Monday, April 28, 2008

On Writing Fantasy--genre toolbox

By Julie Wright

On Writing Fantasy

Genre Toolbox

In every genre, there are important tools to use for writing in that genre. I am going to spend the next couple of weeks doing a genre toolbox for a few of the genre's that I know intimately. I'm starting with fantasy since that is what I'm currently working on.

• Magic system-- Create rules for your magic system. Where did your magic come from? Who controls the magic? Does your magic have limits? Does it cost your characters anything to use that magic?
• Plot-- I don’t care how cool your world is if nothing cool is happening there. No matter the genre, plot is essential.
• Characters—I don’t care how cool your world is if I can't relate to the characters. Even if you have dwarfs and elves and creatures we can't pronounce, you need to make them relatable on a human level.
• World building-- Even when you turn our world upside down, you have to build it up again in some new way that works for the story and is believable. If you are building a new world from scratch, then write yourself a research paper on the populations of that world. Draw yourself a map of that world. Explain what kinds of plants grow on that world, and what the people of that world eat. What do people do for a living? Is that world ruled by a king or a queen? Is it governed by the people? Does chaos rule supreme? Never underestimate world building. Most of the background history will never be used in the book, but you as the author MUST know your own world if you want the reader to believe it exists.
• Biology/science-- Just because this is fantasy doesn’t mean there are no rules. The science of the world needs to make sense. If you have a purple land-roving-squid with twenty tentacles and two legs, there better be some logical believable reasoning behind it.
• Industry knowledge-- Fantasy now-a-days is so much more than middle earth. If the most current fantasy book you’ve read is Tolkien, then you don’t know your field. Research the Hugo and Nebula award winners. Know what is being published so you don’t fall into the trap called: “Yawn, that is so yesterday’s story.”
• Reinvent the wheel. Don’t be afraid to retell an old fable or myth from a fresh point of view. Think how many times Cinderella has been remade; consider the success of Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl.
• Imagine it. Close your eyes. Can you see your world, hear the dialect of your people? Do you understand the pressures and stresses in your character's daily life as they move throughout the world you've created for them?

Meet me back here next week for the romance toolbox.


Tamra Norton said...

Wow--really great tips! On my fantasy WIP I'm seriously delving into the magic issue--rules, limitations, etc. It's exciting and fun. Thanks for all this great advice.

Crystal Liechty said...

LOVE IT! What great tips. And I don't even write fantasy (way too much smarts required for that genre). But you can bet I'll be back for the romans tool box.

Annette Lyon said...

I'm working on revisions for a fantasy right now. Great and timely reminders.

Karlene said...

You mean I can't have a world where the gravity is 10 times earth, but the people grow tall and slim?? Bummer.

Great tips. :)