This is a simple list of five tips that can really help out fantasy writers.
1. Read outside of the fantasy genre.
Yes, you should definitely be reading fantasy if you intend to write it, however you need to broaden your horizons a little. This is because when a book is a fantasy, it really just warns the reader to expect strange places, magic, or any of the other fantasy conventions that the writer has chosen to employ. It doesn't really tell them what sort of story is being written. Many fantasies are really just romances with a bit of magic thrown in, or they are crime stories, or action, or a quest, or any of the dozens of generic plot structures floating out there. To write good fantasy, you need to have a wide knowledge of a lot of different genres.
2. Make the character names pronounceable.
Maybe it is cool to put an apostrophe of asterisk in the middle of a name, but unless your book comes with a pronunciation guide, all this does is perplex the reader and make it harder for them to really connect to your character. Even with the pronunciation guide, I find it quite frustrating to flip from the middle of a fight sequence, to the front, to figure out how to pronounce the name of a character who just rode into the fray. I'm not alone in this.
3. Add the character names to spell check.
Possibly this is an extension of point two, but it is very helpful. As a writer, I have overused the spell check to the point where the F7 on my keyboard has faded to non-existence and it is now a blank key. When writing a fantasy, there are any number of names, of both people and places, that are not exactly conventional. This means that every time you work on your story, the first spell check is going to stop on every single character and place, and even if you click ignore all, if you've added an apostrophe s to any character name, that will come up to. Keep a second dictionary, with all standard English words, and add the vocabulary specific to your story. It will save you a lot of time. Also, when it highlights a character name, you know that you have actually mistyped the name or changed the spelling, because your chosen spelling is now in the dictionary.
4. Description matters.
In fantasy, description is extraordinarily important. If you are setting your story in the real world you can sometimes take short cuts, not so with fantasy. You can't just say it is a small town or a suburban town, and expect the reader to fill the details in. The details are what make your story unique and are what suck your reader in. Get the description right and the reader will forgive you if it takes a little longer to get the story moving (I say a little, don't expect the reader to wade through five chapters of description before anything happens).
5. Find your own voice.
Maybe you love Tolkien, or you fell in love with Pratchett, or maybe Eddings was your introduction to the fantasy world. That's nice. Don't copy their style. They have unique voices that people are already familiar with, and trying to emulate them will just get you labelled a bad substitute. Admittedly, if you have read everything ever written by an author, your author voice will probably find some similarities, because that is a style you are familiar with. That's where reading widely comes in handy. It gives you a larger repertoire to draw from when creating your own style. Instead of having one or two influences, suddenly you can borrow little bits from many and roll it together in your own unique way.
Remember to have fun writing. If you have any tips for fantasy writers, let me know.
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