Imagine that all fantasy novels take place in the same country – Fantasyland –, and imagine further that the protagonists are not really heroes as such but rather tourists who booked, well, a tour orchestrated by the management of Fantasyland (or three, if the novel's a trilogy, or several more).
If you happen to be such a Tourist yourself, you'll probably want to read Diana Wynne Jones's Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Revised and Updated Edition), a veritable treasure trove filled with a plethora of useful information. I'll just give an example:
MONASTERIES. Thick stone buildings on a steep hill. They are full of passages, cloisters, and tiny cells, all with no HEATING, and inhabited by MONKS, mostly elderly and austere, some rather addled in their wits. At the Monastery's head will be an Abbot, who is often portly and sly. These establishments have three uses:
- For SCROLLS (see also TEMPLES). Any Scroll containing information vital to the Tour QUEST is likely to be jealously guarded in a Monastery. It is not advisable to say that you have come to look at this Scroll. If the abbot is really sly, he will find two dozen ways of putting you off. You will probably have to steal the Scroll. In cases where the Monks are willing to let you consult their Scroll, you will find that the keeper of Scrolls has recently lost his reason and the Scroll with it. You will have to search through the disordered (smelling mustily of old books (OMT) and filled with the plangent scent of ancient minds (OMT)) library by night.
- For sanctuary and rest. In this case, you will come pounding up to the Monastery at dusk, with the forces of Dark hard on your heels. You will have to hammer at the huge (oaken (OMT)) door a lot, but they will let you in. Once inside, you are safe. This kind of Monastery has religious WARDS that really work. But the problem comes when you have to get out again (see SECRET PASSAGES and UNDERGROUND PASSAGES).
- For sacking. Here you come pounding up to the building with the forces of Dark half a day behind, only to find it a heap of smoking stones. But there will be one survivor (see NUNNERY for the rest of the Rule).
MOUNTAINS are always high and mostly snow-capped. There seems to have been no ice age in Fantasyland, so the Mountains rise tens of thousands of feet into pointed, jagged peaks (OMT), which have evidently never suffered erosion. They are full of rocky defiles (OMT) and paths so steep you have to dismount and lead the HORSES. Almost certainly there will be at some stage a ledge along a cliff that is only a few feet wide with an immense drop the other side. This will be covered in ice. Snow will be sweeping across it. The Rule is that you are always in a hurry at this stage.
JEWELLERY. The Rule is that it all has magical purpose. The Management takes the very reasonable line that no one is going to wear or carry something just because it is pretty or beautifully made. Your pendant will always be an AMULET, your brooch a TALISMAN, and your necklace will be of CRYSTAL, which will enable you to communicate with distant friends. If you pick up a piece of Jewellery by the roadside or in a MARKET it will, whatever it looks like, turn out to have some MAGIC. Take care, however. By far the majority of Jewellery is EVIL or, if not Evil, will have conditions attached to its use. For instance, a RING can either put you under the influence of the DARK LORD or grant wishes while ageing you ten years for every wish. In Fantasyland, even Jewellery you have owned for years will turn out to be something of this kind. If you are lucky, your mother's Ring will merely bring out your latent TALENT. But don't bank on it. Be careful particularly of Jewellery pressed upon you by a dying stranger. See also JEWELS.
"(OMT)", BTW, stands for "Official Management Term":
OFFICIAL MANAGEMENT TERM (OMT) appears in this Guide where necessary and in italics. OMTs are forms of words which the Management has dreamed up for use every time a certain thing, fact, sensation, or person is mentioned. Thus STEW is thick (OMT) and savoury (OMT); HISTORY is lost (OMT); at the point where the party of Tourists is about to be attacked the very air seemed doom-ladden (OMT); and a constant COMPANION on the Tour will be the rat-faced little man (OMT). OMTs perform the same function as music in films.
This is a great book if you're a fantasy fan – you'll get many laughs out of it – but also if you're a writer — to (at the very least) be aware of the clichés and OMTs so that you can choose whether to incorporate or avoid them.