Here’s a re-post of an article by Sarah Monette that you all may find interesting:
…Tolkien is an affliction and a curse to fantasy writers. This is a horribly ungrateful thing to say, when it’s largely thanks to Tolkien that fantasy writers can exist as a sub-species today at all. … The reason for this is that, while Tolkien was a genius and a godsend to readers prepared to love secondary-world fantasy, he is a terrible model for writers. And that for a number of reasons, ranging from, on the macro level, his use of the quest plot to, on the micro level, the nature of his prose style. Imitating Tolkien – in and of itself, not a bad idea – has become mired down in slavish adherence to his product, rather than careful attention to his process.
Now, I don’t think I would go so far as to declare that Tolkien is a curse and an affliction to anybody, but still, this is an arguable position. I mean, it’s quite true that we can’t all be geniuses, or philologists, and that trying to imitate Tolkien too closely is perhaps not the best way to write your own story. But I don’t think it’s quite as true, as Monette asserts, that the quest-plot has been done to death. It is so broad; I’m not sure it’s possible to overdo it. And I say this as a reader who enjoys quiet slice-of-life stories as well as quest stories. And of course it’s quite true that Monette’s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR is not a quest story, and I can see how the feeling that all fantasy novels should involve a central quest might have slowed down her ability to conceptualize that story.
I must add: if THE GOBLIN EMPEROR goes on to inspire new writers to try that kind of story instead then great!
What one word would you choose to describe a story like THE GOBLIN EMPEROR? Not a quest story but a ???? Self-discovery novel? That sounds dreadfully literary and boring. But then, what? Any ideas?
Anyway, the whole post is worth a read if you have a minute.