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Author Topic: What do you most look for in Fantasy?  (Read 7725 times)

Offline shep5377

What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« on: November 07, 2012, 10:10:46 PM »
After yet another highly intellectual and not at all geeky discussion on twitter, we thought it would be good to have a topic about what you look for in fantasy.

For me, I'm a massive fan of entertaining, well thought out magic systems. If they are crafted well, with good restrictions and penalties for overuse, I think they add so much to the story. It's for this reason I prefer someone like Sanderson over Abercrombie, who uses little magic.

What say you? Is it the magic that draws you in? Do well designed worlds captivate you?

Offline Elfy

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2012, 10:14:44 PM »
I don't know that I look for one thing specifically. I like to see an attempt at some sort of originality or fresh take on an old theme. An interesting plot and strong multi layered characters, whose actions make some sort of sense. I don't like passive characters who are moved by the needs of the story rather than their own motives. 
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline Arry

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2012, 10:21:03 PM »
I definitely enjoy magic, as long as it doesnt overpower everything else. It needs to be a tool with limited (but magical) capabilities. Meaning, like Shep, I want there to be restrictions and most likely penalties for use. They can't just get something for free, there needs to be some level of price to pay for their magic. I really enjoy the unexpected, and I guess I just like seeing the impossible become possible in the stories I read. Or how they create a magical solution to provide modern conveniences such as email or texting in a medieval world:)


That said, I definitely dont need a book to be magic heavy. In fact, most of my favorite books/series are very light on magic (such as Abercrombie). Like Elfy, I feel the overall story and character development are the most important factors in a book. But if there happens to be some really cool magic thrown in, well that just adds to the fun.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2012, 10:24:01 PM by Arry »
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Offline shep5377

Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2012, 10:26:54 PM »
I don't know that I look for one thing specifically. I like to see an attempt at some sort of originality or fresh take on an old theme. An interesting plot and strong multi layered characters, whose actions make some sort of sense. I don't like passive characters who are moved by the needs of the story rather than their own motives.

Playing devil's advocate then, why do you turn to fantasy for that? You could be describing many genres.

Offline Arry

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2012, 10:28:41 PM »
I don't know that I look for one thing specifically. I like to see an attempt at some sort of originality or fresh take on an old theme. An interesting plot and strong multi layered characters, whose actions make some sort of sense. I don't like passive characters who are moved by the needs of the story rather than their own motives.

Playing devil's advocate then, why do you turn to fantasy for that? You could be describing many genres.
I thought the same thing, I was just too nice to play devil's advocate  ;D
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2012, 10:30:09 PM »
To broadly define what I like: I want the writer to actually be able to string together a coherent sentence and make it flow easily. I read for the prose. I read for the twists. In fantasy, though, I look for something different, something fantastic. If you want to write about elves, dwarves, and all that high stuff, make sure it has its own spin on things. That was one reason I loved Nights of Villjamur, mainly the worldbuilding. It was the right spark between traditional and weirdness, which is what I think fantasy (what I read) should gear itself toward and has done in the past years.

I don't care if the writer has a rounded character or not, and would argue with you for a while on that description. (which is a topic for another day) If the prose isn't good and the plot is horrible, I won't read it.
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Offline Francis Knight

Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2012, 11:19:20 PM »
Excitement
Adventure
Really wild things. ;)

Actually I look for great characters and something that makes me go 'OooooOooOoh!' speculative wise. That's about it.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2012, 04:53:56 AM »
I don't know that I look for one thing specifically. I like to see an attempt at some sort of originality or fresh take on an old theme. An interesting plot and strong multi layered characters, whose actions make some sort of sense. I don't like passive characters who are moved by the needs of the story rather than their own motives.

Playing devil's advocate then, why do you turn to fantasy for that? You could be describing many genres.
I do read other genres, but I prefer the scope I can get out of fantasy. Real world characters and situations don't have the same ability to pull me in and take me away. I like seeing ideas and things spun differently. I don't get that as much with other genres.
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline jefGoelz

Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2012, 05:48:48 AM »
relationships.
it's what life is about.
it ought to be what books are about.
in fantasy, it should be relationships in a setting that provides challenges beyond our normal world.

Offline K.Trian

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2012, 11:51:14 AM »
Good question!

Considering I'm sooo not huge on magic unless it's very evil, I'm still a big fan of fantasy, which I find a little baffling. But I think these are the reasons I read fantasy:

-monsters (no lion-head, ogre-feet, dragon-tail, snake-teeth -monsters, imaginative ones. Sadly, I haven't come across many)
-new worlds and cultures to explore (so the author has to be a great world-builder)
-any escapist elements that make dreary commuter train trips more bearable: sword fights, ghosts and creepy things, witches with less than pleasant and potentially gruesome magic powers, and so on.
-epic elements, like huge freaking battles and tyrannies getting overthrown
-romance; the battle-hardened, whore-mongering old dog falling in love with that kelpie-riding Northern warrior princess with daddy-issues. You know, outlandish stuff like that.

But I have to admit: there are precious little fantasy books I've come across that deliver the things I like. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy books that lack them, as I do, but just like everyone, I've got preferences.
So no wonder me and T. Trian started writing ourselves.

Offline Jian

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2012, 01:18:00 PM »
I love magic systems where they come with a price. It's why I liked the manga/anime, Full Metal Alchemist. The two main characters tried to bring back their dead mother, and they got a monster out of the deal. Oh, and the older brother had to sacrifice an arm, and the younger one sacrificed his entire body. It's why basically every book of Brandon Sanderson's (save for Elantris) is in my favorites. But I do like gritty realism, as well, which is why Martin and Abercrombie are both in my list of favorites.
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Offline Arry

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Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2012, 01:36:09 PM »
Another thing I like about many fantasy books is the removal from the modern world. I prefer to read about people traveling in the woods on horse or by foot, using swords instead of guns. I suppose some of this could be used to label me as an 'escapist' reader, but I also feel it adds a different element to the book.

You know these people are getting dirty and pushing themselves physically. There's also more uncertainty when a character cant just pull out their phone and map out the quickest route to the nearest inn, they cant text someone to tell them they are right around the corner, to just wait 5 more minutes, they can't google the guy they just met and see he is actually an evil warlock, and for the weapons, they have to be in close to who they are fighting (unless ofcourse, they are an archer). 

I do certainly read and enjoy some urban fantasy, so this is not at all about disliking the modern elements by any means. It's about enjoying and appreciating the lack of them, seeing how the characters are challenged in ways they would not be today, how they cope and how they bond with each other on their journey.
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Offline Idlewilder

Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2012, 01:51:51 PM »
I don’t look for anything too specific in fantasy, like magic systems or weird creatures. First and foremost, I suppose, the book has to interest me at some level in its story, world or characters. I’m probably not going to read a fantasy novel billed as an elven romance, for instance. Just doesn’t interest me – but tell me it’s a bloody epic filled with politics and action, and I’m there. 

But as to the specific elements of what makes up fantasy – I can’t say I ever seek out magic systems. Not that I don’t like magic – of course I do – but I find books which rely too heavily on the magic systems and their intricacies I often just don’t enjoy. Mistborn, for example (Though on the other side of the coin, I do love the Wheel of Time). I’m mostly uninterested in made up races and beasts – I think they have a place, but again – sometimes they feel shoehorned in to make what would otherwise be an alternative historical novel into a “fantasy” novel. I love good worldbuilding (though not when it’s there all the time) and mostly love the way in which fantasy just allows pure creation from an author.

I suppose I think that all these elements (magic, creatures, politics, races, war, worlds, characters) have their places in fantasy – and I’ve enjoyed books which have involved all of these elements. But I think I mostly just want a fantasy novel to treat any or all of these elements as a part in the grand scheme, and not focus on one over the others. If anything comes first though, like any good fiction – it’s the story and the characters.
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Offline AEMarling

Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2012, 03:20:30 PM »
I've asked hundreds of people why they love the fantasy genre, and I've brewed their answers into Wordle arts that I display on my blog, the Importance of the Impossible. On this post, I will mention that I love fantasy because it gives me the license for imaginative play, to believe in things that could never, to revel in the nonsensical whimsy of creative minds.

Edit: It looks like the fates I have decreed I may not post images, but if you wish to view the word art, you can venture to my page:
http://aemarling.com/?p=114
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Offline shep5377

Re: What do you most look for in Fantasy?
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2012, 03:22:29 PM »
I think that what everything above would show to a non-fantasy fan reading this thread (though I've no idea why they would) is that we all like a good story, with everything that goes with that, first and foremost. This means first we are literary fans who love fiction of all sorts. We just need a little extra, be that magic, monsters or new worlds.  8)