WordPress is a mystery to me. The first post I wrote today vanished just as I published it. There I was with a blank blog. Now that was interesting for a brief moment, but then I realized that I was probably the only person who would think that an invisible blog post was worth reading.
I looked in the ‘trash’ and it was gone. Interestingly enough all the previous saved versions were blank too! That was when I said, “Sassafras! And Dirty Words!”
And I meant it. So I am rewriting it as we speak.
Now where was I when my work so mysteriously vanished into the ether? Oh yes, we were talking about the political ramifications of infidelity among Elves. Well, frankly, they don’t encourage it, being a monogamous sort of people, but it does happen. Just as in human society, infidelity in the fictional societies of the mainstay fantasy races is usually taboo. When it does happen, kingdoms topple and wars are fought to the bitter end.
In all genres, not just fantasy, wars will be fought for love. But it is an especially useful plot twist in the fantasy worlds where one man or woman rules a land, and their passions are the guiding forces in the rule of their country. Even in human history this has proven to be true: think of Helen of Troy, of Cleopatra and of Wallace Simpson. These are women whose sex lives changed the course of human history. Why should it be any different in your fantasy world? After all, if it’s not broke, why fix it?
Infidelity offers many possibilities. It is a common plot twist in all genres, because it offers so many opportunities for conflict, and every genre employs it liberally.
But there are certain twists that are peculiar to fantasy and therefore they offer incredible opportunities for either boredom or blood-tingling excitement. One twist with many variations results in the half-elf child born to a secret elf-human pairing unbeknownst to human father. Sometimes the father does not realize child is not his, but takes a dislike to it for some unknown reason. Common, and you might say, boring.
Another oft used fantasy twist is the good old-fashioned Royal Arranged Marriage that is Unhappy. King/Queen falls in love with a good, decent courtier who must then leave court under cloud while erring spouse suffers private humiliation at hands of angry spouse. Many trial and tribulations occur, and the cuckholded spouse is exposed as an evil being who dies and everyone lives happily ever after. Also overdone.
The point is, most plot twists are at the root plain and boring and overdone, and infidelity is no exception. Good ideas get over-used because they are good ideas. It is how we handle them in the confines of our tale that makes it unique and will draw the reader in. The books that did this for me were the books in which the author doled out the prize slowly, and dished up the big finish at the end. Terry Brooks, Tad Williams, Brandon Sanderson, they all have the knack of drawing you in and keeping you involved in their world and their morality-tales.
They know that every one has secrets. They know that we who write books make our living by holding secrets close, and revealing them slowly. The key to writing a tale that interests the reader is to make the revealing of that secret interesting and addictive. That means that you must give the reader tantalizing bits regularly, to keep them hanging on while your main-character suffers through the punishments! So we must mix up the pain with little snippets of pleasure, because I can guarantee you, I will not finish a book that is nothing but grinding battle and sword fight after fruitless sword fight. There must be small rewards of some sort on the hero’s way to redemption.
Now, I admit that is easier said than done, but as a reader, if the build-up goes nowhere, the book goes into the recycle bin or back to the second-hand book-store. I want to feel the emotions of the characters as they win their way through the trials and tribulations of their cheating hearts! I want the horrors visited upon the damned to have some redeeming value, and I want to have a rousing finish to the tale, or I will not be reading any more by that author, thank you.
For sheer entertainment value, and opportunities for advancing your plot, you gotta love those randy, cheating elves and all their wonderful wicked ways!