Fantasy: How much can you change...

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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How much can you change about what is already "known"? What I mean by this is that writers such as Tolkien, et al, have pretty much defined how people perceive fantasy concepts. For example, what elves look like, how magic works, whether a species is relatively "good" or "evil".

How much of this can be played with before readers just don't believe it because they have preconceived ideas and expect them to be followed?


You know, that's a funny thing Elonna. I've read reviews on Amazon where readers will criticize an author to death for building off of other fantasy authors, mainly Tolkien. "I expected a hobbit to appear," is one of the major complaints, meaning the author has no imagination or creativity, they're mainly ripping off established authors.

Then you have the readers who don't like the books because they don't follow those preconceived notions. Elves aren't the villains, they're the nice peace-making types... on and on the list goes.

Unfortunately, we just can't make everyone happy. I say, use the old cliches but name them something entirely different... then we'll see what happens. :lol

MacAl Stone

I think it's wide open, if you do it well. That, of course, is the big qualifier.

You've got to put your own spin on it, or you're writing someone else's vision--or worse, cliches.


Funny you should mention that mac, that is just about what I am doing in one of my WIPs. I have these dwarvish-like people, though a little taller, and call them Throlians. The elf like race are Ondrians, etc. They are similar, yet different because I was trying not to be too cliche...guess I will give it a try and see how it goes.

Of course, there are evil elves...dark elves/moredhel heh, just depends on who you are reading I guess. Thanks for your opinion though, makes me feel a little better about messing around with the "norm".


I believe it was Ray who initially solved that problem by calling me "little mac" and MacAl "big mac" ... I don't think that lasted very long. :p

I respond to anything these days.

Lori Basiewicz

We've also differentiated by calling macalicious 'Katie Mac' and MacAl as just 'Mac'.


My answer would be 'everything' -- or at the very least 'something'. I really expect an author to add at least a few good twists to the cliches, but prefer if they omit them altogether and either go back to original non-fiction/mythical sources or use entirely new groups, races etc.


Throlians and Ondrians sound like Star Trek aliens to me.

It's all about tone. Do the traditional archetypes fit the tone of your story? Do they fit the story world?

Personally, I don't buy books with elves in them. But that's me.


Thats OK, I don't read much with space ships and aliens in I can understand a difference in preference :grin


Actually, I read more fantasy than science fiction. But I don't read books with elves in them.


I was not implying that you read sci fi, only making a comparison about understanding preferences.


I really think it depends on your own visions of such things. My current finsished project that I am shopping around now has several of the "old classics" - for example the wizard. He's got the long beard, lives kinda like a hermit. When I submitted a sample to a critique group I got two kinds of comments: one person said "too cliche" and three others said "hooray for the twinkly eyed old mentor!"
<shrug> But mine is a children's book, meant for ages 9-12. That age is so enamoured with Harry Potter that my little wizard might seem comfortingly familiar to some. I like him, myself.

I also have elves, and they are a LITTLE Tolkein- ish, but that's the way I like my elves - not little green things only six inches tall - yuck. I also use a brief encounter with trolls, but they are not montrous, they are the short, Nordic kind that turn to stone in sunlight. Which is NOT a Tolkein invention, it's Nordic folklore.

My point is that you write characters/races how YOU like. If you didn't, it wouldn't be any fun!

Brother Kevin

I'm a huge sci-fi fan. I recommend the collaborative efforts of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, i.e. "Footfall", & "Lucifer's Hammer".

I've got just about every Heinlein book ever published. His "Grumbles From The Grave" contains a great many interesting letters to his editors, articles about writing and so on.

Robert A. Heinlein called the Niven/Pournelle book "The Mote In God's Eye" the "finest science fiction novel I have ever read."

I think I would have to agree. If you're into sci-fi, or if you haven't read any that you like, I think you should read it!

Stephen King writes about writing in a lot of his books. I enjoy his insights into the process and the 'author lifestyle'.

As far as fantasy goes, I like a lot of Anne McCaffrey's work, esp. the 'Pern' series.


In Sci Fi I would rate Octavia Butler near the top. Then many of the greats and second genertaion greats (Bradbury, Silverberg, Asimov, James White, Spider Robinson etc). There is a definite lack of up and coming SF authors that I enjoy reading. I don't mind space opera (Bujold etc) but I really like a plausable hard science edge to my SF. Can anyone suggest a new/up and coming author I might like?


How about me? :grin

Okay, so I need to get published first. Actually, I have a buddy who is coming across Canada right now on his first book tour. His name is K.A. Bedford and he's promoting his first novel, Orbital Burn. It's being classified as cyber-punk, though I don't think that does it justice.

But don't take my word for it, I'm shamelessly trying to help him sell books, tho' I really do think he's an up and comer.

K.A. Bedford


Kevin, McCaffrey says the Pern series is science fiction.

Vein, have you read Greg Bear?


Robert A. Heinlein called the Niven/Pournelle book "The Mote In God's Eye" the "finest science fiction novel I have ever read."
I loved that book (along with Lucifer’s Hammer). BTW – what did you think of the sequel to MIGE, Gripping Hand? I hated it. Couldn’t even finish it to be honest.

I’m not a huge Greg Bear fan, but Darwin’s Radio was a very enjoyable book for me.

aka eraser

I loved Mote and Lucifer's Hammer too and like Nameless couldn't wade through the sequel to Mote.

Betty W01

Veingloree, try John Ringo (There Will Be Dragons and Emerald Sea, to start) and Mercedes Lackey. I love their writing and will read almost anything by them.

And I really like Anne McCaffrey. Try her Crystal Singer series, or the brain/brawn books (The Ship Who Sang and so on).



I know Anne Mcaffreu and lackey -- both hard to miss. Although Lackey seems to be very quantity over quality these days :(

A Pathetic Writer

Tolkien believed that all fantasy existed in a place he called "Fairy" and while he had differences with various versions of fantasy (he detested Disney's 7 dwarves), he drew heavily on existing nordic and germanic mythologies to craft his tales.

Take what works, and use it. Critics are critics. Some will fault you for being too close to another world, others will credit you for taking the best of some worlds and making them your own.

The key is.. make sure you're dealing with your OWN world. If it looks a little like someone else's...? No big deal.

Flawed Creation

in general, i find that the real problem with cliches is that they tend to go with bad writing.

if you can take elves, make them come to life, teach me something new about them and make it moving, then write the elf book.

if "he's an elf" is the extent of your characterization, write something else.

i myself use the bearded old man with a staff.

i also use angels and a demon (although the angels and demon are ANYTHING but stereotypical)
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