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A World of Reverie: Writing Fantasy

Romantics, the pioneers of fantasy, broke from the shackles of enlightenment and its emphasis on scientific reason. Romantics celebrated the individual thought and wildness of imagination. Writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne worked with the fantastic elements, but they dealt more with the gothic strain of literature. By the last decade of the Victorian age ( 19 century ), fantasy started taking over literature by storm. With stories of men going on adventures and exploring the exotic lands of mysterious creatures, fantasy made its place as the stories set in the whimsical world. But it was much later in the twentieth century when fantasy gained the form it has now. J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit ( 1937 ) largely influenced the revival of the genre which led to an incessant strain of fantasy literature in the market. In the present day, fantasy has evolved considerably, and it requires strenuous understanding and practice of fantasy to master it. Here we will walk you through steps to improve your fantasy writing.


Worldbuilding is an essential part of a fantasy. Take considerable time to accumulate all aspects of the new world you are creating. Make a note of all rules of the world you are creating so that there are no loopholes and the story remains consistent. Decide the time and place of the story. Whether the events of the story occurred in the past, present, or future. Whether the story is unfolding on earth, some other planet, or in a parallel universe altogether. Give your world history. Markdown the major events in history which shaped society and gave impetus to the laws in the world. You could also draw a map of the world to envision it better.


Start small but start somewhere. George R R Martin recommends writing every day, “write every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you’ll get. But don’t write in my universe, or Tolkien’s, or the Marvel universe, or the Star Trek universe, or any other borrowed background. Every writer needs to learn to create his own characters, worlds, and settings.” Writing short stories greatly helps in exploring the nuances of the world and the characters.

Make definite rules

Make sure your world has definite rules which are grounded in the reality of the world and is believable. Your magical world should be grounded in a plausible reality. These rules need to encompass everything in the world. The socio-political reality as well the magical system. Take your time and research well on the socio-political scenario of the world. You can also explore the real-world issues in your world. You can put forth your perspectives about social practices and write your criticism through it. But make sure you stick to your rules. Just because it is fantasy doesn’t mean everything goes. Write down all the rules so you don’t break them unintentionally.

Explore the senses Sensory details make your story more believable. Your writing should not tell your readers what is happening, it should make them experience it. Descriptions of the atmosphere can easily bore readers. Choose specific words which portray the emotive framework of character. Specific words can make the mood gloomy or cheerful. Consider the following lines from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. “A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven, but the wind was continually charging and routing these embattled vapours; so that as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr. Utterson beheld a marvellous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be glow of rich, lurid brown, like light of some strange conflagration.” Stevenson uses specific words which elicit the dreadful atmosphere. Notice he uses crawled instead of moved or progressed. The word crawled purposely intensifies the petrifying atmosphere.

Make a Structured Plot

Writing anything is a strenuous task, but it is particularly complex when you are writing fantasy. It is recommended to make a clear structure before venturing into the actual writing part. Make sure you have tied up all endings and dissolved all subplots by the time you finish your story, and for that, it is essential to have it all planned rather than mugging it up along the way.

It is also essential to read about the sub-genre before you are planning to work on it. Read how the genre has been explored by various authors and how it has developed throughout the ages. This will help you in grasping a better understanding of the genre and in mastering your craft.


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