Hello fellow fantasy writers!
I am a brand new addition to There and Draft Again, and I’m super excited to be here. *waves*
The first time I ventured into fantasy was a total flop. I was thirteen years old and I decided I was going to finish an entire novel. (I had started about four of them, but couldn’t get past the first five chapters or so before I got excited about another story. This was pretty much the theme of my teen years. Too. Many. Ideas.) It was supposed to be a dystopian fantasy murder mystery with a disappearence/kidnapping subplot and family issues driving the overall current, along with a spy saga going on the side. The resolution would include a wrap-up of who committed the murder, why the random brother had gone missing, some mended relationships within the family, and the spy saga would carry over to the next in the [seven book?] series.
Turns out I didn’t have any space in my brain left for worldbuilding. Literally, it was just too much story, which of course presented too many possibilities. So how did I turn that into an 80k complete draft? I took out the fantasy elements and the kidnapping, and it went down on paper pretty nice as a simple murder mystery. (I still need to go back and take out the spies.) I felt as if I’d had a near brush with disaster and swore I would never attempt fantasy again. I’d stick to historical and sci-fi where it was safe.
But then something funny happened four years later. The first time I tried National Novel Writing Month, I put my fingers down on the keys, and guess what came out? Fantasy. The story was character driven and the world building was effortless. I was so proud of myself when I finished. It was whole and complete. But it still felt a little empty. I stuck so closely to what I imagined high fantasy had to be that I hadn’t allowed for mystery, suspense, comedy, horror, romance, you name it — nothing that wasn’t strictly classic fantasy. It took me awhile to realize what was bugging me was that I didn’t incorporate other elements.
I’m sure there are some of us who heart our fantasy so much that we just don’t read anything else. And that’s fine! But I think there is a lot to be learned from other genres. Each one augments a part of the human experience that is important even if our characters aren’t human, because honestly, our readers are human. Of course, a lot of us will include essences and influences from life without even thinking, or maybe even go overboard like I did on my first novel, but the next time you feel stuck, or like something might be coming off a bit stale, don’t be shy about picking up a book from a genre you don’t typically read. You just might see a whole new dimension inside of your fantasy.
Here are a few of the questions I’ve asked myself that have helped me broaden the spectrum of my stories:
— What is the commonly known history of the places and families in my world? How does everyone remember it, and do they disagree on how it happened? Do the characters who don’t know the history need to learn more about it?
— Can I up the action anywhere? Take the adventure to the next level?
— Has anything horrific happened in the lives of my characters? Have I thoroughly explored these experiences and how they would affect those who had them?
— Are there any characters that ought to be attracted to each other that I’ve missed? Any backstory romance that is relevant?
— Is there anything funny or ironic that I can make more real? (Children, especially, can’t help but add some comedy.)
— Are there any strands of mystery in my story? Something that the reader will be wondering about already… can I make it more pivotal to increase the suspense?
Are there any other genres you’ve drawn inspriation from? Who are some of your favorite fantasy authors, and are there any you could name who’ve incorporated some elements of other genres? Did you feel it enriched the story? I’d love to hear more thoughts on this!