In a recent post from Doctor MC, an author whom I follow, he says, “Lastly, fantasy means a simplified story. To explain what I mean by this, I have to tell you what a “story” is.” And he goes on to define the term story. If you follow me or my blog, you know that my books are primarily of the fantasy genre. Therefore, I felt compelled to write back to the good doctor, and gently correct some of his misconceptions.
You can find his article here: https://doctormcmadscientist.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/on-writing-fiction-and-writing-fantasy/
Here is my response.
Dear, dear Doctor,
I thought you were going to give us your thoughts about writing fiction and fantasy, but I see only your opinions on defining the two genres.
In the dry sense of defining fantasy it can mean a classification of fiction, indeed, but most who read the once-defined “swords and sorcery” kind of fantasy have a much grander of definition, where they know they will see a variety of creatures—non-familiar and not, doing magical things, fighting bad guys, triumphant good guys, all in a world that might be similar to ours, but might also be as different as orange skies and seas, blue people, and dragons soaring across the skies.
But in the sense of writing fantasy, you must first start with world-building. Your fantasy world must be developed and be a place where people can live, work, have families, and do what people do everywhere-exist. You must then create jobs, governments, laws, communities, houses, in fact, everything you would use to describe a city, town, or village anywhere in the world.
Once you have decided where and how your people will live, you must define them. Their appearance, kinds of people, their wants and dreams, what they aspire to and how they plan to get there.
In other words, fantasy must include a place where the reader can find themselves, and live the adventures alongside the characters. Because there must be adventures, that aren’t limited to our world’s rules and confines.
I don’t see a fantasy as a simplified story by any means. If anything, they are more complicated than your average work of fiction, because most of those writers are working with a civilization that already exists. They have only to decide where they will place their characters and plunk ‘em down. Half the work is already done.
You define a story quite well, but you certainly can’t be serious when you imply that fantasy doesn’t meet your definition of a story. How can you say it has no crisis, that it “goes nowhere,” that it is mundane, tedious, or relies solely on some central element that plods along (sex and violence, especially) dragging the poor reader with it.
If the writer’s story consists only of the elements you list, then no matter what the genre, it will not be an interesting story. It won’t take the reader anywhere; that reader will not get the opportunity to take a wonderful journey to a place that exists on pages and in their mind. How boring! I did note that you said ‘simplified story,’ but your sad elements could apply to any poorly written book.
I, too, would read my own books, and love the world-building and characters. Our versions of fantasies, as defined and written, are very different. But the world of books would be boring if they were the same, wouldn’t it?