Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday Thoughts

Continuing my counterpoints to a list of fantasy clichés in an article published on the Urban Fantasy Writers' blog, the next one is:

2. Learning to fight.

He calls it the "Galahad" gambit. Gambit means ploy or scheme, so that's the first thing to raise my eyebrows. He calls all these clichés gambits, by the way. I don't know that I've ever read an urban fantasy with a scene showing the main character learning how to fight. The article says the character receives "secret" training and beats his seasoned opponent in a first fight. This sounds like epic fantasy to me. Maybe 25 years ago I remember reading something like this in Terry Brooks' first Shannara book. I have noticed this "gambit" (such an odd choice of words) in some old B movies from the 70s and 80s.

So if this was done a lot in the past, is it cliché? Probably, but as the blog that published the article is called Urban Fantasy Writers, I'm not sure how it relates to the modern urban tale. I read a lot of UF and haven't seen this once, not to say that it's not in the books I haven't read. I will say that the young hero who's never held a sword suddenly hurling the blade with practiced ease would be unbelievable, but that's more a sign of bad writing than a cliché.

Maybe the real cliché here is the hero who's an excellent fighter. I could buy that. The learning to fight thing doesn't work for me because I think it's old-fashioned and rare in modern fiction. But the hero who's the best at everything is definitely cliché. It's refreshing when the MC fails, and then makes up for it with an unexpected skill. Cliché's are predictable.

In Knight's Curse, Chalice is an expert Visayan knife fighter, but I never show her learning the craft. It's backstory. But her knives are more weapons of security than killing tools. She's not a fighter. She's a defender.

Do you know of any modern urban fantasies that feature the young MC learning how to fight? Is it really a cliché?

1 comment:

Just_Me said...

I know of several books that have taining scenes. I think Poison Study comes to mind first. The training was done well there. It advanced the plot and fit well.

In Alanna (YA- I forget the author) the training scenes are the first book. She's training to become a knight.

The King's Daggers series by the same person who writes the King's Blades had training.

I think it can work. But only if it's part of normal life and you aren't stopping the story to show the training. If the activity doesn't move the plot forward it's not any good.

As for my own writing, no, I don't show training. My characters come fully trained or the get on-the-job experience. I do have a book planned where there are training scenes, but the book isn't about the training, it's just a side affect of the characters being in a police academy.