Posted in creative writing

Writing Fantasy: Part 3

Or, how not to dig yourself into a hole.

I’ve had somewhat of a revelation recently. Writing fantasy is not like any other genre. With other genres, you can simply jump into the world and start cranking out the chapters. But not with fantasy.

With fantasy, you need an introduction. Fantasy comes with fanfare; an orchestra at the beginning of a show. It has fireworks and dancers and dragons… Okay, the dragons are optional. But the point is, fantasy rarely ever begins with the protagonist. Usually, it begins with a character, usually a minor one, on a mission to do something. They introduce the world.

Think Game of Thrones.

You’re not immediately introduced to the Starks, or the Lannisters. You begin with the Nightswatch and the White Walkers. You begin with one of the major plot points of the story; Winter is Coming. But through this small section, the world is introduced. You know it’s the world where the dead can be reanimated, that magic exists but is not believed, that there are men guarding the wall. George R.R. Martin uses this formula for all his books.

Even Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo uses her opening chapter to set up the world through the eyes of some lowly guard. It sets up the stakes and establishes the world.

Now I’m not saying all fantasy books need nor require this, but it will help you write. By sitting down and introducing the reader to a small section of the world, you are showing them it. You do not need to tell them that the building is ‘old as balls‘ if you write ‘Amelia walked down the cobbled pavement towards the crumbling sandstone building‘ because they would already know that. Sandstone, being a common building material, is known for its soft material that makes it so easy to work with. That being said, the older a sandstone building is, the less stable it becomes. But even if the reader had not picked up on that small notion, the word ‘crumbling’ would have done the job and it even implies a lack of care.

That was just a simple example I wrote on the fly and I’m sure there are better examples in the world to demonstrate.

But why don’t you try it the next time you write Fantasy?

Let me know what you think.


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I'm currently working my way through a Creative and Professional Writing degree in London.

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