Wednesday, July 21, 2010

EPIC fail

There is a really thin line between fantastic, and "What the hell were you thinking?" Take comedy for example. Where's the point when something stops being risqué and is just disgusting? When is an ethnic stereotype hilarious and when is it racist? Or at the base of all comedy, when is something going to leave them rolling in the aisles and when is it just not funny?

Like comedy, there are several fields where done well is fantastic, but so often it is not done well. And then it's horrible.

Epic fantasy is one of those things.

I just finished the first book in the French series I'm reading (Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude/ ). Truthfully the only reason I finished was because it was in French, so there was the study value as well as the entertainment value.

Let me just take the time to insert a DISCLAIMER here. This book is in French and written by a Québequois. I've seen tons of French, Spanish and Italian movies. Plus I live in Japan, and am constantly surrounded by Japanese media. You come to realise that things that are big no-no's in one culture, and the way to go in another. So maybe, this is just the way to write a book in Québec.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite work with me.

Here's a list of things that didn't work for me, and things you might want to consider if you're writing epic fantasy, or any series.

- Be careful of having too many characters. Trying to remember which character is related to who, and who was born where? Not fun.

- Something needs to happen. Just because it's an epic, that does not mean you can spend a whole book setting up. The characters managed to pass through pretty much all of their continent, about 12 countries. It felt like the whole book was devoted to having the readers discover the continent and the individual royal families.

- Don't show everything. I critiqued an MS like this once. We woke up with the MC, showered with her, ate breakfast... It felt more like being a PI watching a CC camera. Honestly, this wasn't much better. The entire second half of the book could have been written in a paragraph. "They decided to visit each monarchy and inform them of the situation. Two weeks later they met up again." Maybe it's just me, but I feel like sometimes, people write a series just for writing a series' sake, and their story could actually have fit in a single book.

-Don't have to much going on at once. Soap operas may tempt you to think that you can weave 12 plot lines together. I very much disagree. If you want 12 plot lines, maybe you SHOULD be writing a soap opera. For a book, one or two (or even 3 or 4) will suffice, thank you.

- Don't paint too much. Okay, we've established that I'm not a visual person, so maybe there are people out there that like this. I, however, can't stand when people think, "Oh, it's fantasy, and it's a different world, so I can spend 12 consecutive pages describing the landscape." Er... No, you can't. If I wanted beautiful landscapes, I'd be in an art gallery. I read for story. Did you get that? I want a STORY.

As I said before, if it wasn't for the fact that I was also studying French as I read, I would not have completed this book. I already have books 2 and 3, and I will read them in turn. If it gets better I might consider reading more of them, if not, I'll be looking for something new.

Oh, and I just figured out where I can buy Italian books! YAY! And just in case you wondered what I'm reading now: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - in Japanese. I must not like myself very much!


Nicole MacDonald said...

Very good points! I'll have to keep a couple of those in mind as I re-write my MS. Sounding like I should ask you to critique it *grin*

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice. That's one reason I like MG & YA fantasy better than adult fantasy. They tend not to make these mistakes.

ElbieNy25 said...

@Nicole, I can say from first hand experience Claire is an amazing critique partner

Claire thanks again for your valuable insight, although you're right that things do vary from culture to culture.