I’ve done a couple posts of things I don’t want any more of in fantasy and while those were fun (and cathartic), I want to keep it positive and think of things that’d be cool to see more in fantasy.
Gender Equal Societies
I’ve said before how tired I am of fantasy that has women be oppressed for no reason that I can find. I’ve gone into it before, and I know it’s button pusher, so I won’t get into too much here.
My main gripe is that “Having women be oppressed is realistic historically”, but you aren’t writing real world historical fiction. You’re writing fantasy. Now, you can have this and make it good, and I’d enjoy it, but let’s set that aside for the moment.
Why not have a more gender equal society where women can inherit titles and property, can run businesses, general respect for women, and so on?
I’m not saying you have to make the society utopia. Think of all the issues in the real world that divide people: Class, economic issues, religion, education, and so on.
What this does in a narrative form is allow you female characters not have to spend good chunks of the story fighting for basic dignity and respect or having to overcome institutional sexism as severely. Yes, that can be compelling, and it’s cool to see what badass ladies do in this situation where they need to be sneakier, but still, I’d like to read female characters that have other things to overcome.
Finicky, Temperamental Deities
There’s tons of deities in fantasy that are all knowing, all powerful, and show up at oh-so convenient times to help the protagonist and pals. Sure, it’s fine if that’s what fits in your world, but I think more “humanized” deities would be cool.
Maybe they cause chaos because it entertains them, maybe they fight with each other and use humans to get back at or undermine each other, maybe they don’t particularly care about human affairs so they have to be begged to intervene.
This, for me, would really breathe new life into deities and gods. Think of the Greek or Roman deities, or the Norse gods. They were always fighting, scheming, or doing otherwise insane stuff in the stories, and it’s pretty entertaining.
Let’s make the deities more than just random people with divine holiness, let’s make them weird.
What I mean by this is having less “window to the world” stuff or characters that for some reason share the same views as a modern real world person would. I like characters that are logical products of their world and background.
For example if your character is a prince/princess in a hereditary monarchy and has never lived in any other system of government they aren’t going to just up and question and their own system by thinking “Hmm…maybe we should try a new system. Maybe one where we elect our leaders every few years and every person gets a vote” or somehow magically thinks of modern day democracy. That doesn’t work for me.
For me, it breaks immersion. I no longer believe that this character is an authentic product of their world and background. It’s an excuse to make needlessly naive characters because now we have to learn all this stuff. Instead, the character who has lived in this world probably knows a decent amount about it. You don’t have to make them super naive or super enlightened with modern views, just make them authentic in the context of their world.
Don’t explain every little thing. Don’t insert modern views where they don’t fit. Don’t compare this new world to our own, at least explicitly. Let the reader be the one to do that if they want.
Actually Ordinary Heroes
There tends to be a couple of kind of hero “types” in fiction: The Everyman Hero (the plucky orphan, or the average peasant) and the Superman Hero (Superman or other super human with superhuman abilities and stuff that are usually incredibly unique). Both of these are well and good and work, but what about a completely average ordinary person?
I’m talking about an average farmer dude. Nothing special. No secret powers, no secret lineages, none of that. Just a person who was in the right place at the right time (or wrong place at wrong time) to become the hero.
Even if there is something to make them somewhat special or different (an ability or profession) that ability doesn’t have to be super unique and maybe they just end up in a circumstance that makes them important to the plot and don’t seek it out.
Fantasy is full of huge things like saving the world, winning the throne, stopping the evil empire, etc.
But why not have smaller glimpses of that? Why not have your average coming of age story in your fantasy world? Or a mystery? Or a romance? Or a family drama? Or a tale about one faction trying to keep itself together?
I know it’s fantasy, so “go big or go home” is in place, but that doesn’t mean that every story-worthy thing in your world has to be about saving the world. Instead, I want to see smaller glimpses from smaller perspectives. Fantasy that’s more contained and with high stakes, but not world-ending stakes.
The Height of Power
So many fantasies (including things I have written myself) start when magic or gods or whatever is “dead”, “dormant”, or just legend at that point.
Why not write stories that take place during the height of power? Where monsters roamed the ground, magic was all over the place and all these fantastic things happened?
This would be so cool to read because I haven’t seen a lot of fantasy do this.
This is a topic for debate: Does fantasy need magic in order to be fantasy?
Who knows, but back to the point.
Why have magic at all? Maybe this is a straight up adventure story and magic isn’t a part of it. Maybe magic doesn’t exist in this world. Maybe magic is a dead art and is pretty much forgotten. I’d like to see more fantasy with less of a magical emphasis because I don’t like magic being used as a crutch. Still I think it’d be cool
Yes, characters should go through some pretty rough stuff in order to change, IMO. But that doesn’t mean that every obstacle has to be some horrific event.
Maybe your characters need to cross a border from one country into another but they need a pass. So maybe they have to go through a bunch of bureaucratic garbage to get a pass in order to cross. Make it funny, make it annoying, make it reminiscent of your last phone call with the IRS.
I was recently playing a video game where this happened to the player character. The player character is a badass, well known throughout the world, but can’t access his bank account and has to go through all these hoops, get all these different forms, even has to flirt with one of the workers in order to speed up the process to withdraw from his account.
It was hilarious. And seeing how you characters would react in a situation like this would be funny too.
Don’t include it if it isn’t plot relevant, but still. I’d like to see more non-tragic inconveniences. Some gets a sprained ankle, they get banned from the inn for being too drunk, they get distracted by a pretty girl/handsome dude and miss their cue.
I think these are refreshing and can serve to add humor while also furthering the plot.
I consider myself an introvert, but I also like talking to and meeting new people. Even the most shy, introverted people I know like to socialize and have interests they like to share with others.
With that in mind, I’m so bored of loner type protagonists. You know the ones always sitting in the corner, angsting about something, and all that. Why not have a protagonist who likes to go to taverns and drink with the best of them? One that is more of an extrovert? Or even downright friendly? Maybe they like dancing and singing, or going to parties and balls.
I think this is just refreshing and it adds variety to your characters. It can also create conflict. If your extroverted characters needs to stay in hiding and not draw attention to himself, that would really suck for this person who regularly made new friends and partied.
No more loner protagonists. Let’s do new stuff.
These happen all the time in real life when the stakes are much lower, so why not in fantasy?
Let’s see friends become enemies? And no, not just over a misunderstanding or a love interest please. And not have one of the characters end up being a “bad” guy.
I’m talking about real falling outs. Different views on how to solve the problem lead to irreconcilable differences. Different backgrounds lead to animosity. Power differentials.
This is emotionally compelling and so strong. Characters have this long history but end up on opposite ends of the conflict. Maybe they have to fight each other. Maybe they end up really resenting or despising the other for highly personal reasons. On one hand they both remember the value of the friendship, but at this point they can’t just make up and carry on.
That’s incredibly emotional for the characters and the reader and I’d love to read more of it.
That’s all I have for now. Again, these are highly catered to my interests and my tastes, so I encourage you to think of your own.
Think of what YOU want to see more of in fantasy, and then write it!