Friday, 6 February 2015

The plot of every fantasy book you have ever read (a how-to guide)

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1. Pick a protagonist, orphans are popular. If your protagonist has both parents, then one of the parents has to be a bit of a jerk. Make your protagonist an outcast. Alternatively, give them a happy family and lots of friends. Then kill them off so you have a quest for revenge.

2. Travel alone for a while. Or be alone and friendless in a crowded place, generally a castle. For older protagonists, hint at a tortured past.

3. Discover that your protagonist is special! At this stage they're only a little special, maybe some magic, maybe they're really good with a bow and arrow, maybe they're super sneaky. Pick one, don't get too greedy.

4. "My days fell into a routine" - every fantasy book uses this to pass over the tedium of learning to use these new skills. Days always begin at dawn. Generally there is some book learning, and self defense thrown in there.

My days fell into a routine. I rose at dawn to practice weapon of choice with unexpected friend. After breakfast I met with assigned teacher to learn about my special skill. Afternoons were spent pouring over books assigned by teacher and learning the history of mythical land we invented for this story.

5. "The days flew by". because no one wants to read about tired, sore, sleep-deprived heroes for more than a couple of pages. Skip over the boring learning and go straight to the part where your hero/heroine is a badass.

6. The unexpected quest! For some reason your protagonist has to go on a quest they aren't quite ready for. Throw in some Red Herrings for your overarching story line. Make them earn the respect of some bigwig.

7. Romance - because swinging swords always has romance. 

8. The big quest - dum-dum-duuuuuum... something has happened and your hero/heroine goes off on a big quest only they can solve!

9. You're a Wizard Harry. Or a demi-god. Or something cool that only exists in legend. Turns out your hero/heroine is not just good at that special skill, they're something otherworldly.

10. Betrayal!! Somewhere at the start there was someone we trusted. Or some minor character who has been hanging around like a bad smell. Turns out they're a jerk. Generally you get to kill them off.

11. Success!! Kill the bad guy, get the girl/guy, reunite with your family, overthrow the king. But don't settle down, embark on a quest to understand your new-found godliness, wizardry, legend status. That way there can be a sequel.

aaaaand you're done. Most fantasy books in 11 points.

Bonus points if you can describe a common food in a really outlandish way. Favourites amongst fantasy authors are chocolate and coffee, or "mysterious beans from a tribe in the South".

Unless you're George R.R. Martin. Then have 40 protagonists, kill half of them on or before point 6, kill a couple more when they're in bed romancing someone and introduce seventeen more characters. Don't worry about planning a story arc for them all, if it gets too technical someone can fall from the Aerie.

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