How to Write a Fantasy Novel – Learn to Create an Excellent Story
The fantasy genre is, perhaps, the most fruitful field for creativity. You could investigate actual trends in culture and society, or tell an exciting story about adventures – it is possible in a fantasy novel. No other literacy genre possesses such flexibility and a variety of means. Creative people willing to tell a story often choose the fantasy genre. It means no boundaries for imagination and all the space for experiments.
We’ve compiled this article to tell you about the basics of how to write a fantasy novel. Of course, it is a substantial work, but we’ll try to give you some hints that will help you to organize your efforts.
Preparations for writing a fantasy novel
The genre of fantasy means the world created by your imagination. At the same time, the world must have its rules – otherwise, the plotline and conflicts won’t work. In any case, before you sit and start to write, you need to make some preparations. It is not only for your exciting future novel but for your development as a writer.
Learn from the best fantasy writers
If you want to learn how to write a fantasy novel, you need to read much. Don’t be afraid of accepting some ideas if you are going to work them out in your way.
Also, you need to read books in other genres – classical novels, preferably. Understanding them helps you to improve your vocabulary and the language “sense.” Besides, from such stories, you can learn much more about the plot and the characters’ development.
Constructive support is non-fictional books and articles written by the famous fantasy authors and concerning their works. When you learn how to write a fantasy novel, such sources are priceless. It does not mean you should use the same methods, but they can be handy.
The three pillars of a fantasy novel
Any story grounds on three foundations:
- The setting;
- The characters;
- The internal logic of the world.
It is not a feature of fantasy stories only. Writing a story based on real facts will demand the same foundations. These “pillars” are necessary to make your imaginary world and story come alive.
- The Story Setting is the world where your story takes place. Examine the ways different fantasy authors describe their worlds – the nature, the cities, and other areas. Check the things they define directly or how the characters perceive them.
- The Building of Character deals with the critical component of every story. No one would want to have one-dimensional characters that won’t attract the readers’ attention and sympathy. Refer to the novels you like and investigate how your favorite characters display their different sides and how they evolve.
- The Logic of the World deals with validity. If you introduce fantasy ideas, they must affect the environment and your characters. The logical connections must be set at a place.
Consider your ideas for the fantasy novel
You have to develop original ideas. The recommendations here will be the same as for any other text – write about the things that worry you or attract you. The genre of fantasy is vast, it covers many forms, and you will find the way for your idea by all means.
Besides, a novel is an extensive work, and it always has more than one idea. It has many statements by default, and you use your scenes to illustrate them. Some of your thoughts may be presented by the characters’ speeches and actions; others can be the foundations of the world.
- Ideas come from everywhere. You can find one when you watch a movie about a documentary on TV. Or, you may feel triggered by some phrase in a different book.
- Write them down in a notebook. Develop a habit of noting all such details – modern technical devices make it easier.
- Refer to your notes regularly. With time, you will select those ones matching your goals. As for the rest, you will either find them the place in your novel later or use them in the next piece.
Make your fantasy world real, clear, and visible
Some authors describe the “scenery” in detail; others prefer to give several features and let their readers’ imagination do the rest. In the latter case, the writers ground their imaginary worlds on known visual codes they share with the readers. When you think about how to write a fantasy novel for the first time, you need to choose the approach.
- Observe different scenes and then describe them in words. Describe your flat, or the view from your window, or the favorite place in the city. Start from the detailed description and move towards more expressive and meaningful phrases.
- Explore more aspects – describe the tactile feelings, sounds, and smells that you would feel in that place. It also helps the readers to get into the atmosphere.
- Consider the references. You may base your world visually on some known sources like ancient cities or modern megapolises. Mention some of their features to build your original worlds on them.
- Draw a map of your imaginary world – states, cities, rivers, mountains, and so on. If your story takes place in several countries or cities, and your characters’ travel between them, it helps to understand the distances and the time needed for that. It also helps to organize your world.
Define the timeframe of your story
The timeline is critical. The fantasy novel will always have distinctive features of the time. These features and conditions will determine people’s behavior, conflicts, and plot in general.
- For the periods of the past, you need to refer to the historical works. Check the significant events that took place then and consider how they influenced your plot. Consider lifestyle, fashions, and food.
- If your world is an alternative universe where some critical event did not happen, you need to think of how the new history line could look like.
- A “freeform” fantasy world gives you all control – you can create all its history and traditions. At the same time, you might need more time and text space to explain the rules to your readers.
- The futuristic world will require that you think of technological progress and its influence on society. This setting is also a proper field for considering the new social connections and different issues of personal identity.
Work out the social regulations
The fantasy genre is gratifying for different social investigations. Such conditions should always be present in your novel to make it more realistic as well. You are free to involve your imagination to create social classes and their relations.
- Refer to the historical background for customs, festivals, or other events.
- Explore other cultures – it will offer you excellent samples of such conventions. Many established authors got inspired by older traditions, and you can follow the same path.
- For your own original customs, you will need additional researches. Rituals always have symbolical meaning. Hence, you will need to resemble those senses in your work and present consistent examples.
Develop the supernatural contents of your fantasy novel
As your novel is fantasy, you need to create the supernatural front. Whether it is a foundation of your world or one of its mysteries, you need to explore the contents thoroughly.
The system of magic
- Develop the system of your magic – are there different skills and specializations, or it depends on the powers only?
- Decide who has access to magic and how they can learn it.
- Set the rules of using the magic and its limitations.
- Consider how magic abilities affect your characters.
- Think of objects like the magic weapon or talismans, how they work, and how they influence the carriers.
- You can use some of “conventional” creatures like werewolves, vampires, mermaids, dwarves, etc. There are many interpretations of such creatures for you to get inspiration.
- Research mythologies of different cultures for such creatures. You can “borrow” some kinds, or use their features for your own creatures.
- Define if you want to make such a creature one of your regular characters or just give them a cameo.
- If you create your own magical characters, think of how they are different from human beings. What are the strong points and weaknesses?
- Establish the rules for your magical creatures. Remember, you are not bound – you can use traditional interpretations, or set your own regulations.
The heroes and villains of your novel
An original world, an excellent plot, and the mysteries can’t compensate the absence of protagonists and antagonists. The heart of any novel is a conflict, and you can have it for people or other creatures that will act in your book.
- Set your protagonists and antagonists. Define the role in your plotline for each character – what is the personal goal of each one?
- Imagine them vividly. Create appearances, speech characteristics, and biographies. You might not mention most of such data, but you need to know them.
- Develop their personal traits. How will they react to different circumstances and challenges? Which of their past experiences could lead to their current moods?
- Consider the “support” and episodic characters and their role in the story.
Make an outline of the fantasy novel
After the preliminary stage, you should have the basics of your fantasy novel: the theme and ideas, the characters, the setting, and the timeframe. You can build the story itself.
- Formulate the storyline in general. It should have the beginning, the main turning points, and the climax. By the way, it does not mean that your final version will match that line precisely – you might change all those elements in the course of work.
- Add minor events that work for the plotline.
- Consider the twists in the story.
- Investigate the consequences of the events and check their order. You may need to change it.
- Work the second level of the story: the conflicts and resolutions which you should illustrate via actions and dialogues. Make sure that the meaning will match the “external” presentation.
- Break the text into chapters and decide the contents of each section.
The finish line of your work
Very often, authors change their works in the process. The outline you set for yourself is not made of stone – you will alter it, find other ideas and resolutions. It is a regular practice of the writer’s job.
When you complete the story and do the initial editing and proofreading, let the text “rest” for a while. Give yourself time to refresh your mind before you get to it again and revise. Possible that you will want amendments. If possible, show your novel to people you trust and get their feedback. Established writers often refer to “beta-readers.”
In any case, writing a fantasy novel is the work of your imagination. And the more you write – the more skilled you become.