My Answers to the Fantasy Novelist Exam

I culled the less-applicable stuff.  Here’s the original test site.

A few questions and answers for anybody who wants to know more about my novel.

  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
  2. No. Action starts page one.

  3. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
  4. Nope

  5. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
  6. Nope

  7. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
  8. No, but she has to defeat the supreme bad guy; that’s sort of the point of fantasy: full closure.

  9. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
  10. Nope.

  11. How about one that will destroy it?
  12. Nope. This story is based on what might technically be called a female-centered folktale.  That means that the emphasis is more on the progression of action and relationships rather than attaining a specific goal (e.g., the gold the girl or the glory).

  13. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
  14. No. I’m still looking for a modern fantasy whose inclusion of allegory or messianic elements isn’t cheesy.

    I think the difficulty in finding that has to do with the original story being both so powerful and (face it) absurd, that any attempt to retell it really shows the outrageousness of God’s amazing plan.

  15. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
  16. No, but I’m mentally preparing a post I want to write someday about “useful” characters, and the know-it-all (think Hermione from Harry Potter) makes the list.

  17. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
  18. Does a demi-god not-in-disguise count?

  19. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
  20. Not secretly. And not the main character.

  21. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
  22. I despise dupes. My characters make their own stupid decisions. (ETA: oops. I think I do have one dupe. But he’s not a king.)

  23. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?
  24. Nope. Actually, I don’t think anyone is forgetful. Might need to work on that– could be residue from the version where everyone was perfectly rational (Hey! Let me have at least one draft for my own fantasy!)

  25. How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
  26. That is a total cop-out based on a throwback to an earlier draft when even the author didn’t know what was going on yet. Get to the story or get out of the way! ROAR!

    Um, I guess that could be reading into things a bit, huh?

  27. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
  28. No. Anyone consumed by appearances is an equal-opportunity worrier: it’s part of who they are, not where they are.

  29. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
  30. Only one. ;) And she gets to do some capturing and rescuing of her own before the end.

  31. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
  32. I hope not.

  33. Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?
  34. Nope.

  35. Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?
  36. Hmm, I might imagine this applying to the Queen, a few decades back, but for this story, no.

  37. Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?
  38. No dwarfs, sorry.

  39. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?
  40. No elves. Sorryer.

  41. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
  42. Um, did anybody find the toddlers funny? They’re my only characters under four feet tall.

  43. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
  44. No boats. Cut that part of the story. We’re all grateful. Trust me, you are.

  45. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?
  46. I have been holding my breath, hoping I’m never required to produce a concrete map.

  47. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?
  48. Nope. Though I have two very different and equally intriguing prologues, they would set up stories different than I wrote; both in scope, theme, and choice of main character(s).

    Fascinating to think about, though, considering it’s the same action.

  49. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
  50. No NO NO! I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

  51. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
  52. I’ll pretend you didn’t ask that.

  53. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
  54. Never seen one. But I might make Twilight. (Amazon lists its word count at +/-115,000. I’m not there yet, but I did break 110,000)

  55. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
  56. My folks are all in their own world. I’ve always felt sorry for the other kind.

  57. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
  58. Only if they come from an Arabian-Nightsesque source.

  59. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
  60. Not longer.

    (ETA: I got called on this one. Cecillia is a major character with four syllables.)

  61. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
  62. Nope. Sorry.

  63. How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?
  64. Nothing invented. Everything established. Have I said I’ve been feeling very uncreative lately? That everything I “invent” seems merely like a recombination? Yeah.

    Good thing there’s already some pretty fascinating stuff out there.

    (Yes, I was one of those kids that read the encyclopedia. And, yes, I have authoritative fantasy encyclopedias now that tell me exactly what powers to expect a half-djinn to have).

  65. Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?
  66. No, that would be perpetuating in my fantasy an emphasis I both dislike and see as unnecessary in my own world.

    Actually, I do have half-djinn, but I try not to make the half-ness an us-versus-them thing. The reason I think I didn’t go the prophesy route, is the same reason I don’t like parentage-pulling-at-me message. We are shaped by our biology and environment, but also from within.

    And in a story I think the emphasis is supposed to be particularly on the within.

  67. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
  68. I hate maps too much to have epic travels in my stories.

  69. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
  70. No, but I think I should watch more action movies.

  71. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
  72. No, they exist for warm places to talk. That they are also warm enough to take one’s gloves off, well…

  73. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
  74. I told you, I don’t like maps. Distances are determined by how soon I need the next plot point to arrive. And even that’s flexible with certain characters (Hurrah for super-speed!).

  75. Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?
  76. I think I got rid of all of these.

  77. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?
  78. My magic-users are more about manipulating matter than shooting or pulling power out of the air. I think that’s how I’ve made myself comfortable with magic in an almost “our” world.

  79. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
  80. Uh, no.

  81. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
  82. Trying to think if anyone armored gets stabbed anywhere. I cut the battle scenes (despite setting up some awesome-yet-unresearchable armor), because the story without them was long enough.

  83. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
  84. That would prove the initial definition inaccurate, negating this question. But, no. One of my favorite things about this novel is skipping that whole illusion and wasted energy and moving on with the story. They get married.  Way before the end.

    Sorry, should have said [SPOILER!] I just assumed anyone reading here would have guessed that already from the story blurb.

  85. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
  86. I’m supposed to have humor in my novel? Krapp.

  87. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
  88. {hicoughed HA!}

    Then it’s because she’s a woman and not the dagger that he finds threatening.

  89. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
  90. Do you realize that a bullet (or arrow) wound often doesn’t often mean instant death?

  91. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?
  92. Yet another reason to stay home: I’m a notoriously poor meal planner.

  93. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
  94. No. Most of his lackeys are pseudo-immortal.

  95. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
  96. Nothing like.

  97. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
  98. There are thousands of mythologies to delve and combine that go much farther back than LOTR. Lindorm is one of those.

9 thoughts on “My Answers to the Fantasy Novelist Exam

  1. Is this the Mary Jane quiz? I remember it from a few years ago. Your answers are very good and it seems, according to this quiz, that your WIP is fresh and creative!

  2. Most of those questions seemed like they came from a Terry Goodkind novel. So glad your novel isn’t like his. Thought your answer to number 7 interesting. Per our conversation read “till we have faces” by Lewis or “on the dark sea of darkness” by Andrew Peterson. I would lobe to discuss this question after that!

  3. Chrisd– not the Mary Jane quiz. I didn’t consciously set out to describe my novel, but that quickly seemed to be a useful outworking of this exercise. I think the MJ quiz would be too narrow to be illuminating.

    Brooke– Welcome home. I’m sure TG was one of the major targets (from what I know of him). Robert Jordan was mentioned by name in the original “exam”. I’ve not read either of them, but I tend to read the folktale-based fantasies (go figure) rather than quest-based.

    Yes, #7 is shot across the bows. I have Till We Have Faces sitting on my (skimpy) bookshelves right now, actually. Maybe I’ll try picking it up again. I did just read Cupid and Psyche to my kids this weekend, so the novel might make more sense with the myth so fresh in my mind.

  4. I have no map-skills of my own, but I have a feeling I may end up drawing your family trees for you, simply because I keep wanting to flip to the back of the book and examine them. (I read LOTR with my fingers in the appendices sometimes)

  5. Feel free, Becky.

    I tried to make one and didn’t find enough (mutually) related people for a pretty tree.

    A web could be distinctly useful, though.

  6. haha I love this! I’m especially relieved to hear that there is no wise all knowing sage who refuses to give anything away. I DETEST that. And thank goodness it won’t be a quintet ;) Although I am bummed that the inns aren’t there merely for brawls…

    Some of these questions brought up issues I’ve never even thought about, but realized they do annoy me. Although I don’t read much fantasy. But they do annoy me in movies too.

    I did not realize it took hours to make stew. I will keep that in mind.

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