Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Writing Fantasy, a quick how-to introduction

This time, to spark off the New year; lots of people will want to start off the new year saying, ‘this year I will write a book’ and then have no idea where to start. I’m going to borrow words from many well respected writers, to name one, Terry Pratchett, who have donated words of pure gold in the leaves on our shelves, and given us threads of silver to stich and weave into our own masterpieces.
So let us tackle some theory; for all those aiming to be fantasy writers, we have to ask the question of what is fantasy? Then we must ask, how is it written well? But finally a third question, what genres of fantasy are there?
Fantasy is a difficult genre to pin down, like Science Fiction (which I’ll tackle another day). This is because it bears the features of many other genres, fantasy can talk about a love story between mythical creatures and humans, it can be an adventure to destroy some dark artefact, or even about people waving magic sticks at one-another. The main defining feature of Fantasy is that it involves some kind of supernatural, or other-worldly (rather than extra-terrestrial) power that takes a foreground position throughout the work.
A final note on this is that in some cases where you create realist fantasy, something I’m very interested in due to my dissertation subject, Fantasy does not have to contain anything I have just mentioned, but it can simply borrow from what has been, and transform it into a story. where nothing and everything can be based on fact. Again, it’s a hard genre to pin down unless you spend a lot of time with it.
Secondly, how can we write it well? I refer you back to my post in December about how to write well generally, but here I will expand on how you should treat your reader, gently. I was told once, back when I started seriously chasing my dream by a much more experienced writer that ‘a reader is like a child, they do not like to be shocked or alienated. You must make each step small, take them by the hand and guide them, still filled with wonder, into the world you created’. Pratchett says something very similar, though I will only paraphrase his words; Fantasy is a genre where there are no rules, as long as you can explain why that person has two heads, or why this sword is the only one that can defeat the king of darkness, you can do anything your heart desires.
Finally, what other genres does Fantasy interact with? Well this is why it is the easiest genre (and for some the hardest) to write, it can interact with all of them! A short list of examples, in no particular order could be: High Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Comic Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy. Fantasy can be funny, scary, charming, mysterious, in-your-face, anything at all, so long as it is written well.
I leave you with this thought, if it’s fiction, it can be Fantasy, but it is not we the writers who ultimately define our book’s genre but the readers. Aim for what you want, write it well (which means learning the rules of that literary genre, a more advanced talk) and then doing it well.
Until next time, read, write and learn.
Ciao
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