Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Fantasy Novelist's Exam

I just finished writing 30k during April's Camp NaNoWriMo, for a fantasy novel called TEETH & CLAWS. It's far from finished, but I love the world and the characters, so I thought I'd share a bit about them by answering some questions from "The Fantasy Novelist's Exam".

(I originally discovered the list of questions through a blog post by EM Castellan, though the list itself it originally by David J. Parker.)

This is an exam designed to detect "poor, derivative, fantasy" and while some of the questions seem just plain silly if you've been into fantasy for years, and some can be answered with a yes without harming your story, it's a fun way to question some classic but silly tropes.

Since there are 50 questions, I just picked a few relevant ones to answer. A lot of them didn't apply since TEETH & CLAWS doesn't have a ton of "cliched epic fantasy" aspects, like elves/orcs/dwarves, epic quests and swordfights.

But the biggest thing that doesn't fit the formula that the list questions is my MC, a 23 year old woman named Sara. She's a dragon shapeshifter who is trying to force her king to restore her family's estates, the loss of which lead to the death of all her close family but her cousin.

Without further ado:

1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages? 

No. TEETH & CLAWS opens from the POV of a caravan trader heading through a mountain pass against all advice. He doesn't believe the warnings of a dragon - until Sara shows up and proves him wrong. A few pages later, two of the main characters take the third prisoner.

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy? 
 
While Sara has recently come of age, and she does wield great power, the power has been hers for many years, and comes with some major drawbacks. As for the supreme badguy - there really isn't one (there's lots of grey), so no.

16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?

I'm not brave enough to claim that all my characters are wonderfully 3D, but I do know that my female and male characters exist on the same level of depth - and none of them exist for these one-dimensional reasons. 
 
Also, TEETH & CLAWS is actually set in a world free of the institutional racism, sexism and homophobia that is often the norm in fantasy. All characters, SWM or not, should get the chance to have real stories, about a lot more than fighting bigotry.

26. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like "The Blasted Lands" or "The Forest of Fear" or "The Desert of Desolation" or absolutely anything "of Doom"?

I actually do have a map. It was exciting to make, since it helped me figure out travel times and methods. But nothing is named.

48. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
 
It depends on what you mean by inordinate. There is a lot of travel in TEETH & CLAWS, because the two main sites for the action of the book are 2-14 days travel apart (by dragon or on foot, respectively).

Basically, the beginning all takes place in the mountains bordering the kingdom, where Sara is holed up blockading trade through a pass, but most of the second half occurs in the palace, which is centrally located in the kingdom. Hence the travel.

 
That's it, that's all - I think I passed with flying colours! For the full comic effect of the list, I recommend reading it in full, in order, here.

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