LFG: Groups, Bands & Fellowships in Fantasy Fiction

The Fellowship

For those of you who noticed and understood the little gaming reference in the title… grats. For those of you reading this with question marks over your head: LFG = Looking For Group. If you are still clueless, that’s just tough luck. I’m going to carry on regardless! Mwahaha!

This article is going to look at groups in fantasy fiction. By this, I’m referring to either of the below:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings)
  • The Black Company(The Black Company)
  • The Gentlemen Bastards (The Lies of Locke Lamora)
  • The Raven (Dawnthief)

There seems to be a whole sub-genre in fantasy that consists of these sorts of stories. Many of them are not blatantly ‘group fantasy’ (i.e. LOTR) but they equally rely on the group dynamic for much of their conflict. I personally love these sorts of stories. After a while, you feel like you’ve become a member of these groups and the banter and kinship soon has you investing a lot emotionally in the stories.

Now, groups in fantasy, the way I see it, are usually defined by ‘jobs’. Just think of the Fellowship of the Ring. If we had to categorize the members in terms of traditional fantasy roles, we’d do it like this:

  • Gandalf – Wizard
  • Boromir, Aragorn, Gimli – Warrior
  • Legolas – Ranger
  • The Hobbits – Warrior/Rogue interchangeably

You may disagree with the roles above, but the general consensus is usually the same. The way I see it, there are these types of ‘epic fantasy’ which involve a lot of roles together and then there are others where you just get a group of mercenaries/thieves and they all inhabit a very similar role.

Names

Some authors go with giving their group members realistic names with regards to their fantasy world. Others go with nicknames or ‘squad names’. Some examples are The Unknown Warrior, Sergeant Whiskeyjack and Croaker. I’m not sure which I prefer; a mixture of both maybe? Giving a character a nickname makes them instantly memorable, but it can also have the effect of making the characters appear two-dimensional and lacking, unless the author takes steps to develop them well.

Banter

The dialogue between members of fantasy groups is perhaps one of the key things that fixates a reader so aptly. It’s not an easy thing to pull off easily, as good banter and heart develops when people have been together for a long time and they’re used to each others’ company. To emulate that as a writer means that you need to really know the characters in the group and make sure their personalities bounce off one another.

The Quest

Nothing can wreck a story like the actual story itself. It doesn’t matter if a fantasy group is the best one ever put together, if the plot sucks and they have no real reason to be together, then it’s going to be a failure. What would the Fellowship have been without Frodo and the Ring? Would Boromir’s death have been as heart-wrenching if he hadn’t first tried to take the Ring and then realised his weakness? The concept that the story revolves around is the key element and it should be fully conceived before doing anything else.

I’d be interested to get all of your thoughts on this subject. So…

What do you think about groups/teams in fantasy fiction? What do you think makes them connect so well with readers? Do you have any favourite quotes you want to share?

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6 thoughts on “LFG: Groups, Bands & Fellowships in Fantasy Fiction

  1. debyfredericks 01-May-2012 / 17:45

    What groups bring to fiction is a way for authors to keep things lively and move the plot at the same time. We all know exposition and description can be boring, and back story can bring everything to a halt. Information given in the form of dialogue between two or more characters is much more interesting. After all, we humans are social creatures, and the interplay between people is inherently fascinating to us. Along with whatever information is being given, we get to chew on issues like who has power in this relationship, are all parties being truthful, etc.

    If you broaden your definition of group to include just two people, you may find that many genres have groups built in. Holmes and Watson, anyone?

    • James 01-May-2012 / 20:05

      Very good points there. It’s always a bonus when a story gets across most of its ideas through dialogue and not huge info dumps.

  2. deshipley 06-Jul-2012 / 17:37

    Nodding my head in agreement all over the place. I love a good group dynamic! — both to read and to write. Hanging out with “the gang” and observing their interactions can tell you more about a character in a three-sentence exchange than you’d get in a thick descriptive paragraph. Friends being friends is fun. And people who are not necessarily friends but are stuck working together anyway can be a mess of fun, too. …for us. X)

  3. cajradonich 19-Jan-2014 / 03:41

    If I can make a movie reference, how about the Avengers? There is even more tension and humor in the plot due to the fact that at first they don’t all get along.

    • James 20-Jan-2014 / 13:22

      Definitely. The Avengers was fantastic because of the interplay between the group members. It probably worked even better because we got to know the characters as individuals first. Just imagine now if we got a group in A Song of Ice and Fire which included Tyrion, Jon, Dany, Arya, Bran and Rickon all handing out a serious ass-kicking to the Others 🙂

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