Have I mentioned that I hate moving? I have an intense, visceral dislike for uprooting myself and flouncing across the country, dragging all my earthly possessions in a metal box on wheels. Given my military background – and growing up while my father was in the same profession – I count twenty-one moves in my history.
And I have another one coming up this summer. Blarg.
Naturally, current conversation with the missus involves the best way to go about this: finding a residence, whether to do it ourselves or let the movers do it, etc, etc. And as usual, this got me thinking, which is dangerous to all concerned ….
Fantasy novels usually involve a lot of travel. Short stories, not always. But the novel-length stories always seem to involve journeys of great distance. Whether it is across a continent to recover a mysterious object or a dimensional hop to strange new lands, there is always that long journey. So, what’s up with that?
Well, it’s a plot device. Get the character off their duff and out into the world. Unfortunately, it often comes across as just that: a convenient necessity for the storyline. How many fantasy plots can be broken down to:
a) Object X or person Y has been stolen/kidnapped and the heroes must recover them.
b) The Maximum Doom Lord is up to no good and the heroes must journey to his Fortress of Cliches to defeat him.
c) Wise Old Hermit / Oracle / Ruined Temple has the knowledge necessary for the heroes to overcome their main obstacle back in the main world.
d) There is no reason for the hero to leave home but the story can’t proceed without him/her, so their village is torched, or their father turns them out, or they have to flee from trouble, or they fall into a dimensional gateway and such a reason is never again brought up once the protagonist is on the go.
Most of them, I think. I’m guilty of these tropes as well, but come on, collective fantasy writersphere … can we have a fantasy novel without much travel? I am giving such an idea an attempt right now: entire plot takes place within the confines of a city, with minimal travel outside the city (there is some dimension-hopping but it is as much mental as physical). Damn, there I go again, giving away plot ideas.
I know there are a few out there with restricted travel, such as the Harry Potter books. There are some spec fiction works like The Long Walk (this novel is so good it actually crushes and inspires me at the same time) and The Road, where the journey isn’t a plot device but is the plot. I appreciate that. But how about something not set on Earth? Any suggestions? I’d like to see how the plot holds up for such a novel, without the universal joint of the "Long Journey" to keep it together.