Story Pet Peeves #3: Things that irk me in fantasy novels

Fantasy%20sword1Those who know me know I like to overanalyze everything, especially literature. I used to apologize for it, but have come to understand I’m growing more and more stubborn as I age. With that said, I’m continuing with my platform of ranting about irksome practices/methods used in story writing. This time, I’ll dissect fantasy novels. It ought to be said that I’m a fan of the fantasy genre, but some things within it just doesn’t work for me. Here’s what gets my blood boiling (in a bad way) whenever I read or watch fantasy fiction.

  1. When all the characters have some forced, unpronounceable name, as if the author’s trying too hard to be like J.R.R. Tolkein. 99% of the time it just doesn’t work. Remember, if you’re copying the ‘greats’ to that detail, you’re putting yourself in the position of having to compete with them–and that’s a difficult thing to do. Names like LaZandarius Krylsaryon are going to make most of your readers puke.
  2. When a farm/blacksmith boy becomes king or is really heir to the crown but just doesn’t know it. I’m sorry, but how often would this happen in real life? And if someone of the royal order were to place a boy in that position, wouldn’t they keep better tabs on him? (“Ooooh, he has the birthmark of nobility!!!”) More than anything, it reminds me of how in horror slasher films everyone starts off by having sex with someone else in some cabin located in a remote part of the woods–it’s just a tad overdone.
  3. When loves solves everything. This is a copout to me. Now, if love were to be what motivates the hero into doing something great, then fine. But the action should be what brings victory. When something wonderful and mysterious occurs out of the blue and the villain is defeated because of it, and then the only explanation is that love had something to do with it (I’m looking at you Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone)…um…*raises hand for questions*.
  4. Magic without explanation. What’s the science of it? How does it work–at least in basic terms? If it’s only a matter of saying a word and POOF, there’s a rabbit…then BOO!
  5. When a fantasy novel takes more than 100 pages before anything happens. Get an editor and get on with it, please.
  6. Epic fantasies that are altogether too long. I’m sure I’m only speaking for me, but after page 1,000 I’m long past asleep.
  7. When a fantasy author has to describe…every…little…damn…thing, from the colors of each character’s eyes to their pooping schedule.
  8. When the villain’s motivation seems to be nothing more than “they’re evil.”
  9. When everything in the novel turns out to have been a dream all along (unless it’s cleverly done).
  10. When the foundation of the novel is a gimick (I’m looking at you Twilight).

There, another rant. I feel better. What are you pet peeves of fantasy novels?

Don’t forget to check out my other pet peeves:


About authorphilpartington

Phil is a writing enthusiast of many years, having been published in numerous online and national print trade and sports publications over the past decade. He has spent the past five years delving back into the world of fiction writing, focussing on the fantasy, horror and suspense genres. Deshay of the Woods is his first novel.
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12 Responses to Story Pet Peeves #3: Things that irk me in fantasy novels

  1. Bookwraiths says:

    I cannot stand ultra realistic fantasy novels. You know the ones, where the author has to describe the poop schedule and every gory detail of deaths. I don’t want that much reality in my fantasy if I did I would not be reading “fantasy.”

  2. Dyane says:

    Ah as usual, I agree with most everything. Now I’ve got to run and scrub my books. Thanks for nothing! Lol

  3. RStorey says:

    Great article. I’m going to read your other two, and then probably reference and link them over on my blog, if that’s OK with you.

    #1 totally agree. I usually end up just giving the mental nicknames. I hate getting yanked out of the story to try and pronounce the dude (or chic’s) name.
    #2 YES!!! My exception? Star Wars. I buy the hidden children bit.
    #4 Part of being a fantasy lover is the ability yo suspend belief. “That would never happen in real life” cannot be a valid discussion point. I do, however, believe that an author’s magic system needs structure and rules.
    #6 I disagree, if every page is necessary and valuable to the story, then I can keep reading.

    • Good comments, R. And yes, I agree about fantasy suspending belief, but there’s a difference between what is real/factual/truth and what transcends truth but is still believable within the frame of the story. I’m more speaking about violations of the latter. But I see your point.

      Also, yes, Star Wars is an exception. There are others. It’s just that so many storylines try to copy classics like Star Wars and it gets tiresome.

    • #1. Yes. Drives me nuts. The one that got me recently was actually in a video game (Dungeon Siege 3). I know, it’s a video game, but fantasy game’s storylines follow similar rules of thumb as fantasy novels–this rule being one of them. The main antagonist in that game is named “Jeyne Krysynder.” Or something like that. Waaaaay too many y’s.

      #2. Oh don’t get me wrong, there are many, many cases where it works, but because it worked once or twice doesn’t mean everyone should try to duplicate it.

      #4. “Structure and rules” is what it’s all about. My point isn’t that it has to be scientifically factual–it can’t be. However, it ought to be believable within the construct of the world the author has created. In the case of magic, it can work without things being overexplained, but by the same token, you’re right, it needs to have rules. I’ve seen authors conveniently use it to solve unsolveable problems.

      #6. I’m sure most fantasy lovers disagree, and that’s OK. I don’t mean for the list to be “rules for fantasy novels,” just pet peeves for my own tastes. Uber long epic fantasies often need editing down. I would argue that, from what I’ve read of Robert Jordan–as brilliant as he is–he needs an editor as he likes to go off on tangents. Again, my own taste, not to be mistaken as law or how things necessarily should be.

      Thanks for reading and commenting :). Great, great additional insights and points.

  4. Polly says:

    I’m wondering how much might be to do with the fact that the writers are (if not published) often young and/or on their first novel and have still not ironed these things out and in thrall to ‘the greats’ or, if published, someone has gone for ‘what works’ and that is doing a huge disservice to the genre.

    Loved this post. Spot on!

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  6. Guess I’m doing o.k. with my Fantasy novel. A couple of test readers (who never read fantasy) said they liked it because they weren’t being pounded with minutiae.

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