I was having a conversation yesterday on the Google+ with some other folks with an interest in the fantasy genre.
Without intending any disrespect to the traditions upon which the genre was built, sometimes it’s nice to have a story that isn’t about The One who does The Quest to save the world.
John Ward tried to coin the term “NQNC” for “Non Quest Non Chosen” fantasy but really, that’s just awkward as shit.
I think that’s going about things a little backward. I think first we coin a term for the Quest/Chosen style then we can stick a non in front of it.
I like the name Ringers. It works because one does not simply walk into Mordor. It works because Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom is the prototype of The Quest and it works because a ringer is someone brought into a competition who has an unfair advantage.
I think it works. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t really care, it’s the concept I want to talk about.
As Mike Reeves-McMillan pointed out, “if nobody is the Chosen One, then anybody’s story can be interesting.”
Read Nathan Lowell.
He writes stories that aren’t about a cataclysmic struggle. The one fantasy novel he has is about an older woman who helps save a village.
There are two things in that sentence that should perk up your ears. His hero is an older woman. Stories about young people are natural. Everyone was young once and many would like to be again. Young people grow and change. Well guess what, older people grow and change too. They have new experiences and sometimes those experiences challenge the way someone has been living for decades.
And she helped save a village. The stakes don’t have to be the whole world for your characters to feel like it is their whole world. If you’ve ever experienced the death of a loved one and been a little surprised that the world didn’t stop to acknowledge your tragedy, you’ve had a taste of what this is like.
The heart of every story is conflict and conflict is everywhere. Heroism isn’t necessarily of momentous import. Sometimes heroism is doing just a little bit more than you thought possible.
Those are great stories. They aren’t often told in a fantasy setting, but why the hell not?
When you have The Quest and it’s over, you have The End and that’s it. Well that kinda blows. If your characters are well written, the reader will feel like they had their own lives after the end of the story. Well why not tell those stories?
If your world is well crafted, the actions your characters take are going to have repercussions. Why don’t you tell those stories?
Books that are a part of a series sell better than books that imitate cheese (for those of you who are culturally impaired, the cheese stands alone.) I think that has something to do with the nature of fandom. People want to obsess. They want to anticipate. They want to analyze and reflect and dissect and digest and they want answers to their questions and theories.
I rather strongly suspect that having multiple stories in the same universe with multiple main characters who appear in each other’s stories would serve the same purpose. If it doesn’t, well, nobody ever said you couldn’t write multiple series in the same universe.