Posted in Fantasy Writing, NaNoWriMo, Story Structure, Writing

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!

 

Advertisements
Posted in NaNoWriMo, Story Structure, Writing

7 Ways To Avoid A Boring Middle For You And Your Readers [NaNoWriMo 2017]

Ever hear of the sagging middle? It’s when you get to that point in your novel that just seems to go on and on and on… yet nothing seems to be happening.

I think everyone, at some point or another, has a problem with the sagging middle. Even I, as an outliner, have trouble with it at times. Sometimes you don’t know where to go next in your outline or the outline changes so much that the middle gets deformed somehow.

In a way, it’s kind of like week two of NaNoWriMo. You end up in some sort of slump.

Either way, here are some tips to avoid that sagging middle. Or, at the very least, you can throw something in to keep the story going. There’s always editing later.

7 Ways to Avoid Sagging Middle

1. Make it short and sweet

Quality over quantity, right? Listen, if you get stuck in your middle, skip it. Don’t worry about it. If that bothers you, write anything there. If you have any thoughts, write it out and see how it goes.

This is what editing is for. I know editing typically takes words out, but there’s nothing wrong with adding something in. After all, you usually have multiple drafts of novels. You can add something in, take it out, add something else in just to take that out as well. You have to play around with it.

First drafts are supposed to be all over the place.

2. Question your protagonist’s or your antagonist’s goals

Everyone has second doubts. Everyone worries. Everyone regrets something at some point in their life. What has happened in your novel before the middle? Is there anything that you can use to make any of your characters have an internal conflict? Or maybe they can have tension with other characters?

Bring the antagonist around, have them run into the protagonist. What happens? How do they handle the situation?

3. Play with your characters

Introduce someone new. Have someone leave the group due to a fight or they have something else to take care of. Kill someone off, whether it’s an important character or a side character.

Anything can happen, especially if tension is high.

4. Change location or POV

Where are your characters and what are they doing? Did they finish what they needed to do? Let them leave. Have something else happen and they need to move on as soon as possible.

Changing POV is harder, of course. Unless you’re writing in that kind of style where you switch POV characters for each chapter or some other way. Still, you might be able to make it work somehow. You just have to be careful with it.

5. Throw a curve ball at your characters

This is the point of novel writing. You’re supposed to constantly throw lemons at your characters, especially your protagonist.

Depending on the situation you put before your characters, anything can happen. Something as simple as changing the weather can throw your characters off.

6. Start writing in the middle

Are you nervous about your middle sagging before you even start? Start in the middle. Throw your characters into something that you think may help get your novel to the end and go with it. This may be easier to do if you have an outline in mind, but it’s doable either way.

At the very least, you may get to know your characters a little better. You’ll figure out what you want the plot to accomplish.

7. Throw in a red herring

Red herrings are fun. They’re fake clues handed out for the mere sake of throwing your characters (and your readers) off the trail. Send your characters on a wild goose chase. As long as it leads to something else that will advance the plot or bring tension, it’s a great way to keep those pages turning.

Do you typically have trouble with a sagging middle? What do you do to get out of that slump? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
Posted in NaNoWriMo, Story Structure, Writing

How To Start That First Chapter The Right Way [NaNoWriMo]

What’s the hardest part about writing a novel? It’s different depending on who you are, how you write, and what you write.

Still, you may have all the ideas and you may even have a quick outline, but beginning a novel can be tricky. It is, after all, one of the most important parts of your novel.

There are plenty of readers out there who not only read the book’s blurb on the back, but they already read the first paragraph or so of the first chapter.

Why? Because they want to get a feel for the writing style. They want to see if they’ll be hooked into the story right away.

If they are, they’ll buy it. If they’re not… well, maybe the next reader who is enticed by the blurb will be into it.

How To Start The First Chapter

There are so many different ways to start a novel. There’s no certain way that will work for every novel. That would, of course, end up being boring and unoriginal.

Though while many books may start with a piece of dialogue or some ominous message, each one is different and unique because every book and idea is unique.

With that said, here are some ways you can start your first chapter.

Introduce A Voice

Begin with a piece of dialogue. I know there are some people out there who don’t agree with starting with dialogue, but I personally like it. It introduces a character (whether it’s clear who it is right away or not) and it also gives you a sense of what kind of character you’ll be following around.

You don’t even have to start with dialogue. If you’re writing in first-person, start with a thought from the main character. Or no matter what the point of view, start with some sort of point the character is noticing or thinking.

Get Right Into The Action

Throw your readers and your characters into the heart of the matter. Or, the heart of matter that may lead into the main plot. The action is always enticing, especially when it starts the book off. The readers don’t know what’s going on, but if done right, they’ll want to know. They’ll keep reading and reading and reading.

Start Slow, But Not Too Slow

Feel free to ease your readers into the story. You can start with a typical day in the life of your main character or have them do something they would normally do that ends up affecting the plot somehow.

Just be wary of opening with your character waking up. That one gets old pretty quickly.

Throw In A Little Background

You want to keep your readers guessing, yet you want to give them something to work with. I’m not telling you to info-dump because no one wants that. However, giving a little insight to your characters and the world around them isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Prologue

We talked about this yesterday. Use at your own risk.

What are some ways you typically begin your novels? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

 

Posted in Story Structure, Writing

How To Determine If Your Novel Needs A Prologue

Prologues are such a hit or miss. Some people love them and some people hate them… though I tend to see more people hate them than love them.

I personally don’t mind prologues. As long as they’re done the right way.

How to determine if your novel needs a prologue

What is a prologue?

A prologue is the pre-chapter of a book. It goes before the first chapter and acts as an introduction of sorts. Prologues can try to accomplish a few different things:

  • Peek into the future
  • Delve into the past
  • Shine some light on a certain character

Prologues can, I believe, do more than that, but those are the most common I’ve seen. (They’re also the types of prologues I’d prefer.)

Do you really need a prologue?

Before you write the prologue, ask yourself,

  • What will my prologue accomplish? How will it contribute to the story?

If the answer is anything that I stated above or something else reasonable, try writing the prologue and see what happens.

After you write the prologue, ask yourself,

  • Did the prologue accomplish what it was supposed to?

If the answer is yes, feel free to keep it in. If the answer is no, take it out.

Still, people may get annoyed by the prologue.

Is your prologue long? Is it purely for information purposes?

Don’t make your prologue too long. A prologue is supposed to be an introduction of some sorts. If it’s going to be ten pages long, you might as well just title it “Chapter 1.”

You also don’t want to info dump. Yes, prologues are to shed some light certain aspects of the novel – a character, the setting, background info for the plot – but you don’t want to give away too much at once. You also don’t want to bore your readers will too many details at once before you even meet the protagonist.

Then again, you can’t please everyone.

Remember when I said that prologues can be used to look into the future, look back on the past, or shed some light on a character?

Do that. That’s good.

(Well, in my opinion, anyway.)

Feel free to take a dip into the past. Maybe something happened way back when that caused the plot of your story to happen.

Looking into the future to foreshadow may be a bit difficult, but I believe it’s been done before.

Of course, there is always the background for the main character or some other important character. Give a brief introduction.

Just be sure to save the bulk for the first chapter.

Do you like prologues or not? Do you typically write them for your stories? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!