EN: Shortcomings in Fantasy Literature

As I have already said, I began to write because I didn’t like many aspects of fantasy literature. By nature, I am critical and writing myself has increased my awareness even more in many respects. What now follows is a list of scenarios which I really don’t like in other fantasy books and which I try to avoid in my books:

Unrealistic Supermen
After a battle, the hero is covered with wounds. He has deep cuts over his entire body, is pierced through with arrows and has suffered horrendous blows to the head. Nevertheless, he fights on bravely and tirelessly … thanks to adrenalin (yes, I can still go along with that. I’ve experienced it myself.)

But, by the next day at the very latest, the hero has got to be feeling pretty miserable and be in terrible pain. Yet our hero fights on day after day, each time more bravely than before. And all without the beneficial healing of a mage, mind you. Oh, really? Sorry, but I don’t find that plausible (… Or is it pure envy that someone has such a body?)

The Career Ladder
A simple peasant discovers that he is descended from the noblest of origins, and immediately his unchecked ascent to the higher circles of society begins. Interestingly, no one has a problem proclaiming an uneducated oaf the rightful king of the country within a year (at the latest).

Hang on a minute. Has anyone read the history of humankind? Unwelcome rivals are sent packing or got rid of, and not elevated above everyone else with the sentence, “He is our rightful king”.

Endless Descriptions of Forests and Meadows
“The glittering rays of the sun refracted on the dawn dewdrops, which moistened the tender foliage … etc.”

Such endless embellishments can certainly be put down on paper, but are irrelevant for the actual content, as well as often being very tedious, especially if a little flower on the edge of the road is constantly being described, only for the hero to pass by without even giving it a glance.

In the meantime I’ve become an expert at skipping over longer passages of this nature. The art is to create a living picture for the reader without, however, boring them with excessive detail.

Hero and Rank and File
The hero is always represented as a complex figure. He has feelings and considers his actions. The countless helpers, soldiers and servants on the other hand have only one wish: to serve our hero unconditionally and without questioning anything or uttering the slightest objection. It goes without saying that they do this with the utmost dedication and without being paid a cent for their services.

“Command and I will obey:” Yes, that’s how we all think in our jobs (or maybe sometimes “Kiss my ass!” and “In your dreams.”).

The Interminable Debater
Here, our hero’s conscience is subjected to pages and pages of consultations, discussions  and simply being talked to death until of necessity a decision has to be reached (because time and paper are running out.

Sadly, these people exist in real life … but I am definitely not one of them and this endless waffle wears me out. If it is in my power, I put a stop to such behavior as quickly as possible. We don’t discuss  – we make decisions.

The High-flyer
A simpleton finds a magic object that bestows power on him or enables him to discover his unique ability to perform magic. At this point, he is ignorant and untrained, but the miracle happens from one day to the next. He now knows exactly how spells work and succeeds effortlessly at casting even the most difficult of them.
So, it seems it is no longer necessary to put in the hard work to learn skills. That is too good to be true, which is why in my stories, in order to be able to do anything at all well, you have to practice conscientiously and, most of all, for a very long time.

Good and Evil
Here there is often a very strict division. The good are only good, and their purpose is to save the world (what else?), while the bad are ultra-mean, cruel and profoundly evil, wanting only to destroy the world (why?).

What benefits does “the evil one” have from destroying the world and himself at the same time? Upon closer consideration ­– none at all actually.

Then there is the diluted version in which the evil one would like to subjugate the world. He treats his subjects cruelly, yet they nevertheless obey him without putting up the slightest resistance (OK, this can happen, but is sometimes portrayed in a way that is far too exaggerated)

Killing the Baddy is Always Morally Acceptable
It seems to be justified if a goody kills a baddy, even if the enemy is assassinated brutally and in an ambush. (Insignificant losses on the way to victory). A baddy on the other hand is immediately a criminal if he kills an enemy, even in self-defense.
… Here apparently, the history is written by the victor.

Inhospitable Nature
It is really striking how often the poor heroes have to tramp through ice-cold or boiling hot regions. At the same time, they scarcely have any provisions or equipment with them, and on top of everything, they’re injured. Yet still they continue bravely on the move for weeks on end.

To freeze to death or die of thirst … a hero can’t die such a simple death! I wouldn’t mind having these useful powers of resistance myself.

In the north, there live the big blond barbarians and in the south, the bedouins. If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating a new world, then you should use the freedom this provides and not just use our world for the basis of everything.

The Standard Cast
So, we need: a hero of course (human), an elf (archery and a little magic), an old mage with a beard, the woman/princess (doesn’t matter what breed just as long as she’s very beautiful), a fool (I really hate this figure), a hard-drinking, ax-wielding dwarf, and a thief. Of course, this is fantasy, but if you look at it from the perspective of the real world: Who would really choose of their own free will to include a dishonest and devious thief in their team? Well then, now that these companions have found each other, you can bet on the compulsory good ending.

The Epic Battles
War breaks out and thousands of people are slain in gigantic battles. In the following wars, more and more and more die.
You can’t help asking yourself what is left of the infrastructure and the population at the end and how are the vast armies fed? But these are probably only useless, logistical odds and ends, which can be neglected in the heat of the battle.

The March Through
The main quest is accomplished and there then follows the ultimate march through to the goal. In only a few weeks, thousand-year-old mysteries are solved nonstop, culminating in the compulsory final scenario. Mysteries which have waited only for this heroic individual, and which no one was able to solve earlier and which, after thousands of years are still there to be solved…including all the pitfalls. (I’d give this a grade F for logic, or a simple ‘unsatisfactory’.)

A Thousand Years Old and Still as Good as New
Often, a thousand-year-old story is referred to, including the buildings from the time. Here, it seems that things like dust, decay and oblivion simply do not exist. There are books made of paper and doors that can be opened effortlessly, frescoed plaster decorates the walls, none of the roofs has caved in, and even centuries of moving desert sand has not been able to block the entrances. Certainly, powerful protection spells are at work here, and pixies are also keeping an eye on everything on a daily basis, otherwise wind and weather would have done considerable damage to the structure, especially now that the attractive glass windows are missing.

The Final Battle
The final battle often appears to be like a computer game. You can tell how important the opponent is by the length of the battle. Simple soldiers die quickly, felled by a single blow; important people need hundreds of blows before they finally shrug off this mortal coil. If you take a look at history, however, you’ll see that heroes and kings also often experience quick and unspectacular deaths.

Things I’ve Noticed Since I’ve been Writing Myself

Logic in books and films is now increasingly apparent to me. Previously, having only ‘consumed’, I have now begun to question the plots critically. In later episodes, television series tend to find crazy explanations for many previous episodes (to enable the series to continue): A more or less happy patching up, which can be compared to the efforts to simplify the German tax law.

Highly Intelligent Conclusions
The omniscience of the author can be a trap when writing. As an author, of course you know everything; after all, you’ve thought up the plot yourself. However, even the cleverest characters in novels can’t know everything when they communicate with each other.

An example: Two people are in two different places. In a particular situation, person #1 solves a problem in a way that is extremely surprising and cunningly creative. But person #2 guesses soon afterwards that person #1 has acted exactly in the way that they did.
Hmmm? Wouldn’t it be more realistic if person #2 presumed that something entirely different had happened?

An example of this that I read recently: For 200 years, the heroes of the book didn’t have a single idea about how they could free the country from the tyrants. But then, two different groups came up with exactly the same idea at almost the same time: To steal the brood from a fearful monster and then plant it among the neighboring tyrants, with the thought in the back of their heads that the two monsters will only suspect one another and then attack each other. This most ingenious of all ideas is then carried out within half an hour by these two different groups, who know nothing about each other.  Although one group ended up arriving too late, of course.

Stylistic Problems
It is easy to repeat yourself. For example, you write the word “still” in one sentence, and then in the very next sentence, you use the exact same word. In bad writing, you find this happening constantly. The careful author corrects these repetitions in the second, third, or at the very latest, in the fourth edit.

Women Write – Men Write
What I’ve noticed here cannot be generalized. There is, though, one tendency that can be recognized clearly. Women write books with pages and pages of emotions. There’s a lot of reflecting, they feel guilty, they’re constantly caring for others and discuss everything to death. Even the male characters in novels behave like this. (Let’s be quite honest, the maudlin sentimentality that is sometimes attributed to the men is highly unrealistic. My opinion: Most men don’t think half so much (mean but true - Findings of the Dragon of Sience [FDS]).

But how does a man write? Feelings and conscience tend to fade into the background. The author is preoccupied with battle line-ups: Who against whom, how many men does an army have, armies moving from here to there. And of course, it’s all about fighting; often with no shortage of blood and gruesome scenes.

The Author’s Knowledge
At some point, you come to the point where you want to write about something you know very little about. For example, if the hero boards a ship, rides a horse, fences, shoots with a bow, does farming… In short, at some point you’re on the spot and then you either have to do thorough research (time-consuming) or you keep things vague, or you simply come up with something that you believe might be right (a bit stupid if this pseudo-knowledge is then read by someone who really understands something about the subject matter. We’ve already detected various things of this nature - FDS).

All Figures Have the Same Character
You are who you are, and I suppose that every author always puts part of themselves into their characters. For me, the author who is able to create figures with completely different characters, as is the way in the real world, is a real genius. In many books, you find a collection of very similar characters. I’m thinking here of Inkheart, where almost all the central characters (especially in vol. 3) would sacrifice themselves for books. There is no doubt a weirdo out there who would sacrifice their life to see/save a book, but to have five or more like that in one story … well….

The Repeater
Some authors tend to repeat events time and again, especially in successive volumes. For those who haven’t read the previous volumes, this might be nice, but for the conscientious reader, it can be very tedious.

Everyone Has a Name
Whenever a new person appears, the author has to decide whether this character is important enough to be introduced by name or not. Often a description is enough: Messenger, helper, team, enemy etc. In my opinion, name overload should be avoided.

… and What Names They Have …
As with prototypes, there is the phenomenon of parallels to our world concerning names. Barbarians are called Heimdal or Baldur, desert dwellers are given names that sound Arabic; and then there are names where you have the feeling the author’s fingers have slipped on the keyboard, resulting in something like Asorltiwehp. Is that really necessary?

I Try to Avoid all these Shortcomings in My Books.
In my own fantasy world, the heroes suffer pain, learn slowly, and are not always appreciated for their heroic deeds, especially when the reward for “great deeds” often depends on the thorougly just decision of His Highness.

No one needs to complain! I believe I am more than generous.

The conflict is not banal “good versus evil”, but arises when different interests collide with one another. Here, not all the problems are related to the main quests, and there are also some very entertaining stories alongside. This is my intention, which is why the heroes end up in dead ends now and again and why there are unwelcome surprises.

It was also important for me to portray “everyday” problems, ranging from basic human needs, through problems with superiors, mistakes and forgetfulness, to wickedness, dry humour and many other examples of very human behavior.