When I tell people that I'm a fantasy writer, I usually get the same basic response:

"Oh." It's like they already know that my character has been diminished, and that all I can really write about is Xenley of the Crepshini forest eating the souls of babies until Nicky the Mighty Dragon-Riding Warrior stops him. I wonder how I can convey to them that fantasy doesn't not always require that the plot is predictable. I wish I could tell them that, rather than a story of a girl who's been prophesized to save the world or a boy who's been prophesized to do fundamentally the same thing (only with a dragon or a magical sword), I write stories of humanity with the odd element of magic involved.

I don't know how to tell them that writing fantasy allows me to remove the burdens of everyday life (bills, school, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and puberty) and place my characters in a bizarre event. I don't know how to tell them that I simply want to write about humanity, and magic just makes it more interesting.

So, when they give me that speculative look, like, "Your main character's name is probably impossible to pronounce," or, "I bet it's about vampires," I want to scream and yell that I don't put my heart into my stories every day of my life for the sake of clichéd plot elements. I want to yell, "I don't write that!"

But it's already been spoiled, since I've told them the truth. More than that look, though, I fear that expectant gaze and that horrible, horrible question, "Can I read it?" because I know that they expect it to be about those aforementioned epitomes of bad writing. I know that they expect it to be everything that I don't want it to be, and I feel that my story will be spoiled on them—wasted on them. They'll sit there reading it and ask, "Where are the werewolves?"

I still let them read it though, my hands shaking as I handle the delicate pages packaged together in the nicest way that a high school student could afford, and I don't warn them that my main character isn't an elf. I let them figure that out on their own—I let them discover that my fantasy is different than their fantasy. I let them see that I have been influenced by someone they've probably never even heard of.

I let them be surprised, because no other fantasy ever afforded them that.

And I must forever endure that look.