Four Traits That Make Fantasy Attractive (and coincidentally make your potential mate attractive)

How is a fantasy novel like a relationship, you ask? Well, you’re in luck! Below you’ll find four traits of fantasy novels that also happen to be preferable personality/character traits of a potential partner. When next you find yourself fishing in the sea of singles, keep these four traits in mind.

1. Strong, independent characters:

A fantasy novel just isn’t a fantasy novel without a strong, independent (often lead) character. No matter whether the character is male or female, no reader can honestly adore a character who lacks the determination to do whatever must be done to complete the quest ahead.

— And so it is the same with a potential mate. Strength enough to overcome any obstacles and the independent nature of a self-sufficient citizen are preferable (if not absolutely necessary) traits when searching for a mate.

Image from http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Pat-Conroy-fantasy-Meetville-Quotes-181540.jpg
Image from http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Pat-Conroy-fantasy-Meetville-Quotes-181540.jpg

2. Plausible and coherent back-story:

Many fantasy novels utilize the prologue as a way to set up one-hundred years of the way things were using only a few pages. While the prologue has both friends and enemies, the most important thing is to ensure consistency and plausibility. Make the readers believe the past and the present.

— And so it is the same with a potential mate. If the history seems fishy or has bigger plot holes than an amateur’s rough draft, take heed. Not everyone is okay with a ten-year gap in action (especially if a prison sentence could have completed this particular puzzle).

Image from http://www.officialpsds.com/images/stocks/Inside-A-Jail-Cell-stock1961-large.png
Image from http://www.officialpsds.com/images/stocks/Inside-A-Jail-Cell-stock1961-large.png

3. Hope for a better future:

Fantasy novels utilizing quest plots usually also contain a villain (whether environmental or actual makes no difference). The basic idea is to defeat said villain and complete said quest to gain whatever prize awaits. The better fantasy novels give the characters and readers hope for the future and follow through with a satisfactory conclusion.

— And so it is with a potential mate. It is far better to choose a partner who not only gives hope for a better future, but is able to utilize other star qualities to ensure that a better future is an attainable and worthwhile goal. Constant doom and gloom is sure to be a relationship killer.

Image from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_k_uZrx7p3sM/TOu-G_taNDI/AAAAAAAAAM0/BMQPhVe7Y_Q/s1600/hope.jpg
Image from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_k_uZrx7p3sM/TOu-G_taNDI/AAAAAAAAAM0/BMQPhVe7Y_Q/s1600/hope.jpg

4. Action that advances the plot:

What good is action to any storyline if it doesn’t advance the plot? The best fantasy utilizes action not only to advance the plot, but to build the characters’ relationships which, in turn, can also lead to plot advancement. Let the readers cheer for the characters and their actions.

— And so it is with a potential mate. What good is any action that doesn’t bring enjoyment? Life is what we make it, so use every available moment to do things that make you and your partner happy. The plot (aka: Life) will be all the better because of it, and the bond can only strengthen over time.

Image from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/images/i/000/004/144/i02/action.jpg?1373970864
Image from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/images/i/000/004/144/i02/action.jpg?1373970864

These traits are only the tip of the iceberg. What other traits of your favorite fantasy novels are also traits you would prefer to discover when searching for the one? Come on, now. Don’t be shy.

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Sentient Animals in Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years

Image of the Cowardly Lion from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm897221632/tt0032138?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_30
Image of the Cowardly Lion from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm897221632/tt0032138?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_30

For those of you who have yet to discover Gregory Maguire’s adaptation of and expansion upon L. Frank Baum’s classic world of Oz,  I invite you to explore The Wicked Years  series.

In today’s post I’d like to explore the use of sentient creatures (called Animals in this series) and the possible connotations associated with this character set. I find it interesting that the differentiation between sentient and non-sentient beings in Maguire’s world begins with the simple addition of a capital letter (animals vs. Animals), but expands farther than that.

In The Wicked Years novels, sentient Animals have the same basic capabilities as humans, meaning they have the capacity for speech and coherent thought, they have the ability to walk upright, and they also possess the moral obligation to clothe themselves. However intelligent these Animals are, they are still hindered by the handicaps of their physicality. Brrr, the Lion from A Lion Among Men, for instance, is described as having difficulty with handwriting due to his paws. Yet, not only can he write, but he is employed (using this word loosely) as a court reporter/investigator. Despite his intellect and the fact that he overcomes his physical “handicaps,” Brrr, like other sentient Animals, is still treated as a lesser species. In fact, one of the main social tensions plowing through The Wicked Years novels is the battle for equality: people and beings viewed as less than equal against those in power who attempt to impose their ideas on the whole of Oz.

Cover image from http://www.amanforallseasons.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/a-lion-among-men-gregory-maguire-book-cover-art.jpg
Cover image from http://www.amanforallseasons.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/a-lion-among-men-gregory-maguire-book-cover-art.jpg

Sound familiar? It should, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few hundred years. In an ever-evolving world, the only constant thread binding generation to generation is the battle for equality— that Us vs. Them mentality.

Not only are the Animals treated as less than human, they are too human for the animal world. Maguire’s series hosts Animals who have retreated into the wilderness to live among animals that look like them, but have nowhere near the capacities they have. A creature who is too intelligent for one group, yet dismissed as unworthy by another group? Well, that should sound familiar, too. I expect that each of us has experienced some feeling similar to this in our lives, some more harshly than others, I’m sure.

Now, I don’t ascribe to overt political notions, but I can safely opine that of all the canonical, classic literature I’ve ever dealt with, most harbor a thematic notion (however vague it may be) of equality or social justice. This construct is the common denominator in the hopelessly obtuse equation of our past, present, and future. Regardless of the “side” you would choose or have chosen in your own battles for equality, a hint of understanding and empathy can be lent to the characters in Maguire’s series.

Whether you are a fantasy junkie or not, check out The Wicked Years series. And if you aren’t sure about it, I know of a certain green-faced character who may be able to change your mind.

Let’s deepen the discussion. Tell me your thoughts on the parallels between Maguire’s Oz and what we know as reality. For instance, what other parallels can be drawn between Animals and their struggles and our reality? Also, how do you feel about the theme of social justice in literature? Do you think that it anchors a novel (or series of novels) in the reader’s mind?  If so, how?

Nerdy is the New Cool

Image from http://contently.com/strategist/2014/05/02/will-the-gfy-kill-the-gif/
Image from http://contently.com/strategist/2014/05/02/will-the-gfy-kill-the-gif/

Once upon a time there existed a magical place called The Internet where nerds in all their suspender-wearing, taped-glasses sporting glory could nestle away in the basement of their parents’ homes to build massive fantasy worlds with other certified members of the Pocket-Protector Club. The expansion of this increasingly social highway brought nerds out in flocks and, suddenly, the high-waisted shuffle morphed into a sort of tribal rain dance that dared the world to bare the inner geek. And it worked. Gone are the days of being too cool to be smart.

While some stigma may cling to the nerd world, any derogatory stereotype is fading faster than the prom queen’s bottle blonde. Social outlets like Facebook and its predecessors aid in the rapid growth of the nerd army. Wielding comics and colored pencils, swords and spell cards, the formerly oppressed is rising into a place of honor, the long-awaited, shimmering tree-topper of cool. If you don’t believe me, look around. Fan-girls and fan-boys proudly proclaim their obsession with all things nerdy. You collect comics? Awesome. Did you see the season finale of Game of Thrones? Of course! Were you at the block party this weekend? *Queue scratched record track* Um…no. I was reading/gaming/imagining the nest scenario for my Warrior Elf to battle the Troll King.

Image from https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/3473072896/h4A887E58/
Image from https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/3473072896/h4A887E58/

Being a nerd is gaining popularity. This is fantastic news for long-time nerds, but does it also present a problem? Is it a bittersweet rise to fame escalated by shows like Big Bang Theory? Are more people claiming nerd status simply because it has become more socially acceptable to do so? Does that alter your own outlook on the characters and worlds you’ve loved forever?

Talk to me. Tell me what you think about the nerd epidemic (if it can be viewed as such).