There’s a prophesy about a chosen one and the destruction of the world. The chosen one, after initially refusing to accept that they have a destiny, is faced with a life crisis that makes them care about this world. The chosen one embarks on a journey, faces dangers, and eventually defeats whatever evil is threatening the world.
I’ll admit though, I use this basic formula (sans prophesy) as much as any other fantasy writer. But you know what? I really hate reading books like this. To that end, I’m trying to cease writing based on this plot. It has been over done and quite honestly, is rarely done well. (The only case of it having been done well that I can think of is Harry Potter.)
Before we talk about what can be done to reinvigorate the fantasy plot, let’s talk about why we are stuck in this rut. First of all, we see it in the media and in books so often that we assume (again) that it is the “right way” and people want it. I don’t know about the wanting (other people surely have different opinions than mine) but just because it is a predominant plot doesn’t mean it is the right one. Second, I believe it has to do with the characters we choose. When we as writers focus on nobility, knights, and royalty, the “saving the world” can seem like the only option for a decent plot (it’s not, by the way).
So what do we do? Well, as I said in Part 3, the characters have to shape the plot. Start with an interesting character that is not typical in fantasy, and develop them first. When you know their desires, goals, and beliefs you can shape the plot around them, rather than forcing your characters into a plot that doesn’t work for them. (This is also the way to make your characters more interesting. If you develop them solely to fit the plot, they don’t do anything interesting, they are static and boring.) Let the plot have a direct impact on the life of the MC and the people she/he cares about. When we make the plot more personal to the character, it will feel more realistic. When we make it more personal, the simplest conflict will have as much tension as the doomsday plot.
I’m not saying that we fantasy writers should never have end-of-the-world drama, or high-born characters. What I am saying is that we have to be aware of the cliches of our genre so that we can navigate them and either embrace or reject them. After all, it’s our imagination – why stick with what’s already been done?
Take care, fellow travelers.
Here is a link to a post about the rebirth story-arc: http://writeontheworld.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/writing-the-rebirth-plot-arc-rathilde/
- Reclaiming Fantasy – Part 3, Characters (emilyramos.wordpress.com)
- Why I love Writing Fantasy (keithdubarry.com)
- The Forgotten Important of Plot/Setting/Character (paperbackbone.com)