed around Narnia. I think about how amazing the bond was between Frodo and Sam, and how Aslan taught the kids (and I) more lessons than I ever could’ve learned in Sunday school.
I want to read about the human spirit. I want to read about struggle and love and truth and hope. I want to follow characters that I grow up with, I want to see them make the mistakes that I would make and I want to see them succeed where others wouldn’t. This is what separates good fantasy from bad. Good fantasy realizes that it’s about the story and the connection, while bad fantasy thinks it’s about the fantasy. I’m so sick of authors who think they need to have the biggest words and the most complicated scenes. I’m tired of reading about petty things, petty wars between petty races with no real reasons or motivations other than cliche plot #62. I want to relate with the characters in the book, and I want the world to be real with fantasy elements, not fantasy with real-world elements.
And hopefully someday, some authors will remember this and will stop writing about dwarves and elves and orcs and goblins, and realize that it’s not the dwarves and elves that made LOTR amazing. It’s LoTR that made LoTR amazing.