Tips on writing a fantasy novel
Comments I had the idea for my YA novel, The Mapmaker's Daughter, several years ago, but it was two years before I was ready to write it and when I did the first draft was completed within six weeks. Of course, there were many, many drafts after that before the story was ready for publication, but I knew what I was writing about.
Those two years were spent thinking about how my fantasy world would work. I'm not saying I had endless books of notes, but I spent the time thinking through key concepts.
I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction noveel romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt. Specialist, novel writing software can certainly play a key role and has distinct advantages over 'vanilla' word processors. Avoid the pitfalls of muddled fantasy book writing and plan ahead Writing a realist novel set in a familiar city is a challenge itself. Farm boy saves the day. Most importantly, dialogue conveys not just factual information but a sense of here character of the speakers. But I like to mix and match and move things around.
It's an easy mistake to think that writing fantasy is a way of avoiding doing research because you get to make up everything. In reality, a good fantasy novel is arguably as tough and demanding to write as an historical one or indeed, any kind of fiction that requires specialist knowledge. The key to writing fantasy is to make it real for your reader. And to do that you need to know the world you have created inside out. History It's an easy mistake to think that writing fantasy is a way of avoiding doing research because you get to make up everything Unless you are writing about the birth of a universe, your world has been operating a long time before your reader sets eyes on page one.
I'm not suggesting you need to write a long history of your world before you start, but you need to know the key events in history for your story. In my heroine, Sharra's, time she knows something about the history of the dramatic events that took place in the past, but I know all of them. It's common in fantasy for some history to be lost - it may even be what your character is seeking - but just because your characters don't know the history doesn't mean you don't need to know it. I even know the big secret Sharra won't uncover till book two.
Most importantly, as my readers learn more and more about the history of her world tips on writing a fantasy novel all makes sense. The history of my world may and hopefully will surprise the reader, but when he or she thinks about it they need to be able to say, 'oh right. I didn't see that coming, but it makes sense now.
- Culture Culture defines us.
- If your interest borders on the dystopian, maybe try a best seller in that genre such as the Hunger Games or the Maze Runner series.
- I could write something huge with all the characters I wanted, with battles, dragons and immense settings.
Culture Culture defines us. We may be a multi-cultural society in Scotland, but it is an awareness of the culture we were brought up in and those that surround us that make our country a rich and exciting place to live.
A character who gets a full arc in one book can be a richer character. Not ones that matter. Describe each one of your characters with as many words as you can think of on a piece of paper. No matter how extreme the world, the peoples or the culture, the reader needs to be able to identify with the characters. I guess we'll know if it all comes together in another decade or so! Even so, your world will be all the more striking if it is at least a little original.
The same is true in any fantasy world. Don't neglect to think about how your fantasy society functions.
On novel writing fantasy a tips you want
There are so many cultural ideas you can incorporate. A few examples include whether prayer is important in everyday life, whether science is the new absolute, whether it's considered vulgar to let someone see you eat, is it a feudal society or a meritocracy? Are there several cultures living together or one?
How do they get along together? Infrastructure This sounds so boring, but actually we need to know how the practicalities of the world work. For example how do characters travel? The length of time does it take them to cross their country or even their world may be vital to your story. In a similar vein, is medical knowledge and help easy to come by or do characters have to be able to do things for themselves?
Will it be easy for your characters to find support and help when they need it? Can you post a letter and expect it to be delivered in a few days or a few months? Is the infrastructure failing and if so why? Identifiable Characters No matter how extreme the world, the reader needs to be able to identify with the characters It doesn't matter if your character has three blue heads, believes all see more are devils in disguise or knows they are the reborn incarnation of a god.
No matter how extreme the world, the peoples or the culture, the reader needs to be able to identify with the characters. They need to care.
The strongest connections are always shared emotions and shared trials. Even a three-headed alien may pine for love.
Even the living incarnation of a god may feel lonely and confused about what their life is about. Yes, it is fantasy, but it is the concerns at the heart of the human condition such as love, loss, hope, jealousy, fear of mortality, anger and even hate that make fantasy characters real to the reader. Names It's a major bugbear of mine when I'm jerked out of a story by a random collection of consonants and punctuation - or worse still, a bunch of vowels stuck together without a consonant in sight - that I cannot even imagine how to pronounce, but is apparently a name I will be seeing on a regular basis.
Tips writing novel a fantasy on was suspected
I'm not suggesting you call your planet something dull like 'Rock World', but neither tips on writing a fantasy novel I want it to be 'Gjkhjk'hjkhd'. Repeatedly wondering how a word is pronounced throws a reader right out of the story. As in any novel you need a good and original story, brilliant characters and lots of emotional highs and lows, but with fantasy, you need to go just that little bit further and work just that little bit harder.
And maybe a little bit less realism is needed sometimes, to amp up the excitement of space travel. It was supposed to be a love story for the ages; he wasn't going to just forget about her and move on to another beauty. Winter is coming, but you can light the torches and drink the wine and gather around the fire and continue to fight the good fight. It's also a good idea to only include things that could actually happen, even if it's a fantasy novel. As the famous saying goes; stealing from one source is plagiarism but stealing from lots of sources is research! And women often seem to be shunted more into soft science fiction or fantasy. But it's definitely true for writing. A Google search of successful writers in your genre always provides plenty of new reading material.
Get more writing tips in our Five Things archive. Caroline Dunford Caroline Dunford lives in Scotland in a cottage by the sea with her partner and her two young sons. In the past she has been, at various times, a drama coach, an archery instructor, a counsellor, a qualified psychotherapist, a charity worker, a journalist, a voice actor, a hypnotherapist and a playwright.