Do you crave with an uncontrollable need, to weave fairy tales of mass proportions that would spur even the Brother’s Grim, to jealousy?
Do you desire, to concoct SciFi dystopias that’d make J. J. Abrams and George Lucas clap in thunderous applause?
If yes – then fantasy is where you should be, friend!
Before you get to churning out those first few pages of your draft. Do a little studying first – there’s nothing more annoying than an author who doesn’t do his/her research.
Luckily for you, I’ve compiled the ‘must-haves’ of fantasy writing into an easy to read listicle.
Oh how the word “listicle” makes me shiver! Eeeh!!!
1. Make Sure Your Protagonist Has a Strong Voice and Personality
Do not ruin your brilliant fantasy novel with a 2-dimensional protagonist. Your readers will hate you, and they’ll probably bang on your window at midnight for their money back.
Before putting pen to paper or fidgeting fingers to keyboard, rough out who your protagonist is and what they want.
Figure out what makes your protagonist tick, what makes them cry, and what drives them to violence; once you sort those details out, you will find it’s easier to flesh out your main character in your first draft.
A few great questions to ask yourself are: What was your protagonist’s childhood like? Did they have a great childhood, or a bad one?
Often than not, our childhoods are what shapes us the most as human-beings.
Now, I need to make this clear for everyone, just in case there’s a few stragglers who really don’t know the ropes.
Fantasy, is a very complex and detail-driven niche. What you don’t want to do, is slack and write a character suitable for the likes of a Twilight remake.
What most writers forget, is that anyone who is into fantasy, has probably read the Hobbit and TLOTR. They’ve also most likely had a gander at Game of Thrones.
These people, these fantasy readers, want grittiness. They want characters that move them to tears. They want a character, that can infuriate them. They NEED characters that make them feel, and think.
Unfortunately, Bella Swan and Christian Grey aren’t going to cut it.
So, don’t write characters like that!
2. World Building; It Needs to be In-depth!
Another crucial element to the fantasy genre, is world.
Don’t expect to half ass the descriptions and details of the setting you’ve plopped your characters into, and where you’ve built your plot.
You need to create a dazzling image in the minds of your readers.
Help them, to understand what’s going on in YOUR head.
Don’t leave your readers hanging, and don’t force them to fill in too many gaps in the world you’ve built, or rather haven’t built.
Allow the reader, to engage in the world you’ve created – draw them in!
The best books known to man, are those that capture a readers attention, and make them feel as if they’re a part of the story.
Try your hardest to replicate that same feeling. Because, if you don’t?
You will be dishing out the refunds, quicker than you can call your millionaire uncle for a loan.
3. Create Conflict Between Characters
Whether they’re lovers or sworn enemies, conflict is a must.
In real life, people go through all sorts of ups and downs during relationships. We’re not stationary creatures, and the same can be said for our emotions.
Recreate that same reality, in your novels.
Add a dash of conflict, and a spritz of tension – trust me, it always helps to make the medicine go down!
I know that whenever I am reading a great book – there’s always something going on between the characters that gets me grabbing the popcorn.
The more drama, the more your readers are going to love you! And, if anything, the same can be said but DOUBLED for fantasy readers.
After all, fantasy is built upon foundations of drama and suspense. When you bring those pivotal elements into character relationships? Everything becomes all that much sweeter.
4. Be Extravagant and Insane
This is not a contemporary book, or a romantic novella. This, my writing pal, is fantasy.
Incorporate that which bewilders, and that which tantalises, into your narrative.
Readers want actions, they want something that hits ’em right where it hurts and pins them to their seat.
Knock their socks off, with an awesome fight between a dragon and a puny peasant.
Make them, for just a moment, have a bout of irritable bowel syndrome, as they read about warring kingdoms and inter-galactic battles.
Do not make your story normal. Make it BOLD.
Make it, insane and downright extravagant!
5. Refrain From Simple Language
Sure simple language is perfect for the internet – especially for blogs! But, it’s definitely not good for the fantasy genre. Unless, of course, you’re writing for sixth graders.
Understand that for the most part, readers of fantasy are extremely imaginative, and they’re also pretty darn intelligent. They don’t want to read through paragraphs of prose, that lacks complexity and substance.
Stimulate the minds of your readers with your entire vocab – let their brains tick away as they scrutinise your information-packed sentences, and they devour your poetic descriptions of bulbous pub dwellers and impoverished rascals.
Don’t let them twiddle away their thumbs and begin to snore, due to short sentences devoid of the brilliance and impact expected of a fantasy novel.
6. Don’t Tell Too Much
As is customary for all stories, whether they be long or short, showing is always better than telling.
In fantasy writing, readers are veterans when it comes to reading A LOT of telling. But, please oh please, don’t over-do it!
If you forget to wow your readers, and show in your writing, you’ll basically kick suspense into the out-house and as for drama.. Well, there’s no use even discussing it!
7. Balance Out the Unknown with What’s Known
If you’re planning on writing a world completely and utterly different to our own – forget about it. Throw your ideas in the trash, and don’t ever try looking at them again.
Well, how in the world are readers, going to be able to relate to a world that has nothing relatable in it?
Simple: They can’t, and they won’t.
Make sure if you’re tackling a monstrous story, involving alien landscapes and uncharted cultural differences, you interweave some form of normalcy into your tale.
If there’s something that a reader can identify, and understand, they will be more capable of understanding that which is entirely new and foreign.
8. Make Names BELIEVABLE
I had to throw this one in here, because time and time again I see newbie writers making this mistake.
They create names that a) Readers can’t even guess at pronouncing, and b) That looks like the mud a pig’s recently rolled around in.
Readers will thank you later if you make sure your character names make sense, and can audibly be said.
There’s nothing good about a story chock-full of unpronounceable words. Remember that.
9. Every Detail Needs to Count
Fantasy readers love detail, yes. But, do you think they’re going to enjoy strenuous writing concerning the shape and dimensions of a space-age fruit bowl, as opposed to a gunfight between two green-skinned laser-pistol touting Martians?
Yeah, I’mma say it… they’d probably prefer the gunfight.
Sure, go ahead and describe the scenes in your novel that are absolutely crucial and that direct the entire narrative, add as much detail as you want – the more description the better.
As for the smaller scenes? Throw in some detail here or there, but keep your focus always on what’s truly important and key to your story.
10. Always Foreshadow
Dropping bombshells on readers can work wonders for your story. But, they can also ruin it.
Foreshadowing is crucial to any good novel, and definitely for fantasy writing.
Implement foreshadowing in every nook and cranny you can find! The more of it, the better.
It’s not realistic to suddenly have your protagonist shoot a woman dead, without any clues or hints building up to that point.
There needs to be a clear traceable progression, or else you’re just going to jar your readers.
When it comes to fantasy, although the genre is obviously a fantastical one, it’s also one of the most realistic. Since, it demands a high level of detail and character development, and requires the plot to follow a path that if possible, could be reenacted in our own world.
For this reason, foreshadowing needs to be consistent and present at all times.
Okie-dokie, that’s all! If you feel that I missed anything, or have suggestions for other writers, please leave a comment below!
The more us writers communicate and interact with each other, the more we can all develop and flourish as wordsmiths.
Take care now, and God bless!