Monday, May 25, 2009

Writing in a Fantasy World

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
~Albert Einstein

Fantasy is a genre filled with enchantment, alternate worlds, quests, epic battles between good and evil, and mythical creatures (such as those found in the fantasy guide, The Destineers Journal of Fantasy Nations ). In addition to the unique characters, the element of magic sparks the most active parts of our minds and imagination takes flight.

Magic, by definition, is a conceptual system that asserts the ability to control the natural world through a supernatural means. It is often associated with a specific artifact, a magical item that allows the hero of the story to complete his quest, or stems from powers that a certain individual possesses. Often this power has no way of being duplicated and cannot be destroyed by ordinary means. The race to control this power leads to conflict in the story and the potential to lose this power keeps a thread of suspense running through the story line.

As fantasy writers we are charged with finding a way to create believable magic in our stories. We have to create a system for how the magic will function in our fictitious world, complete with very specific rules that control it and consequences that must be adhered to when these rules are broken. Consistency is very important. When you are developing a magical system and considering elements to include in building your imaginary realm, Patricia Wrede’s Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions is an excellent guide. Keep in mind, not all questions will apply to your world or need to be answered; these are simply issues to keep in mind to help you devise the world of your dreams.

The inner workings of magic within your fabricated realm is one particular area of your story where it is critical to show your reader how things work in this world you have created. If you tell them the rules (as opposed to showing them) it comes off as an overwhelming jettison of information which quickly will take the reader out of the story and straight into the land of boredom. However, when you subtly weave your tapestry of magic and fantasy you bring the reader solidly into your created world. Imagine how the story will come to life for the reader if they are totally immersed in the magic – allow them to hear the rhythm or chanting of a spell being cast, to see any hand gestures that may be involved with the ritual, to feel the rush of air as the magic unfolds. Is there a scent of incense or perhaps the bitter taste of a potion that may be involved? As the effects of the spell begins, the reader is pulled in, shoulder to shoulder with the characters, eager to be enveloped in your world of possibilities, anxiously following to see what happens next.

Imagination. It’s inevitable in fantasy. It’s very powerful and more important than knowledge... just ask Einstein. Where will your imagination take you?

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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is my favorite post of yours, Nancy. I think the best thing about reading fantasy is being transported to a different place and time. You're right--if the reader has to focus on all the rules for the magic, it ruins the reader's escape.

Thanks for the post!
Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

I'm am finding these posts so fascinating. Keem 'em coming.


Anonymous said...

Loved this post, such an insightful and thoughtful muse. I think imagination is atrophying in our modern era what with all the electronic gadgets and toys kids grow up with these days. When I was a boy I could amuse myself all day with imaginary comrades at war on the front, or saving a damsel in distress in middle ages Europe, or taking a trip to Jupiter and discovering aliens. Kids nowadays are addicted to being entertained rather than knowing how to stretch their imagination and encircle the universe. Great Albert quote, BTW.

The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

Danyelle said...

Great comments. I agree that it's important to be consistent. Authors lose credibility with their readers when they break their own rules. And I love what you said about showing the reader the rules. Not only would it be incredibly boring to have a list of rules rattled off, the reader would likely skip or skim, and then forget about them. I know I would. :D

N A Sharpe said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Thank you. I love the world of fantasy (grin) and feeling transported into a whole new world.

Thank you Karen :D

Marvin, I couldn't agree more. Kids don't use their imaginations anymore, they get lost in electronics and technology. Albert is sooooo wise :D

Danyelle, thanks for stopping by. I think if you just list the rules it totally takes the reader and the writer out of the story...not a good place to be. If, on the other hand, you can entice the reader to step closer to see what is going on and engage them in the storyline that way, the story becomes more personal and enjoyable.


Danyelle said...

There's something for you here: :D

N A Sharpe said...

Wow! Danyelle thank you so much. I am very humbled.


Anonymous said...

An excellent post, thoughtful and insightful. Although I don't read much fantasy, this intrigues me enough to want to give it a try.

N A Sharpe said...

Thanks Julie! I know, fantasy is not for everyone, but its the realm I live in, LOL.

Thanks for stopping by!


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