Author Guest Post: Lev Grossman (‘The Magician King) Sets Us Straight — 20 Things Characters Should Do More Often!


Lev Grossman is the New York Times best-selling author of The Magicians and The Magician King, so he knows a thing or two about writing fantasy novels. He’s here to set us straight: TWENTY THINGS CHARACTERS IN FANTASY NOVELS SHOULD DO MORE OFTEN BUT DON’T


F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that the rich are different from you and me. That may or may not be true. But fantasy characters are definitely different from you and me. They don’t seem to have quite the same … travails as we do. This has always bothered me — I’ve always thought they should act more like people in real life. With that in mind, I’ve made a list of things they should do more often.

This is not a comprehensive list, by a long chalk. And it’s not a list of things that fantasy characters never do. I can think of a few counter-examples. But it’s a start.

1. Forget things, for no reason. [“Jesus, I told you we were gonna need the Netherhelm of Binding to seal the Fellgate.” “I know, that’s what’s so weird! I put it on this morning. I could swear it. Or did I? Now I don’t even know.” “Well I guess we’ll just have to seal the Fellgate tomorrow.” “Well I guess so.”]

2. Pee.

3. Read other fantasy novels. [“This is just like the time in The Wheel of Time when they get lost in the Ways? And they can hear that black wind thing that eats everything whispering at them? Remember that?” “Shut up! Shut up! It creeps me out just thinking about that thing.”]

4. Worry about the economy.

5. Meet a woman who’s not a witch, a healer or a princess and not remark upon how extraordinary it is that she’s not a witch or a healer or a princess.

6. Meet a non-white person and not subsequently discover they’re from the Burning Lands Far to the South or something like that.

7. Suffer chafing issues

8. Change diapers.

9. Meet an orphan whose parents just turn out to be just as random and ordinary as his or her adoptive parents.

10. Drink non-alcoholic beverages.

11. Meet an orc who actually isn’t an asshole.

12. Hear ominous noises that then turn out to be nothing. [“That totally sounded like the howling of a lost soul trapped for all eternity inside a massive cursed ruby. Turned out it was just Dan’s lost-soul-in-ruby ringtone! We gotta make him change that.”]

13. Die of natural causes

14. Make accurate change at a bar rather than just fling down a handful of gold coins and walk away.

15. Sneeze at an awkward moment.

16. Have guard duty and not bicker with the other person who has guard duty.

17. Meet a dwarf who’s actually pretty good with a bow.

18. Meet a brusque yet kindly old man who doesn’t actually know anything more about what’s going on than anybody else does.

19. Discover a magic portal to a world that is pretty much the same deal as the world they came from.

20. Get eaten by a dragon. Come on, if dragons were real they would eat _everybody_.


Thanks Lev! Interested in more? You can check him out at, or follow him on twitter at @leverus.


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