Monday, March 17, 2014

And some things that should not have been forgotten

I love books.  Not all books, but a good many.  Of those I like, my favorites are usually from a specie of fiction we now refer to as epic fantasy.  I hadn't really thought about the lineage of epic fantasy until by chance I came upon a rather interesting article by Tom Simon that briefly touches upon the subject.

I started looking for more information on heroic fantasy and romantic fiction (romanticism, not works belonging to the romance genre).  An hour or so later I emerged from my google induced rabbit hole.  It appears epic fantasy belonged, not long ago, to a genre called heroic fantasy.  Heroic fantasy itself had previously branched out from romantic fiction. 

Fascinating stuff if you ever care to start into your own virtual rabbit hole on the subject.  For me, the romantic hero is still the taproot of the entire epic fantasy genre. Most (perhaps all?) of the epic novels I read attempt to put a new gloss on the romantic hero.

Returning to Tom Simon, his article incorporates Mark Twain's Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper, in which Twain lists 18 rules governing the art of of romantic fiction (Twain says there are 19 rules, but is of the opinion that Cooper only violated 18 of them and does not say what the other rule is).

I am not generally a fan of rules, but I think these are general enough to be helpful without being harmful.  If that makes sense.  They seem like good rules of thumb to keep in the back of your mind when editing. 

Twain's rules:

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausably set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

12. The author shall say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. The author shall use the right word, not its second cousin.

14.The author shall eschew surplusage.

15. The author shall not omit necessary details.

16. The author shall avoid slovenliness of form.

17. The author shall use good grammar.

18. The author shall employ a simple, straightforward style.

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