5 Things to Remember About Writing Fantasy


1. Fantasy is not completely made-up 

Many people have the notion that fantasy comes from nowhere, that is made up and therefore has no resemblance to real life. Fantasy, like all forms of fiction comes from a variety of sources. It may include events that won’t happen in real life or may include fantasy elements but those elements are symbolic. They represent something from the real world. For example shape shifters  such as werewolves can often represent difficult transitions such as going through puberty. Game of Thrones/A song of Ice and Fire is a good example here as George R R Martin (allegedly) was inspired by The War of the Roses, a war that took place  place between my home county Lancashire and it’s neighbouring county Lancaster. His world includes magical elements but these elements don’t make  the story feel any less real because the stories are ultimately about people fighting for power. The dragons, the White Walkers, the Giants all represent elements of society.

2. Fantasy Names can be Tricky.

You don’t have to make up names for Fantasy but when you do boy can it be tough. It’s not so bad after the first few but try making up twenty or thirty. George R. R. Martin had to come up with every House name, every character name, every place name, every creature name. Many fantasy writers are criticised by those who think Fantasy is easy to write and that making up any old name will work but writers deserve more credit for the time it takes to do this. Tolkien had to create his own language,. C.S Lewis had to figure out how to  write the story, name all of his characters, to create both a portal and a world and to name his world. Think about Narnia with another name it wouldn’t sound the same. The world of The Chronicles of Flimflap doesn’t have the same ring to it. The name has to fit. Too silly sounding and it becomes comedic. Too strange and it becomes difficult for the reader to absorb. Often names are adapted from words that the writer is familiar with and altered or used in a different way. Arya Stark doesn’t look that strange for a name. The word Stark is a real word and names like Tyrion and Tywin look like real names. The point is that before people criticise fantasy they should try doing it. There is a lot of work involved in all forms of writing and in Fantasy writers often have to create new words and names as well as writing the story.

3. Fantasy is a broad category.

I’m frequently baffled by people who see Harry Potter, Tolkien, and George R. R. Martin as the ‘same thing’. Really? Harry Potter is children’s fiction, Tolkien is classic Fantasy fiction and George R. R. Martin is modern Epic Fantasy and is definitely for adults. It’s like saying that all fiction books are the same because they are in the fiction category. By that logic The Kite runner is the same as Fight Club and Angela’s Ashes is the same as Gone with the Wind. Fantasy is not all the same. There is a difference between low fantasy and high fantasy, between epic fantasy and urban fantasy. Some novels cross multiple genres of fantasy but they are definitely not all the same. It’s unfair to lump all fantasy into one category. They may share some common elements but can vary widely.

 4. Fantasy has changed a lot.

People seem to have this notion of fantasy that’s quite classical. Fantasy brings to mind the traditional sword and sorcery fantasy like Conan the Barbarian or the Dungeons and Dragons type of fantasy. Much of modern fantasy isn’t like this anymore. Much as I liked classic fantasy, it isn’t so much based on the quest-type fantasy or the lone hero as it once was,particularly in adult fantasy which tends to deal more these days with issues such as politics and power. Most of the well-known fantasy books are actually children’s and teenage /young adult fiction such as Twilight and Percy Jackson’s Sea of Monsters but many other adult fantasy novels exist, often separated in sections such as vampire and werewolf novels and epic fantasy. Urban fantasy has appeared to increase in the last decades probably due to modern writers wanting to imagine fantasy in urban settings and how that might play out. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy but I find it frustrating how poorly judged it is and how people who dislike fantasy seem to see it in such a limited manner.

5. Fantasy is fun!

People who write fantasy write it because it’s fun. It’s an adventure. Some people don’t like fantasy and that’s fine but fantasy is about what if’s, and possibilities. It’s dreaming that is inspired by reality but is taken a little bit further and that’s where the fun lies. Fantasy can sometimes be seen as the realm of the child but fantasy and role-play is often a marker of intelligence and is common amongst social animals. Albert Einstein was a big daydreamer and perhaps it was this freeness of thinking that allowed him to see possibilities that others could not. There will always be critics of fantasy but I think the effort is worth it and I challenge any writer who thinks fantasy is a piece of cake to write a serious fantasy novel of the same calibre as Tolkien or George R. R. Martin.


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