So here it is. The obligatory “how to improve your writing” post. I’m not going to claim I know all the secrets and rules of writing awesome fiction. I’ve had some people really dig what I do and some not like it all. That comes with the territory. However, I have my own rules that I used when writing fantasy fiction that I think work for me pretty well so far. Are these rules perfect? No. Do I always use them? Well, I try anyway.
My goal with this post is to share something with you that works for me. These aren’t any rules I expect anyone else to follow, but if you want to steal some from me, go for it!
Without further ado, here are the rules that will make you a rich and famous fantasy writer in only 16 easy steps. This is Part 1!
Remember this guy? You can get 50,000 dollars from the government to write your novel! Woo hoo!
OK, so I lied. These may not make you a rich and famous fantasy writer. Hell, I’m not a rich and famous fantasy writer. But I know what works for me and will hopefully transition one day into me being a significantly less poor, significantly less poor fantasy writer. See what I did there?
No more delays. Here are my hard and fast rules.
1. Present something new or twist an existing concept.
While this isn’t any sort of mind-blowing advice, it is a mantra I live by in some ways. I don’t expect each and every one of my stories to be completely original nor do I expect it from writers I like. However, giving the reader something that they haven’t seen before or that piques there interest is one of my main goals. I will contradict this advice later, but stay with me for now.
I think if you plan to write what I call the “Good Ole Fantasy Epic” (which is the fantasy version of the Great American Novel) then giving the reader something to hang their hat on is paramount. It can be a unique character, a twist on an old plot, or something stylistic. If you tell me your story is about a knight going to fight a dragon, I may…fall asleep to be honest. What is different about this story? What pops out and grabs you by the throat and won’t let go? Your answer needs to be your own unique vision.
The prototype of the Good Ole Fantasy Epic. Try not to copy it too much, Precious!
2. Don’t be original just to be original.
“What? You just said be original in the last post. Couldn’t you have waited until number 9 or something so at least it’s not so blaringly obvious?”
Take it easy. You want to be rich and famous, don’t you?
So here is my contradicting advice. If in the last post I just said try to bring something new to the table, then why say don’t be original? This is quite a conundrum in itself. For me, I never sit down to write a story and think “No, I can’t do that. So-and-so already did that.” So what? The old creed “Everything’s been done” is not necessarily a bad thing. If you wrote fantasy about shark people that invaded Camelot, then yes, people might be interested in that, but don’t just do it because “no one else has had shark people invade Camelot.” Write the story because you think it’s funny or weird or will be engaging to some sort of audience. Don’t do it just because you think it’s been done already.
For me, I like monster hunter stories. I like Vampire Hunter D, the Witcher series, and movies like Dragonslayer. When I sit down to write a story I don’t think “Well, I can’t write a story about hunting basilisks because someone else already did that.” If I want to write a story about basilisks, I’m damn well going to write it. That’s just the initial concept though. Where the “twist” or “something new” comes in is my presentation of this concept and the execution of the major story elements (engaging characters, plot, etc.)
So even though it sounds like I’m arguing with myself, I’m not. I do want to be original obviously, but not at the expense of the stories I want to tell.
Be original or I’ll stab you. But don’t be too original. I’ll stab you then, too.
3. Introduce the reader to the conflict as soon as possible.
I know. This can apply to any fiction, right? But it’s even more in important in fantasy fiction I believe. There’s a lot of world-building, magic, fantasy races and such that have to be explained, I get it. However, without conflict and tension, none of that matters. Some fantasy stories are notorious for staring with a Prologue that says something like:
In the time of Kelgor the Unicorn Prince, there was a great war. The elves of Shalaba clashed with the were-tigers of Dun-Dun-Dun on the cliffs of the Grey Noodle.
Some may argue that this is conflict. We’re getting to know that there is conflict in the world. For me, most great fantasy writing deals with the characters that are in these conflicts, not some overview of what is happening. Why not begin the story with a wounded were-tiger riddled with arrows, carrying her cub to escape the elvish skinners that want to make a cloak of her fur? We still get the idea of “elves vs. were-tigers” and we don’t have the dry narration at the beginning.
Almost every engaging book I’ve read begins with either an action scene, dialogue, or something to get the reader right into the story. This is a technique I hope that I will employ well as I go down this twisted writers’ road.
What will happen to the wounded were-tiger and her cub?
Find out next week on “Arrow Riddled Were-tiger.”
So this concludes Part 1 of my “Rules.” They work for me, not sure if they work for you or not. This will probably be in four parts, so keep an eye out for the other parts in future posts.
Also, if you can, let me know a couple of your rules that help you when writing fantasy in the comments. You don’t have to share all of them at once, but it would be great to hear from other fantasy writers about what “code” they live by.
Until next time, remember, all fantasy, all the time!