If you love getting caught up in the expansive, engrossing world of fantasy and can’t wait to write your own, take a pause for the cause here. Before you craft the next Game of Thrones, make sure you’ve visited this checklist for writing fantasy.
Step 1: Read a Lot of Fantasy
Even if you’re a voracious reader of the genre, dive back in even further. In order to write a genre well, you need to know it. It’s even better if you understand what was popular in the past and how it’s evolved. Where is it now? What are the stories that have been done already? How is yours going to advance the form? Like any true artist, you need to know where your work fits into the canon. What’s new about it? Why will people like it? What authors influenced you? Your future agent or publisher will want to know too.
Step 2: Build Your World
Fantasy readers love the world building element of fantasy, and as a writer, that might be something you’re particularly looking forward to. However, unlike writing modern or historical fiction (or even sci-fi where there are presumed “rules” of the road, like importing oxygen, etc.), with fantasy, anything is up for grabs. For instance: what is the history of the area? Can people or creatures fly? Does magic exist? If so, what are its limitations? Who gets to use it? What do people eat? How do they get along (or not)? What do they wear? What’s the climate/environment like?
The fun part is that the sky is the limit. You get to make it all up or keep it close to home. The interesting part is how you share these details. Doing so in a way that doesn’t feel like an info dump will be challenging. Weaving in these particulars will be fun for your readers. Make sure you take notes, though. You can’t have something fly in book three if that violates the conditions of book two.
Step 3: Make a Plan
Not all authors like to plot in advance. Some never know how far or where their manuscript will take them. However, if you envision your story being big enough to encompass multiple books, it might be worthwhile to check out the overarching plot points of the series. Obviously you’ve got to knock it out of the park with the first book in order for anyone to want to read the next one, so don’t hold back. However, have a high-level story line that you can tease out over multiple volumes, if that is your goal.
Step 4: Characters Still Count
As much as setting and world play an important role in fantasy, fantasy is still a story. Stories need plots. Keep story and conflict top of mind as you write your book. Utilize all of the creative concepts for the background, but remember that stories are about people in conflict. Make sure your characters are three-dimensional and compelling. Whether your protagonist is a girl in high school or a wizard in a war-torn kingdom, the reader has to care enough about that person’s plight to read on.
Let your imagination run wild. Fantasy is big and bold, so give your readers (and yourself) what you want!