by Jenelle Schmidt
If I had to pick a single reason to love fantasy, however, today's topic would be it. The characters. Fantasy characters are something special, wouldn't you agree? I'm not sure what it is about them, but there is a depth and a refinement that occurs in fantasy characters that can be hard to find in other genres. The best characters in any genre step off the page, they mirror ourselves, they shed light on our souls and reveal hidden strengths and give us courage to face our own circumstances with heads held high.
Fantasy boasts many different types of characters, and I cannot hope to touch on all of them, but I'm just going to address two main types...
The seemingly-inconsequential character who gets swept up in events too large for him or her. So much fantasy starts right there, and I love it. An ordinary human, dwarf, halfling, elf, what-have-you character is minding his own business when BAM! A wizard shows up during his morning pipe, or rolls into town and stays at your father's inn, or you get picked to bear an honor or position you did not seek and many think you don't deserve! This takes the ordinary character and demands that he or she become extraordinary, or they die and the story ends. I think this character speaks to the ordinary in all of us, the part of us that feels perhaps slightly overlooked or taken for granted. We love this character because he or she reminds us that we all have a purpose, a reason for existing. We may never take the ring to Mount Doom... but, as the Doctor says:
In 900 years of time and space, I've never met anyone who wasn't important. ~ Doctor Who
Then there's the person who does hold some sort of important position. Perhaps it's a king, queen, prince, princess, heir to the throne, a trusted body-guard, someone who is by definition important in the eyes of the world. Maybe their kingdom is about to come under attack, and their decision will change the outcome of the approaching conflict. Perhaps they begin the story by running away from their responsibilities, and then must deal with the consequences of that choice. Maybe they are sent on a quest or they choose to take their destinies into their own hands rather than marry the person they are supposed to marry or accept the throne they are meant to rule from... these characters tend to be quite fun to read about, because they remind us that an enviable position of authority or prestige may not be all it's cracked up to be. They still have problems to face and if you get past the crowns and tutors and palaces... they're still just people underneath - with fears and doubts and worries of their own - and they actually resemble ourselves quite a bit.
Of course, then there are wizards tasked with protecting mankind or finding the one destined to defeat the ultimate villain. There are side characters and supporting characters and traitors and betrayers. But the point is, fantasy characters are consistently exceptional.
I have my own theories on why this is... something to do with the backdrop and setting being so fantastical that it frees the reader to stop worrying about how "realistic" everything is and just focus on the characters and how they deal with their various trials and tribulations. Tying this all back to yesterday's post, I think that's another reason why Mistborn fell flat for me. Sanderson spent so much time trying to explain the perfect magic system to the detriment of both plot and character development... which meant I never really got all that invested in what was going on with the characters - with the exception of Kelsier and possibly Breeze, all the characters are pretty one-dimensional and flat.
But whatever the reason, I would argue that strong characters are up there at the top of the list of reasons to read the fantasy genre. Characters like Aragorn, Boromir, Samwise, Haplo, Eugenides, Cimorene, Morwen, King Arthur, and all the rest... if I were to list all my favorites here, this post would get far too long!
Jenelle is a rare and elusive creature known as an "author." She enjoys wandering through the woods and opening doors in search of hidden passageways. She can sometimes be found in darkened corners of libraries or coffee shops sipping hot chocolate and carrying on animated conversations with those strange and invisible beings known as "characters."
A blog about all things fantasy from the elements we all love to how to write it. Posts are from our very own Fellowship of Fantasy authors.