I’ve finished reading The Eye of the World (the first book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series.) Both it and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire are works of High Fantasy (although of different tones.) And so is my novel (in progress) – Swordsmaster.
What is High Fantasy? It’s fantasy set in an alternative world, usually revolving around a hero who doesn’t always seem to be of heroic nature, perhaps even with a mysterious origin, and skills that appear or grow as the story progresses. Much of what happens in the story will seem like a totally improbable coincidence – IF we were talking about the real world, but this IS fantasy, after all.
It’s not that I’m a new reader in the subgenre – over my lifetime I’ve read several (including multiple readings of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), but it’s good to get a refresher on what the conventions and expectations are, and what EVEN I as a reader expect.
I’m not a stickler for genre (and subgenre) rules and conventions (maybe that’s why my readership isn’t as much as I would like?); I generally write what comes OUT OF MY MIND (yes, that dark and scary place) and let the chips fall where they may. The fact is, rules are not barriers that you can’t violate – they are merely guidelines that make your writing life easier. You can violate the conventions, but there will be a price (much like we have free speech, but you are not free from people exercising their free speech and telling you what THEY think.) You will not just be violating a rule – you will also be violating the reader’s expectations, and unless you give them a story that grabs them, they may just throw the book against the wall and try something else.
I found myself trying to justify what happens in Swordsmaster as though the story existed in the real world, afraid that my readers (God, PLEASE grant me some of those) might stare at the page and say “No way any of that could happen. What was he thinking when he wrote this? Was he high?”
No, but it is HIGH Fantasy.
Of course, most fiction is that way – things that are unlikely coincidences happen – people survive cataclysms and disasters that no one should (because if they were to die on page 5 it wouldn’t be much of a story, would it?) High Fantasy just has the extra advantage of the unexpected being – expected. Just as long as I remember to set up those expectations in Swordsmaster.
William Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent publication The Last Three ‘Things I Could Get Out of My Mind’ – can be found in many places, including:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
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