Mere Inkling has an entertaining post on The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam and the heroic and tragic death of Boromir son of Denethor son of Ecthelion from Lord of the Rings.

More than likely, no one will be interested in this, but I am and therefore I shall post it. Also, my promised posts on Dwarves are not ready yet, so this will have to do.

I took the exam twice. Once for the first “high fantasy” story I ever started (at the age of 12 and still ongoing for my own enjoyment) and my current work in progress which, if I can finish, I will try to publish some day. The first set of answers are in red, and the second in blue. There are places where I can tell I have progressed. Overall, though, I do not see a huge difference in the answers.

I can tell a difference between the stories.  I’ve learned lessons about plot, clichés, characterization and prose. I find it interesting, and a little discouraging, that I have not changed much in essentials, though.

I guess there is no merit in change for change’s sake, and as I am not dissatisfied with my answers, I will try not to worry about it.

  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
    no.  no.
  2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
    Mysterious parentage, yes, farmhand? NoNope.
  3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
    Not a throne, but a strategic military position.  Nope.
  4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
    He’s not that supreme, really…    hmm… tricky question. Loosely?
  5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
    13 artifacts, actually. What can I say, I have attention-deficit issues.  Nope.
  6. How about one that will destroy it?
    Nope.  Nope.
  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 here.  There’s a prophecy tangled up in all of it, but not one of that kind. 
  8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
    Not sole purpose, but… yeah.  Not that I know of. I need to watch out for that, though.
  9. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
    Not a god, but a dragon. Er… dragons.  Nope.
  10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
    Ugh… No, No and NO!  It would be a little weird for a female to be someone’s father… And no, she’s not her mother, either.
  11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
    There is no “king of the world” but the Hastaren Emperor is a puppet…  Nope.
  12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?
    No, indeed. My wizard is quite present, thank you. Nope.
  13. How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?
    Securen insists that he is not slow. I have to agree, though Millace is giving us a wry look. Nope.
  14. How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
    Erhm… yes.  Nope.
  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?
    Nope. Nope.
  16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
    No! Grr.  Possibly one, but I am working on her.
  17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
    No.  No. That would be self-defeating.
  18. Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?
    No. Nope.
  19. Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?
    Does a distant tertiary character count? If so, then yes. World domination for the win!  One that comes to mind. Both her and the character mentioned above are of the same people-group.  None of their people are very into frying pans. Hmm…
  20. Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?
    Nope.  No.
  21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?
    No. No.
  22. Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
    No. No.
  23. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
    NO! NO!
  24. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
    What are ships?  Oh, I wish!
  25. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
    I do not, but it’s moot.
  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”?
    What are place-names? How about Fort Landham or Blackhorse Cove? I’d love to use “Shake-rag Hollow,” but as it’s a real place, I resist.  
  27. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?
    I wrote one, but I don’t consider it part of the book.  Not a prologue, exactly, but a beginning chapter that is a little disconnected from the next couple. About three short chapters in the pieces make sense. Hopefully.
  28. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
    I have no idea. Do you? I hope not.
  29. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
    Meh? I dunno… ask me later.
  30. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
    It will be. Oh, it will be.  It might be…
  31. Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you’re still many sequels away from finishing your “story”?
    That would require knowing where the breaks in the story should be, but probably. Let’s just say “I hope not.”
  32. Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
    No. I’m simultaneously writing two books that are about some of the same characters only with a 10-year time difference. If that counts as writing a prequel, then yes.
  33. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?
    Who is Robert Jordan? (oh, those were the blissful years!) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.
  34. Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
    My brother still won’t let me play. Nope.
  35. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
    Not exactly.  Nope.
  36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
    No. No.
  37. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
    Dandelion.  If you count “Necromancer,” then yes, but he prefers “Master.” I swear it’s not my fault; he refuses to tell me his name…
  38. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named “Tim Umber” and “Belthusalanthalus al’Grinsok”?
    Someone needs a lesson in linguistics.  Hehehehehe! Ahem… extenuating circumstances aside, it looks pretty weird to me.
  39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
    Yes, yes, yes and no.  Do dead ones count?  If so then possibly, yes, yes and no.
  40. How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?
    Uhhhh , what?   I love the word “dwerrows.” Just sayin.
  41. Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?
    No. Nope.
  42. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
    Oh, I hope so, but not yet.  No shortcuts. Some of them practically live there. So I am Moria-obsessed. Sue me. ;)
  43. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
    Battle-scenes are haaaaaard! And my brother still won’t let me join his RPG. No, I whimper to my friend to tell me what I am doing wrong. Unfortunately Grad-school has her in its grips, so I am all alooooooone!
  44. Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?
    I’ve tried to steal my brother’s manuals. So far, I’ve only nabbed the monster compendium. Ooo! Displacer beasts! Um, no, but that’s an interesting thought. Where’s my GURPS manual…
  45. Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
    What is that?  Heh, no.
  46. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
    Um… yes.  Sadly, no.
  47. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?
    Probably…  Who does know? Honestly? I’m not sure the feudal societies knew.  The society in my writing at present isn’t feudal. Problem solved? Yes. More problems created? Oh my heavens, you have no idea!
  48. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
    How about all the time? Literally. What else is there?  I’m trying to avoid that.
  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?
    Erm. Yes. One of them could tell the others oodles of stuff, but they are on opposing sides, so… I guess “just so it won’t break the plot” doesn’t apply.
  50. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?
    Does it count if a dragon does it? If “dire necromantic spells” fit into this category, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.
  51. Do you ever use the term “mana” in your novel?
    Yes. Nope.
  52. Do you ever use the term “plate mail” in your novel?
    No. Why?  Uh, no. Plate armor isn’t a factor, though. It’s not very practical in subtropical rainforests or damp caverns… or foothills, mountains, forests… need I go on?
  53. Heaven help you, do you ever use the term “hit points” in your novel?
    Uh, no.  Hahahahaahahahahahahaahahaahahahahahahahahahah *dies*
  54. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
    It’s heavy, right? Oh yes.
  55. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
    Nope. Nope. The problem is calculating their endurance over rough terrain… help? Please?
  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?
    *Rolls eyes* no. Ah… no, nope, no and no.
  57. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
    Nope. One has a halberd that stands on its own. Does that count?
  58. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
    Scimitar! I have a scimitar! Well, it’s just a cheap imitation, but still! I haven’t seen any scimitars in-story so far. Is stabbing people with scimitars a stock-fantasy thing? Aren’t they more for slashing, anyway? And yes, I still have that cheap-imitation scimitar. It hangs above the headboard of my bed.
  59. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
    No, that’s ridiculous. Wow. Um, no, but I can think of two characters who probably could.
  60. Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more? [info]
    Some do, some don’t. Depends on the kind of sword, no? There aren’t many swords in this story anyway. Let’s talk crossbows.
  61. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
    My “hero” is a heroine, and no. Well, of the triumvirate, the main one is a heterosexual female, so “no,” for her. For the other two, it depends on your definition of “unattainable,” but I am going to venture “no.”   
  62. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
    Ugh, no.  Still no!  
  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?
    She is the small woman with a dagger, and she wouldn’t withstand a sledgehammer or a stabbing.  Sledgehammer would definitely do her in, but a small woman with a dagger could, as well. Still, I wouldn’t want to try her in a fight.
  64. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
    No. Nope.
  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… excuse me, I need to do some editing. I cook now, so yep.
  66. Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?
    Nope.  Sadly, no.
  67. Do you think that “mead” is just a fancy name for “beer”?
    It’s made from honey, right? Beer is not. No! The horror!
  68. Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
    No, save in one instance. No, save for that one instance. It is still around, but there’s a good reason for it.
  69. Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves’ guild?
    Not so organized, really. *shifty look* what thieves’ guild?
  70. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
    I haven’t seen him do it, but I wouldn’t put it past him. There are two. Of one, I would say: not when he’s lucid…  of the other, no.
  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?
    A bard? What? OOTS! Um, I mean, “nope.”
  72. Is “common” the official language of your world?
    Nope, I have invented an inanimate version of a babelfish! Hahahahah! Wouldn’t that be convenient?
  73. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
    That depends on which countryside. That no one thought to loot? No. That no one dared to loot? Let’s just say that only one person, in the course of the story, will even try.
  74. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
    Um… little bits, but overall no. Nope. I love Tolkien too much for that.  
  75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
    No dark overlord, no band of stalwart companions on a mission to save the world, no war for all the free-peoples of Arda. I think we’re safe.   It’s good not to be hasty. *re-checks the calculations* Nope, still not Faux Tolkien.

About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

16 responses to “Progress?

  • robstroud

    Delightful. Particularly nice to see the differences between many of your then and now responses.

    “And yes, I still have that cheap-imitation scimitar. It hangs above the headboard of my bed.”

    > Sounds a mite dangerous to me…

    • jubilare

      It was interesting to me to see the differences and the similarities. Thank you for putting me on to this. Some of the questions got some useful thoughts running through my sluggish brain.

      Nah. :)

  • emilykazakh

    13. “How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?

    Securen insists that he is not slow. I have to agree, though Millace is giving us a wry look.”

    You have to finish this story, publish it, and let me buy it and read it for that answer alone. I’m intrigued!

    47. I don’t think the feudal system was really a system except in the stories.

    58. I was confused by the scimitar question, too. I wonder if perhaps I have not read enough fantasy novels.

    • jubilare

      Ah, Clan of the Owl isn’t intended for publication. I mean to finish it, but to publish would mean subjecting it to the editing machine. I might as well chuck my childhood into a meat-grinder. I started the story when I was 12, it took me years to even let anyone see it.
      Friends are always welcome to read it for their own enjoyment, and I have friends who not only enjoy it, but hound me to finish it. So if you want, I can send you what I have. Be forewarned, narrative-wise, it has a lot of problems, the style is bright and thick, the story is meandering… and I have no desire to “fix” it. Those who love it, myself included, seem to love it for the characters and the atmosphere.
      The stories I have started and written since are dear to me as well, but I am more willing to cut and hone them to make them better. CotO is unapologetic childhood imagination set loose. Still interested? Let me know. ;)

      Is it even in stories? It’s usually pretty vague-seeming.

      I definitely don’t read enough fantasy novels. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing for someone trying to write one.

  • palecorbie

    [battens down archaeologist urge to lecture on efficacy of feudal systems and their non-monolithic nature] tkshplub. If you publish Rosa & Kethe’s story, please use your fame to get the monks into an anthology or such, I’m sure they have a short story in them somewhere and I would be sad if next to no-one ever knew they’d existed.

    *hem* Man, this was funny. Strangely enough,RainbowChaser hits very few of these and those stretching it, despite being consciously post-Tolkienian and being, well, the sort of mess one makes at 15-16 when one mistakes clichés for How Fantasy Is Done. #61 is probably closest.

    58. got a very, very faint Temel-twitch (nothing sets him off like misuse of weapons – not only are scimitars not made for stabbing, they’re inefficient in the extreme when not on a horse/camel/tiwtiw) – d’you know how the lad is doing at all?

    re. 64: actually, if the arrows stay in death won’t necessarily be very fast, so technically you could shoot him several times after the arrow that killed him went in and he could be, well, probably squirming on the floor, because unlike Hollywood’s props dept. would like us to think, arrows hit with very similar penetrative force to bullets, which means in most cases an arrow above the centre of gravity will have one flattened out wondering what the hell happened in short order.

    …also there’s the freakish ability of the human body to, say, die from merely falling over yet survive things like a tamping iron through the head… For instance, the surviving Dalton took something like 8 bullets to the chest and lived…

    I want to see anyone who believes 67 order and drink a pint of mead.

    • jubilare

      You may lecture on feudalism all you like. You have my permission.
      If I ever become famous, which will shock me greatly, I might let CotO loose on the world. You know how much I love that crew. I feel that to submit the story to the usual harsh editing process would be to destroy a lot of what makes it… itself. I’m not willing to let that happen. As for short stories, it’s certainly possible. We shall see.

      I thought so. ^_^ Glad it amuses you too. Aw… the one who can catch rainbows.

      I’ve been thinking about Temel lately, but other than an impression of restless energy, I got nothing. Restless energy is his middle name whether he is in a good mood or a bad one.

      Yeah, the human body in general and adrenaline rushes specifically can accomplish amazing things. However, a single arrow to the chest is usually going to be fatal eventually, if not immediately. Sometimes people survive things I wouldn’t think possible, but those instances come around way too often in fiction for me not to be skeptical. Arrows are scary things. The more I learn about crossbows, too, the more fascinated I become.


      • palecorbie

        Biig topic…but as for it working or otherwise, there are many influences on the many sorts. I think the quiz was (hopefully) getting at the idea that many quasimediaeval fantasists seem to have developed: that feudalisim means abusing your own peasants. G.R.R.Martin to the rescue! Hopefully as he grows in popularity they’ll realise that no, you abuse other people’s peasants, because that causes your enemies all kinds of problems…

        Pfft, some bestsellers today have surely been edited by the wrong end of the editor if they’ve seen one at all – become famed, they’ll not touch it. Yay!

        Ellie is amused by that description. I still don’t know the name of their boy, either…

        True, that. Did Harry ever decide what to call him?

        Aye, I was just mentioning that Boromir wasn’t unrealistic in taking a while to die/was probably technically killed by the first arrow though he kept fighting, so it’d be possible to know that full well and still have a similar scene…”do you believe a man can give a dying speech with a throat wound?” might’ve been more ‘useful’. On the theme of Middle Earth, have you heard the Song of the Lonley Mountain from the new film yet? I hadn’t, but was recently passed a copy and would fain send it your way if you don’t have it.
        They are! Modern media does not appreciate this. Hollywood directors should be lined up and watch a decent longbowman shoot through a locked car at 150 paces. I’ll look out for articles in Arms and Armour for you.

        • jubilare

          Very true.

          Hhehehehehe, yeah, that too. Oy vey.


          He says “Minh” will do for now.

          Who gives a dying speech with a throat wound? Yes… yes I have. The first time I heard it, it made me cry. Yet another soundtrack to add to my collection, I expect.

          That would be… wow. *nods* thanks! I’ve found a few good sources in my library, but when it comes right down to it, I need to find someone who uses crossbows. As helpful as research is, there’s simply nothing as useful as trying something yourself to get a feel for it. I want to hear what kind of a sound different crossbows make, feel what it is like to load and fire them, etc. One could read about horses all day long, but in being around them, one picks up details that people just don’t think to write about.

          • palecorbie

            As in Goons?

            At least one amateur fantasy character I’ve read of, and I’ve encountered some unlikely-to-be-talking men in published works. Oh? It’s powerful, right enough…

            Ach, well…ask Shanra, perhaps: she’s actually in better contact with English Civil War re-enactors and the like than I…otherwise I’m only good for longbows, I’m afraid. Oh, I know…the first time I tried a greathelm was an experience in just what a plate-armoured knight can and really cannot hear/see. Still, firsthand accounts are good for details of that kind, and good old Uncle Payne-Gallway did his testing with zeal.

          • jubilare


            Unlikely to be talking, certainly. *nods* I have a deep fondness for that song only in print, and when put to a tune like that… yeah.

            I will ask her. Longbows are astounding, but they would have more limited uses in Kethe and Rosa’s homeland. I remember the first time I put on a hooded cloak and moved about in it, then walked through the rain. So many things I just hadn’t thought about, like limited visibility, how it would shed water, how to move in it.

          • palecorbie

            Min was a recurring character (an old lady) on the Goon Show.

            I think it needs more metal, myself, but then I’m spoilt.

            The natives got along all right with ’em, I’m sure, but then perhaps they had less wars/shorter tunnels. Aye!
            [meddling again] Unless he’s changed dramatically in the books I’ve not read, GRRM has never written anything that smells of gamer: he writes an alt-history War of the Roses with low (but scary) magic, (rare-rare) dragons, and a frost-zombie threat from up here as the Little Ice Age takes hold…he does use the term ‘direwolves’, but as in direwolves, not DnD. I will stop reading your other comments now. [buggers off]

          • jubilare

            Never heard of either, I’m afraid, but that’s kind of funny. Harry says Minh was the name of a friend from his past of whom Temel reminds him. It means “clever” or “bright,” apparently.

            It’s never struck me as a martial song, so the sad remembrance feel with an undercurrent of anger hit me just right.

            Did the natives in this area use longbows? I thought most of their bows were shorter. Be that as it may, it’s more the necessity of having an instant, pre-loaded shot that makes the crossbow a weapon of choice in Rosa’s world.

            It depends on the gamer, perhaps. There are games, and then there are games, and I can well imagine my brother running an alternate history War of the Roses campaign. He’s come very close to that sort of thing before. Even if Martin took inspiration from gaming, it doesn’t make his historical realism any less impressive, from what I’ve heard.

  • Rob

    #33: LOL! #34: Was this question for George R.R. Martin? Man, this is good stuff!

  • Rob

    Reblogged this on The Old Book Junkie and commented:
    For my old gamer friends and fantasy lovers. Even if you’re not a writer, take this test!

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