So you want to write a really bad fantasy novel, eh?
You’ve come to the right place. After years of practice, I’ve mastered five ancient techniques for writing shitty fantasy. These methods were pioneered by the elves of the Ethereal Empire during the reign of Xerxian Rhafstorr the Sword-Breaker (in the Twelfth Age), so you know they’re good.
Just read on, and you’ll be writing the Ishtar of fantasy novels in no time.
1. Write Clichéd Characters
A story is only as strong as its characters, so they need to be especially lame.
First of all, you want to keep your characters as one-dimensional as possible. So one-dimensional, in fact, that no one ever questions their motivations. Unless they do something out of character in order to advance the plot, which is fine.
Fall back on stereotypes. Your dwarves should be drunks, and your hero should be naive and inexperienced. When writing your villain, be sure that he is motivated by a simple desire to be evil. Have him sneer a lot while abusing his henchmen.
2. Craft a Predictable Plot
Certain things need to happen in your novel. The world must be in danger of destruction, and your hero must go on a quest to save it.
At some point you will introduce comical sidekicks, as well as a wise old mentor. Be sure to kill off the old fellow near the book’s midpoint, though, so that your hero feels lost and forlorn. If your hero has loved ones, they should be captured by the villain.
There must be no surprises. Readers of shitty fantasy expect the plot to follow a tired old formula, and become grumpy when it diverges in unexpected directions. The secret is to read as many fantasy novels as possible, and to look for patterns in the storytelling. Then copy them slavishly, while eschewing originality.
3. Describe Everything
Leave nothing to the imagination. Whenever you introduce a new character, spend pages describing his appearance and mannerisms. If your character visits a new locale, describe the terrain and flora in excruciating detail.
Since fantasy novels often take place in imaginary worlds, you run the risk of the reader developing her own mental images. Don’t let this happen. Instead, keep hammering her with descriptive text so that she envisions the world the right way – which is your way.
Including lengthy descriptions also has an added benefit. It makes your book bigger. And as we know, bigger is always better.
4. Pile on the Exposition
Your world has a rich history, and your reader needs to learn it. All of it.
Therefore, it is crucial that you never miss an opportunity to explain the backstory of your world. You’ve spent years (or even decades) developing lore, so don’t leave anything out.
A classic way to achieve this is by opening your novel with a lengthy prologue. Use this as an opportunity to summarize the last two thousand years of history, and to explain the origins of the present conflict. The prologue itself should feel less like a story, and more like an info dump. Both you and your readers will feel better after a big dump.
5. Be Inconsistent
You can have fun with this one. Spend much of your novel establishing a magic system that is governed by rules. Hammer home that your world functions according to specific, unalterable laws. And then, at the height of your novel’s climax, inexplicably break these rules in order to resolve the story.
This is a great way to alienate your readers. You trick them into trusting you, and then expose them as the suckers that they are. It’s your world, after all, and you can do whatever the hell you want with it.
The ancient Greeks developed a storytelling device that does this beautifully. They called it deus ex machina. It involves introducing a new plot development at the last minute that rescues the hero from an impossible situation. The best sort of deus ex machina will defy the internal logic of the story. This is a classic way to bring about a happy ending while simultaneously violating the trust of your readers.
What’s Your Secret?
So there you have it. These are my tried and true methods for writing a terrible fantasy novel. If you follow these techniques religiously, you’ll be able to craft a tale that rivals the quality of Battlefield Earth (film version).
Have you discovered any techniques for writing a bad novel? If so, share them with us. We can all benefit from learning new ways to suck.