Constructing High Fantasy

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Constructing High Fantasy

Postby MN.Gruber06 » Mon Dec 29, 2014 10:57 am

Greetings, folks.

Need some tips for those of you who have gone the route of world building and high fantasy construction. What are some tips you might have for aspiring young writers like myself?

The biggest problem that seems to plague me is that I constantly find myself regurgitating ideas that I've ingested from the likes of Tolkien, Lewis and elsewhere. Orcs are big, beastly brutes, dwarves live in great mountain halls, elves prefer the woods, etc.
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Re: Constructing High Fantasy

Postby heliona » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:09 am

Welcome, MN.Gruber. :)

I know that being heavily influenced by authors such as Tolkien can be problematic for other authors (budding or otherwise). I think the fact that you're aware of the problem is a good start. There is of course a reason why there are the stereotypes; a lot of the creatures come from old folklore. I'd suggest reading old folktales from various countries, ranging from Iceland and the Nordic countries, Celtic tales, African, Native American and Canadian, and the Pacific nations and just see what strikes you. Hopefully you'll be inspired and your imagination will take you on your own route. :)

With regards building a world, I used to be the type of person that drew a map first (I'm a visual person) and then wrote from there, establishing what adventures would spring from the terrain. My new novel (which I haven't got very far in :whistle: ) is quite the opposite - it is character-driven rather than geography-driven, and in fact won't have many (if any) non-humans in it (so I suppose technically it is not high fantasy).

However, as I'm a hobby writer, I'm sure there are others here (I know we have some published authors posting on TORC) who could give better advice. :)
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Re: Constructing High Fantasy

Postby Minardil » Tue Dec 30, 2014 11:18 am

I would agree that the best place to look for inspiration is the original source material, that is, old folk myths and legends. Tolkien found his inspiration in the myths of pre-Christian Europe, for example, but maybe you'd find your own inspiration in Native American mythology, or Asian folk tales. It doesn't really matter, check a few out and find a cultural legendarium that speaks to you, then adapt it and build your own mythology from that base.

Whatever you do, don't write about specific creatures that are the sole creations of other authors, such as Orcs. I mean, Tolkien invented Orcs, you can't use that word. He didn't invent Elves though, so you can write about them of course, just don't make them copies of the Eldar, you know what I mean?
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Re: Constructing High Fantasy

Postby Lalaith-Elerrina » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:46 pm

Please correct me if I'm wrong, and I very well may be, but I understood that Tolkien got his ideas for orcs from mythology. (Though he may have come up with the spelling on his own.)
I agree with Minardil and Heliona. Look at different mythologies from all sorts of cultures, not just northern European. I love Native American stories involving the wiley trickster, Coyote, for example. He's an interesting character. They could get your creative juices flowing, and you could find yourself going down a completely unexplored path.
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Re: Constructing High Fantasy

Postby Frelga » Sun Jan 11, 2015 8:44 pm

I did some research, and it seems that while the word "orc" appears in some languages to mean some sort of spirit, its application to the evil sword-fodder is Tolkien's own invention.

For the OP - I offer that the first question to ask yourself is, what does your story need? For instance, LOTR arguably needs orcs to provide something for the heroes to fight that is a) clearly, palpably evil and b) can be killed in quantity with no moral qualms on the part of the good guys (insert obligatory reference to the theological dilemma that this forced on Tolkien later). Because they have little agency, orcs tend to be an obstacle rather than antagonists. So if this is what you want for your story, your evil forces could be more beastly in nature, or more elemental, or constructed, or undead, depending on what you are trying to say about the nature of evil.

I would also suggest looking to more contemporary authors. Gaiman, Pratchett, Cherryh, Martin have all taken various folkloric elements and gave them a non-Tolkienish twist, sometimes with a direct reference back to Tolkien.
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Re: Constructing High Fantasy

Postby prmiller » Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:35 am

More than anything, be brave to transform the ordinary into the remarkable.
Do not get swept up with making things "epic"...fantasy at its core appears to be allowing
an imagination to be set free to make heroes out of simple folk and show how
dark darkness can be and the rescuing powers that can be infused into a pen and paper.
...but that's just me. I love the idea that one can take simple things and
transform them into jaw-droppingly awesome things with powers that
may be able to re-create and devastate.

Enjoy making worlds of wonder!
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