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Magic Cliches

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I have hastened thee to the library and the library is all checked out of thee "Last Unicorn" as it was hastened therein by thee astute readers.   
Unicorns are nice, I know this, but my sister has all those stupid little pony dolls and I've grown to dislike unicorns because of it.

Caught your attention, didn't I?  :dr 

Girly-girl unicorn stories (and playthings) are not my thing either, but The Last Unicorn has rich characterization and the writing is exquisite. Put your name down to be called when one of the books is returned.
#31 - February 03, 2009, 02:56 PM


If you want to read a book with a great twist on unicorns, read Rampant by Diana Peterfreund when it comes out in May 2009. I was lucky enough to get an ARC and these unicorns are man eating monsters . . . yeah way cool . . . I mean if your into man eating monsters and all that.  :moose

As for cliches, there have been some great suggestions here. I agree with what others have said, magic cliches can work if used in an original way. So write what you want/love and see where it takes you.  :yup
#32 - February 03, 2009, 03:07 PM

Ohhhh, Rampant sounds like something I can dig and I'll read the Last Unicorn simply because you awesome folks suggested it.

I just got to thinking and another magic cliche is magic itself. Why can't an ability like flying, super strength, or super speed be a suitable substitute for magic. And if so, does the exclusion of  magic and or a system subtract from the genre's overall premise.

So my question is: Is fantasy all about the magic?
#33 - February 03, 2009, 03:31 PM
Wannabe Middle Grade Fantasy author and total superhero geek

Mike Jung

There's a YA Sci-Fi thread that touches on the question of where "superpowers" fit, genre-wise, at Okay, yes, I'm the one who brought it up.

#34 - February 03, 2009, 03:43 PM

I'm chiming in on the "unicorns are awesome" side. I love The Last Unicorn--very clever and magical. And I think I can also dig man-eating unicorns. Now that is cliche-bending!
#35 - February 03, 2009, 05:05 PM
The Echo Room (Tor Teen, 2018)
Where Futures End (Penguin, 2016)

So my question is: Is fantasy all about the magic?

Fantasy is a genre. In the discussion of Fantasy in The Essential Guide to Children's Books and their Creators edited by Anita Silvey, it starts by saying "Fantasy is the ultimate literature of the imagination." The early examples of fantasy literature cited that show the "work of an individual sensibility", often with humor, are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), At the Back of the North Wind (1871), Wizard of Oz (1900), Five Children and It (1902), Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920) and Mary Poppins (1934).

"A major category of fantasy is the animal fantasy. With origins in Aesop, animal fantasies" this passage cites as notable animal fantasies include Watership Down (1972), The Wind in the Willows (1908), Charlotte's Web (1952), Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and Velveteen Rabbit (1922).

There's other types of fantasy, too, such as the high fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien and the fantasy of characters with super-powers. Harold Underdown points out in his book on publishing for children that a lot of picture books are fantasies, too. One favorite is Where the Wild Things Are.

And yes, all these stories have magic, that is, something not possible in real life. The magic in Doctor Dolittle is that the doctor and animals talk clearly to each other, and the animals act as assistants to the doctor. The magic in Velveteen Rabbit is that a child's stuffed rabbit becomes a real rabbit. The magic in Charlotte's Web is not only do the animals talk to each other (and the farmgirl, Fern, can understand them), but also that the spider can create words in her web that humans read.
#36 - February 04, 2009, 11:00 AM
« Last Edit: February 04, 2009, 11:02 AM by hazelnut »

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Nice precis, hazelnut!  Well done.

Now, what about stories that do not contain more than a whiff of magic (as in it's up to the reader to decide if an occurence has supernatural overtones or not) but is in a totally made-up setting?  Is that fantasy, or something else?
#37 - February 04, 2009, 11:15 AM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)

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James Maxey's BITTERWOOD series has an interesting take on dragons. (although I haven't read the second one yet) You think it's fantasy, and then you find out it's really SciFi.
#38 - February 04, 2009, 11:22 AM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
KUNG POW CHICKEN 1-4, Scholastic 2014 :chicken

Thank you so much for the information Hazelnut and you too Mike. I learned a lot from this. Its nice to know the difference between fantasy and well. . . fantasy.  :moose
#39 - February 05, 2009, 01:55 PM
Wannabe Middle Grade Fantasy author and total superhero geek

Another vote to say the writing in THE LAST UNICORN is simply amazing and, for another not-Little-Pony-type unicorn story, I highly recommend ARIEL.

Fantasy is just that - fantastic elements. There does not have to be magic to be fantasy, there can be entirely new worlds with new rules and new cultural nuances & expectations. You can certainly write a high fantasy knights-and-princesses story without magic or monsters in it (aside from the human ones, of course) or a strange, parallel world where people exist that no one notice (Beauty & the Beast, the Littles, and Neverwhere [which was 'not quite magic'] come to mind).

Certainly, I think, fantasy as a category is only limited by one's imagination and the less stress on technology, hard science and alien/outer space which would tend to push it into realms of science fiction (Joan D. Vinge is an excellent example of where this "blends", IMO.)
#40 - February 06, 2009, 05:57 AM


Ohhhh, Rampant sounds like something I can dig

I posted my review Rampant on my  blog yesterday. Check it out if you're curious.

I agree that magic doesn't have to be in a fantasy novel. There are many great types of fantasy as others have pointed out.
#41 - February 06, 2009, 11:46 AM
« Last Edit: February 06, 2009, 11:48 AM by justJoan »

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May I hereby insist that all of this is bunk.  Nothing is a cliche if you approach it in a new way. My new book has a unicorn in it. The unicorn is named Geoffrey.  I swear he is NOT a cliche.  I also have a pirate in my book. The pirate has an inferiority complex and wants to be an archivist.  The farthest thing from jack Sparrow.  Merlin is in my book, but he shaves.  Etc. Etc.

As far as I'm concerned you need to think fresh.  You want a sword with a  name, call the sword something different from all other high-fantasy sounding swords.

You want to call someone, "The Chosen One?"  Make the chosen one a two year old who picks his nose constantly.  Or a friendly stinkbug.

If you begin by thinking of plot points and characters as codified BEFORE you start writing, I think you're sunk.

Just my two cents.
#42 - February 06, 2009, 12:20 PM

And how right you are ohmylorelie. (Now where have I heard that name before?) I'll defiantly check out your blog justJoan, the Rampant book sounds very very interesting.
#43 - February 06, 2009, 12:56 PM
Wannabe Middle Grade Fantasy author and total superhero geek


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