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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Stoking the Engines

So I’ve neglected this blog for a few days, due to really getting into writing my novel… and also laziness!

I thought I would take this post to share a few articles and interesting tid-bits from around the internet that I’ve been looking at recently:

http://limyaael.livejournal.com – So I found a really good blog that’s no longer updated, but its archives hold some invaluable information on writing fantasy fiction.

http://www.unrv.com/forum/topic/9867-index-to-roman-surnames – This forum post contains a list of Roman surnames (which I have found very useful). It’s difficult to find a complete list of surnames from this era, believe it or not.

http://sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=33392 – Of course, I’m always going to promote my second home, the SFF World forums, because they just have a brilliant community and often very interesting posts. This one in particular grabbed my fancy.

http://www.jonsprunk.com/chapterone.html – I also discovered the American author, Jon Sprunk, who started out on the SFF World forums, incidentally. His novel reads really well and the story sounds intriguing. May have to grab this one.

http://www.novel-writing-help.com – This site has constantly been invaluable to me. It’s got great advice on every aspect of writing a novel and I would suggest reading as much as you can – it really holds some excellent knowledge.

That’ll be all for today. I’ll be back in action tomorrow with my usual vigor and will put up a decent-length article on Saturday to make up for not posting one yesterday.

(In case you notice something’s different, I’ll be posting from now on in a nice grey colour. Let me know if it presents any difficulties or if you absolutely hate it. I’ll change it back if so!)