How to Write A Fantasy Novel
So you’re a frustrated fantasy writer who wants to write a fantasy novel as detailed as J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire? Having problem with all those gory details of names, places, histories, genealogies, cultures, social structures, so on and you don’t know how to do it? This article will give you some tips and the trade on how to create your own fantasy novel.
Now each writer has his or her own method in making a fantasy novel, depending on what the writer is comfortable with. The method I will discuss is what I'm most comfortable and probably effective for those other aspiring fantasy writers. The method I used is divided into three phases (Conceptualizing, Setting the Stage, and Creating Characters).
Phase I: Conceptualizing
Ah, the first and the hardest part of making a novel—ideas. There are writers who just are quick enough to get ideas and work the plots from there, while there are others who needs time to come up with insanely cool one. Here are some helpful tips on your generating plots:
Go outside and look around. A walk in the park can get you ideas like watching kids play with swords and you can imagine them being sucked back in medieval times by a mysterious dimensional vortex and the children became prisoners to a horrible wizard or something like that. Let your imagination run wild; daydream if you have to.
Make sure you are not writing in a small and enclosed room. Location can influence your mental process. Go to a grassy field or a café with a nice view of the window or anywhere spacious.
While walking towards work and a sudden light of idea hits you, always bring with you a pocket notebook to jot down a gem of inspiration.
There is a fun way to conceptualize plots. It usually had something to do with randoms words to play around. Let's say, for example, you like "earphone", "mind-control", "genius" and "zombie", from these words generate a sentence like "An evil genius made a mind-control device inside every earphones that will make people enter a zombie-like trance" or "A genius kid found a way to use earphones to control zombies" and from there probably your mind will race with the situations and viola you have a plot to write about.
While you are conceptualizing always if you’re searching for ideas always ask these questions:
- What is it all about?
- What is the conflict?
- Is this plot-centric or character-centric story?
Phase II: Setting the Stage
After you make a great idea, it’s time to decide what the lands and languages, the animals and beasts, names and histories.
Creating your own language is probably a daunting task unless, of course, you are a philologist like J. R. R. Tolkien and create languages as a hobby. Fictional languages will definitely add flavor and depth to your novel and, yes, making languages are not necessary for a fantasy novel, but as a fantasy genre it is expected foreign words are uttered or named. Take J. K. Rowling for example, in her Harry Potter books she used the Latin language to enforce a sense of certain mysticism on the spells uttered. She didn’t have to make extensive research on Latin grammatical structures. My suggestion is to study some foreign terms preferably Latin, French, Arabic and give it a certain twist.
Most modern fantasy books never lack map presentation in a certain page (mostly before a chapter starts). We writers have to admit that we are not cartographers and making maps are not our hobby (we have better things to do). All you have to do is study a certain map of a place and you can probably want to make certain adjustments and tweaks of your own, if you don’t really have the time to invest. Also study the maps in both George R. R. Martin’s and J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels.
Animals, Beasts and Monsters
Animals and beasts aren’t really much of a problem since most writers utilize real-life animals. George R. R. Martin used the actual extinct Direwolves and made some alterations for his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I suggest one should get mythology books (Norse, Hindu, Greek, Roman), there are lots of strange creatures to get ideas from.
History of the lands and Nations
The only suggestion I can give is buy or borrow some World History Book for better understanding on how countries were made and empires conquered. There are many interesting beginnings and conquest that one could make inspiration from.
Phase III: Creating the Characters
Now that your stage is set, it’s time to put in the characters or actors, if I may. There are the basic information in creating a character like name, race, age, gender, occupation, parents, background, appearances, personality, and relation to other characters. One can find some questionnaires for making a character easily these days in the Internet.
The golden rule in character-making is don’t make them black and white—the villain is purely evil and the hero is sinless—that will make them unrealistic, flat and boring. No matter how far-fetched your plot is, a writer must make his characters look and feel real. They must have problems, issues with other characters, flaws and redeeming qualities that readers can relate with.
The most important thing to do in creating your own fantasy novel or any genre for that matter is that is never stop writing. No method is better than or can substitute constant improvement of your writing skills. I’m quite sure famous authors like George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, J. K. Rowling and many others would agree.