Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ten Rules For Writing Epic Fantasy

I'd seen a couple of "Ten rules for writing" around on the book blogs - such as "Ten Rules for Writing Historical Fiction", "Ten Rules for Writing Feminist Revisionist Historical Fiction", etc. etc. For the last ten years, I've been reading primarily epic fantasies (the big fat trilogies), and I've only just started reading "literary" fantasy. Hmm...either way, I do notice there are similarities in style with epic fantasies, and thought I'd provide some fun tips:

Ten Rules For Writing Epic Fantasies

1. The red-headed pot/stable/farmer's boy is ALWAYS the long-lost Heir In Disguise. ALWAYS.

2. Human heroes and heroines must adhere to these physical attributes:
-hair must be as gold as the setting sun, as red as autumn leaves, black as a raven's wing, or platinum silver, if they have Elf ancestry.
-eyes must be sapphire-blue, emerald-green, as gold as a hawk's (as an eagle's also accepted), or amethyst-violet. Red-eyes are naturally attributed to villains, and albinos, who are always villains anyway.

3. The hero, if he is not nobly-born, is conveniently tutored by someone who is, so that he never has to the deal with the inconveniences of illiteracy, bad hygiene, peasant superstitions, and negative views of women.
3a.The heroine, whether or not she is nobly born, is always fashionably dressed but nevertheless Fiery, Independent, Free-Thinking, and Likes to Ride Horses.

4. Elves are always better at everything: they're smarter, prettier, more logical, more environmentally sound, live longer and have better sex. The only reason they don't rule the world is because the job would distract them from their hobbies of tree-conversation, arcane board-game playing, daisy-chain making, and deep-thought meditating.
4a.The only thing better than an Elf is a Half-Elf - none of the annoying aloofness, plus full knowledge of Super-Secret-Sensual Elf Arts.

5. Dwarves are always possessed of voluminous beards and always have a hammer or an axe on hand. They like playing with rocks, are attracted to gold, and have powerful predilictions towards strong drink, which means that they are generally very amusing as drinking buddies, but will inevitably pretend they left their wallet back in the Meandering Mythril Mines of Moktok and leave you with the bill. Also, in a fight they tend to aim for the groin area, but that's more due to their unfortunate height then any particular envy of an opponent's manhood.
5a. Half-dwarves are very uncommon, but one went on to achieve fame and fortune in such television series such as Taxi, and movies like Batman Returns.

6. The hero's weapon of choice is always a sword, never an axe, mace, bow and arrow, or crossbow, although he may make use of them on occasion. He always knows how to use a sword, regardless of training, because really, how hard is it? You pick it up, you stab the guy with the pointy end. Piece of cake. It's not like swords are especially heavy or anything.
6a.If the main character is a woman, then she probably knows how to use a sword too, although heroines tend to rely on magic and herbs as the weapons of choice.

7. Prophesies conveniently lay out the plot of the entire book, including who kills who, who sleeps with who, who cheats on his girlfriend with who, and how the bad guy bites it in the end. Of course, they are never understood by the characters until the event has actually come to pass, because as everyone knows the point of a Prophesy is to laugh about it afterwards over cheap ale and stew, while wondering why no one understood it in the first place.

8. Old men sages are invariably full of wisdom about everything, but are invariably senile by the time the hero/ine asks them for advice, the better for their answers to come out as convoluted riddles to puzzle over for the rest of the book. They also tend to die at the end of the novels, because as I mentioned before, they're old.

9. Villains are motivated by:
-Pride: Prince of Kingdom deals younger villain a nasty debilitating injury that leaves an ugly scar (as opposed to a sexy scar)
-Envy: Step-sibling wants the throne, doesn't bother asking Dad if s/he can borrow it for a couple of hours, s/he'll be totally responsible and bring it back on time and everything, and s/he'll promise s/he won't eat any Taco Bell or drink cranberry juice while s/he's sitting in it.
-Gluttony: Magical villain has an unusual taste for devouring worlds, and thinks the one with all the fiesty princesses and sexy elves on it could be tasty.
-Greed: Villain sees kingdom. Villain doesn't have kingdom. Villain wants kingdom.
-Wrath: Obscure magical race used to live in kingdom before mankind drove them out and built a tannery on the Sacred Banana Tree, and thus wants to kill all mankind, take back kingdom, and plant a more beautiful, successful Sacred Banana Tree that no one will ever be able to build a tannery over ever again.
-Lust: Dude wants Princess, but her nasty father/brothers/cousins keep getting in the way of his obsession. Well, there's an easy way to get rid of them...
-Sloth: It's either take over the world, or clean out the litterbox.

10. The One Person with the Vast, Miraculous, Kingdom-Saving Magical Power is always the One Person with the Least Understanding of How to Use the Vast, Miraculous, Kingdom-Saving Magical Power. Hence, all Vast, Miraculous Kingdom-Saving done with said Magical Power is always performed by accident.
10a. This also applies to the One Person who can wield the Vast, Miraculous, Kingdom-Saving Magical-Plot-Coupon-Amulet.


  1. YES YES YES!! LMAO, these are really good!!

  2. Anonymous11:33 AM

    LOL! Wow, this just about sums up almost every story I ever read. Very good!

  3. Thank you. I must admit, in my work I've used those tropes as well (I prefer my heroes as red as autumn leaves, with pointy swords). I hope this will serve to remind me to be more creative. ^_^

  4. Anonymous3:59 AM

    Verily and forsooth, my good chum! :D A potent list.

  5. The medieval swords that all fantasy usually uses aren't especially heavy. 3 lbs - ouch.