How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I’m not averse to a few fantasy clichés on a book cover – they let me know at a glance that I’m looking at a fantasy fiction novel, and can be nice if used in creative or appealing ways. As with all clichés, however, they become eye-roll-worthy when used en masse, i.e. when several standard tropes are all packed into the one artwork. If a book tries to cover too many bases, it can start to look a little silly.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a nice level of unprofessional shine to my examples. Continue reading

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How Long Should a Fantasy Book Be?

It’s a question often asked by aspiring authors wondering if their manuscript is several thousand words too long or short, but it’s also an intriguing one for readers to consider: is there an ideal length for a fantasy novel?

Every book is different and for any suggested word or page count you see, you are likely to encounter several popular fantasy books that are outside of it. Nonetheless, as someone who reads a lot in the genre and has also submitted work to competitions, agents and publishers, I thought I’d tackle this topic from three different perspectives:

  • how long popular published fantasy novels are,
  • how long the industry (agents, publishers, competitions) prefers them to be,
  • how long readers prefer them to be.

Continue reading

The Magic of a Brilliant Book Brilliantly Read: The Gentleman Bastards Audiobooks

The Gentleman Bastards is a much-loved fantasy series that is particularly popular in audiobook format. Fans who’ve listened to the audiobooks regularly recommend them, the narrator Michael Page has won awards for his performances (including his narration of The Lies of Locke Lamora), and author Scott Lynch has made no secret of the fact he thinks Page does a brilliant job: Continue reading

Ways of Measuring Time in High Fantasy

There’s no rule that says Fantasy authors have to avoid clocks and calendars when writing their fictional worlds. Many authors simply stick with seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years.

After all, the 24-hour clock and the Gregorian Calendar pre-date the Middle Ages, so if a fantasy is set on a medieval earth-like world and characters refer to hours and months, it won’t feel immediately anachronistic (though admittedly these measurements wouldn’t have been available in handy wristwatch or smart phone format). Continue reading

10 Common Mistakes I See in Epic Fantasy Writing

I recently encountered a question on Quora asking what some “fatal flaws” or mistakes in fantasy novels are. I wrote a response to it, and it got me thinking about the things that most commonly make me give up on a fantasy book, rate it poorly, or even avoid reading it in the first place. This was a helpful exercise as I want to avoid these things in my own writing, and it struck me that if I expanded and extended my answer it might make for an interesting (perhaps even useful!) blog post. Continue reading

Why the World is Never Round in Fantasyland

I’ve just returned from a round-the-world trip, and all that globe-encircling got me to thinking about the shape of worlds in epic fantasy novels. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed it, but there’s a rather bizarre and archaic trait almost all fantasy worlds have in common: Continue reading

17 Common Fantasy Sub-Genres

The fantasy genre is rich with a myriad of sub-genres, and each has its own conventions and trends. With the different terms floating around out there it can be easy to confuse or overlook key sub-genres. Finding a succinct list of the most notable ones – particularly a list with definitions and examples – is not always straightforward. So I thought I’d put my reading and researching to use and assemble one. Continue reading

Epic Fantasy Novels and Long Beginnings

It’s been a while since I’ve read a typical epic fantasy novel. I’ve been caught up in the realm of fantasy romance and science fiction, and only recently found myself returning to a more old-school breed of fantasy when I picked up Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind.

I’m about halfway through it and am really enjoying it so far, but reading it reminds me of the love-hate relationship I have with epic fantasy. This relationship is largely caused by one thing: beginnings. Continue reading

5 Ways to Keep Your Dragons Fresh

Dragons are popular creatures, particularly in epic high fantasy. If you pick up a fantasy book at random, I’d say the chance of you encountering a dragon at some point during that book are high. In fact, doing a brief and highly unscientific survey of my fantasy shelf, I’d say about 15% of them involve dragons in some way (and i’m sure if I read exclusively epic fantasy that percentage would be higher). Personally, I’m not someone that actively seeks out dragons, but I always enjoy a well-wrought dragon when I encounter one.

The question is, when there are so many dragons out there, how do fantasy authors make their dragons feel fresh and interesting? Continue reading

What Did Tolkien Think of Fantasy Fiction?

We all know J.R.R. Tolkien wrote fantasy fiction. He was the brilliant mind behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a creator of intricate and enthralling new worlds, and one of the founding fathers of the genre. You can rarely talk about fantasy fiction without mentioning Tolkien… but I think his skill in writing fantasy was not the only thing that made him the legend he is today.  Continue reading