Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fantasy Writing

I have been reflecting a bit on writing in the fantasy genre and have come up with a few things that I think are a special challenge. There are two main problems with writing fantasy. The first is the largest. It is creating a believable world. Whether in sci-fi or fantasy, the author has often created a new world. The easiest thing to do is to use the “real” world. There are plenty of sci-fi books that are set in the modern world or in the near future which means the reader can understand the setting without a lot of explanation by the author. In fantasy, often the genre will borrow the historical medieval world so that again there is no need for a lot of explanation about the setting. If the author chooses to create an entirely new world, with new rules, than there must be some pages devoted to helping the reader understand how things work in this world. This is true of any changes to the actual world. In fantasy it is often magic that has been added to the medieval setting, and such things should be explained in order to be coherent and believable. In sci-fi any time there is new technology or a new race of character these things should be explained. This allows the author tremendous freedom because he can deviate from the “real” world and create a new world, but also adds responsibility to the reader for not leaving him behind. Then there is the additional question as to how many pages to devote to background or explanation of the fantasy world or the additional characteristics found in the story’s world.

The other challenge that I have found is with names. I agonize over names of characters and places. There are several options for the writer. The easiest on the writer and the reader is to simply use common or at least recognizable names. I feel this is often the case with Harry Potter. The series actually uses a mixture of common and creative names, which makes it easy to read, but then adds some mystique to the story. Another option is to borrow the names found somewhere else as in the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien borrowed nearly all of the names found in his books from a German epic, the Saga of the Volsungs. Still another option and the one I employed is to create all of the names found in the story. This is by far the most challenging. I eventually developed a complicated system for randomly building names in the different languages found in The Sureshot. While this often prompts people to ask “how I came up with those names,” and to complain about their difficulty, it does add a sense of the fantastic. I defend my use of created names by explaining that to use English as a base for naming would be bland and lack the “feel” I am after in my stories. I am pleased with my system for naming as it is now both efficient and effective in my opinion. I will not apologize for any difficulty in their pronunciation.

Anyways, these are my thoughts so far about writing in the fantasy genre.

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