Reedsy recently published some great tips for fantasy authors–tips which can be easily applied to any fiction writing. Here is my summary of a selection of these tips.
1. Identify your Market
If you think it’s enough to say, “oh, I write fantasy,” think again. With so many fantasy genres, readers tend to cluster around specific subgenres which can range from Harry Potter to steampunk and Young Adult.
2. Use Short Stories
This was a great tip, reminding us of the value of short stories to flesh out our world and characters. When you write these with the specific aim of excluding them from your novels, you will find that you have more creative freedom and can discover surprising things about your universe.
3. Tie your World-building into your Plot
The best example to describe this is Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The whole fantasy premise flows organically from the centuries-long seasons. If summer and winter only lasted 3 months each, we’d have a very different kind of book, closer to grimdark rather than, well, fantasy. Also, consider his use of architecture: you have something as simple as a wall, which becomes a book character in itself, separating the living from the dead and the North from the South.
When building your world, ask questions. These will help you design your world. For example, where do big cities pop up? Near large bodies of water. At a confluence of trade routes. Where the first settlers landed. All these elements will help you create a realistic world.
4. Make it Believable
Again, Game of Thrones is a great example of this. Martin fills his pages with concrete details that tickle our five senses: crisp air, hooves clattering on ironwood planks, a warm tongue, women’s perfume, summerwine, soft fur… so, when he throws in a dragon, we buy it. Since we’re already buying into the world, what’s a frozen zombie or a face-swapping assassin?
5. Refer to Real-world Themes
It is said that science fiction isn’t about the future; it’s about the present. The same, I have found, can be said about any kind of fiction, and fantasy is no exception to the rule. What are the things in people’s minds, right here and now? The environment, politics, use of technology, fear of violence, racism… all these can be focal points for your writing, serving to make your work relevant to today’s reader.
6. Mind your Rules
Having said that, remember to follow your own rules. Even something as powerful as magic can’t be made too powerful or there will be no point to the story: “the almighty wizard saw the ills of the land and fixed with a tiny wave of his wand” makes for a rather boring story. So, we need to establish limitations in the form of rules and that’s when the fun begins. For example, magic can only be executed with the help of a copper cauldron and needs at least a couple of hours of preparation. Which means, a wizard has to carry one with them at all times and must plan well in advance. That sort of thing.
And, of course, familiarize yourself with the basics of economics, politics, philosophy, etc. A thief in a world with rivers of gold and gems makes no sense. It is their scarcity that makes them desirable.
7. Less is More
When describing your world, less is more. No matter how proud you are of your world-building abilities, the reader doesn’t really need to know how long each moon stays up in the sky or the detailed mechanics of tides. When the time comes that such things become important, you will mention them in passing, because they will be everyday occurrences to the inhabitants of that world. Remember, we don’t explain how a watch works every time someone asks us for the time!
Want more tips? Check out Reedsy for the original post!