The Art of Writing Fantasy

I’m always a little wary when people find out I’m a writer and ask me what I’m writing. Mainly because I know I will get one of the following reactions:

1. A look of disbelief and a disappointed “oh”
2. An overly false “oh wow!” and “that sounds… er… interesting”
3. Blank look
4. “Will you dedicate it to me? I mean, I don’t really read fantasy, but I’ve always wanted a book dedicated to me.”
5. “Oh sweet, are there dragons/wizards/unicorns/elves in it?”

I do have a lot of fellow fantasy readers and/or writers who do express their enthusiasm for it – cue over-excited conversations about every single fantasy novel ever written and the advantages and disadvantages of fantasy writing… But if I’m telling friends of the family (this is generally who I have to tell as I have been advertised by family as an “author” and now have to gently let everyone down that I’m not going to be as rich as J.K Rowling) I can guarantee I get a reaction as above.

Fantasy writing is almost one of those niche things that people don’t really get unless they’re writing it themselves. What people don’t get is that it really is about observation as well as pure imagination. You can’t create a fantastical world without observing the real world around you. The one thing I’ve discovered by doing my “research” beforehand, is that observation is key. It’s taking me longer than I expected simply because every time I write about one thing I find myself being faced with yet another question about the world I’m creating – and then I have to find a real-world example to help me. For example, I’m now having to create a religion (I know, I think this might be getting out of hand too), so I’m having to read up on the history of religion in the real world in the vague hope that it will help.

I can kind of understand why a lot of fantasy writers are hermits. Life is a lot easier when there is no one to look at you in a confused way when you explain that no, your novel is not full of elves, and you are only faced with a blank page to answer to. Because you really have to concentrate when it comes down to writing fantasy. Okay, tell a lie, it’s not the actual writing of it… it’s the preparation of it. Writing it seems much easier than it is answering all the questions you might get asked and therefore have to know the answer to before even writing a word. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve really done the right thing, attempting to write a fantasy novel. The great fantasy writers make it seem so easy.

So what is the art of writing a fantasy story? Is there a magical secret that makes things so much easier?

Probably not. It’s just a matter of finding a dark corner with your laptop/typewriter/pen and paper (whichever you so choose) and working it out all by yourself… and trying not to tell anyone you’re doing it until it’s done. So I’m off to find another dark corner (mainly in a vain attempt to get rid of my headache more than anything else).

Any fellow fantasy writers out there struggling like me?

*Huge amazing shout-out to Rob Alexander, whose an outstanding artist, and I have used one of his images above!



Filed under Writing Curves

5 responses to “The Art of Writing Fantasy

  1. Ha – I can relate. It’s like telling someone that you’re writing about puppy-jousting.

    Wait – STORY IDEA.

  2. David - the diabeticman

    I find that most people look at me sideways when I say I am a writer…. perhaps I have leprosy too given their reaction.

    I have occasionaly found that saying ‘I Write’ provokes a slightly different reaction. “What do you write?” oh the usual ‘Words, sentances, paragraphs’ by now they have got bored and wandered off to another subject.

    For now I think I shall refrain from saying I am a writer and wait for the day I can say ‘I am a novelist’

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