Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How To Write: High Fantasy

   Hi guys!! So, remember that Big Exciting Thing I told you about? Well, it's finally here!

*cue fanfare*

   I don't talk much about actual writing on this here "writing" blog, and I decided it was time to change that. Over the next weeks, some friends and I are going to give you tips for writing different genres. We've got sci-fi, steampunk, mystery and more coming up, but this week I'm kicking it off with none other than my favorite genre ever, fantasy.

   So, what are some ways you can improve your fantasy writing?


   Okay, so this is a fantasy, right? Which means it's make-believe, right? Fake. Not real.
   So why is most fantasy based on medieval England? Seriously, people. The awesome thing about fantasy is that you can literally do whatever you want(within reason, of course). Combine real-life cultures. Tweak an existing fantasy world. Make one up from scratch! You, my dear fellow author, are the creator of this world. You've got infinite possibilities, so make good use of the opportunity.
   (Let me just say one thing, though. A generic European-based fantasy world can totally work; we've just seen a lot of it. With a creative plot, unique culture, or interesting characters, you can pull it off.)


   "But Krissy!" you say. "This is a fantasy! I don't need to research. That's for historical fiction writers!"
   Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.
   Research is actually really important. From sword-fighting and battle strategies, to politics, court life, and hunting and farming techniques, there's a lot of basic info that will make your writing better and more realistic. You don't need to be an expert, but your characters shouldn't do ridiculous or impossible things, just because you didn't feel like doing a Google search.
   Also, if you're including mental illnesses or different sexualities in your story, please please please do your research. This applies to all genres, not just fantasy. Romanticizing or inaccurately portraying these things is both insensitive and harmful. Do your research, guys.

The "Brick" Epidemic

   (no I didn't just make that term up for this blog post what are you talking about)
   If you ask someone to list some famous fantasy writers, chances are J. R. R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, and J. K. Rowling will show up on there. And what are something all three(and many other fantasy writers) have in common?
   The biggest, thickest bricks books known to mankind.
   I don't know about anyone else, but I definitely feel some pressure to write books like that. Not only are they very long books with very long chapters, but they also have a very distinct writing style. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's almost thick, very flowery and descriptive.
   Your writing does not have to sound like that.
   When I was first writing Children of the Nameless, I felt so much pressure to write chapters of equal length, full of generic fantasy prose. And as a result, my writing sucked. It was so uncomfortable and awkward. My writing flowed much better when I wrote how I wanted, not how I felt I should.
   If writing like that comes easily to you, write like that. If not, write however is easiest for you. Don't force yourself to write like Tolkien if you aren't Tolkien.


   This part is so, so important. Worldbuilding is one of my favorite things about fantasy. A world rich in detail does wonders for a story. My advice?
   Almost overdo it.
   Note the "almost". That's very important. We writers can get caught in the surprisingly-sticky web of worldbuilding, creating a detailed backstory for the king who lives two countries over because "it's writing!" My friend Lily wrote an excellent blog post about the dangers of this.
   When creating a fictional world, figure out all the necessary information, and then a little more. I love when authors slip in extra details; it makes their story come alive. Something as little as mentioning that your character "looked up at the moons" reminds the reader that something is different, in a very good way.

I felt the need to include this.
   Some important details you might want to include are climate(weather, mountains, seasons, foliage), religion(most/least common, god(s), worship technics), culture(common phrases, "swear" words, acceptable/unacceptable behavior), and politics(local and central government, law enforcement, war strategies).

Pronounceable Names

   There's actually a really easy cure to this one. Write the names of different characters/countries on a piece of paper, hand it to a random stranger, and ask them to read it.
   Just kidding.
   A better bet might be asking a friend, family member, or fellow author. You know how the name is supposed to sound in your head, so the spelling makes sense. Others, however, might be really confused. Also, a friend's pronunciation might sound better than yours and prompt you to officially change the pronunciation of a character's name. True story.
   But remember, starting out right is easier than fixing a mistake. So, when you're creating character names, make sure that they're readable and don't sound too much like the name of a different character/place.


   "To cliche or not to cliche" is the question every writer asks. Cliches are time-tested, but that's exactly the problem. We've seen too much of them, and it can get really annoying. The best way I've found to combat this is to twist the cliche. 
   The main character is the Chosen One? Maybe he finds out he really isn't, halfway through the story. Or maybe the Chosen One is the sibling/best friend/love interest/niece of the main character.
   The old bearded mentor character dies? Maybe that's not such a bad thing after all, because he was secretly working for the enemy.
   The princess character kicks some major bad guy butt? Give her a secret(or not so secret) love for shoes, frilly dresses, or boys with curly hair.
   While this isn't the only way to keep a story from being dreadfully cliche, it is a fun one.

   So there you have it. While is is by no means a comprehensive list, it'll definitely liven up that awesome fantasy novel you're writing.
   And, since I'm fond of lists and have lots of great friends, here are some resources to help you even more.

I hoped this has helped some of you! Be sure to check in next Tuesday; I've got an awesome guest poster for you.


  1. "The Brick Epidemic" *dies forever*
    I have not read any of Brandon Sanderson's books, even though I own a copy of the Rithmatist (just one of many books I own and have not read). And breaking/twisting/flipping clichés on their heads our my absolute favorite. *happy flailing* And you now settings are my favorite things E V E R so. There's that.
    *clears throat and resists urge to scream forever*
    Can't wait for next week's post! (though I will miss the Ramblings of Krissy, I'm sure the new person's ramblings will be helpful also) XP

    1. Ugh. This keyboard is stupid. #thisiswhathappenswhenyouthinkthecomputerhasabetterkeyboardthantheipad
      And since I am a writer, I must correct my typos or they will haunt me to my grave and beyond.
      Flipping clichés on their heads ARE my absolute favorite. And you KNOW settings are my favorite (ooooh that doesn't flow right... let me fix: And you KNOW settings are the best things E V E R so.)
      *typos fixed*
      *can live in peace now*

    2. Oh gosh, The Rithmatist is amazinggggg. You must read it, my child! And I'm glad we feel the same way about cliches and worldbuilding(and typos hahaha)!!

  2. This is a really informative post! Thanks for sharing. :) In my fantasy novel Starbloods, I've included a lot of Australian, New Zealand/Maori, Egyptian, and African culture and environment. ^ ^ And in my Red Hood novel I've included Canadian/Inuit and Icelandic culture and environment.


    1. I'm really glad you liked it! And gosh, that's the most amazing combination of cultures/environments I've ever seen. Smashing cultures together is so fun.

  3. 'The Brick Epidemic'. Pure gold! And the truth. High fantasy is one of those super famous genres where everyone expects you to be the next Tolkien or J.K Rowling and you're always heading for that box of typical fantasy writing, rambling chapters and incredible length, instead of feeling free to do whatever you like with your book. Which we should all do so much more of! Love this post, Krissy.