6 Tips for Writing Fantasy

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So, you want to write fantasy? Welcome to the strange club of make-believe. Ah, fantasy. She is the odd-ball, pointy-hat-wearing cousin of scifi, the awkward, shoe-gazing romance nerd, and the cynical, snorting main-stream literary fiction geek. She is all these things and she is unique. Here’s how to make her look good.

Tip #1: Do Your Homework and Read, Read, Read

Head on over to Goodreads and check out their Lists section. Scroll through and see if you can find something you’ve never read. Start narrowing down your search as well. Our girl, Fantasy, has many different, sub-genre outfits in her closet such as Dystopian, Heroic, Steampunk, Historic, Epic, Military, Erotic (the saucy minx), and Urban to name a few. Click here for a comprehensive sub-genre list.

Once you’ve decided on your favorite sub-genre flavor, start reading and see what works and what doesn’t. What are other authors doing well that you could emulate? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and every artist borrows. It’s a tale as old as time. Speaking of which …

Tip #2: Old Story, New Spin

Consider taking something tried and true and making it your own. The Hunger Games borrowed heavily from Roman culture. Hell, the Lion King is just Hamlet on the Great Savannah. Don’t reinvent the wheel, take a wheel and put your own spin on it. Find something that speaks to you and sketch out an outline, or jot down what you enjoy most about the topic, then see where your notes lead you.

Tip #3: Start Digging Around and Jotting it Down

Once you’ve narrowed down the What, start researching everything. Check out this post on researching your novel. Make a notebook or a file on your laptop and fill it with pictures, posts, maps, and assorted interesting tidbits that inspire you. I like to go on safari on Pinterest, hunting and gathering for images that strike me as interesting. Then I make boards to collect these images for future reference.

Tip #4: Start Creating Character Sketches

You’ve got your What, now let’s get you some Whos. Take time to think about your main characters and start fleshing them out. Tabitha Lord uses this list of questions to get a grip on her characters’ motivations. One of my favorite questions is the following: Do they make their bed in the morning?

I’m reminded of the movie Smart People with Ellen Page. Her character, Vanessa, is a type A person and her Uncle Chuck is a bit of a screw-up. The following dialogue is very thought-provoking in a character-study type of way:

Vanessa: You should really make your bed. It sets the tone for the day.
Chuck: But, how do you know what tone I was trying to set?

These two lines sum up their polar opposite personalities with a minimum of words. Nice show. Excellent lack of tell.

Tip #5: Make a Series Plan Sooner than Later

I’m not proud to say that I thought about making a trilogy after my first dark historical fantasy novel had been released. It was a nightmare to plan the rest of the trilogy post-book one. Do yourself a favor and know where you’re going before you start your journey. Planning out your story from start to finish ahead of time will save you a lot of headaches and late night wine–I speak from experience. You are not married to your plan, either. But having a destination before your journey begins is always a good idea.

Tip #6: Create a Killer Setting

Now let’s get you a Where. I wrote a post on setting a few weeks back that touched briefly on world building. This is your chance to really shine. Details that are in the background will make or break your story, but you need to remember to show and not tell.

Whatever you end up writing, remember to have fun and enjoy the process. You’re creating your own world, and aside from riding a unicorn in your pajamas, what could possibly be more fun than that?

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 


About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website: www.heatherrigney.com

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