The fantasy genre is rarely considered as the one that has much value. Many judge fantasy books as well as the people who love it. Some say it is because of snobbish ideals, or the unfamiliarity with the genre, or because of the bad experience one had while reading the poorly-crafted story. Either way, it is often judged.
While I might agree with the opinion that fantasy books will never be considered as high literature, seeing them as guilty pleasures is also wrong. I used to belong to the type of people who only saw fantasy as a way to relax when you do not want to read anything smart or serious. With an exception of Harry Potter, obviously. Yet, after indulging in more books of the genre, I have realised that fantasy was not the problem. Some books are just not that good.
I believe it is much more difficult to write a good fantasy book. Although with this genre, endless possibilities and storylines are able to be crafted, only a thin line exists between fantasy being believable and stupid. With no limitations, authors often tend to either try too hard or not hard enough.
So I will attempt to analyse the main advantages and disadvantages the Fantasy genre has to face in comparison to more high-literature-like books. Since there are quite a few pros and cons I want to explore, this post will focus merely on the issues, with the advantages following a bit later.
Issues with fantasy
1. Creating a believable world.
With endless possibilities of fantastic elements, the author can never be sure when their created world is going to be believable. It is important to establish the rules straight from the beginning. Whether magic will be involved, how much power the ‘supernaturals’ will be handed. Whether it will be our own reality with a supernatural twist, or a new world completely. Either way, no matter how many elements the author decides to use, it is crucial to make the reader accept the world as true. Therefore, failure to maintain a balance between fantastic things and relatable problems often tend to result in the reader perceiving fantasy as quite stupid.
2. Avoiding repetition.
There is quite a limited amount of certain supernatural beings that tend to be used in fantasy fiction. Therefore, a high amount of books involving the same creatures will appear as well. From vampires to witches to angels, so many books exist that feature these overused supernatural beings, that finding the way to present these creatures in a fresh and entertaining way becomes quite a task. Nobody wants to read about the same vampires over and over again. At some point, the readers will have enough. Especially if the novel tends to resemble a previously read text a bit too much. So finding fresh, unseen material, even if the copying is accidental, is a crucial part of a successful fantasy book.
3. Keeping the story going.
It is a known fact that fantasy books rarely come as ‘standalones’. With so much time spent in crafting a complex fantasy world, authors often build the story requiring more than one book for a satisfactory finish. However, it is a tricky quest to maintain the same quality of the books. Quite a few fantasy works reach their peak before the whole plot is resolved, and goes downhill, with the author not knowing where to take the story next.
Another problem that surfaces quite often is prolonging the storyline without any necessity. After the success of the book, some authors just refuse to leave their created world at the right time. The reader grows bored. The writer’s need of money becomes stronger that the ability to deliver a good story. And everyone loses.
I hate when I have to abandon certain books because the quality ceases to be the same, and my attachment to the characters is the only thing keeping me going. That, or the before interesting characters are ruined or become boring, and you have to stop without getting the satisfaction of a proper ending.
4. Let’s face it, some authors are just not that good.
Nowadays, it is so easy to become an author. However, you actually need to have the required skills for crafting a great novel. There are so many elements that need to be considered when an engaging fantasy book is concerned. Like:
- The plot needs to be intense.
- The characters need to be likable and believable. Not dumb and annoying.
- No unnecessary high-school drama when there are much bigger problems in the picture.
- Finding the balance with relationships. Too much will be a disaster. Too little will make caring for the characters quite difficult.
- Make it smart and engaging, not dumb and filled with sparkling vampires.
- WRITING STYLE. Because when you are a waffle, you will not become a cake.
Some authors just do not have what it takes. Yet they still get published, and read. There are so many poorly-written fantasy novels, that the belief of fantasy genre being crappy is not that far-fetched.
5.Dumb things tend to be popular.
People loved Twilight. People LOOOVED 50 Shades of Grey. Trump has a whole bunch of supporters. Therefore, some real dumb fantasy books are bound to become popular, overshadowing the really well-crafted ones, and establishing a belief of the genre being ‘lesser’.
Certainly, more issues exist, but these would be the main ones. With so many poorly-written fantasy books in existence, and with so many elements that can go wrong, it is easy to assume that fantasy acquires more cons than pros. I believe fantasy does not have the recognition it truly deserves. So if you are one of the people that consider the genre to be quite dumb, I suggest you give it another go. Because when it’s done right, it’s so worth it.
Maybe try Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor or Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo before sustaining from the genre completely.
I would also love to hear your thoughts about the genre, and what are the reasons for liking/disliking it.
You can find the second part of the post at Is Fantasy a Lesser Genre? Part 2