The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam: My Answers and Results


Discovered this here the other day and thought I should do it too. The list itself is from here. I’m going to answer the questions based on WISB rather than anything else I’ve written.

Here goes:
1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
No. A lot happens in the first and second chapters, all within that 25 page mark.

2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
Nope. His parents are pretty clear and he doesn’t work on a farm. He a laptop computer and likes the Interwebs.

3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
Nope. He has no throne.

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
Sort of, but not really. He never comes of age, but he does have to deal with being young and directly facing violence that he would otherwise only read about in textbooks. He doesn’t beat the bad guy in the first book, technically. He beats him, but it’s not really a defeat in the traditional sense, since the bad guy hasn’t lost his power, etc. In later books this will change, but there will be some huge shifts in certain aspects of that storyline where this won’t apply anymore.

5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
No, although there will be something like this in later books, but not nearly as cookie cutter as this question makes it sound. This artifact won’t save the world.

6. How about one that will destroy it?
Nope. Not even remotely close.

7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
No prophecies. He is kind of “the One”, but not really. People know he’s important, but he won’t become the iconic super character that saves everything by himself. He’s surrounded by a very important cast and can’t do everything on his own.

8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
Kind of, but not really. James has a spiritual guider, for lack of a better term, but there aren’t any long-winded infodumps or anything like that.

9. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
No. God no (no pun intended, or maybe I do intend the pun).

10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
No. Never in a million years.

11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
Nope. The closest thing to a king thus far was killed in a battle. It was a gruesome death, although the main character didn’t see it. No evil magician duping. He fought and he died.

12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?
Not in the sense this question means. I have a character who uses magic that forgets things, but it’s not a commonality. It’s just, well, normal forgetfulness. We all forget things.

13. How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?
Not really. Darl is a grumpy old man who hates everything, and Iliad is kind-hearted, but he’s really fast, being a scout and all.

14. How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
No. If a character doesn’t speak about something it’s because he or she legitimately doesn’t know something.

15. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
No. Laura will deal with some of that, cause she’s young and that will be some silly thing she’ll think about, but my female characters are mostly strong females. One of them is a healer who happens to be the resident mother, but also owns in a fight.

16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
Yes, kind of. Laura is kidnapped in the beginning and James goes after her kidnappers, but in the next book it changes because she becomes integral to the rest of the story. The whole story doesn’t revolve around her kidnapping.

17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
No. Not intentionally at least.

18. Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?
Not technically. Triska doesn’t have either and she isn’t a wench, but she doesn’t carry weaponry like others.

19. Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?
No. Triska isn’t a warrior. She’s a mother/healer.

20. Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?
Nope. I have one short character in the main group and he’s not dwarf-like at all.

21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?
Good lord no. Elves in my world fit more into the folkloric version–short and related to the faery.

22. Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
Nope. I don’t think I even have dwarves in my world.

23. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
Nope. Pea may be hilarious, but he’s not there entirely for that. He’s my fun character, sure, but he’s also really important because he happens to be the first character James befriends in Traea and the one character who really looks after him, other than Triska.

24. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
Nope. My ships are used for trade, transport, etc.

25. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
I don’t know, so yes. I’m assuming this question means the ones we use now and I am aware that those didn’t exist in 1100 AD or some such. Doesn’t really matter because my world isn’t this world.

26. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?
There were some places that sounded kind of like that, but nothing that stupid.

27. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?
No. I hate prologues.

28. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
Probably a quartet, to be honest.

29. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
Nope. I said quartet.

30. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
Nope. It’s not too bad in size.

31. Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you’re still many sequels away from finishing your “story”?
Nope, a lot happened in WISB, which is the first book, and a lot will happen in SOD too.

32. Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
No. I hate prequels.

33. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?

34. Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
Good lord no. I got a lot of ideas from role-playing, but not enough for a good story.

35. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
Yes. Damn.

36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
I don’t remember, to be honest. I don’t think so.

37. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
Yes, unfortunately. But this is a stupid question because Jeremiah has more than three and that’s not exactly an uncommon name or anything.

38. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named “Tim Umber” and “Belthusalanthalus al’Grinsok”?
No, I see plenty wrong with it.

39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
Not in the manner this question is implying. My elves are not important to the story, they aren’t hiding in the trees or anything like that, etc. They’re just short folkloric critters.

40. How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?
What the hell are those?

41. Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?

42. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
No. No such thing in my world.

43. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
Nope. That’s stupid.

44. Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?

45. Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
Nope. I’ll never do that. They have horrible contracts and the writing they publish isn’t exactly great.

46. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
I don’t even think there are inns in my book.

47. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?
I have a general idea how it worked and I’m smart enough to look up things that I don’t know anything about thank you.

48. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
This is an unfair question since anyone going anywhere in a medieval-like fantasy world would have to travel an inordinate amount of time anyway…

49. Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?

50. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?
Not technically, no. There’s fire, but the character who uses it didn’t create it.

51. Do you ever use the term “mana” in your novel?
No. That is too stupid.

52. Do you ever use the term “plate mail” in your novel?
Nope. Not once.

53. Heaven help you, do you ever use the term “hit points” in your novel?
Who the hell would do this? That’s just idiotic.

54. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
It’s not that heavy unless in large quantities. So, I know how much it weighs, just not as a number.

55. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
No. I’m not stupid. I believe super horses can.

56. Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
No. Nothing of the sort. That’s dumb.

57. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
Oh good lord. People actually do this?

58. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
No, because my novel isn’t influenced by that part of the world…

59. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
Not to my knowledge.

60. Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more?
No. They don’t weigh that much. I know, cause I’ve actually held a real sword. They’re heavy, but not too heavy to swing.

61. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
No. I don’t think there will be a love story in my novel.

62. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
I don’t think so. Wait…no. I don’t think any of my humor involves puns.

63. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
Nope. My hero gets beat up a lot.

64. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
No. I think that it takes more than one arrow to kill a man if that arrow doesn’t hit him straight in the chest and glances off. Kidding of course.

65. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?
No, I realize it, but don’t you all realize that you don’t have to have a good stew when you’re on the road? I mean, seriously. You can boil up potatoes and meat, throw some dirt in there and it would be fine.

66. Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?

67. Do you think that “mead” is just a fancy name for “beer”?
No. Mead is different than beer. Honey mead for example…made using honey.

68. Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
No. My races spread out over a lot of different areas.

69. Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves’ guild?
Good lord, no.

70. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
No. My main villain is smart.

71. Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?
No…all my characters are useful to the group.

72. Is “common” the official language of your world?
No. There are multiple languages, but all my characters speak English. It’s just too difficult to have everyone speaking different languages.

73. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
Nope. No ancient magical loot.

74. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
Nope. No LOTR in WISB.

75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
No, dangit. It’s not.

Well, there we go. Technically I’ve failed, but you know what? I don’t care. This list is silly anyway.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

4 thoughts on “The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam: My Answers and Results

  1. I also found that list pretty silly. Most of it can be summed up into three questions: Are you Robert Jordan? Are you ripping off Tolkien? Are you stupid?

    And to all three, I say no.

    Maybe a fourth question being: do you write novels like flawed RPG games?

    No again.

    I have super horses.


  2. True, Nick, and I agree that you can still use cliches and make them feel fresh and new. Karen Miller did this for me in her Innocent Mage/Awakened Mage duology, which had a very “typical” plot, but made the characters incredibly well drawn, so much so that you were just pulled in. It was refreshing.

    And I agree with you too, Carr. :P.

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