Saturday, September 10

Is Fantasy Easier to Write than Other Genres?

"Fantasy... That's the one with the weird little creatures and magicky things, yes? It's when you put dragons and medieval knights and trolls and wizards together and try to disguise a lot of nerdiness with forced testosterone and wand waving, correct?"

Fantasy - It's Got a Bad Rep

While fantasy is a wide genre that isn't all medieval magicking and epic quests, a lot of people are under the assumption that fantasy is easier to write because it bends the rules of reality. This means that it doesn't have to be caged in by the plausible barriers you find in literary fiction.

Why?

Magic - It Solves Everything

Have a broken bone? Fix it...with magic! Stuck in traffic? Freeze time or fly there, with magic! Need to know all someone's secrets or just make a sandwich without getting off the sofa? Magic is there to save the day!

Well that's dull. No one wants to read 'Couch Potato in Fantasy Land,' do they? Horror of horrors, I sure hope not.

Fantasy stories still have limitations on what characters can do. Not to mention, they have even more complications. If magic could be used in ways that manipulate things far more easily (words that bring illness, hand gestures that stop your breath, potions that torture you in a state between living and dead) then the protagonist is going to have a much harder time of things.

The reason fantasy is not easier to write than other genres, is because a writer must create a new structure for what is plausible in this world that incorporates fantastical elements.

How?

Questions - I Have Them

So, without rules or guidelines, you've got an "anything goes" sort of premise, which is madness. It takes a lot of work to lay down the grounds for a story that incorporates magic. The most important thing you can do is ask questions.

What?

Things - I Think About Them
  • Is there a magical system?
  • What can or can't you do with magic?
  • Are there magic spells?
  • Can you learn magic?
  • Are there those born with special abilities which you can't learn?
  • Is it inherited?
  • How common is it?
  • What does the average person think of magic?
  • What does magic cost?
  • How powerful is magic?
  • What limits magic?
  • How does someone become powerful with magic?
  • Where does magic come from?
  • How do spells work?
Of course, I do not mean to presume that a story must revolve around the idea of "magic." Fantasy does not always need to mean spells and wizards, just the incorporation of something fantastical.

There are a ton of questions you need to mull over to even begin to figure out how your fantasy world works.
  • How is the politics affected?
  • Do fantastical creatures have rights?
  • Can you pay for food with magic, like a currency?
And?

What If - I Ask "Why" a Lot

Just when you think you have asked all the questions you can ask, you've got to more.
  • What if...?
  • Why? Why? Why?
These are the questions for your questions. They are the questions for the answers you come up with for the first lot of questions. You have to keep on digging. Only then will you discover even more intricate ways to develop your story and help build the world in which it takes place.

Conclusion?

Fantasy - It's No Picnic

Fantasy is not an easy genre to write but it is very rewarding and quite captivating to the reader when written well. If you write fantasy, don't give up and don't be put off by the foolish notion that it is a frivolous genre. It's not.

Building a world that incorporates fantastical elements - whether you are writing of an alternate universe or ours, tweaked - takes a lot of good planning and execution. If you can make it work, I tip my hat to you and look forward to reading your fantastical ventures.

2 comments:

Myah said...

It's true: building a fantasy world takes a LOT of thinking and digging and foresight. I remember attempting to do one off the seat of my pants for lat year's NaNo. I got into the third chapter, and then got so caught up in world-building that I didn't finish the darn thing.

So while you have to ask all those whys, it's important to also remember that sometimes, you've got to know when it's time to stop. Leave a few mysteries in there, why don't you? It can be fun to find out the answers to those when you least expect.

Jenny said...

Don't forget all the other things you need to figure out. You have to create creature (or at least your own version of them) and if it takes place on a different world you need a history and government and geography. But I would say fantasy is easier than SF. You have to follow rules and makes things more believable for that genre. (JJ Abrams , there are no lens flares in space)