PDA

View Full Version : Taking pieces of fantasy novel and making it interesting



lrose20
10-30-2014, 12:24 AM
So, I have a novel that I really like, but has a lot of issues. It's fantasy, set in a fictional world. I like a lot about it, but it does follow a lot of really tired tropes, the biggest ones being: the chosen one, the farm type character who doesn't know anything about the rest of the world, and a quest for an item. I really like the characters and some of the plot points, but I don't think it can stay this way. I kind of want to re-vamp into be a modern fantasy, set in the real world, etc, but I've no idea how to go about this. Thoughts?

Reziac
10-30-2014, 07:34 PM
What's wrong with those tropes? They exist as tropes because they're popular! After all you say it's a good book, so let it be its own good book. And MG readers are going to flow with the tropes, not complain about 'em.

So why not just write another novel with the elements that currently interest you, instead of trying to warp it into something else? Heck, recycle what you like from this one; you wouldn't be the first to do that. I can think of authors who did that across more than a dozen books.

Kolta
10-30-2014, 08:22 PM
I really like the characters and some of the plot points, but I don't think it can stay this way. I kind of want to re-vamp into be a modern fantasy, set in the real world, etc, but I've no idea how to go about this. Thoughts?

You could try simply working with the characters and plot points you like in a blank slate of a world for now and see what grows out of that.

Take your characters forward through their tasks and goals, and perhaps the more footprints they're allowed to leave behind the more likely this could help map out the world around them.

rwm4768
10-30-2014, 08:51 PM
You might at least give it a shot as it is. Those tired tropes often don't matter as much to younger readers. But when you're older and you've read thirty different farmboy chosen one stories, you're tired of it.

I've written both secondary world and contemporary fantasy (sometimes even MG), but I've never tried changing to one from the other. Sounds like too much work. I'd rather just write two stories.

rugcat
10-30-2014, 09:42 PM
You might at least give it a shot as it is. Those tired tropes often don't matter as much to younger readers. But when you're older and you've read thirty different farmboy chosen one stories, you're tired of it. And those tropes do matter very much to editors who buy books. MG fantasy is a very hard field to break into. Books with well worn tropes by previously unpublished writers are barely going to be given a look, no matter how good the writing.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-30-2014, 09:58 PM
I'm unclear about your clarification. You're saying this is adult fantasy with a middling level of magic, not middle grade fantasy?

If you are commenting on the genre rather than the age category, perhaps there's a better term than middle grade?

Osulagh
10-30-2014, 10:20 PM
If you mean it's not middle-grade--in which middle schoolers are the target audience--please don't say middle grade. Low Fantasy is barely a genre--more like a category. Please don't try to split another genre between them. Especially when according to definition, nothing can fit in between.

High Fantasy takes place in another world. Low Fantasy takes place in ours. So is your world created? And now you want to set it in ours?

The Chosen One is a long-standing trope that I bet everyone thought was tired before book series like Harry Potter and The Wheel of Time became popular. It's not that the Chosen One causes books to automatically fail, but the writer didn't write the trope in a new, unique way. Just because you're writing the trope doesn't mean you have to change your entire story--especially since it's not a cliche.

I don't know how you're going to set your story in our world without reworking the entire story. I can't even think of simple tricks without making the story seem like a copy+paste and replace story where the old wizards are now pimps and the queen is just the MC's boss. IMHO, you'll have to rework the entire plot and characters to fit to the setting.

StarWombat
10-30-2014, 10:24 PM
I really don't understand what you're asking for. And I've never really seen the problem with these tropes; I'd go so far as to say I barely notice them. Play with them, or keep them as they are, but I almost expect them in a work now.

StarWombat
10-30-2014, 10:26 PM
High Fantasy takes place in another world. Low Fantasy takes place in ours.

Are you sure? I've not heard that description before.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-30-2014, 10:33 PM
Are you sure? I've not heard that description before.


It's one of several varying definitions.

amyall
10-30-2014, 10:36 PM
Have you thought about taking your current story and adding some twists to those old tropes?

Play around with it a little.
-Instead of your MC being the chosen one maybe it's the quiet friend.
-Use the farm boy aspect to his advantage, perhaps he succeeds unexpectedly because wrestling castle guards is a lot like roping cattle.
-Maybe the item he needs to find only exists in a future time and he has to leave behind everyone he knows to save them. Perhaps he even ends up in a modern time at the end of the book.

Just a few quick ideas. I think that if you liked the story to begin with then you may just need a few fresh changes. Turning it into a modern story may lose some of the things you enjoyed about it in the first place.

Best of luck!!
-A

zanzjan
10-30-2014, 10:37 PM
It sounds like what you want is a book completely (or nearly completely) different from the one you've written. While agreeing in general with other people's advice re: tropes -- if you've made them work, then they work, and if not, then they don't -- if you're not happy with so many significant aspects of the book you've written, rather than try to dissect it, why not just write another novel entirely with the aspects you want as part of the story from the get-go?

Osulagh
10-30-2014, 10:55 PM
Are you sure? I've not heard that description before.

It's a very simplistic definition, and as Liosse said, definitions vary.

From Wikipedia:


Low fantasy stories are set either in the real world or a fictional but rational world, and are contrasted with high fantasy stories which take place in a completely fictional fantasy world setting with its own set of rules and physical laws.

Roxxsmom
10-30-2014, 11:06 PM
So, I have a novel that I really like, but has a lot of issues. It's fantasy, middle grade. (in terms of high, low, not age group), set in a fictional world.

I'm not sure what this means. My understanding is that MG is fiction that is aimed at the 8 to 11-12 ish demographic (after chapter books, but before YA), and usually has protagonists in the target age group too. Are you saying the characters are in the YA age group but the book isn't aimed at kids? Or are you saying the characters are adults but it's aimed at a MG readership?



I like a lot about it, but it does follow a lot of really tired tropes, the biggest ones being: the chosen one, the farm type character who doesn't know anything about the rest of the world, and a quest for an item. I really like the characters and some of the plot points, but I don't think it can stay this way. I kind of want to re-vamp into be a modern fantasy, set in the real world, etc, but I've no idea how to go about this. Thoughts?

So you have a more traditional secondary world setting so it feels more like an urban fantasy type setting, but keeping the characters the same otherwise. I guess I'm confused. How would a farm kid character that you like but who is also tired and cliche be fresher and more interesting in a new setting without becoming a completely different character? And why do you feel you can't revamp some of the tired cliches in your current story (lose the farm kid angle and the chosen one angle ) while keeping the original setting. There's plenty of secondary world fantasy that doesn't employ either of those tropes.

Also, I'm not clear whether you plan on aging the characters up to make them more consistent with the YA or adult audience most urban or contemporary fantasies are aimed at, or if you're planning on keeping it MG.

I guess the question is, if you're changing the setting, plot and characters this much, how is it even remotely still the same story you had before? Only you can answer that, though. If you think you can do it, then go for it.

Taejang
10-30-2014, 11:43 PM
As others said, I think it would be easier to write a new novel and incorporate elements from the old one which you like. Re-writing your current one with a complete change of ... everything, would be far more effort and you will likely break the plot in the process. By the time you finish, it would basically be a new novel anyway. Save yourself the extra work and go into it knowing it will be new.

I'm also a bit confused about your classification, but this is inconsequential to your question. If you are really changing the entire setting, characters will have to change. Motivations, histories, experiences, everything. It really will be a very different story, and easier to re-create than redo.

Dryad
10-30-2014, 11:48 PM
I echo what Roxxsmom said, but I also have the feeling that I'm somehow misunderstanding the question because of the same questions she asked. So maybe we just need a clarification on some of these points in order to discuss the points you're wanting to discuss.

But maybe you're falling into that common problem of really hanging onto a story you like but haven't sold instead of moving on to new things. Your old story won't go away as you work on new material. Don't let it trap you in the same anything. Write another story just the way you want it to be now as good as you can make it now. Let that old story stay what it is. Just imagine if you sold the new one but could no longer sell the old one because it was, in some way, the same story.

lrose20
10-31-2014, 02:18 AM
Goodness, suddenly so many replies. So, first clarification: I read (I believe somewhere on here) that people sometimes use middle grade fantasy to describe fantasy that's not set in our world, but does not have the complexity of say Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. If that's inaccurate, apologies.

My biggest issues with these tropes is that yes indeed, several people have said mine are boring and that there's no hook. I sent the original story off to several publishers and agents, and was rejected. Now believe me I know that's normal, that isn't the issue. But I believe based on these rejections and my beta readers thoughts, that the tropes I used felt tired and worn out.

I guess my main question really is, how do I take the aspects I really loved, and incorporate them into a new novel?

zanzjan
10-31-2014, 02:47 AM
I guess my main question really is, how do I take the aspects I really loved, and incorporate them into a new novel?

That's really kind of the million dollar question, and very hard to answer without us having read the novel or being in your head, because we don't really know what you love, or what your writing process is.

So, knowing we're kinda throwing darts blindfolded, I'd say a good first step might be to make a list of all the things you really love about your current novel. If it's a character, why you like them. If it's a scene, why it works so well. Aspects of your worldbuilding and plot you want to keep.

Then, rather than make a list of the things you don't like, make a list of what's missing from the first list that you want to have.

If you're a pantser, I'd say put the two lists side my side, set them down next to your computer (or writing instrument of choice), open up a brand new blank document, and start writing.

If you're an outliner -- and this is shaky ground for me, so maybe others can weigh in on if this is good advice or not -- use the *second* list as the very starting draft of your outline. Import in bits from the first list where they fit. Fill out all the missing stuffs. Then take your outline, set THAT next to your computer, open up a brand new blank document, and go.

If you cut & paste text from the old novel, do it in very small bits, sparingly, and mindful of how it fits in the new novel rather than how the new novel fits around it.

Or anyway, that's my advice.

lrose20
10-31-2014, 02:53 AM
Thank you so much. I know its a hard question without people knowing the full story, but you gave me some excellent advice.

BradCarsten
10-31-2014, 03:25 AM
You have to weigh up the amount of time it's going to take to morph it into something else vs rewriting it from scratch, and unless you have a clear path, it could feel a little forced.
If you want to revise, you could think about throwing in a portal, where characters from our world journey into a fantasy setting. That way you can keep a lot of your world building, but still bring in some modern references.

Anyway, a well worn story thread can often be redeemed with great characters and dialogue, so if your story is character based, then there is no reason why you cant pluck them out of that and drop them into a more interesting setting, but you are looking at a LOT of work.

lrose20
10-31-2014, 03:35 AM
It's what makes publisher rejections so frustrating, when all they say is: we're not interested at this time. An even brief explanation could help me understand if the problem with my story is simply that it doesn't have a good hook, or if the problems are far greater than that. I know I'm struggling with giving my story a hook, despite how much I've brain stormed how to do so.

Unimportant
10-31-2014, 03:55 AM
An even brief explanation could help me understand if the problem with my story is simply that it doesn't have a good hook, or if the problems are far greater than that.
Unfortunately, most publishers get many thousands of submissions each year, so it's just not feasible for them to pay staff to spend five or ten minutes writing personalised rejections for each one.

Myself, I've found that the best way to figure out what's 'wrong' with a story is to set it aside for several weeks and spend that time reading and critiquing other authors' stories. After about the fiftieth critique, I find that I start seeing a pattern of 'common problems' -- and I also start seeing what's wrong with my own story. (And, of course, by the fiftieth critique I'll have made some friends on AW who will be willing to critique my story in return!)

It also helps to read critiques other people have written. Invariably I'll find a handful of AWers who write critiques that make me go "Wow! Yeah! I hadn't noticed that, but you're right!" so then I go look up all their critiques and see what they're saying and how they're suggesting authors fix stuff.

Alli B.
10-31-2014, 08:56 AM
So, I have a novel that I really like, but has a lot of issues. It's fantasy, set in a fictional world. I like a lot about it, but it does follow a lot of really tired tropes, the biggest ones being: the chosen one, the farm type character who doesn't know anything about the rest of the world, and a quest for an item. I really like the characters and some of the plot points, but I don't think it can stay this way. I kind of want to re-vamp into be a modern fantasy, set in the real world, etc, but I've no idea how to go about this. Thoughts?

If you do want to change your book up a bit, then do it. It's hard to give direct feedback when there's little to know of the story, but what if the character wasn't a farmer? What if he/she was someone that had seen whatever antagonistic force needed to be stopped and finally decided to take measures to stop it (perhaps only to find out that its worse than he imagined)? What if he's not the chosen one? He's just finally the person that decided if not him, who?

As for converting a fantasy land into an urban fantasy, I'm no help there. I always love a good fantasy in a land I've never heard of, while an urban fantasy has to be done really well for me to really feel it's in our world.



I guess my main question really is, how do I take the aspects I really loved, and incorporate them into a new novel?

Read it. Delete anything you don't like. Keep the things you do like. Make notes on how to add more conflict to scenes you like but seem to drag a bit. If you like to outline, make notes of the aspects of the book that still survive and work on how to piece them all together.

If you only think your hook is what needs work, which with all do respect I doubt you would want to change so much foundation of your book if it were only the hook with the issue, then put your first few chapters in the share your work area. People have really fantastic feedback there. They will guide you on specific ways to make it better.

Roxxsmom
10-31-2014, 10:32 AM
Goodness, suddenly so many replies. So, first clarification: I read (I believe somewhere on here) that people sometimes use middle grade fantasy to describe fantasy that's not set in our world, but does not have the complexity of say Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. If that's inaccurate, apologies.

Ah. I've never heard MG used as anything other than a target age bracket. If what you say is true, that's what mine is too. Secondary world, but the stakes are somewhere in between personal and large scale, so I wouldn't call it epic either.

I just call mine fantasy.


My biggest issues with these tropes is that yes indeed, several people have said mine are boring and that there's no hook. I sent the original story off to several publishers and agents, and was rejected. Now believe me I know that's normal, that isn't the issue. But I believe based on these rejections and my beta readers thoughts, that the tropes I used felt tired and worn out.

I guess my main question really is, how do I take the aspects I really loved, and incorporate them into a new novel?

It's really hard to answer that question without knowing more about the novel. Have you run it past any beta readers? What do they think?

And what aspect of your story do you think it really exciting? What parts do you think are dull? And what did the agents mean by its lacking a hook? Without reading your story, this sounds a bit like your story might lack stakes, or character goals, or maybe it just starts too slowly? Though there are certainly some exceptions, as a rule, the event that gets the ball running (that represents a departure from your protagonist's normal life) should happen as early as possible.

It's not unusual for writers to recycle bits and pieces of trunk novels or to combine projects that don't quite stand on their own.

VeryBigBeard
10-31-2014, 11:10 AM
If you're an outliner -- and this is shaky ground for me, so maybe others can weigh in on if this is good advice or not -- use the *second* list as the very starting draft of your outline. Import in bits from the first list where they fit. Fill out all the missing stuffs. Then take your outline, set THAT next to your computer, open up a brand new blank document, and go.

If you cut & paste text from the old novel, do it in very small bits, sparingly, and mindful of how it fits in the new novel rather than how the new novel fits around it.

Or anyway, that's my advice.

I'm an outliner (mostly) and that's exactly what I'd do.

I'd also spend some time doing some sort of exercise to identify what my guiding vision for the *new* book is, allowing that it will change. The important parts of the old book will still be there, although they may find new and exciting ways to get themselves out of you.

Write the book you want to write and read. It's OK when a project doesn't work out. Take what you can and move on to the next one. (And keep subbing the original because you never know you might get a hit.)

BradCarsten
10-31-2014, 01:35 PM
It's what makes publisher rejections so frustrating, when all they say is: we're not interested at this time. An even brief explanation could help me understand if the problem with my story is simply that it doesn't have a good hook, or if the problems are far greater than that. I know I'm struggling with giving my story a hook, despite how much I've brain stormed how to do so.

I feel your pain. The problem with agents and publishers is that they get so many submissions that they only have a few minutes to assess your work, and so they judge it much like a reader would if they picked up your book in a store for the first time. They look for a good hook and read the opening paragraphs, and base their decision on that. Your book could be amazing, but if the opening is weak or a little cliched and there isn't a strong enough hook, they probably will never discover the gem that is hidden further inside.

Often the marketing department can override an editor when it comes to their decision on whether to purchase a novel or not, which is exactly why one of my novels was rejected. Instead of following the usual 3 act structure- inciting incident, confrontation, resolution, I went with a more of a "Lost" structure, where the characters are thrown into a strange situation that unfolds (and only makes sense) over the length of the novel. Unfortunately I was told that, without a high concept they simply didn't know how to market it.

Fortunately your writing is an asset and usually doesn't have an expiration date, so it doesn't matter if you have to tuck the novel away for a season and bring it out once you have built relationships in the industry who are then willing to give it a fair chance, but forcing a hook where there isn't one can break your story, and come of as contrived.

Consider what your beta readers have to say, but don't second guess yourself if they like it and publishers don't.
And if you get some distance from it and come back in a few months and decide your story is great as it is, then you can always consider self publishing.


As a side note, there are also companies that will look at your work with a critical eye and offer valuable feedback. Just do a search on Absolute Write and you should find something. hell, I'm sure you could pay most freelance editors to do that.

Taejang
10-31-2014, 07:31 PM
What zanzjan (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=38320) said is pretty much exactly my advice. The only thing I would add is the story's background; for me (and many fantasy readers), the background is very important. You may want to come up with an interesting world for the "new version" before you start writing, regardless of whether you are outlining or going with the flow, and regardless of whether it shows up on either list.

I'd also second the advice of letting the story sit for awhile and come back to it in a few months. For me, that has been a successful tactic when I get stuck. Write something else, read other stuff, heck, even buy a few video games or watch several seasons of TV shows on Netflix. Whatever you want that takes you away from the story for awhile.

Once!
11-02-2014, 04:35 PM
Some great advice here.

There is no reason why you can't write a cracking novel within these tropes. Sure, there are a lot of greybeards (I'm one!) who grumble about yet another chosen one. But for every cynical old fart like me there are a dozen fresh-faced whippersnappers for whom the story would be new and interesting.

Make it zing and no-one will care that some of us have read it all before. Hunger Games? Isn't that that just a remake of Battle Royale?

Not to the teens who have never seen Battle Royale.

Or you can take the standard tropes and give them a little tweak on the nose. Hero finds the magical item, but it turns out to be a fake. There is more than one chosen one, with conflicting destinies. The hero decides to do his own thang rather than follow his own destiny.

But whatever you do, write the book. It may or may not be a bestseller. You may win fortune and glory with your third or fourth books. But to get to that point you need to have finished book one. And then book two.

We can worry about winning the Man Booker later.

Nightibis
11-20-2014, 03:04 AM
Reinvent the trope. I did.

Young na´ve young man, the chosen one? I've been there. I have a character who started at just such a point in my mind. I took my trope and I wrote those stories. I put a life together around him, behind him, things he did, people he met. Then I set them all aside.

The book I am currently writing picks up with him later in life, not in the beginning, but in the middle. He is older and he is chosen, he just doesn't know yet for what. As far as he knows he's the only elf in a world that doesn't care for elves. He's special. He's just not that special. He has a role and he is a hero, just not THE Hero. Which isn't what everyone else thinks, including himself when he starts out on his new adventure.

Try imagining your character 20 years older after he has already saved the world in his twenties. Now what? That's a long time with nothing nearly as exciting happening again. I would imagine from that point on he would be bored with life. Imagine peaking at that age. That's it! What now? That maiden who fell in love with him along the way when he was saving her from one peril or another? How does she feel now that he's back to being just a turnip farmer? Would she grow bored and restless? Craving the excitement that calamity threw them into and bonded them over? Would she leave him for a someone who provided that rush for her again? Oh, now that would be a swift kick in the turnips if she did that.

But things like that happen to real people every day in the real world. Fantasy glosses over the reality of humans just being human sometimes.

Embrace the trope and whisper sweet nothings in its ear I say!