Fantasy Writing 101

For this week's writing tips and prompts, we will be taking a look at a story genre that we feel can best be described as a doorway. Turn the knob and you'll be led to a numberless expanse of other worlds, ones where time travel is possible, animals speak, and above all else, magic is real.

Of all the writing genres, fantasy is often viewed as the broadest and most difficult to define. It contains the least amount of rules, as the writer is not bound to Earth, humanity, or that which we know to be real. Here, the opportunity to create, to test, and to explore knows no limit but one:

Although the world, the characters, and the plot may wander far from any semblance of reality, that story still needs to feel plausible. Like any great writer from any genre, the author needs to make the reader believe. 

Below are 5 tips that we have rounded together to help our fantasy writers do exactly that.

1.) Remember, failure IS an option. Do not rely on magical cures and solutions to consistently ease your character from a problem. Struggle makes your story feel more real, and it builds a stronger relationship between the reader and your character.

2.) Allow yourself to borrow from history. Though your world is made up, elements of it may be grounded in reality to give the setting a more solid foundation. You can draw inspiration from history, literature, art, and all of the many elements that comprise our world's variety of cultures.

3.) Make your characters relate-able. Note their differences, but give them a baseline that your readers can relate to. As George R.R. Martin says, "Ultimately, I think the humanity all my characters share is more important than whether they’re men or women, or princesses or peasants, tall or small. While these things certainly make a difference, all human beings in all cultures throughout history have wanted success and love and a certain prosperity and to eat and not be killed. These are pretty basic things that motivate all people and I try to keep that in mind when writing any character."

4.) As with any genre, you must read. Widely and frequently and without stop. Not just within your genre, though that can be helpful too. Fantasy often contains elements from other writing fields. It is just as important to become familiar with horror as it is with romance, and both will prove just as useful as works of fantasy. To create new worlds most effectively, become first familiar with the many elements of your own.

5.) Always carry a notebook. This advice is also attributable to all genres, though it is especially important with long or deeply detailed works. Since fantasy often builds itself from new and complex worlds and its own set of rules, it is especially crucial to never be without a writing instrument and paper.


We hope you find this advice useful and that these tips will help you to move forward in or begin writing your own work of fantasy. Don't forget to submit your completed stories to our annual, year-end contest, opening 8.23.16!


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