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Fantasy Should Include You Too

Why do you read fantasy? I, for one, read and write fantasy to try and understand the real world: relationships, social dynamics, and struggles for power. It’s uncharted territory with familiar landmarks. And I love it. But, what I don’t love is how minorities of all kinds don’t seem to make their way into fantasies.

Well, that’s not gonna cut it. I need some experiences different from my own here, please. Also, if I wanted to read about a recent college grad who’s feeling left out of the job sector… well… I’d probably write it as a Wizard fresh out of wizard school instead. But that’s beside the point.

Basically, why isn’t this fantasy story about you?

I’ve been delving around the internet for a hot minute trying to sort this out. And, I’m certain that I’m going to fall short in my attempt to piece this together, so bear with me and feel free to add your two cents in the comments. Basically, I wanna talk about why and how fantasy should include everyone.

Fantasy Belongs To Everyone

As if you have to be a certain type of person to truly escape the hard, cruel, realities of the world. Fantasy should be for everyone, not the select few. You shouldn’t have to be a certain kind of person to see people like you living happy lives. Why should all our protagonists follow a certain pattern? Why should they all be from a certain class, sexual-orientation, race, or anything else?

Media is beginning to address this and I love it. I love everything that is subverting norms and throwing people who’ve sat out for so long onto the center-stage of literature. There’s plenty of good conversation happening in literature and it’s wonderful.

Because, voices need to be heard.

Fantasy Gets You Where It Hurts

“Several reliable, peer-reviewed studies show that people who read fantasy fiction are better problem-solvers, more empathetic, more creative, and more adaptable than those who don’t. Reading fantasy equips you to respond to real life.”

– Austin Hackney, On Desiring Dragons: Why Read Fantasy Literature?

As much as people seem to think that fantasy is “childish” and not to be taken seriously, it teaches us so much about real life. It teaches us how people see each other. To name just a few topics, we can confront issues of classism and social expectation in visceral and yet impersonal ways.

An Example:

Risve faces a Pharaoh to win back her family’s honor.

It’s both interesting and safe to read. Why? This is an experience we are pretty sure we’ll never have to face. And yet, what makes it so compelling? Well, that’d be crossover.

The Crossover Between Fantasy And Reality

We know that there will be times that we have to face our economic or social superiors to get something both precious and important. So, somehow, Risve’s story touches us as we watch her struggle through the discrimination and dismissal. We get that. Those feelings are so painfully familiar that it rips us apart when done properly.

Now, Risve might be an actual character in a story somewhere—coughs nervously—but my point is… what does Risve look like? What is her sexual orientation? This isn’t ornamentation to be layered over her character, but this can be plot relevant and compelling stuff.

Do we assume Risve looks and talks a certain way? Maybe. Well, fantasy should have some people like you and so maybe Risve is like you. Maybe you imagined that Risve was like you? Did you? Or did you imagine something else?

Why can’t Risve be like you? Why can’t you be like Risve?

The Problematicness of Everything

And yet, we’re in a time of sticking to our own lane. We shouldn’t write outside our own experiences, now should we? We could never approximate or understand what it’s like to be like someone else. We cry for complexity in literature and yet undermine it simultaneously.

I’ve found a million and one articles about Amélie Wen Zhao and how she chose to pull her debut. I haven’t read the manuscript, but it sounded like a huge misunderstanding and she was nothing more than a scapegoat. Maybe I’m wrong? But… it sounded like her experience was appropriated over another, which was appropriated over another, which got turned into appropriation. It sounded awful what happened to her. For just one article on what happened to her check out this article from the NYTimes Y.A. Author Pulls Her Debut After Pre-Publication Accusations of Racism. It’s rough, and it wasn’t just her. So, what should we do?

Hire Sensitivity Readers

Now, I’m A HUGE SUPPORTER of sensitivity readers. If we’re writing outside of our own experience then it’s just gonna be a must for that book. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s becoming industry standard these days. We need eyes on what we’re saying because with 80,000 words or more we’re gonna mess up. We’re gonna say something that we didn’t mean to say or that sounds insensitive or that is just straight up wrong.

I think it is not only good, but very needed, to write outside of our own experience. Because writing outside of our experience means we need to research and understand others. We need to see beyond our own prejudices and open our eyes to a new way of seeing the world.

It’s a time for self-reflection and, in some cases, self-reflection. So let’s encourage the quiet voices without silencing our own. Because we need all the voices to be heard to fully understand each other.

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Friends writing

3 Writing Hashtags To Know On Twitter

Things really started to pick up for me as I discovered the power of popular hashtags. Goodbye frumpy tags that no one knows. I saw immediate results. And so, this article is going to go over 3 writing hashtags which I see time and time again.

They’re ones you should know.

#WritingCommunity

Writerscommunity, WritingCommunity, and other similar tags all take you into the world of agents and fellow writers in an instant. Also, these tags are specific enough that you’re sure to be found if someone searches for writing. Not only that, but the people that follow/post to this hashtag are overwhelmingly positive as they discuss the struggles they’ve faced while writing.

#Amwriting

Amwriting, Amwritingromance, Amwritingfantasy, and there are a whole lot more where that came from. These are great for writers to find people writing in your genre and discuss problems, tropes, and successes. Find your kin! This hashtag also extends to amreading or amagenting. Basically, keep this one handy because you’ll need it later. It applies everywhere that I’ve looked so far.

What are you writing? Not sure if there’s a hashtag for that? Helpful tip: use Twitter’s search like a google engine and type in your question.

#Writerslift

This one is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a lift. Either a lift in awareness, a lift in mood, or anything else to help your fellows. Let this one bring light to your day and use it to share the nice things that are happening in life. The writers and agents that use these tags are trying to share the happy.

Where To Look

The way I discovered hashtags was, surprisingly, as easy as a google search and one simple click. I found http://best-hashtags.com/. It had a list of hashtags, right at my fingertips. As well as:

http://best-hashtags.com/hashtag/writing/

A chart?

They have a chart. Fantastic. I’m sure this plays into SEO and I really miss Yoast (which is something I used while I interned for a blog agency). There are other websites out there for you to explore, if you have the time and the brainpower, but if not… here are the one’s I’ve found and used.

Thanks for sticking around until the end. In the comments below let us know what hashtags do you use to share your writing?

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Reviews writing

Character Descriptions: Please Don’t Do This

While it’s true that clothing, facial features, and other physical qualities can help your character stand out from the crowd. Some of the most memorable characters stand out, not for their features, but for their quirky personalities. Obviously I’m not the quintessential writer, I’ve still got a long road ahead of me. However, as an avid reader, here are some things that novice writers do that kill their characters.

The Whole Face

The writer tells us everything. The hair, the eyes, the ears, oh don’t forget the earrings… it’s too much. In real life people don’t notice everything about a person’s face or figure. The average person will notice a couple to a handful of things. As such, if a writer wants their character to stand out, they’ve gotta stick to the most interesting stuff.
So, focus. What is most important or most unique about this character’s face? The scar on their chin? Their lack of eyebrows? Their earrings that drag their ears to their shoulders? The reader will not remember the character as well if they’re given everything all at once. Not only that, but the truly important details get lost in lengthy descriptions.

Exact Height

He’s five foot three, but she’s five foot two… they’re made for each other. Okay, unless it’s going to play a huge role in the plot. Please. Don’t. It’s awkward because most people don’t consider how tall a person is when they first meet them on the street. Well, if you’re a person like that, please comment below because this is a thought I’ve literally never had in my life. Generally when I look at people I think, very smol, small, about my height, tall, whoa tall. Never once have I been “huh, I bet that random guy is exactly six foot three” in my whole life.
Sure, saying they’re over seven foot or under three foot is fine. Why is this okay? Because at that point it’s a distinctive trait. If a person meets a fantasy creature that only comes up to their kneecaps, they’re going to notice that. But again, notice how I said “comes up to their kneecaps” because that is an adequate unit of measure in this scenario. Anyhow… just stop. We don’t need their exact height.

Descriptions Well Done

Obviously it’s not hard to find examples of well done descriptions. Here are some authors that I think do an excellent job of this.

Brandon Sanderson does an amazing job in Mistborn. The descriptions are gradual, as they become relevant, and remain enough to give us key features of the individuals. Also, some characters don’t get a description so much as a title that makes apparent their appearance. In the prologue, Lord Tresting isn’t described right away, but the title Lord already gives the reader some idea as to what he looks like. An image pops into their head. An image which is only clarified as it’s relevant to world building.

Another author who is sparse on upfront descriptions is Patrick Ness (at least in the book A Monster Calls). At first we know very little about Conor except he’s thirteen just a few months ago. This calls forth the image of a child. It isn’t until later on in the book that we get further descriptions.

If you can avoid clunky descriptions, that alone will do wonders for your writing. If you’ve read this far, don’t forget to follow the website for updates and until next time.