I recently critiqued the beginning of a YA fantasy novel in verse that is set on another world. At first I thought, wow, cool idea. I haven’t seen verse fantasy, other than in Lisa Schroeder’s books with ghosts — but you could do some great stuff with imagery and sparse verse not only about the “is it there or is it not there” nature of ghosts, but about the sparse nature of space itself, for instance, or a mysterious technology where the blank space — what you didn’t know — was as interesting and important as what you could know.
Still, Lisa’s books are squarely set in a world we already know, and as I read a bit farther into that fantasy manuscript, I had some doubts about the use of verse. That was not because the author didn’t do a bang-up job of what was there, but simply because I wanted to know more than was on the page about almost everything.
To me it seems hard enough to write sparsely but evocatively about a world we know. And I think good verse depends even more than prose on what the reader brings to the words, images, and allusions on the page. So it might be tough to depict a place, society, social conflicts, survival hazards, dress, transportation, food, etc., we don’t know in a way that will allow readers are to really see, feel, and experience it. Maybe for SFF, the reader typically wouldn’t have enough foundation, unless you’re writing about something that’s pretty well-trodden ground (e.g., dragons or wizards).
Then again, maybe there’s a balance between enough verse to accomplish that while keeping an appropriate pace. I suppose if prose can find that balance, verse should be able to, right?
I think it’s a tough but interesting challenge, and I hope to have the author share a bit more information about her background and approach here — stay tuned, I hope!
In the meantime, are there fantasies or sci-fi in verse that I’m not aware of? Would you try it? What could help it work?