Saturday, March 28, 2015

How to tell if you are in a story written by Emily Paxman

How to Tell if You are in a High Fantasy Novel
So for those of you who don't know, I love the internet. One of the things on the Internet that I love is The Toast, a website about feminism, humor and books. Particularly the stuff about books. One of the series that they post gently pokes fun at the tropes frequently employed (or over-employed) within certain genres or by certain well-known authors. Together, they show you how to tell what novel you are in

Which got me thinking about some of the tropes and themes I over-use.  It's not infrequent that someone asks me what I write about. (Note to readers: If you have the gall to call yourself a writer, people tend to expect that your writing is "about" something. Fascinating.) 

I usually bumble out a plot synopsis for one of my current projects to them. It works well enough, but it is, at best, a snapshot of what I do or have done. I have been seriously writing since I was about 15, when I clearly had the sensibilities of a 15-year-old. I have years of overblown first drafts and bizarre plot-twists to my credit. And being perfectly honest, I`m not getting any better. 

So here`s  a celebration of the tropes I over-indulge in; the scenarios that play themselves out either frequently, or in a way that strikes me as iconic. So the next time you`re wondering "what does Emily write about?" Well... I guess the answer is these things.

How to tell if you are in a story written by Emily Paxman

You are a wizard living like a hobo in the forest. It has never occurred to you to conjure a tent.

There are at least four children in your family. More likely there're about ten.

You and your nine siblings all represent a different philosophical school of morality and this causes no end of debate. The utilitarian will one day be King.

You were supposed to be a side character and so your name is ridiculous, but since the first draft, you have risen in prominence and now we're all stuck with you and your stupid name.

Once again, your father is almost dead. 

Your journey has led you to the ocean and there, you have discovered a sense of foreboding.

You are a cat and you cannot see the color red because if there's one thing this children's book about talking animals must be, it's SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE!

You are a human, living in a world of monsters, elves and Gods. But your spirit is strong and you shall stand among them as an equal, even though you lack their paltry tricks.

You are half-cat, half-human and no one likes you.

Outside your house is a herb garden. You and your nine siblings were all named after plants in it.

The herb garden is ruined! RUINED! 

 At 6 feet 2 inches, you are the "little guy" in your group of friends.

The army is in town and you wish they would leave.

Even you're not sure if you're a scientist or a magician.

The world is a place of myth, enchantment and badly translated French.

It is the Middle Ages and there is no birth control. This weighs heavily on your mind.

Your chosen profession has accepted women in its ranks for some time but to be safe, you are still disguised as a man.

You are reading a book penned by someone named "Jessop" who has nothing to do with this plot line.

It is snowing and that's terrible.

You're beginning to suspect that you live in Canada.

That guy who seemed like the plucky comic relief is, apparently, capable of destroying the world. You wish you'd known this sooner.

You have been drinking and it is time for a comic song.

You and your friends form a band of misfits with super powers and this was clearly not stolen from years of watching X-Men cartoons. 

The school dance is coming and it will involve costumes.

The Gods might be real, but if they are, they do not speak to you. You take this personally.

The Gods are real and you rather wish they would shut up.

Time-travel probably isn't possible, but it sure would explain things if it was.

Your parents have arranged for you to marry a rich, handsome lord who is kind to you, loves you, and whom you love back. You run away anyway because you are a brat.

The radio is on and the song it is playing is symbolic.

You are a dragon bent on destroying the world, but life was not always this way. You were once a humble dragon-traffic conductor, but then a motorist ran you down, turning you evil. Your name is William. You were invented by a three-year-old. And you are the start of great things.


  1. You are incredible! I love this post, and all that it stands for.

    1. The comment below is for you, love. But I am a doofus and cannot remember to reply directly to your comments.

  2. On that note, I would LOVE to see you do the same thing! Item one could be "You are a man and have misplaced your shirt for the past six months."

    1. All my characters remain fully clothed! ... Most of the time.