View Full Version : The Problem with Fantasy
March 31st, 2004, 01:19 PM
I have a problem writing fantasy: I cannot make it deep or detailed enough. I find I am having trouble truly constructing a plot and developing characters. The reason for this is I spend all the time trying to develop the fantasy world. In other genres, knowledge about the setting is assumed, whether the setting is Paris, New York or even the Amazon. In fantasy, I have to sit there and spell out everything thats going on. *sigh* I'm ill at the moment so I am probably writing rubbish right now. Oh well, now all I need is writer's block:mad:
March 31st, 2004, 03:45 PM
Maybe the problem is what you don't know enough about your fantasy world.
Try asking yourself these questions Patrica Wrede's Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions (http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm)
Ever wonder why so many fantasy books have maps?
March 31st, 2004, 04:39 PM
Expendable: That's an awesome, useful link. Thanks!
James: Have you considered setting your story in an alternate history type of world? That way, you can borrow familiar elements from 19th century New York, or 17th century Europe, or ancient China, etc.
I'm considering writing a story about a man with magic powers, being hunted by a group similar to Anne Rice's Talamasca (except evil)...and it will be set in the 1900's-1910's of our world. I think that will be fun!
March 31st, 2004, 05:41 PM
This is a common problem in the fantasy genre. It's not a matter of developing the world. It's a matter of explaining it, so that the reader will have all the relevant understanding. Without a properly developed world, the use of magic for example will seem very "deux ex machina."
On the other hand, you don't have to get bogged down with the details. Think of the "Three Little Pigs." I'm pretty sure that in most versions there's no mention of why pigs can talk, or where the third little pig got the concrete mix to build his house with bricks. But as kids we still understood the world.
One thing you may want to try (hopefully this won't mean tossing a whole pile of work away) is to figure out the story first. Then develop the characters and the world around it so that they all work to tell the story.
You decide to write a story something like the 3 little pigs - a tale about work ethic and survival, but you want a fantasy twist. You basically need a character with a good work ethic (GWE), one with a bad work ethic (BWE), and a threat.
This is a fantasy setting, so lets make the threat a barbarian horde. (The Big Bad Horde?)
Then you develop your characters to exaggerate these traits. BWE needs to be lazy. Maybe he relies on a magic of some sort that he doesn't understand to protect his village. He teases GWE and flaunts his extra time.
GWE is the passionate character that instinctively knows something the others do not. He is efficient and headstrong.
You have to think of ways to contrast the personalities - so you need to establish a setting in which they can interact and in which the threat can loom ever closer.
In a nutshell, rather than starting with the world, and hoping a story will evolve, try starting with a story and build the world around it.
March 31st, 2004, 09:15 PM
Abby: glad you like it ^_^
Choppy: I like that, it works for me. My worlds never just been some dressed up set but characters in their own right, ones you have to get to know just like the other characters in in the story you're trying to type out of your soul.
March 31st, 2004, 09:45 PM
I think I took a different approach to my world building. I started with the characters, then tossed them into situations. While the characters deal with their situation and each other, the world grew up and expanded. I answered many questions as they arose. I'd think hmmm, what is missing to make the characters know this? and presto, I'd answer by including a bit of text that would be knowledge of one of the characters.
The first thing about a story should be your characters IMO and the world should sprout up around them. If the characters are interesting enough, the would as THEY see it will be even more interesting.
April 1st, 2004, 10:32 AM
Thanx guys, especially choppy and abby. I think the real problem is I was ill yesterday and extremely deprssed because I couldn't seem to write anything. To articulate what I meant better: sometimes my story goes off track or becomes diluted because of the problem of explaining the fantasy world or setting.
In answer to Abby, I absolutely love stories set in real places with hints of fantasy or slight changes . That will be my next project after my trilogy:D :D :D I think they are especially good in a fantasy/mystery type setting or even historical/fantasy/mystery. Thanx guys *recovers from depression!*
April 5th, 2004, 05:07 AM
Choppy, I totally agree with you.
There is a huge danger in building a complex world before you have a developed story and characters to populate it. That is, you feel compelled to include huge detail on the world and all it's fascinating layers while forgetting you're writing a book about people and their journeys, physical and emotional.
Your world has to work, be credible, but you can build and develop it as you are writing. Don't forget, until you publish your first book with a map in the front of it, and with the social, magic, racial, economic, etc systems explained in it, you can change whatever the hell you like.
Before I first published, I moved entire cities closer together when I encountered a timing problem. It's the next book when you realise the straitjacket you have made for yourself... (that's when you need to be creating new continents not yet mapped, of course
April 5th, 2004, 11:19 AM
All I'm saying it doesn't hurt to sit down and figure out a few things about your world before you start writing the story, then fill in the rest as your characters experience it.
April 5th, 2004, 11:25 AM
If you absolutely love fantasy set in real world settings, such as urban fantasy, why not set the project you are working on now in such a setting? Seems to me that would solve your problem, rather than making up and trying to present a world you don't particularly want or like, and which is mucking things up for you. Or drop it entirely and go work on the other urban fantasy project. I mean, it's not like you have to serve some epic fantasy apprenticeship before you can go write what you want. And most epic fantasy plots can be adapted to a real world setting, either historically or even in the contemporary period.
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