How to Write Fantasy Fiction: 10 Tips

Read To Write

Your reading time translates into how well you write.
Study not just read, the classics of the fantasy genre, taking note of what you love about each writer’s approach.

What is your challenge? World-building, character development, plot twists? See how your favorite author handles these.

Market knowledge is vital

First-time fantasy writers need to consider their audience. Do you intend to write for children, young adults, or more mature readers? What fantasy subgenre would your story fall into high fantasy, steampunk, dystopian, paranormal? Identifying your market can help you develop a sales strategy and make creative decisions.

Take it slow

Setting up an entire fictional universe is a huge task. Write short stories that feature your main character or others without any plans to publish. Tolkien wrote several unpublished stories set in Middle-earth before writing The Hobbit. You can then develop your fantasy story naturally without the publishing goal pressures.

The next step is to go big

Fantasy often involves creating a new world. You can do this by imagining not just the geography of the place but also the customs, culture, and history as well. Good fantasy weaves these sometimes mundane details into the plot. Take, for example, how George R.R. Martin uses the seasons-especially winter-in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Select a perspective

A fantasy novel or fantasy series can take place in third-person through the eyes of an omniscient narrator or in first-person through the eyes of multiple characters. Unlike the first method, when you allow your characters to lead, your readers will discover the world as they do, which will build suspense and surprise.

Learn about your characters

Create characters as complex, unique, and imperfect as people in the real world to avoid tired fantasy tropes. If you can sketch your characters, do so-if not, write down everything you know about them. Create a standard set of questions to ask your characters about their motives, emotions, habits, and history.

Write an outline of your story

It is never easy to write a novel, but telling a fantasy story is often particularly difficult. To keep track of timelines, plots, and characters, even the pros use outlines – Rowling shared bits of her Harry Potter spreadsheet. This practice ensures you won’t lose any threads and provides a way forward if you get stuck.

Rules must be made and followed

Even the most epic fantasy must be grounded in reality to be credible. Consider researching societal basics, like politics or economics, if this is your first book set in a fictional world. Ask simple questions like, “Where do rivers come from?” Even magic systems can, and should, have plausible explanations.

Dialogue authenticity matters

Similarly, the way your characters speak can express their moods and motivations and their cultural origins within the civilization you have created.
Remember the most and perhaps the only place for conversation in books is to advance the story. Advancing the story is could be engaging the reader with a deeper understanding of the character or moving the plot forward.

Don’t rush

As soon as you create a unique world and populate it with interesting characters, it can be tempting to explain everything and introduce everyone in the first few pages, but doing so could overwhelm the reader. As you tell the story, use the five senses to draw your audience deeper into the story as you reveal your carefully crafted fiction bit-by-bit.

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