I always have to qualify this statement. "I don't like fantasy...except for Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Mr. Schwabauer's Runt books."
Considering how much I love all of those, especially Narnia, my ludicrous statement of fantasy un-like because less convincing. So, the real title of this post should be Why I Don't Actively Read Fantasy.
Warning: For a bit here I may seem to be bashing you--the fantasy writer. I'm a 12th century historical fiction writer soured by three years of amateur fantasy, and I've become highly sarcastic. Please don't take me wrong. I hold you in the highest respect. You're a writer, after all! You work just as hard as I do. Here's a post for me to vent and ask for something very simple to understand, lots harder to apply--but really, it's something all writers should do.
My main objection can be summed up in one word - Gimmicks.
Novels of the fantasy genre tend to get caught up in the "cool" aspect of their genre. The gimmicks. For example, it's popular among many amateur writers I know to use Tolkien-esque elves of some kind. Then, of course, you probably end up with dwarves of some kind, shapeshifters, vampires, fairies (oh, pardon me, faeries), and the insanely cool gigantic reptiles (aka dragons). Then of course there are the ever-present hybrids of two of these different amazingly cool races.
Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Hang with me for a minute. The problem is when a writer gets caught up in what she or he (and most of the rest of the world) thinks is "cool" he or she loses the group of people like me--who are reading a book for story and characters. If the main character is a 2-D half-elf half-dragon I'm not going to be impressed. Just because your races are cool and original (though I've never really seen a truly "original" fantasy race) and your world is developed doesn't mean that I'll want to keep reading.
Another aspect of these "gimmicks" is the use of magic. I don't have magicphobia, but magic annoys me. It's the cure-all. "We're dead! Oh wait, no we're not--we have magic healing potion! Hurrah!" I admit that all books don't do this, but the ones that do scare me away from reading fantasy. I almost always feel cheated when something magic comes into play.
Connected to both of those, there's also the strategy of characters who all have special powers. The power over fire, over air, over water...these also fall into the "cool" of the writer's mind. They fall flat to me. I have a hard time relating to an ever-living being (the elf-dragon, remember?) who can manipulate water. These mighty races put me off. Think about LotR. Which is the most important race? Personally, I'd say the hobbits--those short, fat, hairy-footed but hard to corrupt beings. The men know how to fight but got us in this mess in the first place. The elves are leaving. The dwarves are selfish.
There are of course exceptions to all these rules. Remember, I like LotR and Narnia just as much or more then lots of people I know.
But, as I said in Ordinary, it's the ordinary people who grab my heart and stick in my mind. Rather like those hobbits.
By no means is this post supposed to be: STOP WRITING FANTASY! Sure, I get tired of it, but if it's what you love, then go for it. I'll write historical fiction and be insanely happy and you write about dragons and be insanely happy. Deal?
Just...don't get caught up in the gimmicks. I applaud you for your ability to create worlds, languages, peoples, laws. Just remember: the story is more important. If the heart and soul of your story is solid, I'll keep reading, I promise.
Even if your heroine is an elf-dragon.
P.S. My apologies for the slightly off-topic post. It's been on my mind lately (as should be apparent by "Ordinary") and I wanted to write about it. I'll be back to Robin Hood and research shortly!