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.
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.
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.
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?