Strangely, for as much as I loved the Lord of the Rings saga, both the Rankin-Bass animated movies of the late ‘70s and 1980 to the epic Peter Jackson movies of the early 2000s, I had no intention of ever writing fantasy as a published author. That was until HBO’s adaption of Game of Thrones hit TV. Despite its popularity, and don’t be offended if you love it, I loathed it and barely got past the first episode. In fact, I really don’t consider it fantasy at all–it’s more like a medieval and lesser version of House of Cards with a dragon or two thrown in. As for the books, I can’t comment because I have yet to finish even one of Martin’s novels—I’m more of a sci-fi, mystery and thriller reader.
Always, I try to put a new spin on a genre that I write in, whether it’s the provocative “religious science fiction” of my After Eden series, or my Liquid Cool series being cyberpunk reimagined—personally, I love the term “cyber-noir”—I wanted to do the same for my new fantasy series.
So what are the major themes of the fantasy genre that I’d put my unique twist on? Here’s my Top 10 List!
1) Good Versus Evil.
It doesn’t have to be the over-used, two-dimensional Hero versus Dark Lord structure, fulfilling some ancient prophecy. I’m equally unimpressed with most anti-hero(ines) or evil versus evil stories. Good versus evil is a universal trope for a very good reason (with good triumphing over evil in the end)–because that’s how audiences expect the universe to be, any universe, even the ones we fiction writers create.
2) A New World.
Also, called world-building, the first novel often has to spend some time acclimating the reader to your universe. If done well, it all feels natural and welcome. For a lot of fantasy, it seems there’s some boilerplate that everyone follows. If we’re doing fantasy, okay elves and dwarves are fine—I have the former and not the latter. However, there’s a lot more in historical mythology than just that, a lot more.
For my new fantasy series, I want to show readers sophisticated and diverse societies, realistic nation-states, and complex social structures. When I use the word “diverse” I don’t mean the often silly, politically-correct use of it in our time, for the new series, I mean one where humans are merely one of many in this “universe.”
3) Mythical Races.
I need to expand of this point because it has been a source frustration with me for a long time. As a kid who was fascinated with Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and later medieval mythology, much of it due to my Lord of the Rings fandom, I often asked why do we see only dwarves, elves, orcs, satyrs, and a couple of others? Folks, there are dozens and dozens of different races. I do add quite a few of my own, but finally you get to see some of those other races from historical myths.
4) Mythical Creatures.
Dragons? Sorry, no, and it’s not just because that’s my last name. I have often felt that throwing in some dragon to be a cheat in most epic fantasy fiction. I even polled my VIP Readers’ Club members and they too came up a ton of mythical creatures that I’d like to see too. In my new fantasy series, you’ll get to see them!
I do believe magic is an important ingredient in fantasy. It goes beyond wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, witches or whatever term we use for the practitioners. At the core, these are lands, beings, and creatures of magic. It plays a key role in my new fantasy series as well.
6) Medievalism and Mythology.
Kings and queens, princes and princes, knights and swords? Yes, to all of the above. Some critics say this is the never-ending “McEuropeanizing” of epic fantasy—all the major themes are from Western European mythology. I agree, though nothing is wrong with that by itself; people like Western mythology. However, when I was a kid diving into mythology, I started with Western European mythology, but then moved to other parts of the world, with Chinese mythology being my absolute favorite. In fact, my Sleepy Hollow Horrors series will delve into Native American and Old North American mythology when it relaunches.
One of the things about my new fantasy series is that it will be focused on Western European mythology, but that is only the start. In fact, some of the key characters are not from “Western Europe” lands.
No. It’s one common fantasy device I will not be using. I’ve always felt that its overuse suggests that none of us have free-will and that everyone is just going through the motions of the universe. It’s one thing to say that good should triumph in the end. It’s another to say that evil has no chance of winning in the end, or sometimes does win. If that were the case, then it wouldn’t be good drama.
8) The Quest.
This is another staple in fantasy fiction. Whether you consider it boring and overused, or a satisfying standard depends on whether it’s a good story or not. Actually, this is what originally attracted me to writing in the genre. I was going to write a thriller story about a quest (more about that next month) but when my VIP Readers’ Club members wanted me to write a fantasy series, I simply modified the thriller quest story I was already going to write. As some readers and fans know already, I love genre-blends.
Does fantasy have to have a good romance? Good question and I have no idea, but I can’t think of any fantasy story I enjoyed that didn’t have it. Though, I still had no obligation to add it, if I didn’t want to. I don’t follow crowds; I prefer to lead or not be in them at all. However, in this case, it adds to the quality of the story, which is the only reason a writer should add anything to their work. What’s an example of what I consider a good romance story? (Yes, I’m a guy but from my 2017 Year End Survey of my VIP Readers’ Club, I was surprised to learn that 72% of my reader fans are women!) Here’s an example: Besides the subplot in the Lord of the Rings between Aragon and Arwen, how about the 1985 classic movie Lady Hawke starring Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer?
10) Fantasy novels of 800 pages or more.
This is why I haven’t read George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones yet. I’m busy and when I do read it’s a binge of multiple books. So would I rather read five books in a finite period of time or just one GRRM book? Obviously, I have chosen the former for the last four years. I have a personal rule never release a single book of more than 500 pages, with 400 being the targeted standard. So that’s what I will do with the new fantasy series. I’ll write lots of content, but not bury people with 1000-page single novel tomes.
There it is.
What do you think about my “Top 10 Themes of My New Upcoming Fantasy Series”? Leave a Comment Below.
#Fantasy #EpicFantasy #ActionAdventure #Thriller
Austin Dragon is the author of over 30 books in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror. His works include the sci-fi detective LIQUID COOL series, the epic fantasy FABLED QUEST CHRONICLES, the international futuristic epic AFTER EDEN Series, the classic SLEEPY HOLLOW HORRORS, and new military sci-fi PLANET TAMERS series. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, ex-political junkie, movie buff, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, futurist, and dreamer.
I respect everything that you have written in this blog. Please continue to provide wisdom to more people like me.
I agree with you. I love fantasy stories like yours. The others, sword fantasy sound more like historical fiction with a dragon added to the plot, no offence to writers nor readers. I respect everybody’s likes and preferences, otherwise there wouldn’t be such a great variety of genres and subgenres, right? I prefer my historical fiction to be just that, a historical fiction, it’s an alternate history. I’m more into epic, grimdark fantasy.
Thank you for such fabulous stories, Austin! Be them, fantasy, SciFi or Cyberpunk. I’m a genre hopper, so if if you decide one day to write a thriller or mystery/suspense thriller I’d read the books too!
Take care. Have a lovely week ahead.
Love and Light.
I’d go with the top 8, romance often tends to overshadow the fantasy, etc. The length isn’t even a consideration, because a series of 400+ page books can give sub-plots more room to expand.