Guest post by a friend, Perry, who is not only an excellent writer, but also a shrewd reader. I feel this way about epic fantasies myself from time to time and although I don’t generally post negative reviews on my blog, I consider this an open letter to anyone considering writing an epic fantasy.
Don’t be that guy.
Dear Mr. Orullian,
I’ve recently attempted to read your novel, The Unremembered and ended up wanting to chuck the damned thing across the room and likely would have had it not been stored on my Kindle.
Don’t think I wasn’t sorely tempted, though.
I may not be a big, published author and I consider myself a complete amateur when it comes to writing stories, but I would like to share a few thoughts with you, if I may.
There’s a line between an homage and plagiarism. Truth be told, it’s not even a very thin line. Actually, it’s not really a line at all. It’s more like a chasm with a couple bridges and maybe one narrow pathway down into the chasm and back up the other side.
I am aware that you’ve stated in interviews that you yourself are aware of the fact that your story is overladen with tropes and archetypes but this goes quite a ways beyond that.
It’s one thing to use the same archetypes and tropes that another author has, to tell your story. It’s another thing altogether to break into their house and jack their storyboard for your own nefarious purposes.
If you were to take Eye of the World by Robert Jordan and change the names of the characters, locations and creatures, you’d end up with a story that’s almost exactly (but not quite) The Unremembered.
You come across as a writer that’s so excited by the world you’ve built that they just HAVE to share it with us. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in general, really. If the writer is passionate about sharing what they’ve created, then they imbue their work with that same passion and that love gets communicated to the reader.
The problem is when you want to share it so damned much that you turn into one of those clingy and overly attached girlfriends that wants to know where we are and who we’re with and what we’re doing all day, every day. Almost every single question asked in the novel seems to be taken as an excuse to vomit up five or six paragraphs about the history of the world or a certain group of people.
A little bit here and there, served up as snippets is good. It gives me a taste of the world and leaves me wanting more and so, I’ll continue to read. Start forcing it down my throat with a shovel and we’re going to have problems. It has the secondary effect of absolutely murdering the pacing, especially in a long novel such as this one. It’s REALLY hard to impart that sense of urgency when your characters take a break every three or four pages to talk about how this kingdom fell to ruin or how that order of such and so got started.
If you want me to care about your characters, don’t have them acting like idiots. The two main characters ‘unwind’ after every life-threatening situation by wrestling/playing with one another and calling each other names. Did I mention that they take every opportunity to tease each other about the women they each have a respective crush on?
Do you know who DOESN’T act like that? People who were almost killed. People who’s entire worlds have been turned on its head. People whose only sister (or love interest in the case of the best friend) hadn’t been raped and given birth to a stillborn child that the monsters stole away for some unknown reason.
This is getting long and rambly, so I’ll bring up one last point and leave it be.
When I’m reading this book, I know that it’s a fantasy novel. I’m well aware that the world I’m being shown here is one that’s made up for the purposes of the story. Subjecting the reader to your arcane jargon for no other reason than to try press upon them that this is your created world is an exercise in literary torture to a reader and completely unnecessary.
So your inexplicable use of the word ‘melura’ to describe a youth under a certain age and that other word (that I can’t remember) to describe someone over that age as well as ‘anais’ for lady, ‘endfast’ for breakfast, ‘cullough’ for pack and countless other offences were very unappreciated.
You know what bothered me even worse than that though? When you started using known words in the place of other words for no goddamned reason.
I get that you’re trying to impart that rustic, wheat-stuck-in-the-hair villager here but seriously? Using the word ‘skies’ in place of days (“if I never live to see another sky…”) or ‘earth’ in place of grave (“I feel like someone just walked over my earth back there…”), along with (again) countless other examples was just baffling, especially when you used those replaced words in other places, indicating that you AND the characters both know that those words exist and exactly what they mean.
I know that this was only the first book of a planned trilogy and, despite my trauma, I am not averse to the idea of giving your books a second chance so please, fix your shit.
An unsatisfied reader,
PS: ‘Tobaccom’ for tobacco and ‘kaffee’ for coffee? Really? REALLY?