Since Terry Pratchett wrote the Discworld series, the fantasy novel genre has taken off – big-time! It’s common in fiction to find great books and ideas copied by other authors, and in fantasy, it seems to be a particular problem.
You can’t fault people for emulating success – what better way than learning how to write a fantasy novel than basing your work on the novels that have gone before?
However, what really happens is that the fiction market becomes saturated with Game of Throne or Twilight clones. We’re not talking plagiarism here, but general ideas about world-building.
A general mix of outlandish costumes, cultural habits and semi-hidden magic do not a fantasy novel make, so how can an author bring some freshness and originality into the genre?
Tips On How To Write A Fantasy Novel Presented by Ken Burton
You’ve got a great fantasy story to tell. You’ve got great characters to tell your story but something’s not quite right in your world. Hello and welcome to the Bottled Imp exploring around the fantasy.
My name is Ken Burton and today this is part 2 of our writing fantasy and imps journey. Now I’m no expert on writing but I have written a children’s epic Illustrated fantasy novel that is due to be published this year and I thought I’d share my experiences with you fellow imps.
It might help if you’re writing fantasy but anyway enough of me waffling on. Let’s start shall we?Well first of all, part two is all about creating your world in fantasy. One thing that is really, really noticeable is when something is fake and when something is real.
Because you’re dealing in fantasy and mythical creatures and Dragons and imps and ogres, obviously they don’t exist in real life do they? No they don’t. Let’s say they don’t. You want to start writing about those and what I found is that if you’re writing about something fantastical and made-up it has to appear ultra real in audience in order for your readership to actually believe it.
Now there was a quote that I really loved. I watched all them, how to you know, the making of Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson said to his film crew and cast ‘we’re making history we’re not making a fantasy film, were making history’ and that is a really good thing to actually remember when you’re writing.
If any of you have read Game of Thrones or watch Game of Thrones it’s the same principle. They’re making history that happens to have fantasy elements in it. Now part 1 was all about starting with your ideas and why you want to write fantasy, the urge to write fantasy.
And we looked about inspiration and where you can maybe create inspiration to generate ideas and once you’ve generated all those ideas what do you do with them. Well, the thing is for me before I could start writing my story, and you know, letting my characters run wild, I decided I’d have to do a little bit of planning on world building.
Because I wanted to know various things within the world of my characters are going to exist. I wanted to know what that world is and what I decided to do as I started writing about the political situation was what the religious situation was.
You know, what what sort of clothes do they wear? What money do they use all of that and they came a point where I got a bit bogged down with that and it was actually, I think I’ve got enough now to just start writing the story.
And that is something that will be special to you. Only you will know when you’re ready to start writing your story. So that said, you might just think ‘well. I’ve got the characters. I’ve got a bit of a vague story going on, yeah, go ahead and start writing.
Some people do it that way around. They create the world as they’re writing. Other people, like myself, like to do a little bit of planning. But it does come a cutoff point where you could just spend years and years and years creating your fantasy world without actually writing your story.
So the feeling of starting writing story can be overwhelming. So what I decided to do, I decide to break down various ways to just start writing so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Do little small steps. The first thing I decided to do it just kind of happen naturally and it seemed to work well.
Start concentrating on your actual characters. Now the very least you should know – your main character or characters very, very well and that means that you have to create a profile for each of your main characters.
Now you know if you’re not big into doing, that’s fine. Some people do that on the hoof but I find it very useful because if know my characters before I start writing I’ll know how they’re going to react to things.
I’ll know their motivations. I know what drives them and for me that’s really key, when you’re writing fantasy, or any type of writing actually, so it’s a good idea to start fleshing out your characters before you start writing.
One way of doing that is just to ask as many questions about your characters as possible. What you want to do is write a profile for each of your characters. You’ve got to ask yourself not just about the physical appearance, because obviously yes you want to know what they look like.
You want to you know how fast they can run. You want to know all their physical attributes. What color eye they have, all of that, but also you want to know what their mind is about. What their heart’s about.
You want to know their spiritual side and you want to know their intellectual side as well, so that’s key. So what I decided to do was, then the other thing is that what, how do they see themselves? You know we’ve all got an opinion of what we think we’re like which can be very very different, trust me, to what other people actually think of you.
I might think I’m hilarious and very witty and then actually my friends think ‘no, he’s not. he tries to be funny but he can’t’. That’s a bit too close for comfort there, but anyway, that’s kind of, you know, what I’m trying to get at.
So that’s really interesting because you can have two characters talking about another character and they’re really saying how wonderful he is, and how amazing is, and then the other character comes in and he’s horrible to somebody.
And you and the reader thinks ‘well hang on there, that’s a distorted image’. So then, you know, it just adds that extra depth to all your characters and it gives you a chance to play against type as well. If people think that one character is particularly nasty and when they do an act of kindness that’s a really nice twist.
As a really nice character arc that you can put in there, so you’ve got to start asking questions such as what their religious views are, what’s their political views, what’s their ethical views. Are they moral? Are they lawful? Are they awful? Would they not mind stealing?
Would they murder someone? How far do their morals stretch? You’ve also got to ask yourself what their underlying motivation is. Is it money, you know, are they greedy? Is it kindness? Do they just think that, you know, a place on earth is to just be kind to everybody? Is it love?
So what’s their underlying motivation? There might be two or three of those and if you work all that out then you’ll know how they’re going to react to a situation. One good question to ask you about your characters is how do they get on with animals? Do they love animals?
Are they kind to animals? Because that again can be a good reflection on how they’re going to behave towards other races and specially in fantasy, you’ve got orcs and elves and all those other races. How do they feel about all the other races? So that again gives more depth and more believability to your characters.
You could ask yourself what their dreams are. What their ambitions are, you know, we all have desires in life. Are they happy with their life? Do they want more of a unhappy and if so why are they unhappy. As I say, asking all these questions will add depth to your characters.
Then you’ve got a look at their backgrounds. Were they brought up poor? Where they brought up rich? Were they jealous of their brothers and sisters. You know, there’s lots of questions in their background that shape who they are at that present time.
When you first start writing about characters and remember, characters need to go on a development, so again start thinking about if you know what their motivations are. Then they’ll start planning to get whatever they want and that sparks the actual character arc and the journey itself.
One thing I thought was very fascinating is doing a profile for yourself. So ask all those questions about yourself. What’s your loves, your desires, all of that because that’s a good way, a good practice way of just creating a character.
And try and be as honest as possible because you’ll find that you can fill in a load of detail because you might think well this is welding but I find the more you start writing the more it just flows. That is a really good exercise. I did that and it’s sometimes it can be quite shocking.
So once you’ve got your characters and they stand by then you know that they will be quite fully rounded characters. You’ve got enough information about them now we’re going to ask about what type of world they actually exist in.
Obviously the world they exist in can influence and will affect their behavior, and again that creates part of their story arc. So again, it can be overwhelming when you think about the world. It’s a big scary place. I have thought of categories to just tackle about asking yourself about what is in your world and I came up with a list of 22.
It was not just me thinking out you know. Various ‘how to write’ books, various websites. Over the years I’ve read there’s 22 categories, which again is a bit overwhelming. Now you won’t need to flesh out all 22 categories because that is what I try to do and it just became too much.
So you kind of think, ‘well I’ll pick some key ones. What do I think is necessary?’, because you might have an idea of what your story is going to be about. So if it’s political, it’s very political orientated then you’re gonna have to work out – ‘is there a government? is there a monarchy?
So there’s going to be some more priority driven than others and so some examples of that I’ll just share with you now. Now I will put this whole list in the description of the YouTube channel for you to look at and also I’ll be mentioning some reference books at the end and I’ll list all of those as well.
So my fantasy world is called Edra and I really like the Lord of the Rings Game of Thrones in medieval fantasy England type feel, so that’s exactly what I did. And I put a little bit of low-level steampunk into as well, so you’ve got to think about politics and the power. Was it a monarchy? Is it government?
What are the creatures and the monsters? What are they all about? You’ve got to know about technology and can you use, you know, what sort of technology, what level of technology have they guys. I say I really like steampunk, so I put a little bit of steampunk technology into my one.
What are their jobs and their professions? You know, is it the normal, is good to do research on medieval jobs and professions. Their clothes, costumes – I like to think about that. What are their traditions and festivals, because you can tell a lot about a race about their traditions and festivals and obviously their religion.
That’s again another thing. I thought about and the money system what sort of money do they have. Now because mine is steampunk, I thought ‘cogs’, so I called mine ‘Cog Lit’ and they’re sort of little gems in the middle of the metal and they’re shaped like cogs. Just something little bit different, a little bit of flavor but there does come a limit.
As I say, you’ll start getting overwhelmed, so you’ll know when you start fleshing out your world when you can start actually writing. As you continue to write there might be something like ‘oh yeah’ I don’t need to worry about money’ because nobody’s buying anything’.
But then you might write a scene where someone actually does buy something, and then you have to start thinking with money. Obviously that’s fine. Um, so what else? … You will also need to know pretty much every single detail of your world as you write, but for me, just starting writing does generate more ideas and more questions.
Even though it’s fantasy it does have to have rules and facts like laws of nature, for example, because otherwise it becomes um unbelievable. Magic is obviously going to be a key factor in a fantasy book. You have to work out everything about magic.
Know not everything but a lot about magic before you write, that would be my advice. Does everybody have magic? Is it easily attained? Is there different types of magic? Who controls the magic? Does anyone control the magic or is it very low level or is it not been discovered yet?
And somebody discovers magic and then try to keep it secret. Anything to do with magic I would definitely definitely try and work out how. Ask loads of questions. What would it be like in a world where everybody had magic? Be crazy, wouldn’t it? So you’d have to then put laws in place to stop people casting spells all the time.
You know because it’d be dangerous and but remember you’re in control of this so you can put in as much or as little of magic in as you like. There are some really good reference books. I’ve got a selection here that I’ve just collected over the years.
…. Likethis one for example, ‘The interactive video of secret societies’. If you’re trying to think up a magician’s guild, well if you’ve been reading about an actual one that existed in history, you could kind of base it on that. Modify a bit. It’s an inspiration and again this one on witchcraft is fantastic.
I’ve got one here of magical creatures, so those are absolutely amazing, totally recommend these. … One brilliant thing to create your world and it is this series here. I have mentioned this before and that’s the ‘Complete guide to writing fantasy’. There’s three volumes. Totally recommend them. I actually didn’t discover them until I’d pretty much finished writing my first draft and once I read those I went back and added few more things in and it really revolutionized my world.
I was really happy with reading those … the other thing I would recommend is definitely get yourself some baby name books because you will need to come up with names for your characters. It’s always nice to have slightly different names – names that you can pronounce, that makes sense and having good baby name books is brilliant.
Obviously there’s lots of websites now that do naming baby as well so you can tap into those. They’re really fun to play with, you know, joining two names together to create a new name. … a good decent dictionary but here the Oxford concise dictionary recommended, really good dictionary.
Don’t get a cheap one and also you need a thesaurus because … you’ll be writing and you want to keep your readers interested. You want them to be interested in what you’re writing and a good way is obviously to find different ways of saying, expressing what you want to say.
So those are the reference books. As I said there, are loads out there you know. If you do have any favorite of yours, I’m interested to know that, so leave comment and but yeah … it’s a big topic so hopefully I’ve done it justice here. Thank you so much for watching. Look out for part three coming soon.
Writing fantasy and imps journey part 2 – creating your world. … remember keep it unreal, especially fantasy writing