Story Beginnings: building epic new worlds in Fantasy

Dreaming of writing a book, but aren't sure where to begin? Our Story Beginnings series explores the framework and key elements of writing genres and sub-genres, to help inspire you to craft a great story of your own.

Fantasy and Scifi books often have overlapping qualities, but Fantasy is distinguished by its world structure and/or protagonist's abilities, which would not be scientifically possible even in a far future setting.  Typically, Fantasy features mythical creatures (such as dragons, unicorns, elves, ogres, etc) and/or supernatural beings (such as vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, etc). Fantasy almost always involves magic of some description, though this can be represented by active deities.

Fantasy settings are generally new worlds created by the author, a process called World Building. These settings can be versions of Earth that have been adjusted in some fantastical way, or they can be wholly new. For example, introducing subtle fantasy elements to create a supernatural tilt to an otherwise familiar world, as in Urban Fantasy. Or, in Historical Fantasy, unexplained real-world phenomenon like ancient historical sites or superstitions are given a fantastical explanation to how our world came to be. Or, in Epic or High Fantasy, new and unique locations can be created, where the flora and fauna are wholly different from Earth culture, and where a different set of rules governs physics, magic, culture, and religion. Regardless of the foundation, the creative, mystical, romantic, or unsettling nature of these worlds stretches the bounds of reality. The worlds presented can allow for absolutely anything. This creative freedom requires the reader to suspend disbelief in order to accept the way the fantasy world “works”.

Stories often pit the forces of good against the forces of evil, and the protagonist is often some description of a “chosen one”, often through some inherent ability, possession of a legendary artifact, or a prescribed destiny.  

A quest for the protagonist, magical forces and unique setting are integral to building a good fantasy book.

Key Features: fantastic creatures, magic, creative world building, building of a “party” or team of gifted/skilled individuals to help the protagonist on their quest, battles between good & evil, a final great triumph.

Examples of Fantasy writers: Michael Moorcock, JRR Tolkien, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Guy Gavriel Kay

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Written by Astra Crompton, FriesenPress Author Account Manager