The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam

July 30, 2010 at 5:33 am (fantasy, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


I recently cam across this website (The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam) and had a lot of fun reading some of these questions. The exam is supposedly set up to determine whether or not your fantasy novel is actually original and the instructions say that if you answer yes to any one question then you should abandon the novel immediately. Now when question four is:

Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?

This doesn’t leave a lot of room for the vast majority of fantasy stories and so while the quiz does reveal some of the more cliche parts of the genre I don’t think anyone should be taking the instructions overly seriously. We all know that there are very few ‘new’ ideas out there. That said I think most of us can agree that if you answer yes to the following maybe you are going to have to work really hard to make it sound fresh:

Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?

How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?

Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?

What I found really fun was trying to think of at least five books I have read that the question would apply to. It actually was a lot of fun though there are a few cheap shots taken at Robert Jordon throughout as well as RPG’s which aren’t necessarily a bad thing though probably shouldn’t be used to plan the plots of novels.

So here’s the challenge for the fantasy lovers out there. Pick a question, any question from the list, and see if you can think of at least five novels that it applies to.

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13 Comments

  1. AlexJ said,

    I think most of Terry Brooks and RA Salvatore’s books qualify!

  2. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    This is interesting. I am not a fantasy writer. I may write in more than one genre, but fantasy is not one of them. I still did find your post interesting. There are lots of fantasy writers out there in the world and there are some good fantasy tales.

  3. Jemi Fraser said,

    This is fun. There are so many good fantasy tales that follow these lines. As long as the story and character are fresh, I don’t mind if they follow a bit of a pattern :)

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think a lot of us would be disappointed if a fantasy story were missing all of these conventions. We read fantasy because we like this.

  4. Jane Kennedy Sutton said,

    I’d be hesitant of any site that recommends abandoning a novel immediately for any reason – sounds like they are trying to reduce the competition:)

  5. Carol Kilgore said,

    I’m not a fantasy writer, and not much of a fantasy reader, but I think similar questions could be applied to any genre.

  6. Alex Willging said,

    I think just about all of these questions could be applied to the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, even though I haven’t actually sat down and read the series. Also, I know for a fact that Question No. 34 is something that a friend of mine was doing for a webcomic idea he had.

  7. elisajeglin said,

    Lol, this describes David Eddings books, and some of them even describe Harry Potter, two completely different fantasy book series. Some of these questions were humorous though, especially the prologue. Some people love prologues, but I feel the same way about them as the guy who made the list, I normally skip them and read them after to see if I can understand what the author is trying to say then. This was amusing to say the least ;p

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I only ever read the prologue once. The next time I read the book I start at chapter one. Particularly with Eddings. His prologues are long and usually dull.

  8. Marlene Dotterer said,

    Interesting. I’ve written just one fantasy novel. Right now, I’m working on a paranormal romance – is that considered fantasy? Anyway, all my answers are “no” for both books.

  9. catwoods said,

    Cassandra,

    I’m not a fantasy writer per se, though I have one 2/3 of the way written–for the past two years!

    However, this little quiz can really be applied cross-genres with a few tweaks. The gist of it is that underneath it all, there are no “new ideas”. All the good plots have been around for as long as stories have been told. What makes a book great and unique is the twists that we put on the old themes.

    So yes, all of our books will have common elements. But it’s the words we choose and the characters we write that make a book fresh.

    Great reminder about being mindful of cliches

  10. Writing fantasy « creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator) said,

    [...] I took the Fantasy Novelist Exam (as suggested by Cassandra) and had 4 “yes” answers – which, according to them, means I should abandon the [...]

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