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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Slaying our own dragons

"Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because
they tell us that dragons can be beaten." - G.K. Chesteron

Fairy tales and fantasies abound with dragons, witches, wizards, fairies, druids, griffins – a host of magical beings and their spells, incantations, and hexes. The lands they inhabit are colorful and unusual, a delight to every perceptual sense. For lovers of fantasy, including myself, those details carry us away to visit and experience a new land. The journey of discovery is usually the end rather than the means.

Yet, the underlying themes of fairy tales and fantasies are often straight forward and simple. After elaborate world-building, so rich with detail the reader works hard to remember exotic names, places, and creatures, it would overwhelm to create a complex set of problems which must be solved.

Whether good will triumph over evil is the most typical question, as referred to in the quote by Chesteron. The moral lesson is simple; we can each triumph over our demons. In one of my works in progress, The Enchanted Bookstore: Seeking a Scribe, I have that basic theme along with one other – whether a love can grow between a pair of unlikely individuals and be enough to ease their personal suffering. In this book, the fact I have two themes largely follows from writing a cross genre of fantasy combined with romance/erotica. To me, having two main questions to answer is plenty, and I am careful to keep subplots from growing with their own confusing themes which would definitely encumber the reader.

Have you ever read a fantasy where this contrast did not exist, the theme was just as complex as the magical world? Few exist, but perhaps you found one. How did it read? Was it difficult to follow? Did you enjoy it?

Art: Steve Roberts


Lin said...

As one who has a couple fantasy stories tucked away you have convinced me that maybe I should suct them off and bring them out in the light of day once more.

Thank you for encouraging me to do that.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Sure, dust those off. I'll bet with some new love and attention they'll sparkle!


Anonymous said...

I am glad I read your post today. I can see my books sometimes get way to complicated with too many plots and subplots. It might be the way my mind works in real life, but for writing, I think you've hit the nail on the head: a couple are good but lots can be confusing.
Thanks for the good advice.

Anonymous said...

I love to be drawn into a fantasy world, but I want the language to remain as simplistic as possible. I don't want to crack open the book to find that the first twelve pages are an encyclopedia of Elvish, which I will need to either memorize or flip repeatedly to in order to decipher the plot. Bring on the beauty of a new world, a rich description of a character, or a lyrical name. That will draw me in.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Em ~ Yes, the new world needs to be user-friendly and not one we must study laboriously.

Gardensoftheheart ~ Subplots in fantasy are often sprinkled liberally, almost as more world building. But, that main theme is often suprisingly simple and realistic.

Kelsey Card said...

Good post, Marsha. I agree that because SF/F can't rely on the reader's knowledge of the story's world a writer needs to find that delicate balance where they story is intriguing and surprising but not overwhelming when combined with worldbuilding details. And, to make this aspect of the craft even more difficult, that delicate balance will differ depending on the views and experiences of each reader. Thanks for sharing.

Tales of magic, adventure, and romance

Marsha A. Moore said...

For this reason, series books are so welcomed by readers since they have already invested "study" time with the one new world.

Thanks for stopping by, Kelsey.

Lorena said...

I think you make an excellent point Marsha. I think that when I write fantasy, I try to keep it as real as possible, instead of populating it with convoluted magics and an army of strange creatures. Not that those are bad things, but I prefer to keep it simple so you can focus on the story itself and on the characters I use to drive it, rather than getting lost in the details. When I find myself getting too wrapped up in details or in plots within subplots, I think of all those books I picked up and put right back down for exactly those reasons!

Marsha A. Moore said...

Yes, Lorena, overdone fantasy is so busy the mind can't assimilate.

Thank you for coming by!

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

Nice post, Marsha. I know I always have to pay close attention to my plots and subs. It's easy to have too many lines to follow.