Writing Fantasy - A creative Approach to World Building
One of the most appealing things about fantasy is that it usually takes place in a fantastic and imaginative world. The mention of the Names Middle Earth, Midkemia, or Narnia brings up vivid images in a readers mind. But building a rich and vivid world takes a level of visual creativity that can be daunting to a writer. How do you get your reader to feel the stones of your New World? How do you get him or her to feel the landscape and the world as if it were a real thing? How do you show your reader the world when all you have is words to explain it with?
Before you can get your fantasy world to come alive in your readers mind you have to first get it to come alive in your own mind. It has to be tangible and real. And you have to see it before you can expect your reader to see it. So how do you do this? I have three suggested methods for bringing your vision of a world to life.
Draw maps of your world
If you read a lot of epic fantasy chances are you have looked at the maps that come with many of these books. They are a wonderful addition to the writing. They bring a visual reality to the world contained in the novel and they are not an afterthought to the novel. They are a valuable part of the novel reading experience.
Too often maps are almost an afterthought. The story is written and then the map is drawn to fit the story. You should turn this approach on its head and draw the maps early in the writing process.
A map or even a series of maps can ground your story in a sense of reality. It can also spur new ideas in the story. The visual layout of a map can bring out new ideas. Does the map feel like it is missing something. Does it feel natural for a lake to be at the base of a mountain? Draw it in and see if it brings a new chapter to your story. Are there two rivers that meet? What should be at this meeting point? Is there a city? Maybe there is a dark forest. Maybe these new terrain features will play a role in your story.
Maps are something that a reader often refers to. A map is a bonus in a novel and whenever there is a map in a novel that I am reading the map pages are deeply dog-eared. It brings a different part of the readers brain into the story. Dont neglect maps and dont save them as an afterthought. Use them to their fullest potential. Even if you dont have much skill with drawing, your map may be good enough to actually use in the final print version. It is the roughest maps that look like they are hand-drawn that are the best accompaniment to a fantasy story.
Make 3d scenes and dioramas for your world
Create a video game that you can walk around in
I have worked with several different software suites for creating worlds and one of the new ones is the Kaneva game platform. I havent used it yet but it looks very appealing and very user friendly. If you use this platform to make a world you can even invite other people to come and explore it with you. Wouldnt that be something? You can tell them it is the world that your novel takes place in.
On Writing - Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King's On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. You're right there with the young author as he's tormented by poison ivy, gas-passing babysitters, uptight schoolmarms, and a laundry job nastier than Jack London's. It's a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. This was a child who dug Yvette Vickers from Attack of the Giant Leeches , not Sandra Dee. "I wanted monsters that ate whole cities, radioactive corpses that came out of the ocean and ate surfers, and girls in black bras who looked like trailer trash." But massive reading on all literary levels was a craving just as crucial, and soon King was the published author of "I Was a Teen-Age Graverobber." As a young adult raising a family in a trailer, King started a story inspired by his stint as a janitor cleaning a high-school girls locker room. He crumpled it up, but his writer wife retrieved it from the trash, and using her advice about the girl milieu and his own memories of two reviled teenage classmates who died young, he came up with Carrie . King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery , the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers , and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife's intervention, which he describes). "There's one novel, Cujo , that I barely remember writing."
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