24 September 2014

Making Things Up

No matter what kind of story you're writing, there's a lot of work that goes into it. You have to create realistic and compelling characters, map out an entire plot, make sure everything not only fits and makes sense, but entertains as well. I've written both fantasy and realistic fiction, and while creating the worlds in these stories is very different, I can't really say that one is easier than the other. When you're writing something realistic, it's more about research. With fantasy, you get to make things up. 

You'd think making up your own world and all of the tiny little details in it would be fun. Well, it certainly can be. But it can be difficult as well. I recently came up with a two book medieval fantasy story that I'm trying to map out in time for NaNoWriMo. I never outline any book before I write it, but in the case of this particular story, I need to figure out a lot of things before I write a single word. 

While creating a fantasy world can be fun, it's also a lot of work. You may need to start from scratch. You could certainly write a fantasy novel that takes place in any time period within the structure of the real world. But if you want to take it a step further, you can literally create an entire new world. This has its ups and downs. You can basically make this world whatever you want it to be, but you also can't leave any room for error. It has to be consistent, and it also has to make sense. 

There are a lot of details that go into creating a world, and I'm trying to figure all of these things out as I craft this story idea. I have the basic story line mapped out and all of the characters at least partially created, but there's still a lot to figure out. I have to at least have a vague idea on so many things--geography, religion, laws--so that if I need to insert a tiny detail into the story, I'll have it ready to go. It's even taking me a while to name my characters, since I'm not sure if I want to use real names or make them up. It can be fun to create names, but they can also sound silly. I want people to take my characters seriously. When creating this kind of story, you have to decide what elements from the real world you want to use, and which ones you want to completely make up. 

When there's fantasy involved, it can be easy to fall back on that as an excuse. If something doesn't make sense, you feel like you can say, "Because magic, that's why!" While this can work to some extent, overusing the fantasy elements just to move the story forward can be annoying for the reader. I actually just figured out something that was bothering me about this story. I knew that two of my characters will have a protection spell over them, but I had to figure out how this spell actually worked. The point is so that these characters can't be seriously harmed, but can they feel any pain? Like, if they stub a toe, would they even feel it? One of these characters goes his whole life without even knowing he was under this spell, which I thought was a little unbelievable. I also have the other character sentenced to death at one point. But if he's protected, can he even be killed? It was a lot to consider, and the easy way to deal with it would just be to say, "well, it's magic so it can be whatever I want it to be." Well, the reader is going to see right through that. Sure, it's fantasy and magic, but it still has to make sense. I did some brainstorming and thought, what if this spell only protected the characters in an instance where blood would be shed? So, maybe these characters can't be cut, but can still bruise, or the threat of hanging would be something to worry about. I haven't figured out all the details yet, but I came up with something specific that will help this idea to work. 

I think my best advice would be to constantly ask yourself questions. Don't get so caught up in your fantasy world that you can't see what's wrong with it. After I wrote out a quick synopsis for the first book, I immediately started a list of questions I had--things that needed figuring out, potential plot holes I saw. I'm hoping I can actually figure out every detail of this story before November so I can write this thing. 

Anyone else working on fantasy? How do you go about creating a world? 


  1. I must admit I love world building, yet for the first draft, I focus more on the story and characters. In later drafts, I build more of the world and ask myself questions on believability and the like. I sometimes think the world knows itself better than I know it. LOL!

    Good luck!

  2. I have so much respect for fantasy writers. Well, writers in general, but the level of details and work fantasy writers put in is mind blowing and inspiring. The world building is amazing. Anyway, I think you're absolutely right, constantly questioning our world, what makes sense or not is great advice. :)

  3. I too am writing a fantasy story for this years NaNoWriMo.

    I'm currently working on characters and events but do have a basic, overall map already sketched out. As I move through the outline I'm starting to add little bits of details (forests, cities etc) where required.

    Good luck for November.

  4. All of the complications that go with it are the reasons I don't write fantasy, but I have huge respect for anyone who does!

  5. Oh yes, I have one of those Google sites dedicated to stuff about my fantasy world. It's private, and just for my reference, but it's got everything from the provinces, moon cycles, religion, military, society, and races to my characters, playlists, plot lines, and even relationships. The magic portions fall under races and religion. I also have a lot of made up words. That has worked against me, even though I included a glossary. Ah well.

  6. I've only written one fantasy so far, and I wanted the world to still be a familiar one but with magical/fantastical elements. Some animals can talk. Only a certain group of people have the power to use magic, etc. The hardest issue I had was just making sure things made sense.

  7. Figuring out the reason behind anything in fantasy is quite a challenge. You have to make it fantastic, yet reasonable inside the world you've created.