It All Started in a Tavern on this Road …

by the editors

I would say that one of the two most common places to start a fantasy short story are in a tavern and on a dusty road.

The tavern usually has a lonely man or women who is a hunter or assassin. People are after them. They have a job to do. The details vary, but the general plot is similar.

The dusty road usually did not used to be so empty, but some thing or some one has come along to make it nearly impassible, and the main character will eventually do something about this. The only variation in the story is the MC’s willingness in this process.

So what is my point, you ask? These are the two “no’s” of fantasy, in our opinions. There are exceptions. We’ve published exceptions. They have to be done well. They have to have some phenomenal twist. More than anything, the story has to grab our attention before we hit that point where the reader groans, “Not another assassin in a tavern!”

My advice is this: Before you decide to write down the really cool RPG campaign you had last week or the great idea for a huntress story you have that starts in a tavern on an untraveled dusty road, stop and reconsider the setting. Maybe a busy town. Maybe a harbor. Maybe something completely different?


Shelly Jackson


3 Responses to “It All Started in a Tavern on this Road …”

  1. Hi everyone
    My name is Jenya
    Beautiful blog, little more such.
    Love you!

  2. mark says:

    arrgg why didn’t I see this before I before I sent my 1961 word fantasy in to flashing swords……..:)

  3. Mark says:

    Yeah, yeah. You magazine guys all say that. Here’s a quote from the Black Gate live journal:

    “John and I are back to reading submissions. Interesting peculiarities pop up while you’re working your way through — John encountered a knot of almost a dozen stories that ALL began either IN a tavern or with characters on their way TO a tavern. I think at this point for either one of us to like a story that starts like that it’s going to have to be written by REH, Leiber, Moore, Vance, or some new lass or bloke with those kinds of chops. Odds are that if you’re submitting your first or second story and it starts in a tavern, you don’t yet have those kinds of chops…”

    A month later they took my story that starts in a tavern 🙂

    I bet I could sell you a story that starts in a tavern :p


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