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Problems with Writing Fantasy

One of the novels I’m working on currently is defined as low fantasy. This is my first time writing anything in the fantasy genre, so I’ve come across quite a few problems already. These aren’t unique to me, however, as they’re also problems I’ve seen in other fantasy novels and books. So today, I’ll be listing and explaining several issues that come along with writing in the fantasy genre.

1- Exposition

In most fantasy worlds, the world you are describing is usually different to our own world. Whether it’s on a completely different planet, or just a different version of Earth with different climates and countries, there will be a lot of differences. No one except you knows all of the details of this world, so it’s your job, as a writer, to convey the new cultures, laws, climates, landscapes, etc. However, this isn’t as easy as it seems. In many fantasy novels, I have come across pages upon pages upon pages of pure exposition. You’ll see it a lot in films too, but in books it’s sometimes worse. The saying “Show, don’t tell” applies here. Be very careful with how you explain and show this new world, find creative ways around it.

2- Defining the sub-genre

‘Fantasy’ is an incredibly vague genre to label your book, if you’re trying to sell it. Which is why it’s important to look into all of the sub-genres of fantasy, such as medieval fantasy, supernatural fantasy, low fantasy, and so on. This makes it much easier to define to a potential audience, who probably don’t know anything about your book if you simply define it as ‘fantasy’.

3- Getting your book noticed

It’s fairly obvious that fantasy books are very, very popular. There are thousands upon thousands of fantasy novels and series out there, both in book stores and online. Some are always recognisable even if you don’t read them, such as George RR Martin. As a result, some people often think they have a guaranteed audience and will have no trouble selling their book. It’s not that easy though. In fact, due to the sheer volume of fantasy novels out there, it can be incredibly difficult to have your own book actually be noticed and sell well amongst the millions out there.

4- Having relatable characters

This might not be a problem for some writers, but many readers do enjoy reading characters that they can relate to. Perhaps not on a really personal level, but it’s still important for a lot of readers to have characters that may experience things they have themselves. In some fantasy, however, this can be tricky to implement. When you have a character based in a completely different fantasy world, witnessing and going through different and unusual events, the reader may be unable to relate to that character, which can damage the emotional effectiveness of the story.

5- Continuity Errors

This one applies especially to fantasy worlds with lots of rules, species, classes, magic, etc. If you have made up a lot of aspects to your fantasy world, you need to keep up your continuity. These errors are surprisingly easy to find and once revealed, can really ruin the effect of the story. Write everything down separately to make sure you don’t lose track of anything and be sure to double check your writing and your own rules.

Published by Alexandra Killworth

I'm Alexandra Killworth, YA author, freelance artist and photographer and mental health activist.

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