One Way to Start Writing Fantasy Fiction

Know What You are Getting into Before Writing Fantasy

Writing fantasy is so fun because writers get to create distinctive tales centered around unique settings. This may sound easy. What's so difficult about telling a tale that the writer made up? There no research at least, right? The writer gets to take the story wherever he or she wants, right? Well, no, not really.

Writing a novel based in real places or persons requires research, of course. Creating a fantasy setting will probably have the author researching, too, however. For example, say the writer is describing a snowy meadow filled with fantastical plants upon which some mythical beast is munching. If the author describes the creature as appearing carnivorous and lacking any sort of body that can withstand the cold, the reader might be skeptical.

The setting and its inhabitants should make sense to the reader and this guide has been prepared for would-be fantasy writers who want to create a place they can call their own. Whether it be for games, novels, or short stories, fantasy is not easy to create. It is one of the most difficult genres for writers to have success getting published and it requires far more work than the beginner would suspect.

Know Why You're Writing Your Story

The most important thing to do, if you've been weighing whether to write your fantasy story or not, is to decide why you want to write it in the first place. Are you writing it to make money? Are you writing it to deliver a message to readers? Or are you simply writing it because you want to inspire the imaginations of your fellow man. Once you've decided on a reason to write your fantasy, remember it.

Altering the storyteller's voice mid-story, or suddenly writing a chapter that doesn't jibe with previous material, are two common mistakes that can be avoided if you know why you are writing your particular fable. Set realistic goals and write the story in a way that you feel will help it meet those goals.

If you're like most fantasy fans, you probably have a million ideas about fantasy settings, creatures, and heroes already. That's good. It will help you immensely in your efforts to create an original fantasy world. And for those that are younger and have not been influenced by fantasy writing or entertainment, telling your story is a good way to free your imagination and build the bedrock for your future fantasy fiction.

Whatever you are using to write with, you will need to use it. The most overlooked obstacle to fantasy writers is their tendency to put off getting ideas down on paper (so to speak). Ponder what you want your story to be, and have an idea as to what this fantasy world will mean to readers. Work out a beginning and an ending that won't leave readers disappointed. Put some thought into what you want your original voice to be saying to your readers, what major event your story is going to describe, and then set aside some time to start writing the story.

Broader Setting Example

In Southwestern Pania, not many leagues from the Horrien border, is the tiny farming village, Dobbner’s Fork.

It is so named because it was founded where Ironcrest Pass intersects with the Olonn River. The pass north into the rocky heights of the Bear’s Teeth Mountain range is one that is seldom used by benign travelers, at least these days. Now the barbarians that once protected travelers to their wintry homelands are gone, and the Pass sits empty.

The Olonn River flows east from the Western Plains, and out into the Sea of Empires. This river is home for many towns and villages along its vast length, primarily because it is a gentle river; it rarely floods, and slowly meanders its way in snake-like fashion through cool pine forests and fertile hills.

Building a Fantasy Setting

Creating a fantasy world is not something that is done in, say, seven days. It takes much longer to create settings that aren't completely forgettable to a reader. Your opening setting needs to set a tone for the story you are going to tell. There is no better example of this than JRR Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring.

The hobbits in his story carried the Shire with them throughout the trilogy, and because Mr. Tolkien so splendidly described his opening setting to his readers, The Shire meant something to them, too. Your fantasy world needs a starting point. Whatever you decide you want it to be, write it down. You can modify or expound on it later.

Fantasy world creators should remember to leave their characters some room for them to explore. In the example provided here, having a general idea of what the area surrounding a town called Dobbner's Fork is like before beginning your description of the village itself, will help to decide what sort of people live there.

Drawing a simple map of the village and the surrounding area is a beneficial way to begin. You still want to keep developing a mental image of your setting, but you can visualize aspects like travel better when viewing a map. Write a short descriptive summary of key settings in your world, and then rewrite them as needed once you develop more of the story.

Drawing a basic map helps fantasy world writers and creators to visualize certain aspects, such as travel.  It also helps to have an easily accessible catalog of people and places if you plan to write a longer tale.
Drawing a basic map helps fantasy world writers and creators to visualize certain aspects, such as travel. It also helps to have an easily accessible catalog of people and places if you plan to write a longer tale.

Basic Maps Aid Story Tellers

With a basic map and descriptive narrative about a few key setting features, stories within your imaginary world can begin to be developed. If you are writing a novel, for instance, your main story line will probably include many lesser stories within it. In the tiny bit of information shown above, we can determine what might be an interesting story to tell people that will be experiencing this world for the first time. We have some information. Let's examine what we could do with it.

  • The village itself would be populated by farmers and merchants. Maybe there is an interesting boatman that occasionally provides ferry rides across the river to the mountain pass. The river itself could be further described, and might provide an environment for fishermen, or even ships. Should we keep it a village or make it a city? There would be few people to encounter, and there isn't normally anything exciting happening, other than what you would find in a typical farming community.
  • Barbarian undead sound like a real possibility for the Pass. Should we have them wander into Dobbner's Fork, or should we have them encountered while our hero(es) travel through the mountains? Bandits would seem likely encounters there. A hidden lair of some powerful creature could easily be hidden there since it is rarely traversed. There are possibilities for good story lines within a brief descriptive setting narrative and a visual tool, such as our map.
  • Answer some of the questions asked by the descriptions. Knowing the answer to 'Why are the barbarians gone?', could seriously aid you in your effort to tell your story.

There are many other ways to begin your story. Maybe you're one of those rare talents that just sits down at the keyboard and the story flows. The advice given here is basically to break down larger work - the story being written in one's imagination - into smaller works, and then build them back up - the actual story, physically written. You'll find that your story makes more sense and paints a better picture by knowing details about your world before writing the finer details of what is to happen in it. Give depth to the people and places in your story and you will have written something that people have always loved - a good tale.

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Comments 15 comments

mortimerjackson profile image

mortimerjackson 5 years ago from California

It depends on the style of sci-fi of course, but when it comes to writing settings, I think it's more important to make your setting conform to certain established types of setting so as not to make the world convoluted.

This is because to me, it's more important to emphasize character, and spend more time building up character than setting.

Oh, and never go on two page rants when describing a setting...unless you're low on word counts.

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

That is an excellent point about settings. I remember getting frustrated more than a few times discovering a world that was packed with far too many details about its inhabitants or settings. Or having too many types that none get remembered. Good point. Thanks for the comment!

Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

Great advice. This piece was just what I was looking for. The map was a bit of genius.

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

I'm so glad you found it useful, Silver Poet. Thanks!

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KDuBarry03 4 years ago

What I find tedious about fantasy writing is having a good balance of description, dialogue, and counterpoint characterization. Since a fantasy novel often calls for a great deal of setting establishment, especially if you created your own map of the world, a writer may go a little too extensive on the description. I agree with mortimerjackson on description. Definitely be careful with how you use it in a fantasy novel! Otherwise noted, this is definitely very insightful and vital information for any fantasy writer. Thank you for the Hub, Jason!

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

I find making a map, even if I don't describe much of it in my writing, helps me take my characters places in a way that makes sense to the reader. Some people can visualize their fantasy world, and give vivid details about it, but I work better having the map as a visual aid.

I think you're right on about using dialogue on par with other aspects of storytelling. I've balked more than once at giant descriptive paragraphs that offer the reader little more than a guided tour, rather than an experience.

Thanks for stopping by, KDuBarry.

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KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Yes, you are absolutely correct on map making being a great tool to use for fiction writing. I currently use a map for my fantasy novel I am working on. Having a map actually helps me visual my fantasy world to give said vivid details. I find that the more you work on the map prior to the story, the more vivid the details will become for the writer.

You're welcome, Jason

htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Thanks a lot for this nice post ..yeah Fantasy is really cool

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi htodd. Not only is fantasy cool, but we get to make it all up! That's my favorite part. Thanks for stopping by.

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada


Having cut my teeth on JR Tolkien and moved through the works of Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan (and many others)...I've always had a hankering to write fantasy fiction. Lack of a starting point has left these aspirations just that...aspirations. This provides an excellent starting point to get through that pass through my mental mountains.

Thanks for the great advise!

Thomas goal for writing it would to become filthy rich.

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

At least your honest with yourself where you want your writing to take you. Knowing that is half the battle, I'd say. Writing without an agenda is good practice, but it's not writing to an audience.

The three authors you mentioned have distinct and memorable methods of telling their tales, and I enjoyed spending time reading about their imaginary places and characters. Their settings were, without a doubt, some of the most memorable ever produced.

Thanks very much, ThoughtSandwiches. Here's hoping your writing pays off for both you and your readers.

khmazz profile image

khmazz 3 years ago from South Florida

Great ideas!! I just wrote my first fantasy story ever and I really enjoyed it but these points will help me continue with my ideas!! Love it! Thanks for sharing this information with us!

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 3 years ago from United States Author

Congratulations on your fantasy story, khmazz. I find writing fantasy is the best means of letting my imagination run free. Thanks for stopping by.

PhtevenTyler 10 months ago

Great Advices! :D

If I had known this before, my beginnings to write my own Fatnasy story a few years ago maybe would have went less disappointing...

But since I started to create some characters, I'm excited to write a short story again :D

Thanks for your fantastic Hub!

Besides, I used to listen to something like this while writing:

Since most of my settings are inspired by irish/scottish settings, I liked to keep the sounds of a harsh, rainy nature in my mind, wich helped me a lot!

Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 10 months ago from United States Author

@PhtevenTyler - I think that closing your eyes while listening to your relaxation videos is a fine way to let setting ideas formulate in your mind. Don't give up on your story; it might be a first draft of something more substantial that grows from it. Keep writing and thanks for reading.

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