How to Write Fantasy

Reading a well-crafted and enthralling fantasy novel is an exciting adventure. Writing one can be just as much fun, albeit much more difficult. Writing a book of any kind is never easy, but writing fantasy has an added level of complexity in that you’re creating an entirely new world from scratch.

It takes a lot of focus, motivation, and organization to write a good-quality and engaging fantasy novel. These tips can help you do it to the best of your ability.

Focus on World-building

One of the most important elements of fantasy is the world. You’re creating something brand new that no one has ever seen before. In order for readers to remain interested and engaged, they need to understand what’s going on.

Building your world is like fleshing out your main characters. You must know absolutely everything about it. You need to know the general geography, laws of science and physics, and practical laws of the government/whatever ruling body you put in place. Much like character building, there are going to be details that don’t even make it into the story. But, it’s important that you know them so you can write within the world properly.

Once you’ve created the laws, know all the details, and understand the world yourself – you must remain consistent. If you have a system of spells and magic, ensure your characters, both good and evil, are following the physical laws and restrictions of the magic.

Keep it Believable

Even though you’re writing a fantasy, it still needs to be believable. Ensure your characters are behaving the way they should for the world you’ve created. It’s also important that you incorporate some real-world themes into your story. This will keep the readers grounded and help them relate to the fantastical story of whimsy and magic.

Love, loss, revenge, desire. These are all real things that can exist even in a fantasy world. They can exist even within a race that is not human if you want.

Create a Detailed Outline

Some people don’t like outlines, and that’s fine. Everyone has a different process and no one can tell another that their method is wrong if it’s working for them.

However, fantasy is one area where a strong, detailed outline is going to be extremely helpful. Between your world building and character sketching, there is going to be an overwhelming number of details. Plot holes are a problem regardless of your chosen genre, but fantasy is especially susceptible to them.

A comprehensive outline will help you keep events in order, characters organized, and the details of your world at the forefront of your mind.

Give Tropes a Unique Twist

Tropes, stereotypes, and “typical” things exist for a reason – they work. But, just because they work doesn’t mean it’s going to make your story interesting. Because they work, they are also common. It’s like writing romance. At their core, all romance novels are the same. You’re reading a love story. To stand out, romance authors need to take the tired romance tropes and make them new and interesting.

Especially for avid readers of the fantasy genre, seeing the same things over and over again is going to turn them away in no time at all.

That’s not to say you can’t use these tropes, but you need to find a way to make them your own. There are many ways you can reinvent an old trope. Doing it well will make your story stand out as something truly original and unique even within a highly saturated genre.  For example:

  • The “mentor” character doesn’t have to be an old man with a beard who speaks in metaphors. It could be a middle-aged woman with lots of tattoos or a young man who has achieved success beyond his time.
  • The regular magical items like wands and amulets can be used for something new and surprising. J.K. Rowling did this well in making broomsticks part of a popular wizard sport.
  • Instead of the typical “reluctant” hero, make them enthusiastic and ready to go from the beginning.
  • Instead of being part of the problem, make the government/ruling body a partner with the hero.

Determine Your Market

You might be thinking “well, my market is fantasy, of course!” but there is more to it than that. Like any genre, fantasy has many sub genres and different styles. Even a die-hard fantasy fan will have their preferences – favorites, even.

You need to figure out what kind of fantasy you’re writing. You can make this decision before you begin, or it might simply become obvious once the story begins to take shape. It’s important to know where exactly your story falls if you want it to reach the right people.

Some things to consider when deciding on the type of fantasy your novel is:

  • Steampunk fantasy
  • Urban fantasy
  • Grim dark fantasy
  • Fantasy for children
  • Fantasy for young adults
  • Is it magical or technical?
  • Is it set in the past, present, or future?

Nobody would put Harry Potter and something like The Dark Tower by Stephen King in the same category, and yet they are both fantasies. Potential readers need to know what type of fantasy you’ve written before they decide to read it. Knowing your sub genre is also good for marketing as it can get it into the hands of the right people faster.

Make Your Fantasy Stand Out

With some good brainstorming and careful attention to detail, you can still create a fantasy that is original and unique. Don’t skimp out on world building, keep it relatable, and put a new twist on old tropes. Following these tips will have you well on the way to a brand new fantasy world that the whole world may love someday.

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