Fantasy is one of my most beloved genres. Everything about a good fantasy book gets me all giddy. Discovering breathtaking worlds, fantastic beings and mild-blowing scenarios are just some of the few things that I love about this genre. But there are times when I pick up a book, all excited like a kid at a chocolate shop, only to toss it aside in disappointment after a few pages. There were even times when I thought I’d cry watching as a story with good potential go down the drain because of a simple mistake.
So if you’re a fantasy writer, here are a few things that I, as a reader, think you should keep in mind.
Identify your genre accurately
Now, I obviously already addressed fantasy writers and talked about the fantasy genre. However, most writers forget that it’s not over with just a single tag, fantasy. There’s more to this genre or to be more precise, there are sub-genres. From high fantasy to urban fantasy and children’s fantasy to gothic fantasy, there are different categories each with distinct characteristics. Needless to say, the reader base for these categories would be different too. Marking the sub-genre of your book accurately makes it easy for your targeted audience to find it. You wouldn’t mark Alice in Wonderland in the same category as Metamorphosis—it just confuses readers.
Incorporate your new world into the narrative
If you have created a fictional universe in which your story in set, then use this universe to drive your plot forward. Don’t just describe a vortex leading to another world and leave it at that, use it in your narrative at some point in time. Creating a new world with all sorts of fantastic elements just to leave it alone would be extremely sad. Use you magical creatures and mysterious buildings to give your characters adventures. If you could set the same story in the real world without any change, then why bother creating a universe and giving it the fantasy tag?
There should be rules
All places, events and situations should follow rules. Without rules, there would be utter chaos, especially in a fictional world. The fantasy genre gives a lot of freedom to writers and is the perfect place to let your imagination run wild, but even then, there needs to be guidelines. When the importance of these rules are ignored, the story takes an unbelievable turn—the literal kind. As the author you get to make the rules, but they still need to agree with some logic which your readers can follow.
A very important step comes after the rule-making—rule-keeping. I’ve seen brilliant stories fall on their noses because the writers could not follow their own rules. For example, if a particular spell has the side-effect of a nose-bleed on the performer, then it is only reasonable that the protagonist’s nose bleeds when the spell is performed. However, I’ve noticed some authors provide exceptions when their main characters are in action without any explanation anytime in the narrative. Unless, there is a particular reason that will be explained to the reader, all the rules should apply to every single character or situation in a similar manner. Without this rule-keeping, your story develops flaws causing readers to lose interest.
Using real-world themes
This is not a step that everyone sets out to follow but in some way or the other, inevitably does. When you examine any fantasy story, you’ll be able to connect a lot of their themes to the real world. This is what connects a reader to the narrative. Authors can choose to incorporate issues and topics that are currently trending around them or talk about universal themes that have been around for generations. Your story can be your take on issues like gender, race, politics, love, relations and so many others that you feel strongly about. Having a topic that is relevant in real time can be a factor that engages a lot of readers drawing them to your book.
Writing short stories
Before or during (or even after) your writing process, you can try writing short stories connected to your fantasy narrative. For example, stories of other characters set in the same fictional world, backstories of minor characters or incidents that don’t happen in the same time frame as your main story. This helps in a number of ways. For one, it can help you in your world-building process. As you write your short stories, you may be able to come across some gaping holes that were present in your world that you did not realise before and patch them up. It can help you build character depth as you write more about your characters outside what they do in the actual main story. It will help you refine and polish up the main story line. Most importantly, it’ll help you keep your momentum. There are always times when you’ll get stuck and just can’t move forward with your story. At times like this, you realise the only option is to leave the story alone and let it brew itself. However, a lot of writers get tensed as they don’t know how long it will take and if they can get back to writing after a break. In these cases, writing short stories help a lot. They keep you from falling into an unproductive pit and anchor you to your fictional world even while technically, you are taking a break from your main story.
These are just some of the things I believe would help craft a good fantasy story. If there is anything else you think would help out, please feel free to bring it up.
About the Author
Christy is a student, part-time writer, and a full-time Wannabe. She devours books and binges shows.