I go to the shelf, pick up that book, brush your fingers against that awesome cover and think, “Fantasy!” Next thoughts? “It had better be good.”
“Good” in a fantasy book often entails many things. Two of which are “realism” (so that we can understand the characters better) and “creative license” (so we don’t get bored.) But when you think about it… sometimes those creative licenses get pretty unrealistic.
1. Food, glorious food!
Understand that in fantasy books, you do not eat. That is, one meal a day, maximum, and if you’re lucky, you’ll actually feel the hunger that this astute lack of food has given you. For the most part, nah. Empty stomach? Who cares? But this principal of starvation is turned on its hungry head when it comes to banquets and feasts. Then you eat. And eat. And you don’t stop.
Exception to the rule? The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have never read anyone eat that much in any other genre combined let alone in fantasy.
2. Uh-oh, despicable me…
Why is it that the bad guys always look bad? I mean, you can’t deny it. Take the White Witch for example. Tall, indescribably beautiful. Or the Lady of the Green Kirtle, also from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. She wears a dress of poison green, she’s tall, and she’s indescribably beautiful… WARNING BELLS, PEOPLE! The evil women are always outstandingly gorgeous, the evil men are terribly ugly, usually pale, with pale eyes and probably dark hair. So why don’t the villains listen to the everlasting words of Spiderman? They’d probably get better results.
Exception to the rule? Kerin, from The Sorcerer in the North by John Flanagan. But that’s a bit of a spoiler there, so forget I said that.
3. Just Keep Walking, Walking, Walking…
Forget exhaustion and worn out shoes!
Okay, this one is particularly weird when it’s a character sucked out of this world. Narnia made some good excuses for it with the whole “Narnian Air” thing. But let’s face it. Meggie from Inkspell didn’t seem to have any problems wandering through the terrible forest plagued with terrible creatures…with Farid by her side. (I don’t suppose that had anything to do with it…)
Exception to the rule? Aidan from The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson. Exuse the fact that the author’s name without fail makes me think of Batman, but at least Aidan got concerned about these things and about how unathletic he was. Saying that, I don’t recall any mentions of him being saddlesore, but let’s move on, shall we?
4. Close Them Sleeping Little Eyeballs
Despite the fact you are sleeping on the ground (outdoors…in a Northern Hemisphere-modeled country…without a super-heat sleeping bag…or tent…or pillow) good night! Sleep tight! Don’t let the ants in that nest you squashed with your big fat body when you lay down on top of their home in the dark–don’t let them bite!
Excpetion to the rule? Samwise from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Okay, so I don’t remember if this was in the book, but it was in the movie. He couldn’t sleep because of all the rocks in his back, and Frodo was the annoying sleepover companion who rolled over and dozed off anyway. (This scene is in the extended editions only.)
5. I Will Never Wake Again
On the sleeping note, have you ever noticed that after the big battle — particularly if the MC gets wounded — they fall asleep, and not wake up for over a day. This couldn’t be the author’s way of making the character recover without going into boring detail or taking any time… right? And another thing. When they wake up, they’re perky and great. No desperate dashes to the bathroom or bouts of reasonable crankiness at being woken from hibernation.
Exception to the rule? Dina from the Shamer’s Chronicles by Lene Kaaberbol. She woke up from her lengthy nap, and she had to run for the smallest room. As you would after being asleep for several days.
So I’m sure there are a million more of these, and maybe I’m being a tad harsh, but we all love fantasy (come now, admit it) and seeing some of the cliches and unrealisms common to a genre can really help writing it. And it’s good to laugh at things, sometimes. (Not nasty “ha-ha” taunting laughs, but “smiling-smiling” laughs — the kind that are good medicine.)
Are there any other common unrealisms in fantasy that I’ve missed? Or books that smash the cliches in any of those numbers I’ve listed?