The elements of fantasy

Writing a fantasy book is no small feat.

The amount of creativity that goes into even the smallest aspect of fantasy astounds me, even after I’ve been reading and writing it for years. Creating entire new civilizations, cultures, and histories that no one has thought of sounds impossible, yet fantasy authors do this daily.

This ability that humans possess, creating worlds inside their minds then transcribing it onto paper, can only be described as magical.

I’ve decided to break down the elements of fantasy I always try to keep in mind when writing, to try and give those unfamiliar with the fantasy genre, a basic picture of what goes on behind the scenes.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

The physical world

So much of the physical world in fantasy can play a pivotal role in a book and it’s also heavily connected to the other elements of fantasy.

The physical world not only includes how a country looks but also the climate and the natural challenges inhabitants face.

The physical world determines how your characters dress, their mode of travel, if they can even travel from one part of the country to another or if they’re cut off from a certain region, and even the natural challenges they face, such as a drought from the dry heat or a food shortage because of an incredibly cold winter.

The physical world is so much more than just a map.

Religion

Religion will always be a cornerstone of humanity’s history, whether you view yourself as religious or not.

Religious influence is everywhere to be seen in our modern culture, regardless if you believe or not. That influence ranges from language to clothes to everyday-habits; meaning to say, it’s everywhere.

It’s always fun to create a new religion solely for the purpose of using it your book, but it never just stops at creating rituals for your characters to follow. Religion plays a role in history as well and can influence major events.

Cultures

This is another wildly fun part of fantasy to plan out. At least, it is for me.

Culture includes the language your characters speak, the way they dress, the food they eat and how they prepare it, or any bias they might have against people from a culture different than theirs.

Cultures can also have their own history, how they came to be and how they developed to become who they are in the present.

A Magic System

This is probably one of the more tricky parts of a fantasy book.

Many books in the past used to have magic that is just used, but never thoroughly explained. This traditional way of magic has been overused so much, that it’s just become a bit boring for many.

Many authors (the first that comes to mind is Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series) have started to develop magic systems, where the use of magic is explained and using it comes with a price, sometimes quite steep.

This can not only help to add realism to the fictional world, but also helps the reader to understand the character and their struggles more.

Characters

This is probably one of the more obvious aspects, but it’s still often overlooked.

Authors must choose between using a singular point-of-view, or making use of a cast of characters. Both have their pros and cons, with readers either being bored with one character or getting confused between the pov’s switching, but this is not the largest issue for me.

Many authors struggle with giving their characters life and understandably so. To make a character seem like a living, breathing human is hard.

Having many different characters in one scene and trying to have them interact with each other organically is definitely a challenge that many authors (including myself) struggle with.

Plot

Another obvious aspect, but still important.

An author’s characters need to have a goal they want to reach, which is usually overthrowing the bad guy. In between the characters and this goal are many obstacles which they must first overcome.

This sounds easy, but trust me: it’s not.

To have a plot that flawlessly interconnects with your characters, your magic system, and your physical world is a puzzle that many people try to figure out. And also, it’s supposed to be an entertaining puzzle (you’re writing for the readers, remember?)

Even with such a difficult aspect, some authors choose an even harder route: writing stories that are not linear. These events do not take place in a chronological manner and can take place at different times as well. When utilized correctly, this can be an incredible form of storytelling that will wow readers.

That’s it!

Which element of fantasy is the hardest for you?

Till we meet again!
Xx Alexia

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