My Checklist for Awesome Fantasy Stories

Knight vs. giant mole? Works for me. Not quite China Mieville, but I’ll allow it!

 I recently have been reading more and more outside the fantasy genre, but that doesn’t mean I suddenly hate fantasy stories. I’m just finding it a little more difficult to find the kind of fantasy I specifically want to read. I have my old favorites like Robert E. Howard, George R.R. Martin, Fritz Lieber, etc. but I also have relatively new fantasists like Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, China Mieville, and Andrzej Sapkowski who I really like. For me, any old fantasy just doesn’t cut it anymore. So below I have a checklist for what attracts me to fantasy stories (fantasy writers take note, I could be a potential buyer!)

1. Weird and/or very different main characters: I’ve gotten sort of burned out on the typical fantasy leads. Not that I don’t want to see knights, thieves, burgeoning wizards, etc. they just need to be pretty out there. One reason I like China Mieville so much is that his fantasy doesn’t tend to follow a typical lead character. I hope to find more fantasy that has characters I can’t find in any other novel. I know that’s near impossible, but for me close IS a cigar.

2. Monsters and beasts of all kinds: Since there has been this kind of shift towards more reality based fantasy, I’ve noticed that there aren’t as many monsters as I’d like in some books. Again, whatever floats your boat, but I like monsters in my stories. They don’t even have dragons, goblins, or the like. The weirder and more frightening, the better.

3. An eclectic cast: I tend not to want to read stories where the cast of characters can be interchangeable. Sure, if all the characters are wizards, soldiers, whatever that’s fine with me, but I need some distinctive personality, different ways of talking, and memorable quirks.

4. Preferably not a quest, but if it is, a different kind of quest: I’ve read tons of fantasy books with quests and I like many of them. If a quest is present, I just hope it’s not to rescue a princess or retrieve some magic gem or something. My current WIP involves seeking out a sword, but that’s not necessarily the main goal. I hope that the quest in my story attracts readers because it feels different in some way.

5. Perks my ears: Certain concepts or story ideas just perk my ears. That doesn’t mean I’ll be hooked instantly, but upon reading the sample of Railsea by China Mieville, I was really blown away (still on my TBR list). Chuck Wendig’s “cornpunk” series has gotten my interest as well as Kameron Hurley’s hard to describe style. I hope to see more people writing fantasy with elements of the weird, experimenting with different kinds of characters, worlds, and plots. That’s what I’m looking for.

So what are some things that get you excited about a fantasy story? Share in the comments below! And if you have a suitably weird novel that you think I may be interested in, don’t be afraid to share as well.