Jump to content





Alrighty then, hehehe...

This is going to be another one of those articles that I need help with from the rest of you, because even though it’s been a while since I first started my very first full blown ‘fantasy’ story, I am still doing my best to wing it and figure things out. Any help or advice that you guys could give me from your own experiences would be greatly appreciated. I still feel a bit intimidated by the series, personally, but I’m trying my best to get past that.

I think that one of the most important parts of any story that is science fiction or fantasy is the world building aspect of it all. And, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE world building in my stories. It’s one of the most entertaining parts of writing something new. However, with so much information that has to be delivered and displayed, I’ve found that the pacing is slightly different from what I’m used to. I would really love to hear how some of our fantasy writers get through that part.

See...I write a lot of sci fi, horror, type of stuff. Like with the vampires in the “Gone From Daylight” storyline, there’s obviously a heavy fantasy influence there and a ton of world building that had to be done ahead of time before the first chapter even got started and was published years ago. BUT...”Gone From Daylight” takes place in modern day Chicago, you know? So, that’s somewhat grounded in a reality that has already been built, cultivated, and agreed upon. The whole point of me going all out with my story, “The Plateau” (https://gayauthors.org/story/comicality/the-plateau/), was not being able to use any part of the real world as a crutch. It was meant to be a challenge. Obviously, I have them speaking English to make it easier for people to read, but I tried to stay away with common phrases or slang if possible. Even something as simple as “Oh my God”...would they have the same religious concepts in this world? How would their society operate? How many different species exist there, and how do they view one another? These are all things that I was constantly thinking about the whole time that I was writing, and maybe I was thinking too much in some cases, hehehe...but I really wanted to detach the customs and gestures and speech patterns away from the recognizable world as much as I possibly could. That was an important part of this ‘experiment’ of mine.

I hate referring to it like that, because I really do enjoy writing it and what I have planned for future chapters...but I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t scare me sometimes to get it wrong.

Something else that I’ve learned so far? Set the rules, and stick to them. This something that I definitely plan to stick to throughout the entire run of the series. There’s a problem with just saying that everything is ‘magic’, I think. Hehehe, it’s like...not fair. When I grew up reading comic books, I was the BIGGEST “X-Men” fan ever! But one thing that I loved and always depended on back then was that every mutant had ONE special ability, and that was it. They might be able to use it in a variety of different and surprising ways from time to time...but it wasn’t like they just pulled something new out of their ass from nowhere. Even magic has to have some rules involved. Some limitations. Otherwise, everybody is ridiculously overpowered and that begins to drain on a reader’s sense of stakes or danger. You know what I mean?

Even in “Gone From Daylight”, Justin should be seriously overpowered himself...but he’s just a kid. He doesn’t even know what he’s capable of, how to use the abilities at his disposal, and he’s got people that he cares about that will cause him to make snap decisions that most other people wouldn’t make. Not at a moment’s notice. But there’s strength in that vulnerability, I think. All of my characters can’’t be perfect, flawless, knowledgeable, and mature beyond their actual ages. That makes for a very BORING story in my mind! “Yeah, I had a problem. But I’m so awesome and powerful and smart that I solved it in a couple of seconds and now it’s over.” I mean...what? If somebody wants to go read that story, they can look elsewhere. I don’t like being bored when I write, and I don’t think my audience likes being bored when they read. So...yeah.

There needs to be boundaries on the world that I created. And there needs to be a variety of dangerous consequences that come with going past those boundaries if that’s where I decide to lead the story. But I feel like I need to tell a story within a certain ‘pocket’ that remains somewhat stable throughout the entirety of the series. Not limiting, mind you...just stable.

Let me know if I’m being a bit too constricting on this idea. Hehehe, because I wonder about that all the time. Maybe nobody will really notice or care, but I would. So I try to avoid whatever pitfalls I’ve seen in other stories that I grew up reading, so I could take a shot at creating something better. The idea was to challenge myself, after all...so completely breaking away from the norm was the original goal. Feel free to speak openly if I failed at this. :P

With this story, I’m working with an ensemble cast (I love ensemble casts! That’s just my thing!), but I try to make sure that each one of them acts and engages everything in this world that I built in ways that are all unique from how my main character does. I feel like there is such a rich mythology and sooooo much backstory that I’d love to dive into before really moving the story forward...but again, I feel like that would slow the pacing of the story way down. I don’t want it to turn into an expository info dump, you know? At the same time, I don’t want to skip over anything and have it pop up as one of the fundamental rules of this particular reality, making it feel like I just randomly came up with it on the fly for the sake of moving the plot along. I figure, there’s got to be a decent middle ground between both sides somewhere that won’t make readers feel as though they’re stuck in the same place while the rest of the story and its characters become stale and uninteresting.

To those of you who write fantasy? How do you get around this particular issue? Or is it not much of an issue at all? I’d be interested to know.

I definitely don’t want to shatter the fantasy anywhere along the way. It’s like being immersed in the middle of this incredibly elaborate dream while you’re sleeping...but then you see something that’s really ‘off’ or out of a place, like, “Hey...why is there a purple goat driving a taxi?” And suddenly, you’re taken out of the moment and you realize that it’s all a fantasy and none of it’s real. Causing it to almost immediately lose a lot of its luster. I’m inviting an entirely audience into a world that they’ve never been to before and attempting to hold their attention for as long as I can. This is one of those moments where I have to be consistent at all times, but in a way that covers a heck of a lot more than what I’m used to. To the point where I spent a lot of time trying to study humanity itself and all of the things that we do and say on a daily basis. I wanted to figure out how our lives and our habits would look to a life form from another planet or reality in general. How incredibly ODD would we all look to someone who didn’t grow up with the things that we just accepted as being normal? Yeah...I wanted to get rid of all of that. Hehehe!

The first time that I was inspired to try something like this out was with a touching short story that I wrote for a GayAuthors Anthology entry called, “Light Reaches Earth” (https://gayauthors.org/story/comicality/lightreachesearth) where a teen in a group home befriends a strange new arrival who thinks he’s from another part of the solar system, light years away. I definitely had a lot of fun with that one, trying to imagine how our world looks to someone who’s a first time visitor to it, and still add a heartwarming message of hope on top of it. The difference between that story and “The Plateau” is that I got to direct the narrative through the eyes of a boy who’s only job was trying to explain everything from what we would see as a normal and realistic point of view. But this was still in Chicago, with a city, and the moon, and day and night, and clocks and blue oceans and gravity. How would it feel to someone who saw our world as fantasy or science fiction? What is their concept of time like? What is language like? How do they view the wildlife here? All questions that I wanted to touch upon in that one story wthout getting repetitive or too ridiculous.

However...trying to start all over from scratch was a bit of a mental drain with what I’m trying to pull off with this new series. I catch myself wanting to just refer to certain things in every day culture that probably wouldn’t exist in this new world. Which is why I believe that the world building part of the whole fantasy writing process is so important, and why I have to keep pages and pages of notes handy so that I can refer to them often when I’m writing. I don’t want to be handcuffed to every idea that I have written down so far, but I worry about wandering too far off course and not being able to find my way back without a whole lot of explanation.

Hehehe, do you believe me when I tell you that I’m new at this yet? :P

Something else that I’ve learned from this project so far...not everything has to be explained to a tee for it to work. Contradictory to a lot of what I said above? Maybe. I don’t know. But I discovered that, as long as I can keep readers engaged in the world that I’ve already built so far...some details can be left up to the imagination. And it’ll be ok. I’m just getting started down that road now, and it will most certainly get much more complex as the adventures spreads further out than where it is, but I’ve found a few places where the suspension of disbelief has been my friend. I would like to play around with that a bit more. There are certain animals or foods or different species that all exist in the same realm, and I might give a few major details here and there...but now that the whole ‘fantasy’ aspect of the story has been firmly rooted in the minds of my audience, I’m finding that they’re willing to accept a great deal of weirdness about what’s going on here in this world. I feel like I’ve been giving a bit more freedom as the story expands, and that makes it a lot more comfortable for me to put my ideas on the screen and stretch everything out to widen the boundaries I set up for myself to create a more three dimensional vision of this world. I wanted everything to feel familiar, but still foreign and surreal to anyone who is looking to explore this world on their own in their minds. So describing certain meats in the marketplace, or spices, or practices of magic, or the sights and sounds of a swarm of demonic looking creatures flying overhead in erratic patterns while most of the characters in the story just see this as a normal, every day, occurrence. Which makes a lot of sense to me. Because it’s new to the readers...but not to the characters. This is the only world that they’ve ever known. Going back to the whole ‘alien’ idea...coming to Earth and seeing a chicken for the first time might freak them out. Hehehe! Like...what the hell kind of creature is THAT? And then to see them roasted on a spit over a low flame in a store window might be equally as disturbing. We see it every day and never really think about it, and that’s how I feel my characters would react in this fantasy world.

Normally, to deliver exposition in a somewhat clever way without making it actually sound like exposition...I would have someone from our world interact with the characters in “The Plateau” and batter them with questions and confusion, while they try to explain and normalize everything for their ‘fish out of water’ guest. But that would be a bit of a cheat. I’ve already written that story. I wanted this to feel different. So...no outsiders this time around. It’s like learning a new computer program and tinkering with it until I find all of the really cool stuff while leaving out the stuff I don’t need. At least not for now. And it worked. Most readers just shrugged their shoulders and thought, “Ok...that might as well be a thing. Why not?” So I definitely feel a lot better about that as well. Which is inspiring new ideas for me all the time. I kind of like raising the difficulty level from time to time.

So far, that’s pretty much all that I’ve learned about writing a story that is full fantasy and detached from anything and everything else that I’ve written before. Naturally, anyone reading it will still feel that ‘Comicality’ vibe running through it from beginning to end, but I’ve literally only got a heavy dose of trial and error guiding me on this one. It’s kind of fun at times, but please excuse me if I misstep a couple hundred times along the way. I can’t say that I have much past experience to draw from here with my writing, but if you guys were trying to write a fantasy story of your very own? This is what I’ve figured out so far! K? Hope it helps!

And if any of you guys are writers or readers of fantasy fiction yourselves, and have any tips or previous experiences with the genre that you want to share in the replies down below, I would definitely appreciate you dispelling some wisdom on this one! I’m sure there are many others who could benefit from it as well! It’ll be your good deed for the day! :)

Take care! Happy writing! And I’ll seezya soon!


  • Like 2
  • Love 4


Recommended Comments

I love that you touched on the language aspect of writing fantasy.  My current WIP has multiple characters that don't speak the same language and had one of my characters have to learn an alien language.  So my dialougue was awkward and stilted and I am still having to go back and make sure none of the "pretty" words I prefer are in the sentences.  I also had to be very careful with slang like you mentioned.

I hate info dumps and skirted most of it by introducing a character from our world into a new world.  He notes things that native characters wouldn't because it is part of their day to day.  I drew from real world influences though, so I don't know if I would have the courage to create something from scratch.  Kudos to those who can!

  • Like 1
  • Love 2
Link to comment

From what I've read and heard in interviews of other fantasy writers, the primary goal when beginning the story is to create a world that feels lived in.  Give it a history, even if only you know about it at first.  Slowly bring it to the forefront when parts of it are relevant in the moment of the story.  Don't get bogged down in the minor details, those will work themselves out as you go along.  If you are going to have magic in your world then you should decide on a source for that power.  Is it inherent in the world itself?  Is it a natural thing that some people can intuitively tap into, or does there need to be an education involved in order to access it?  Maybe it's divine in nature?  If so, maybe there should be different gods that give different kinds of magical talents.  What if those gods don't get along?  Do their followers come into conflict?

Deciding on races, religion, geography and the general political landscape of a place isn't something you need to bash a reader over the head with.  Just slowly introduce the idea into the story through exposition or friendly dialogue between the characters.  Just remember to not overdo the world creation.  To quote one of my favorite fantasy authors...

"We could, of course, just as easily had the sun rise in the west on this fantasy world, but it would have served no purpose and would have been just another oddity for the reader to remember.  The point is that you don't need to change everything ... in fact, changing everything makes a world less accessible.  You need a lot of familiar to identify with the story." Tracy Hickman. (Dragons of Autumn Twilight, annotated edition)

Eventually, I'll be getting around to my own fantasy writing (once I finish what I started) so, I'll be hip deep in gods, magic and demons before too long.

I would suggest maybe reading some different fantasy (or sci-fi)  role-playing books or fantasy novels to help you get an idea of what kind of details you want to include in your own world.  Remember, good authors borrow from other authors.  😉

  • Love 4
Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..