Writing process

How different would fantasy novels be if there was no tipping?

Australians don’t tip.

Sure we’ll leave the coins at a restaurant after a meal, but that’s as far as we go.

That’s why, whenever you get to a country where tipping is required, you’ll find the first thing the Australians do is talk about tipping. Trying to get a feel of how much to tip, what to tip for, and so on.

We get used to it, but still find it awkward.

I was reminded of this on our recent trip to south-east Asia, because we tipped everywhere, and oftentimes it seemed it wasn’t so much a tip, as actual payment for service.  (I know that’s technically what a tip is, but to me it’s a tip when you are also making another base payment for that service. For example, when you have a meal, you pay for the meal. Then you tip as well.)

It got me thinking about what a tip was, and how different fantasy novels would be if there was no tipping.

Maybe no different at all?

First, we have to decide what is a tip and what is payment for services rendered.

Asking a stranger for information

Petra stopped a man dressed in well-made, but faded, clothing.  A scholar, she guessed, but not in a popular line of study, for otherwise his sponsors would have provided enough to keep him better clothed.

“Excuse me, but could you tell me the way to the Cascades?”

“The Cascades.”  His deep voice didn’t match his skinny frame or the freckles on his face.  He moved, and she saw the purple stains on the inside of his cloak. A chemist.  Definitely not a career someone looking for fame would choose.  “Lady, just follow everyone else.  They’re only going one way.”

Petra glanced at the crowd in front of her. There were six streets off the square. So far as she could see, people were going all ways.

She looked back at the scholar, raised a brow.

He pointed.  Past the square, half-way up the hill on the other side of town.  She could see tiny figures moving over there.  All going uphill.

“Thanks.”  Her feet were sore.  Her legs ached just thinking about the distance.

About now, in a regular fantasy novel, Petra would toss the informant a coin as thanks for his information.

But … in a regular fantasy novel you probably wouldn’t pick this particular guy to get information from, either.  You’d be more likely to choose a beggar, or an innkeeper. Someone who expects to be paid for the information they give.

Paying for bathwater

This one’s easy. Not everyone tips the innkeeper when they bring the hot water and the tub.  Many times you pay beforehand. Fee-for-service.


On reflection, maybe not much would change.  Because often what people do in fantasy is fee-for-service, rather than a tip.

Except perhaps, protagonists might get less information.


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