3 Things to Know About Writing Fantasy

Three things to know about writing Fantasy

Guest Post by Suzanna J. Linton

Writing fantasy fiction is hard. Some people think it’s a matter of making things up. Since it’s not taking place in a “real” world, then all a person has to do is sit in front of a computer and start daydreaming.

Nothing could be more wrong.

If you’re thinking about writing a fantasy novel, or you want to educate someone who thinks your job/hobby is easy, there are some things you should know.

There’s Still Lots of Research

Fantasy means writing about things no one else has experienced. For example, no one has experienced flying a dragon, especially not during the Napoleonic wars. However, that didn’t slow down Naomi Novak.

But instead of just making things up, I can promise you that Ms. Novak did research on aerial maneuvers (albeit the kind done with planes), as well as extensive research on the historical time period in which her novels took place.

Another example: never ridden a horse but your characters are going on a long trip? It might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic horsemanship and how far a horse can really travel at a gallop (hint: it’s nowhere near as far as Hollywood says it is).

If your character is going to do something that you have never done before or experienced, and you plan on going into some detail, don’t make up it up as you go. Research and plan.

There are Still People

Just because a fantasy novel will have griffons and some of the characters have pointy ears and live in trees doesn’t mean said characters can behave erratically or for reasons beyond grasping.

People are basically the same, no matter the continent or the time period. It works the same in fantasy novels.

Example: Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings is the definition of epic fantasy. There are trolls, giant spiders, and talking, walking trees. However, the people of that series were relatable. Why?

Because Tolkein drew characters that love, long, and hate just like anyone else. The themes of the books, though bigger than life, all come down to temptation, loyalty, integrity, courage, and a strong sense of right and wrong. And these are all things we recognize, whether we’re human or hobbit.

There is Still a Need for a LOT of Thought

This kind of goes under the research topic but deserves its own mention.

When people think of fantasies, they think of knights, kings, and princes. These are ideas from England’s medieval past. There are other books, though, that base themselves off of other time periods and social systems. Two examples would be Lackey’s Firebird (medieval Russia) and Hearn’s Tales of the Otori Trilogy (feudal Japan).

But even though most books are based off a previous social system, there is still a lot to create. Are you going to have a monotheistic religion or will it be polytheistic or, like the Vulcans, will your people abandon religion altogether? Will the government be a democracy, an oligarchy, or theocracy?

What about your social structure? How close to the original social system are you going to be? For example, if you’re sticking with feudal Europe, will you have vassals who are slaves in everything but name or will your social structure be more fluid?

Another thing to consider is how the fantastical elements will affect that social structure. A great example is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. While most people think of it as science fiction, it has a lot of elements with fantasy, especially the original trilogy.

In the books, a special social class of men who ride dragons are the protectors of the planet against a scourge called Thread. While any student of history will recognize the system as feudalism meets city states, there’s nothing in our history like the social status of the dragonriders. The closest would be the warrior class of Sparta.

Therefore, the way in which the dragonriders react to and effect the rest of the society is a product of the author’s planning and imagination. McCaffrey had to decide how this would cause her world to differ from the models she used and she had to plan ahead.

It’s Still Fun!

Writing fantasy is fun. The act of creation is like none other. Once you’re really into it, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. And there is a freedom to it. The world in which your story occurs can look like anything you want.

And that, really, is the most important thing you should know.

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About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.