Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cliches in Fantasy Writing

I've read many pieces talking about clichés in writing, but it seems to me they generally focused on clichés within the plot. What has long bothered me about fantasy writing has been what I see as a cliché pertaining to the protagonist. Book after book what I see is the author making the protagonist stand out as something special. Perhaps he/she is royalty (whether they know it or not); perhaps they have hidden magical powers that will soon be unleashed. In many cases the author makes the protagonist be 'one of the best' (if not THE best) in their world at something, whether it be wielding a sword or being a sneak-thief. I don't hate such stories - I love the Gray Mouser or Shadowspawn or Conan as much as the next reader - but I do get tired of how each fantasy book I pick up seems to follow this same trend.

I wrote my novel with many plot clichés, because I don't see any problem with this in traditional epic fantasy. Where I chose to make my story different was that I refused to have my protagonists be too special. I hunger for stories that feel realistic. I want protagonists who are normal people thrown into extraordinary circumstances and forced to sink or swim.

I love my story because of this, but it comes at a steep price. When agents read query letters they focus on plot. My book may be fresh and new story-wise due to the way I incorporate true-to-life characters, but all the agents will think about is that some of my plot elements have been seen before ("Elves and dwarves again...a magical item....ugh."). They'll miss the fact that the story itself will have a completely new feel to it due to the characters themselves. Since query letters have to make the sale in around 300 words, it is almost impossible to sell the story to them based around character rather than plot, especially if one uses multiple protagonists like I do.

How does one make the protagonists seem interesting to an agent within a 300 word limit when my whole idea is that my protagonists are NOT special people (or at least that what makes them special are the ordinary heroics that we average people are all capable of)? I want to push average people to the limits and see if they can prevail. I think my story succeeds in this, but I can't figure out how to sell that in 300 words to an agent.

No comments:

Post a Comment