I grew up reading fantasy. Beginning with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain and leading to David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon as well as Tolkein and Bruce Coville and Robert Jordan (with some Terry Goodkind sprinkled in for good measure), I read my way through thousands of pages, heaps of characters, and a whole lot of good and evil. I can deal with large casts, crazy magic, worlds that span continents, and random talking critters.
But I realised in the last couple days that there is a magical elixir for losing me in the first fifty pages.
Here’s the recipe.
The longer, the better. Make sure it encompasses an entire vein of philosophy, theology, or intertwined history.
Better yet, throw in another language.
If you really want to give it some punch, pepper every sentence with things the reader will glean from the book itself after a thousand pages or so, just so that someday they’ll go back to it with WTF tattooed on their foreheads.
Who cares if your book starts in 2005 on a college campus! Make sure your entire cast sounds like Winston Churchill in 1942. Or better yet, go back to the 1800s and stick those word in their mouths. Can not you comprehend what I am saying to you? Even if no one has spoken like that ever, well. That’s almost better.
And if you are making your own world, fill it with odd localisms that none of us will understand.
Forget that rule about large casts and introducing them slowly. Throw ’em all in! Preferably within a page or two. Then switch back and forth between referring to them by their first or last names at random intervals, so the readers have to remember twice the number of appellations.
Make sure you dump in another batch or two before you hit the 50 page mark. For spice.
Oh, you didn’t see the murgendurfer lurking outside the window. *Pointed look at other knowing character* Carry on, then.
Pepper dialogue with stutter-stops so that the twelve protagonists have no idea what’s happening and the reader thinks you’re doing some sort of verbal pantomime. Throw in knowing looks and long stares where appropriate.
Which is everywhere.
With any luck, by this point the reader won’t know bugger all about the character. Make sure you lose him or her and make a big deal out of it being his or her fault.
Make sure the reader knows someone’s missing.
This works best if they have no idea its coming, and better yet if they make no issue of it whatsoever and accept it without question.
“Sweet, I’m a mage-fighting slug monkey?” *Slimes nearby mage with anti-mage slug slime*
If you follow these simple, step by step instructions, you should be on your way to writing the world’s most confusing fantasy novel. And you’ll do away with pesky things like “readers” who seek to refine your rebel ways into something coherent.
What variations on this recipe have you discovered in your journey? Magical McGuffins that mutate to stay relevant? Plotlines that put the ex in deus ex machina? Share in the comments!
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