Monday, 20 February 2012

A Guide to Writing a (Bad) Fantasy Novel

Having never written a fantasy before or done much world-building, I decided the search Google for “how to write a fantasy novel”. I know it sounds like a novice thing to do, but I’m in uncharted territory here, and I thought there might be a few little gems of information I could use.

In a way, there was.

All I was able to find were sarcastic webpages that at first didn’t seem that helpful. But as I thought about them I realised that the websites actually listed all the things to avoid when writing fantasy novels. So, here’s my guide to writing a bad fantasy novel (or, what to avoid):

1. Your protagonist should be a farmhand.

2. And an orphan.
3. The Evil Bad Guy should secretly be the protagonist’s father.

4. Make sure there’s a Wise of Wizard who mentors the protagonist.

5. The Wise Old Wizard should know all about the quest, but doesn’t tell the protagonist.

6. Several of your characters should have apostrophes or dashes in their names.

7. The more the better.

8. The Evil Bad Guy should have an enormous army of (ugly) henchmen (the uglier the better) at his disposal. These henchmen don’t require payment, or food.

9. There should be several locations with the following words in the place names:
     a. Doom
     b. Forbidden
     c. Fear
     d. Death

10. The characters should go through an abandoned Dwarfish mine.

Admittedly, a few of the above feature in my own fantasy novel. My Metaphorical Red Pen is going to be hard at work before too long.

For the comments, what are some things to avoid when writing a fantasy novel? Let me know!


  1. That's a good list! I would also add that any female in the story should only exist to provide a purpose for the hero to quest after she is raped/kidnapped/killed.

    Yeah. Fantasy authors can bite me.

  2. YAY! I've avoided all of these except the apostrophe one! But that's my way of denoting the African-based culture, vs. the Indian-based culture, so…I have reasons! XD And I make sure they're all necessary to the pronunciation/can actually be pronounced. =) Hmm…I think I actually only have one orphan who's been an orphan for any legitimate length of time. Of course, there are a couple more who are missing one parent, or have been separated from their parents, but yes. Variety. ^_^

    Variety isn't as hard when you have…*cough*eight protagonists. But NONE of them are farmhands! Unless…unless you count the two slave characters…hmm…

    And things to avoid! Things that happen just because you think it'd be cool to happen. It's pretty tempting, because it's like, oooh, magic! ANYTHING can happen! =D But anything doesn't need to happen, so…it's good to make sure absolutely everything furthers at least two of the three—plot, character, setting. Preferably all three. And the other fantasy thing to avoid is allowing your character to become a pawn of the plot machinations with pretty much only basic human emotions, instead of letting the character be a unique person with a personality and all that. In other words, the pawn of epicosity. It's very easy to fall into, when you've got a plot you're excited about—easier to just make the character fall into it, rather than design the character to logically act, feel, think that way to make those things happen.

    And…that's what I can think of right now. =)

  3. Hehehe. xD I admit, I totally have some of those. That's what editing is for, right? ;p

    Animals that can only talk to the protagonist/are very human-like, even if they can't actually talk to the protag. Frequently are horses and cats.

  4. Merrilee: Thanks for the addition! Good point!

    Amanda: Eight protagonists?! I thought I was going to be over the top with three! How do you manage them all?

    Constance: Another good point! Thanks!

  5. Lol, not all in one book. It's a seven book series. I just tried to formulate a word description and it came out really confusing, so I'll make a chart-thing, letters being each character:

    Book 1: A, B, C, D
    Book 2: E, F, G
    Book 3: A, B, C, D
    Book 4: Pt. 1- H, D Pt. 2- E, F, G, H, D
    Book 5: A, B, C
    Book 6: D, E, F, H (G died in 4)
    Book 7: Pt. 1- D, E, F, H Pt. 2- A, B, C

    I give them as equal face time as possible, while being very careful that each scene is absolutely necessary. So…lots of planning.

  6. LOL!! I love that list. And like Amanda, I've managed to avoid all of them in my latest fantasy. *cheer* But I pretty much hit all of them in my first. XD

    I think the best way you'll learn to write fantasy is just by doing it, and getting a feel for your own voice. This list is super helpful, but even by following what it tells you not to do, you're still going to make some rookie fantasy writer "mistakes". And it's OK. It's how we learn. Plus there are LOTS of us who read fantasy a LOT (*cough*) who could give you advice /opinions when you need them. *shrug*

    Good luck with your novel, though! Have LOTS of fun with it. :D