I mentioned on my author site that I’m going to take a break from revising my second novel and work on some other projects instead. That books is a fantasy young adult novel and while it’s a lot of fun, it’s also got some problems that I pretty much just lost patience with.
While those problems are with the plot, I also thought about some other problems that cover a much larger spectrum than that of my little WIP.
What I’m talking about is ethnic stereotypes.
We all know stereotypes are bad. My novel was full of them, as are most fantasy novels.
The rules are always the same:
Elves are smarter than humans and can cast limited spells.
Dwarves are stronger than humans and work in the mines.
Ogres are dumb.
Orcs are warriors.
Dragons can be good or evil, but Draconians are ALWAYS evil.
The problem here is that all of these fantasy stereotypes are lifted directly from Dungeons & Dragons, which lifted a lot of its character traits from Tolkien.
So why is this a problem?
It’s a problem to me for two reasons.
The first is that we’ve gotten so used to the typical fantasy stereotypes that I feel as if I’m doing something wrong if I don’t use them. If you tell me to describe an elf, I’ll describe exactly what I’ve learned about elves from the Dragonlance series. Likewise with every other fantasy creature you can name.
On the other hand, the use of these fantasy stereotypes is so common, and done so often in fiction, that it can come off as unoriginal, or even worse: amateurish.
So what do you do?
You have to keep your writing realistic, and in fantasy–where you make the rules–that simply means you only need to stay consistent in your rules. Your elves don’t HAVE to look like they roll a 1d4 every when they attack with a dagger and your human wizard doesn’t HAVE to be a sickly, jealous virgin, with low self-esteem, and hell-bent on taking over the world.
Try something new. That is the best part of writing fantasy. You’re not bound to any rules, not even the ones TSR set a few decades ago. Not even the ones Tolkien set before them.
As for me, I’m still going to take some time off from the fantasy novel and do some meditation if this is the novel I’m really cut out to write. The current plan is to step back and go back to my roots while I try something a little easier than fantasy.
And yeah, I’m talking about horror.