Fantasy fans - I need help...with a story

I do not read a lot of Fantasy novels. Despite this, for some unknown reason I have at least two fantasy novels kicking around in my head. I am, however, smart enough to know that there are many “rules” when writing fantasy, such as what race can do. I need some good references to wizards, spells and races.

Any help is appreciated.

Rules? You don’t need no stinkin’ rules! It’s a fantasy that you want to write, fer chrissakes :slight_smile:

Seriously, as long as you maintain an internal consistency and have a good plot, rules are irrelevant. Make up whatever races you want, give them a complex socio-political history (or not). Let them do what they do… and explain it or not.

But if you do want guidelines to ye stereotypical swords & sorcery dwarves, elves, and assorted nasty buggers, nothing beats reading up on the genre… If only to see what’s been done.
As a second choice I recommend GURPS Fantasy Folk. It’s a roleplaying handbook put out by Steve Jackson games that has stats and backgrounds for all them somewhat human-looking beasties with funny ears.

Do a search for Dungeons and Dragons websites. That’s a good place to get some wizardry and fantasy race background to give some ideas of what you’re looking at.

I second the Gurps books, they are really good.

You might want to start reading a little fantasy past that, so I highly recommend the Discworld series, which is highly humorous, so it’s not that hard to get into.

I’ve got two words for you: “Poetic License”

I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels and no two fantasy worlds have identical species. The elves of Shannara (Terry Brooks) are totally different from the elves of Corona (R.A. Salvatore). The same goes for the magic and all other races.

Many fantasy worlds don’t even have elves and the like. One of the best-selling series of all time called The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan has a totally different structure with races such as the Ogier, Aiel, and Trollocs. Only women can control the “magic” of the world because it drives men insane.

Of course there are the typical elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. that Dungeons and Dragons made so popular. But why stick to this standard? Use your imagination and create a world like no one has seen before. That’s what would spark my interest.

They’re the people who make D&D. They have a message board. (Unsurprisingly, I’m Medea’s Child there too. Not that I post more than once a decade.)

Or you could read some fantasy of your own.

Or you can make up your own rules.

That’s what is wonderful about fantasy. You can follow the Tolkien accepted view or strike out on your own. As long as your definitions are clear (through wonderful story telling) Your aduicance will accept them and go with the flow, tucking themselves into the world you create.

I actually prefer the “new worlds” books, though “traditional” definitions can make a faster starting book.

Don’t be afraid to write your own stuff, make up your own spells, your own idea of wizards, your own class structure. Its fantasy, not history, its not a stable and known ground.

Good luck, and I’d love to see some of your ideas!

Believe us, Poysyn, we’re trying to be helpful. But like the rest of the people who’ve posted so far, I say write the story and make the “rules” fit what you’ve written. It’s your story, your characters, your world.

Consider that some of the most influential fantasy ever written (Robt. E. Howard’s Conan and Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, for example) was humans-only. The rare appearances of non-human characters in Leiber’s work were special cases, and they didn’t fit any of the Tolkien stereotypes.

Magic is just the same – make it work the way that helps your story grow. David Eddings’ magic was instinctual and based on force of will (and, near as I can tell, only usable by descendants of people educated by the gods). On the other hand, Michael Moorcock’s magic was learned and studied, available to anybody with the resources, desire, intelligence, and time (still very few people).

The only reason to get caught up in rules and stereotypes is to evoke nostalgia or parody for what’s come before, IMHO. If you want the readers to hear dice rolling whenever anything happens, that’s fine – it worked for Joel Rosenberg, and it can work for you.

To make a living, breathing world, just try and remember that nothing is static. If the bad-guy race is stronger, faster, more intelligent, longer-lived, and has a higher birth rate than humans, then the bad guys should own the world. If magic is easy, cheap and/or usable by everybody, then the world probably won’t look like Dark Ages Europe. If magic can create something out of nothing (“Hmm, I need 11 tons of gold to pay my army. POOF Ah, there we go.”) and aren’t limited in any way, then wizards will be the ultimate power.

To make a long story short, I’m copping out of giving any advice on what you should do. I’d rather wish you good luck, make sure you’re aware of the amount of freedom you have to create this thing, and hope to see the fruits of your labor sometime.

You can redefine things any way you like–Steven Brust, for example, redefined elves in such a fashion that a lot of people didn’t even recognize them. His Dragaerans (“elfs” as Noish-pa called them) were much bigger and stronger than humans, and many of them lived in perfectly ordinary cities rather than forests. Do what your story needs you to do.

Maybe if you had more specific questions about the implementation of your rules, we could be more helpful–I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one here who’s pretty good at rationalizing magic systems and such. If you want to define the rules solidly (for your own use, even if you never explain them in the storyline), you could list some things that you want to have happen and we could help you hammer out a few details or dodge some internal logic/continuity problems.

Of course, it would be a great sacrifice, since it’ll automatically spoil a few things for us when we sit down to read your masterpieces. :wink:

Believe it or not, you guys really are helping. I guess I had asked the wrong people (mostly people who played DnD) and they all said, “You can’t have a child be a more powerful wizard than an adult, it doesn’t work that way. magic is something that matures.” Or similarily shot down various other plot ideas I had.

It will be a while before I can ever show my stuff around. If you’d like to read some of my style, I have some short horror stories you could read.

Let me know if you’d like to read some, I’ll email it to you.

There are only four rules to writing fantasy:

  1. There are no rules
  2. The only rules are the ones you make up
  3. You must stay consistent to your own rules
  4. Sometimes you can break those rules

Have I thoroughly confused you yet? Wait, I’m just getting started.

Fantasy is not about the fantasy. Science Fiction is not about the science fiction. The story should never be about the world. It should be about the characters in that world.

Back in the olden days (100 or so years ago), when science fiction was such a novel concept, the ideas were so outrageous so preposterous, so fantastic, the books sold merely on that: the ideas. That’s why you had Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 leagues under the sea and Around the World in 80 days, (all by Jules Verne but that’s besides the point). It wasn’t about the people, it was about the beauty of the world that the author created.

But we’ve progressed past the point where you can create a story merely by throwing in super machines or mystical magical characters and calling it a day.
So go crazy, poysyn, and make elves that are more magical than wizards. Make scholars that can outfight the warriors. Make gravity reverse itself every other day! Make the most magical far out, wacky place you can possibly imagine.
But unless you have an interesting plot, unless your characters are likable (even if they’re evil), unless you can form relationships and help us to understand your world through their eyes, nothing else matters.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

They said what?

I play D&D. I’m obsessed with D&D and other RPGS. I’m all for charactor development and whatnot.

But in reading stories, you can have anything you want.

You want a child mage blessed by the gods with a gift of magic? Go for it. Its your world. If you want, only children can do magic, as they lose the needed innocence and belief as they get old and jaded.

Blah on people who say “You can’t do it that way” Fantasy is not about limits, just as real role playing is not about dice and gear.

Write what you want, let in sing in your soul. Then its fantasy.

You know dorks. But that should be obvious since you’re of working age and they’re still playing D&D :slight_smile:
Of course, if they had moved on to a more mature Roleplaying system, they’d be cool and never uttered such trash :wink:

The best advise I could give has already been mentioned a few times before, but I think it is worth repeating as it is the most important thing in fantasy: stay consistent.

Nothing annoys me more than a writer who has set up certain rules and breaks those same rules later in the story. Ofcourse, this is entirely possible and happens a lot in fantasy, but do it only if there is a plausable reason for it.

So, make up your own rules in your books, but stay true to them, and make it seem believable. Also, take care of the consequences. As mentioned earlier, when wizards are the most powerful beings on earth, that means that they most probably rule it. Unless you come with a plausable reason why they don’t (maybe they only get their powers from a higher being if they swear to not meddle in the afairs of ordinary humans).

If you want to use ‘standard’ fantasy races (like elves, trolls, etc.) I suggest you first do some research on them in mythology and what has been written before. Although you can easily come up with new definitions of these races, people still expect the core to remain the same (elves are nigh immortal, trolls are disgusting and evil, etc.). Ofcourse you are free to change that, but do that only if there is good reason for it. (Although in the Death Gate Cycle the elves are very different than standard elves from other books, the core is the same: haughty, beautiful and enchanting).

Another thing that is a pet peeve of mine: don’t be afraid for change. Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series has been mentioned before and this is a perfect example what not to go for. Although his first books were excellent, his later books became a drag because nothing changed. OK, he killed of some characters, but they came back. It doesn’t seem like the main character is getting anywhere near his goal and after reading the 6th or 7th book or so, it became clear to me that the writer just wanted to stall the story to sell more books. My advise: don’t go there.

I fancy myself as a bit of a writer as well, and I would love to give you some pointers into the world of fantasy (I think I’m quite well read in that area). Feel free to email me if you want.

Oh, and I would love to read some of your writing if you want to share.

Thank you everyone for your help, your advice is coming in very handy! Hopefully I will stick with these stories and see them through. Hate to leave one group in the middle of a rescue and the other in the middle of a quest.
Thanks again!