A Problem with Tone & an Obstacle in Writing Fantasy


While I am relieved that I have finally drafted the first chapter-in-five-parts of Doranchorn, I worry about its place in the story. While this is the jurisdiction of the Second Draft, I can’t help but wonder how chapters two through however-many will develop if the first veered so far from the outline. What I am telling is a story of the beginning of the end for an imaginary world I began developing years and years ago; it is ultimately grim, disheartening, and moving on.

The three primary characters introduced in chapter one ultimately became, with an indirect narrative soaked-up through too much Jane Austen, ironic; the tone was light-hearted, and the world seemed almost idyllic. This is not what I intended: I intended a poor and just getting-by town. But, except for a smidgen of the fantasy cliche, I don’t completely mind the result. Again, this is all the province of the rewrite, as I tend – if I once turn back – to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite ad nauseum without pushing forward.

The coming chapter is full of wonder and magic – and it is very sad. I am a little afraid my foppish protagonist has too much Bilbo Baggins in his Mr Willoughby. You see, there is hidden a sandpit in the way of any fictioner: writing someone else’s Fantasy – and I write this with a capital ‘F’. Writing a collective fantasy is a wonderful achievement; writing another’s Fantasy is fuckin’ plagiarism, and if it isn’t plagiarism it is certainly, irreparably dry. How many Tolkien knock-offs are there out there? What has Dungeons & Dragons done to a generation of potentially free-thinking X’ers and Y’ers?

In many genres, the goal is less about writing something Original rather than writing something Authentic – I think Hemingway said this, or Faulkner, or Stevens (I think it was Stevens); regardless, because Fantasy (let’s throw SciFi and YA into the mix) is so tribute-oriented, written by those who grew up on Tolkien, Lewis, Lovecraft, or by writers who grew up on writers like that like Gaiman, Barker, Pratchett, just about everything you do is in six-degrees connected, and so it is very hard to achieve Authentic let alone Original.

The recent boom in Young Adult fantasyish fiction (and what I chalk up to “Young-Adult Style”) is an avenue to some form of middle ground. Philip Pullman, Lemony Snicket, and JK Rowling occupy a space that appears not to take itself too seriously (but it does, as that is the space I am trying establish myself!), so not only is it a little more removed from the thick shadow of papa Tolkien or papa Card, it’s a little more akin to grandpappy Andersen where comedy and tragedy can intermingle a little more freely under the supervision of a superimposed ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ and the Young Adult misnomer.

The stigma of children’s works and, by loose association, Young Adult, is they can’t possibly be as poignant as canonized literature. But that’s for another time.


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