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Mythic Scribes Fantasy Survey Results (w/Discussion)

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Philip Overby, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I conducted a survey last month based off another survey Nihal had posted before. Here are the results of this survey:

    1. What genres do you prefer to read?

    High Fantasy
    (7 votes) 18.42%

    Urban Fantasy
    (3 votes) 7.89%

    Dark Fantasy
    (6 votes) 15.79%

    Low Fantasy (Gritty Fantasy)
    (7 votes) 18.42%

    Mythic
    (1 vote) 2.63%

    Epic Fantasy
    (10 votes) 26.32%


    Sword and Sorcery
    (1 vote) 2.63%

    Historical
    (0 votes) 0%

    Gaslight
    (1 vote) 2.63%

    Alternate World
    (2 votes) 5.26%

    2. What genres do you prefer to write? (each voter was given 2 choices)

    High Fantasy
    (7 votes) 23.33%

    Urban Fantasy
    (5 votes) 16.67%

    Dark Fantasy
    (11 votes) 36.67%


    Low Fantasy (Gritty Fantasy)
    (10 votes) 33.33%

    Mythic
    (2 votes) 6.67%

    Epic Fantasy
    (11 votes) 36.67%


    Sword and Sorcery
    (5 votes) 16.67%

    Historical
    (1 vote) 3.33%

    Gaslight
    (1 vote) 3.33%

    Alternate World
    (4 votes) 13.33%

    3. What cliches do you want to change/hate the most? (2 votes allowed)

    Stereotypical non-humans (perfect elves, grumbling dwarves)
    (9 votes) 26.47%

    Tolkien rip-offs
    (6 votes) 17.65%

    Strange spellings
    (5 votes) 14.71%

    The Chosen One
    (12 votes) 35.29%

    European settings
    (0 votes) 0%

    Farm boy turned hero
    (5 votes) 14.71%

    Patriarchal society
    (3 votes) 8.82%

    Evil overlords
    (4 votes) 11.76%

    Women serve minor roles (love interest only, support character, etc.)
    (14 votes) 41.18%


    Other (please list below)
    (1 vote) 2.94%


    I will post notes for discussion below. Remember, this is only a small portion of Mythic Scribes members who voted in these polls. Imagine it's a microcosm for the fantasy genre.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    1. So with the question "What genres do you prefer to read?" epic fantasy won out. Perhaps a writing related question could be: What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you? If you disagree with this being the most important genre of fantasy, express why you think so.

    2. "What genres do you prefer to write?" had the same top answer: epic fantasy, but it tied with dark fantasy. Interesting because the epic fantasy answer makes sense because people write what they like to read, right? Perhaps dark fantasy did lower on the reading end because you could only vote once, and on the writing end you could vote twice?

    I feel like the epic fantasy answer is pretty representative of the genre as a whole right now. This may be tied to writers wanting to read stories that deal with large scopes instead of smaller scaled stories.

    So a question: do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?

    3. With "What cliches do you want to change/hate the most?" the answer "women serving minor roles" won out. This shows that almost half of who voted agreed this was a problem in the fantasy genre. They want to see women play more important roles and see their influence in the genre expand more. Also telling is "European settings" getting zero votes. Maybe this dealt more with people seeing more important things needing to be changed? If these are cliches that you want to see changed, how are you trying to change them yourself as a writer?

    If you don't want to get into each bolded question, you can just comment about the survey results themselves. Do you feel like they represent your views in any way?
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  3. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Just a question. What's the difference between High fantasy and Epic fantasy? To me the terms seem interchangeable.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    That's something I often thought as well and I imagined this might come up earlier, but no one mentioned it. Since I copied the survey choices from the original one from Tumblr (I think), I just put the same choices.

    From my understanding, yes, high fantasy and epic fantasy are interchangeable for some people.

    However, some make the distinction that high fantasy deals more with fantastical worlds that rely heavily on magic and creatures (a la Lord of the Rings) while epic fantasy is more about the scope of the tale. While A Song of Ice and Fire may be considered epic fantasy due to its scale, many might not consider it high fantasy because it doesn't deal with large quantities of magic or fantastical creatures (although it contains these things, they're not highly prevalent.)

    While Lord of the Rings could be considered both high fantasy and epic fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire might not be considered both.

    That is the distinction that some make, but I feel that they are interchangeable personally.

    Hope that clears that up.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
    Thoras and Ophiucha like this.
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I like epic fantasy because it combines so many genres. For me, a really good epic fantasy contains a combination of:

    Political thriller
    Combat
    Action/Adventure
    Romance
    Coming of Age
    Superhero

    You can get lot of diversity of story just by changing up which of those elements you want to emphasize.

    As long as a story is well-written with good characters, I truly couldn't care less how full of clichés it is. I pay absolutely no attention to trying to change any of them.
     
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I always thought that epic fantasy deals with a story with a world-changing scope. Whatever happens will have consequences that impact the entire world of your fantasy. In contrast, other genres may focus more on a small scale event that only has consequences for your characters.

    High fantasy, as Phil stated, deals with fantasy creatures and lots of magic.

    I think something can be both epic and high fantasy.
     
  7. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    I write a lot of female characters as physical destroyers in battle, with vast strength and durability even compared to male warriors (without the use of magic or being non-human), and their prowess isn't just lip service, they fight and kill main villains etc (they're usually the MC or if not, often noticeably more impressive warriors than the male MC).

    That's as much it being my 'thing' as trying to change anything, though.
     
  8. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Given that it's pretty much been admitted by everyone that a given book can fit into multiple categories, perhaps it'd be worth it to rerun the polls and allow multiple choices.
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I don't think that's needed. Because then we could just keep doing it over and over again and the data would just be "I like everything and I want everything to change."

    And I did allow multiple choices (two for genre you like to write, two for things you'd like to change) I don't think it would change things that much one way or another, honestly. Epic fantasy would still be number 1 in both reading and writing and with "woman in minor roles" the only choice that came close was the Chosen One.

    So despite some variations here and there, the results wouldn't really come out too much differently.

    Plus, I already gave a reason in the original threads when this came up:

     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  10. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you? If you disagree with this being the most important genre of fantasy, express why you think so.

    The length, size and scope. An epic fantasy (to me) almost always encompasses several volumes and will take ages to get through. This means I'll have a big long time to spend in a fantastic and amazing world with characters that I'll get to know. It's a full bodied experience so to speak. It's not just one story, it's several stories in one.
    Yes, this happens in other genres as well, but I think the epic fantasy is sort of the ultimate form of full on otherwordly escapism.

    So a question: do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?

    The idea of writing epic fantasy appeals to me. The prospect of actually doing it however, is daunting. It seems an enormous undertaking and the chance of successfully reaching a large amount of readers (making the effort worthwhile) is low for an unknown and inexperienced writer.
    I would like to write an epic fantasy set in a world of my own at some stage, but it's not something I'll get started on until I'm more confident in my abilities as a writer. I haven't even finished a single novel yet.
    I'm very happy with the setting I have and I want to share it with others. I want to show them my ideas and my heroes and creatures and lands. I want people to be as fascinated by my world as I am and as I've been by other worlds created by other authors. I think that the epic fantasy might be the best way of achieving this.
    For the time being the plan is to use the setting for shorter stories and standalone novels though. That way I can experiment with it a bit and introduce other characters that I may be able to make use of later on down the line.


    If these are cliches that you want to see changed, how are you trying to change them yourself as a writer?


    Currently the issue with how women are represented is something of a concern to me. I'm writing a romance novel from a male's perspective and I'm worried about how the female love interest is going to be perceived. I want her to be a real living person and not just a plot device. I'm thinking all the discussion about diversity etc is making me more nervous about this than I need to be though. It does mean I'm paying attention to her though. She'll have her own backstory and her own issues to deal with that are completely unrelated to the male MC, but which will still be important to her. Hopefully she'll be ok.

    May main pet peeve as far as cliche's go are weird words that are made up just to seem strange and exotic. I do have some of this (I had to come up with a different name for hobbits) but I try to keep it to a minimum. When I do have to come up with new names or words I try to make them both easy to read and pronounce. Smooth reading is important to me and unnecessarily complicated words just ruin that for me.
     
  11. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    As one of the folks who doesn't write epic, I'd like to give my reasoning.

    First, I don't write at length. My "longer" stories tend to be 17-18k words, and I don't make much use of subplots. I just tell one straight story and then conclude it.

    Second, I like to focus in tight on a small cast. When I read epics, there are often characters who I'd really like to see more focus on, and they get lost in the shuffle. When I write, I just write those few really interesting characters.

    On an unrelated note, I'd like to mention that genre interest can depend on medium. I don't usually read dark fantasy, since I find it depressing. But video games are often about one hero versus the world, so I'm willing to play dark fantasy games.
     
  12. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

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    I prefer to read and write dark fantasy. I don't know why, the only answer I can give is that I'm just a pretty dark person. I love blood and the nature of fear. It simply appeals to me.

    For me, clichés don't get on my nerves. I don't mind them at all as long as the writer tells it in his own way and makes it unique to his own story. Truth is, it's very difficult to find anything that hasn't been done before. I like when someone can take a cliché (or what I like to call "something classic") and put his own spin to it. It's like writing a cover for an old song.
     
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I sort of wonder about the results given the answers I got about High versus Epic. My thought is that the terms are so easily interchanged that people voting for one could really have meant the other. Perhaps if you do the survey again you could give definitions of each. So Epic might be fantasy of large scale and multiple casts etc such as Game of Thrones and High could be fantasy involving lots of magic and magical creatures eg Lord of The Rings. And to give a clearer picture I'd suggest a ranking system so that the absoute fave is ranked one and the stuff down the bottom gets a nine or a ten.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  14. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I only did the survey how the original one was done. I don't see a point in redoing it. Even if there was some sort of distinction made between high and epic fantasy, someone would say "They're the same, why are they separate?" So this kind of semantics thing always happens with sub-genres. The same was brought up when I put low/gritty fantasy in the same group. Some see them as being the same, some see them as being different. ToMAYto, toMAto.

    Let's just say epic/high fantasy won the survey. It was just done in fun and to foster discussion anyway.
     
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I find myself drifting toward the same mindset. While I like the occasional epic, and my own current novel may be interpreted as such, I tend to like smaller scaled stories nowadays. Ones with more narrow focus where the fate of the world doesn't hang in the balance. I'm of the opinion now that I'm really only interested in epics that are doing new and interesting things in the genre. Steven Erikson comes to mind. I really can't think of anyone else in the genre that writes like him or a world similar to the Malazan world.

    So while I still enjoy epics myself now and again, I find my interest being in writers like China Mieville at the moment, who offer something weird and new that doesn't fall within the current fantasy paradigm.
     
  16. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you? If you disagree with this being the most important genre of fantasy, express why you think so.

    Given the above discussions arguing between high/epic fantasy, I would say that I do distinguish between the two and that I think high fantasy is the most important genre of fantasy, but epic... less so. The cast of a hundred characters, the year-long journeys across continents, the fights and the prophecies and the end of the world - it's all fine, but I find its prominence in the genre limiting. I'd love to see more fantasy that explores other subgenres besides action/adventure (which is basically what 'epic' ends up being). More fantasy dramas, romances, and mysteries for me. But I do think high fantasy - tons of worldbuilding, magic everywhere, different rules - has the greatest potential for interesting fantasy. Low fantasy is good, great for political stuff, but the magic of a high fantasy world can be used for so much more than just fighting Dark Lords. Give me a kitchen of mages who use fire spells to cook their food and waterbending and transmutation for a bit of molecular gastronomy. I like seeing all of the potential of magic without necessarily being tied down to certain types of stories, and the magic really is the core of the genre. I love low fantasy, too, but for very different reasons to why I enjoy fantasy as a whole.

    Do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?
    See above as to why I don't tend to write it. Of course, sometimes I do, because no matter what I said above... let's be honest, if you read fantasy, you've read the great epics of the genre and probably loved them a little. I mean, I bemoan Tolkien at every turn but that doesn't mean I haven't pre-ordered my tickets to see The Hobbit next month. So every few years or so I sit down and start plotting out one because it was what I grew up with and many of the books I love are still part of the genre. But what I prefer to write is high fantasy, which I find attractive for the reasons listed above. The stories I'm working on right now are kind of... middle? fantasy. Not quite low, not quite high.

    If these are cliches that you want to see changed, how are you trying to change them yourself as a writer?
    Well, I write female characters in diverse roles. Usually as the main character. I have one project right now with a male lead who has a mistress and wife that feature quite prominently, arguably as 'love interests', but I do my best to keep them active and important (his wife is literate and writes his letters for him, she frees him from his werewolf state multiple times, and his mistress is a mercenary who works with him in his army). European settings are a bit tired, but I majored in medieval studies, so I have a soft spot for that one. I'd love to see something other than bloody England, though, god they were boring during the medieval era. Give me some medieval Italy, or a little Byzantine Empire. Strange spellings only bother me since I am a linguistics geek and nobody knows why they are spelling that name with an 'Xh' other than the fact that it looks cool. If it actually served a purpose (say the sound it made was 'ksh'), then I'd be okay with it. The Chosen One, I just don't write since it tends to erase secondary characters and simplify things too much. I don't mind things like 'king's bastards' since, y'know, he probably has a few, and I don't mind vague enough prophecies that there is ambiguity as to who the Chosen One is. But clear-cut, this man right here is the only one who could accomplish X, I think it limits the potential of the story.
     
  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you?

    I like the scope, and the escapism associated with reading the genre. It's not always escapism, but that's one of the elements that I tend to enjoy most when it's done well.

    So a question: do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?

    I don't know if it's the most attractive, but I think it's the most attempted genre. I have a theory that it's because when people in general think of fantasy, it's epic fantasy that comes to their mind. So when someone decides to try their hand at fantasy, they think epic and write that. The style's attraction, for me, comes down to the type of story I want to tell. I'm not necessarily attracted to they style. Rather, the story I want to tell fits into that style, and knowing where you're story fits helps to identify they toys you can play with.

    If these are cliches that you want to see changed, how are you trying to change them yourself as a writer?

    I'm of the mind that cliches aren't necessarily a bad thing. Overusing and not using them in an interesting way is where things go wrong. For me as a writer, it's not about breaking cliches or just going with them. It's about knowing you're in a situation where cliche is entering the equation and trying to find the most interesting path, of either playing off of or going against cliche.
     
  18. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I realized I hadn't answered my own questions yet, so I would do so.

    What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you?


    I grew up on epic fantasy so I think that is what I've tried to write several times to no avail. I find epics are just too ambitious for me as a writer at the moment. I rather take one smaller issue and try to hone in on it, than some kind of global war or some such. I've found that epics tend to rely heavily on multiple POVs for the most part, again something I'm not ready to tackle as a writer. When I am ready, I hope to make the best epic I can. But as of now, I just don't feel like writing an epic fits into my vision of what I want to be as a writer. Therefore, I chose gritty fantasy and sword and sorcery. I'd probably add dark fantasy in there as well. While all of these genres can be epic of course, I chose right now to hone in on more personal stories.


    So a question: do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?

    I agree that epic fantasy seems the most attractive to write for most people because, like others have said, this is what people think of when you say the word fantasy. I think the large cast of characters and global scope of these stories appeals to people who don't feel like they they want to share the story of a world rather than just a small cast of characters.

    This style of fantasy does attract me, simply because I want to write something that does justice to my ideas. At this stage however, I don't feel I'm ready to write an epic fantasy (as I mentioned above). I've tried and failed numerous times. I've since taken to writing single POV stories with only regional ramifications. Perhaps one day I can crack open my current world (or another one) and do more of an epic story. For now, I'll stick to what I'm doing.

    If these are cliches that you want to see changed, how are you trying to change them yourself as a writer?

    I'm also of the opinion that cliches aren't necessarily always bad. They exist for a reason obviously. The issue with cliches seems to be more of the "been there done that" vibe rather than it's a bad idea. A Chosen One story can be just as awesome as any other kind of story if it tries to do something at least slightly different. My issue with cliches is that some of them perpetuate the same reading experiences over and over again. The same way Hollywood gives us the same formulaic action movies over and over. I can read books that are similar obviously, but I prefer to read things I haven't read before. This may be one reason the last three books I've read were a western by Elmore Leonard, The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, and Neuromancer by William Gibson. Not that I suddenly don't want to read fantasy anymore, I just want to vary my reading experiences so I can give a fair shake to an epic and not feel like I'm burned out reading them.

    I hope by reading outside of the genre at times, that will give me a fresh perspective and allow me to avoid these certain cliches because I'm not being inundated with them.
     
  19. Ewolf20

    Ewolf20 Minstrel

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    What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you? If you disagree with this being the most important genre of fantasy, express why you think so.

    i'm not supr big on it. i don't mind in small doses and as such it's a fine genre on it's own. the reason it appeals to some folks is the idea of this poetic power fantasy of great heroes and grand spanning myths. however i don't read them as i'm limited as of late. i'm a person in her near twenties who's first fantasy novels starred cats as the main leading roles. it kinda colored my taste in things even to this day.

    fantasy, like any genre has, has they're conventions and if you so much as broke a lot of them, do you even have a right to call it fantasy?

    So a question: do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?

    nope and it's subjective. again i rarely do epic fantasy and i don't have a say in what i fully think about it.

    If these are cliches that you want to see changed, how are you trying to change them yourself as a writer?

    seconded wanting women in leading roles (despite writing mostly male protagonist) or really diverse people in general. I guess the main reason I feel like i don't like most fantasy might have something to do with how it portrays characters. when i think fantasy, i always think of the cliched human chosen one killing the evil overlord and saving the land. bonus points if they're straight and male. I don't like this, at all and it's a massive turn off for me. i don't mind it, i'm just not into it.

    wanna see fantasy branch out, i wanna see it take new heights than confine itself as just another medieval fantasy adventure filled to the brim with orcs, elves, and dwarves. (and humans to a degree but i feel they are a necessary evil and i much rather write one than another elf).

    that's why i love modern fantasy so much. no one would bat an eye if one of the main characters is black or other sorts of things because it takes place in modern day. and, it lets go of the burden of so much world building since all fo that is taken care of.

    but then again i'm a semi sci fi writer who somehow joined this forum for no reason then to get help on her craft.

    and another thing, can we just stop with the european settings? i'm serious. more 18th century to modern i can tolerant atleast. but ey i have alot of unpopular opinins i can't help showing.
     
  20. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    What aspect of the writing or story does epic fantasy appeal to you? If you disagree with this being the most important genre of fantasy, express why you think so.
    So a question: do you agree that epic fantasy is the most attractive to write? Why does this style of fantasy attract you?


    I guess my general dislike for the subgenre comes from my view that "epic stories" tend to (ironically) limit the scope of the setting by saying that everything that is important in the setting is within the immediate vicinity of the characters. When all you see of a setting is a single city, I think one tends to wonder more about what lies beyond the city or what the rest of the world is like. I think epic fantasy tends to dislike having mystery and wonder in their settings and so try to show everything there is to know about the setting from the get-go. The genre also tends to paint the day-to-day lives of the average people of the setting as "unimportant" when down-to-earth character drama is what I like most in fiction.
    I think good fiction needs to do a balancing act of having the story be "epic" enough to be important but also intimidate enough to feel grounded.

    There's also the very common mistake that writers seem to make where they think giving their plot an "epic" scope makes their story or their setting "deep" when it often doesn't.

    The only thing I really like about the genre is that it tends to focus on heavy, often melodramatic, character drama such as political intrigue or over-the-top romances or life-and-death struggles (and often, all those at once happening to one character).

    As to why the subgenre is well-liked among writers, I think the answer is that epic stories featuring many characters and many locations allow the writers to show-off more of the setting. Most fantasy writers just have too much imagination (or are too much love for their own creations) to limit themselves to a small cast in few locations.
     
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