8 Tips For Writing A Fantasy Novel

I’m no expert on writing fantasy. But I have written my fair share of the fantasy genre. I’ve written a couple of (totally not flushed out) short stories and I have written a novel or two with a few other ideas.

And when I say fantasy I mean I’ve written about mages. I’ve written about wizards and elves. I’ve written about superheroes. I’m all over the place with it.

I’m giving these tips because this is what I’ve learned along the way (and we can pretend I’m some sort of expert on writing fantasy), but also because I’m writing fantasy for NaNoWriMo.

So, here we go!

8 Tips to writing Fantasy

1. Keep it “real”

Fiction is fake, fantasy is out of this world. Still, there’s a little bit of truth in everything we write. Sometimes we base characters off of ourselves or someone we know. Sometimes we take places and warp them just a little bit to fit in a fictional land or some stories are based on real-life places.

You can always create and base elements of your story on real-life people or places. Take a myth or lore into your hands and add a twist to it. Research is your friend.

2. Mythical creatures

Like I said in the above point, you can do a lot with real-life people or places or even creatures. Unicorns and dragons don’t exist, but they can in the fantasy world. Dragons especially usually have big parts in the fantasy world. However, while you can make them your own in your world, you can also do research on them.

It took me a long time to realize that mermaids are not in fact like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. They are, supposedly, not nice creatures. It shattered my childhood, but I used that information to my advantage in one of my fantasy novels.

3. Magic

J.K. Rowling created the spells in Harry Potter using the Latin language. It’s not Latin exactly, but she twisted it around so that the spells were her own and they could kind of be “translated.”

I’m not saying you have to create a magic system just like Rowling did, but it should still make a little bit of sense.

4. Know your world inside and out

If you’re writing the kind of fantasy where you need your own Middle Earth area, you have to know the world as though you’ve been there in real life… as though you’ve lived there all your life.

Create a map. Do they speak another language? Do they have a different currency? What kinds of food do they eat? What are the seasons like? You may not need to know all of that, but it’s helpful to know anyway.

5. Use a map

Maps are important. Your fantasy novel may not need a map necessarily, unless it’s Middle Earth, but creating a map for yourself won’t hurt. It’ll help you keep track of all the areas which in turn will help you write it and allow your readers to understand.

6. Create character names that can be easily read and pronounced

Yeah. I don’t know what Flbergsted is. There are plenty of fantasy name generators out there on the Internet. Use your vowels wisely.

Sometimes I take names of people I know and spell them backward. For example, Rachel would be Lehcar. Even then you still have to mix some letters around to make them comprehensible, but most names work backward.

7. Do your research

There’s no wrong way to write a book, but research never hurts. There are so many sub-genres of fantasy. Some are way more complicated than others.

There’s a lot on the Internet and there is so many fantasy writing craft books out there. Not to mention fantasy novels in general that you can read. Just brush up on your fantasy knowledge.

8. Know your fantasy genre and subgenre

This kind of goes along with the point above. Fantasy is a vast genre and there are so many sub-genres to it. Like I said earlier in the post I’ve written many different kinds of fantasy. I go from Lord of the Rings style to X-Men style. Both are fantasy, but that’s just about all they have in common.

Do you write fantasy? If so, what sub-genre of fantasy do you typically write in? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!


67 thoughts on “8 Tips For Writing A Fantasy Novel

  1. Hi Rachel,
    First of all, I really enjoy your blog!!! I noticed you mentioned “flushing out” a story, which surprised me since I’ve always used the term “fleshing out” when talking about fiction. You know, as in “one starts with a skeleton outline and then fleshes out the details.” Although journalists and fact-searchers are always trying to “flush out” the truth. This raises an interesting question: As a fiction writer, do you build fiction from the inside out do you uncover an already-existent story by separating it from the noise? (Or am I just reading way too much into a phrase? 😉 Either way, thanks, for giving me something new to contemplate!!!

    • Hi Jennifer, I wish I could give you a better answer than this, but… I also say “flesh out.” You just caught a typo that I seem to have missed, lol! Though I guess it kind of means the same thing… right? I don’t know. Either way, I typically just write fiction head-on. I do usually start with an outline and then sometimes real life things sneak their way in. 🙂

      • That’s the best answer! The jokes on me for taking things too seriously. I love word plays but I’m not very good at them. And this one really can make sense both ways but the more I thought about it, the more the nuance jumped out at me. Then my brain reverted back into high school Language Arts class and I was a goner lost in layers of possible meanings. It won’t be the last time I shake my head at myself. 😉

        • I started laughing when I read your comment because I had no idea what you were talking about. Then when I went back and read my post, I realized that I had made a typo, lol. It’s never a bad thing to overthink those kinds of things sometimes. 😉

  2. Great post! Number 7 I think is a particularly important one. Number 8 I often wonder about. I define my stories as epic fantasy, but with a lack of magic I often wonder whether there’s some other sub-genre it’d slide into better. Any ideas?

  3. Great post. I would also like to add this. Study mythology! Some of the great fantasy writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander dipped and withdrew their creative buckets in the well of mythology. Mythology is a treasure trove of ideas that help us as fantasy writers see the world in a different light, just like the ancients did.

    • Yes, that’s exactly what I meant when I said keep it “real.” 🙂 I’m actually dipping into mythology for my fantasy novel, though that happened completely by accident, lol.
      Thanks for your input. 🙂

  4. This was some great advice. Although I am not a fantasy writer, I think that you can incorporate this advice in just about any genre, including historical fiction. Nice job!

  5. This was a good read for me, made me think about some key points in my novel. Like shoukd i just create my own world or use real geographical points. While using my oen world has its freedom to do whatever i want, maybe its a little too much freedom and responsibility. Where as using real places comes with its own challenge of having ti be fact checked and things more so alomg those lines. I am currently writing in the fantasy genre although it’s more so leading more towards the sci-fi aspect,more like the X-Men.

    • It’s a tough decision and one that will probably change over time the more you spend time with your plot and characters. Good luck with it! I love X-Men. 🙂

  6. I love this! I didn’t even realize I was doing all of this when I was writing my book. Fantasy is a beautiful genre to play around with but it gets better when you ground them into a real setting 🙂

    Btw, about the mermaids, I think you are referring to the sirens, right? Because if I’m not mistaken, they are the bad ones

    Anyways, I also just started posting some fantasy writing tips and experiences in my blog lionelsonny.wordpress.com it would be cool if you guys checked it out. Cheers!

    • It’s interesting to see what you do “accidentally” when writing, lol.

      You’re right. I thought sirens and mermaids were similar and essentially one in the same, but they’re not. Good catch.

  7. Simple points that really make the difference from a great fantasy novel when compared to your average, run of the mill fantasy. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love all these points. Great Stuff. As an often fault I tend to overthink everything and never started my fantasy novel because I thought it’d be horrible and I was ‘researching’ forever. Just start I think is my favourite piece of advice i’ve been given. Also read Orson Scott Cards – How to write science fiction and fantasy. It enlightened me very much in a few of these points. Thanks again.

  9. I found your blog through Pininterest and bookmarked it. I finally am able to relax a bit and read your post. My question is, I loved a online game (no longer online) called City of Heroes and sucked me in, even though I had no idea what the stories were about LOL! But I loved having my character fly around and use superpowers. I’m tempted to write a fictional yet simple superhero story but I am not good at all at tech terminology, science and all that. So if I were to name a weapon in the story for a battle, I have no clue what it would be called. Any advice? 🙂

    • Research is your friend. You can do it for sure. Just start writing it and if something comes up that needs clarifying, make a note to look it up. As for weapon names, I’m not sure. It would depend on what the weapon looks like and what it does. Of course, you can always go with real-life weapons. Good luck!

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