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Thursday, August 9, 2012
Fantasy’s Quality Conundrum
When No Rules Apply, How Do You Judge Quality In Fantasy Books?
By Jessica Bennett
I think a lot of people assume that fantasy is easy to write. After all, the author gets to make everything up. There are no rules, no boundaries, no limits. I agree to some extent. Bad fantasy is really easy to write.
Good fantasy, on the other hand, is extremely challenging to write — at least in my humble opinion. Fantasy authors don’t get to work within the established confines of a known world. They have to create a completely unique world where the sky might not be blue, a young peasant girl can grow up to be a powerful sorceress and the dead may not stay in the ground to accommodate the worms. One of the most well-known maxims of the writing world is “write what you know”. Fantasy authors chuck this bit o knowledge out the window, by writing about all sorts of things they don’t know like what the talons of a griffin feel like or how to weave a love spell.
The fact that fantasy is so difficult to write is — again, just my humble opinion — why great fantasy is so hard to come by and why you could probably trip over a dozen mediocre fantasy books in just one short stroll through Amazon.
Here’s the part where you wonder who exactly I am and where I get off making broad statements about good and bad fantasy. After all, how in the heck can I or anyone else judge what’s a good fantasy book when there are virtually no rules or limits to what can happen within a fantasy story?
Let me start out by introducing myself. My name is Jessica Bennett. I’m an indie author and passionate reader. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read, and the one I always go to when I really need to get away from life for a while.
I am also the co-owner of a company called Grub Street Reads, which evaluates and endorses quality indie books. My business partner, Leslie Ramey, and I created our company, because we truly believe that the rapidly-growing indie book market is in need of a quality standard. Leslie and I spent a lot of time developing an endorsement standard that could be applied objectively and consistently to any fiction or creative nonfiction manuscript regardless of genre or specific plot points, including fantasy.
We’ve gotten questions from readers about how we can possibly apply a single standard to so many different kinds of books, especially fantasy.
As it turns out, even though the rules within a fantasy verse are as flexible as Play-Doh, the components of good writing are as solid as ever. These components include things like well-developed characters, a consistent plot, strong pacing and few (if any) grammatical mistakes.
For instance, a fantasy book may feature a fearsome troupe of trolls called Gruesome, Bone Cruncher and Todd. This is all well and good, but if Gruesome, Bone Cruncher and Todd don’t each have distinct personalities, strong motivations and believable reactions to plot twists, then readers aren’t going to develop an emotional bond to them. Good pacing is also critical. If the prince gets lost on his way to rescue the princess or decides he needs to get a workout in at the gym first, then readers are going to put down the book faster than a dragon can belch fire.
Grub Street Reads is just getting off the ground (we officially launched in July), but we’ve already gotten to add some great fantasy novels to our endorsed book library. If you’ve been burned by poor quality fantasy books in the past, come on over to the Grub Street Reads Endorsed Library. Our library includes only those books that have passed our quality standard. These books are low on cost and high on quality. And don’t forget to check back — our library grows each week.
What do you think of our idea? Could the indie book market, fantasy novels included, use a quality standard? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.
ABOUT GRUB STREET READS:
Grub Street Reads’ mission statement is simple: Support the indie book movement. Support good books. Give readers the excuse they need to try a new indie author.
To do that, Grub Street Reads has developed a clean and simple endorsement protocol, meant to shine the spotlight on good self-published books and protect readers from those that are not yet ready for the marketplace.
In short, Grub Street Reads wants to be the quality standard for the indie book market, and believes their company can be a very good thing for indie authors and the readers who want to buy their books…
12:01 AM | Posted by Robert | | Edit Post