Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fantasy Novelist’s Exam for John Wiswell's Ito, Book 1

The following is based on David J. Parker’s Fantasy Novelist’s Exam. The exam can be found here: http://www.rinkworks.com/fnovel/

My answers, based on the first novel I ever wrote, can be found below. Way more of them are honest than you think.

  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
There’s a chase scene, a banquet in the middle of the woods, an assassination plot, main character looks up a girl’s skirt, she kicks him in the face, another chase scene, he’s saved by a sea serpent, is drugged, then walks in on an execution. So: no. What?
  1. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
No. Why?
  1. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?
No? What about the farmhand?
  1. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
What is your hard-on for Luke Skywalker?
  1. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
  1. How about one that will destroy it?
No, but that sounds cooler.
  1. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about "The One" who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
Before the first draft it was.
  1. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
Do I need one of those?
  1. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
And now I want there to be one. Do you see what you’re doing?
  1. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
God damn you and your Luke Skywalker crush. No!
  1. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
  1. Does "a forgetful wizard" describe any of the characters in your novel?
Describes them as a narrator, or is that an accurate description of any of the characters? If the former: no. If the latter: no.
  1. How about "a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior"?
No. What is this?
  1. How about "a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons"?
Actually, that might be one of the bad guys.
  1. 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?
No, just all the female readers.
  1. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
No, they exist to trade captures and rescues with the guys. It’s like a date night with more bondage.
  1. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
At an early age I was told that for virtue of having a penis I could not do anything that was feminist, so I’m going to say, “No.”
  1. Would "a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword" aptly describe any of your female characters?
“Mountainous psychic politician” or “ninja she-Gandalf” would be closer.
  1. Would "a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan" aptly describe any of your female characters?
Do you just want eggs? Is that it?
  1. Is any character in your novel best described as "a dour dwarf"?
You got me. He shows up at the end. No, he really does. I should probably change his race.
  1. How about "a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage"?
No, but there is a half-orc (his other half is a bear).
  1. Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
No, I made the goblin and the dwarf friends to be different. For real.
  1. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
Only in real life.
  1. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
No. They also exist to be swallowed by Krakens until Captain Jack Sparrow is on one of them.
  1. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
No. Yes. Yes, I do not know. No, I don’t know when the thing to be known was… I hate you.
  1. 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"?
  1. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you've read the entire book, if even then?
No. Writing those is a skill I don’t have and do envy.
  1. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
Quartet. What? Stop looking at me like that.
  1. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
Hey, screw you!
  1. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
It was almost that thick the one time I printed it.
  1. Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you're still many sequels away from finishing your "story"?
I really feel like we covered this earlier.
  1. Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
That sounds hilarious. Are you doing that?
  1. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?
Yes. No really, what? Do you think he’s not really dead? Because there are rumors.
  1. Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
No. You’d know if it was, because I’d have cut off my hands by now.
  1. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
No, from a fantasy realm to another fantasy realm. I feel like that should happen more frequently.
  1. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
  1. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
You could stretch “Hung Lo” to three syllables if…
  1. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named "Tim Umber" and "Belthusalanthalus al'Grinsok"?
It took a while to learn that this was a problem, but now I fear it almost as much as the cold shadow of looming death.
  1. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
It used to and sort of still does! Thanks for the panic attack!
  1. How about "orken" or "dwerrows"?
Stop doing that.
  1. Do you have a race prefixed by "half-"?
“Half-breed” happens once or twice. But they’re not real. They’re disavowed on the first page.
  1. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
That’d be sweet.
  1. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
No, though the appeal of a turn-based novel is great.
  1. Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?
No. I can barely fantasy-cast any of them as living actors. I’m bad at these fetishes.
  1. Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
Are they hiring?
  1. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
I am seriously considering adding inns to my world in order to accommodate this.
  1. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don't?
Like everyone who lives in the democratic, electric, heated, wifi world, yes.
  1. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
At least 50% of the book. You’ll hate it.
  1. 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?
Only if one of them told the others that there was a quest. That would be handy.
  1. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as "fireball" or "lightning bolt"?
There’s an aging ray. Does that count?
  1. Do you ever use the term "mana" in your novel?
It might be moaned at some point, but that’s a slur and not the kind of magic you’re thinking.
  1. Do you ever use the term "plate mail" in your novel?
There’s an arming doublet.
  1. Heaven help you, do you ever use the term "hit points" in your novel?
Missed opportunity!
  1. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
No, but given that “arming doublet” appears more frequently than “gold,” I think I’m safe.
  1. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
Only the ones that carry my dreams.
  1. 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?
I don’t know how many more times I can pretend something sounds like a sweet idea I missed and want to include it, but you keep coming up with these.
  1. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
Seriously. You keep coming up with these.
  1. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
No. One guy goes throw an intangible edge from his scimitar. It looks like a rainbow.
  1. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
The giant killer gelatin sort of does that with its spines once.
  1. Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more?
My twenty-foot stone ogre’s sword does.
  1. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
Trains to do what? Why do I think it’s something with a frying pan?
  1. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
Much more than I assume you’d like.
  1. 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?
Clearly you’ve never been in a romantic relationship.
  1. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
I’d like empirical tests before concluding anything here.
  1. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an "on the road" meal?
So you want a McDonald’s in my fantasy realm?
  1. Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?
  1. Do you think that "mead" is just a fancy name for "beer"?
Now I do.
  1. Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
  1. Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves' guild?
There’s a thieves’ guild?
  1. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
Maybe in Book 2.
  1. 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?
Maybe in Book 3.
  1. Is "common" the official language of your world?
Maybe in Book 4.
  1. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
  1. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?

   75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.

Okay, no. Of course it isn’t. Listen: is your sense of humor a rip-off of every passive aggressive comedian who attempts to dismiss a thing by vaguely describing some of its characteristics? I appreciate the passion for literature, but you may need a nap.


  1. "Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
    No. Yes. Yes, I do not know. No, I don’t know when the thing to be known was… I hate you. "

    LOL. As an editor, the stories I could tell you.....[but I won't -it's part of the editing oath]

  2. Very funny John! I read through your entire exam before going to the link. Surprised me, I thought surely you'd made up the questions too. I'm not a fantasy reader so my credentials for grading your examination may be challenged by its creator, but I'd give you an A+.

  3. Oh my goodness, I can't believe these questions are real and I thought they were talking about 'the supreme baldguy' and I thought if Sean Connery. Then I realized they said supreme bad guy. Oh geez! Your answers are hilarious. Between you and Karen my laughing quota fir the day is filled. Can't wait to read your book.

  4. I love this, John! You should have seen the looks I got from my co-workers as I was cracking up in my office all by myself. :)

  5. I've read this before, never thought to post the answers though. I hope you won't mind if I do this one as well. (I'll link to you!)

    Freaking hilarious though. I think we need to do a book exchange.

  6. "Only the ones that carry my dreams."

  7. Glad I made you folks laugh. I'd say about 70 of the 75 answers are completely honest, with about 60-65 being honest about the novel and 5-10 being honest about me being goofy. I really love the Ito series and hope someday to create a rock solid final draft. If people want to read it at that time I'd be happy to share.

    Yeah, this quiz is for real. It has a good intention, to help all the hacks realize massive cliches they're using and/or missed from being underread in the genres. But eventually it got so cloying that I had to actually answer them.

  8. LOL! This is hilarious - you went all out to answer them! :)

  9. Just stumbled upon this today when searching for something completely different. Thank you. This was hilarious. However, I now want to read your first novel.


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