Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Two Types of Fantasy Novels - It's In The Language

So, I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in the theater the other day. C.S. Lewis was one of my favorite authors growing up, so of course I worried that the movie adaptations of his books would fail to do them justice. But I enjoyed the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I felt relatively safe from disappointment this time around. And I wasn't let down. The movie was thrilling, moving, and entertaining.

It got me to thinking - not so much about the pros and cons of book versions vs. movie versions (although there is a great article in Time related to that theme here) - but more about how people view different types of fantasy novels. In my mind, there are basically two types of fantasy: general interest and hard core. The Chronicles of Narnia represents my idea of "general interest". These books tend to translate better into movies. They also tend to focus on a younger audience. The hard core fantasy books cater to a generally older, more dedicated group of readers. Readers willing to spend time immersing themselves deep into the language and culture of a completely alien race.

The thing is, the hard core fantasy books can be off-putting to the general public. When done well, the elite of the fantasy reading population will rabidly consume them, but others will stay away precisely because of their world-building success. I had a conversation with my sister that helped to clarify my point (paraphrased for your convenience).

"I find it hard to read those books set in a fantasy world."
"But, you love Chronicles of Narnia."
"Yeah, but that book makes sense. I don't have to remember the name of magical powers or why the characters are afraid of sand."

This strikes me because I'm currently working on my own fantasy novel, and as I write I build this beautiful world in my mind, slinging my favorite sounds around with little regard for how the reader might interpret them. I've already invented words like Shindles, Pelinunc, midara, and chutcakes, just to name a few. To me, happily swimming in my personal world, these things couldn't make more sense. I mean, "midara" is obviously a modified contraction of "my dear," right? Right? Well, I've had people read my work, and it's not so obvious.

So here's the million dollar question: is it better to sacrifice my beautiful words so that a book will reach a wider audience, and potentially translate into other forms, such as film? Or should I keep my words and hope that the right people will appreciate them?
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