Last week I looked at the PROs and CONs of writing a historical novel. Hopefully, I managed to show some of the challenges a historical writer faces. This week I want to move onto fantasy. The fantasy novel has its own benefits and pitfalls – here are a few of them.
PRO: There are no limits – unlike writing a historical novel, you are no longer constrained by the events of the past, so your imagination is now left unbound. Create a world where everything is how you want it, teaming with life, filled with magic and weird and wonderful creatures, spread over expansive plains, seas, and mountains. Only gods and writers are given this opportunity.
CON: When fantasy is bad, it can be really bad. When writing a fantasy novel, please keep your reader in mind. That might sound obvious, but the very freedom that fantasy can offer writers, can lead them to forget this. A writer may want to display the full magnitude of their imagination, but if that comes at the cost of telling a coherent story, then the novel can slip into something little more than a tool for the writers own ego. Always remember writers are story-tellers first and foremost.
PRO: There are no longer any pitfalls in regards to historical accuracy. No-one can challenge anything that occurs in your own world – if you decide they invented steam power before the advent of gunpowder, so be it! Your characters can also become anything you want them to be, become a king, an emperor, a magician of the highest order –hereditary lineage is no barrier to your characters ambition.
CON: Sometimes too much freedom can bring its own problems. You may no longer be constrained by the events of history, but that increases the chance of your novel wandering off on tedious tangents and dead-end plots. Be very sure of the story you want to tell, as you no longer have history to keep you on track.
PRO: Magic! To draw energy from the world around them, create and cast spells of power and mystery, to control others by the power of their mind or the force of their will – what can possibly compare to the power that gives a character, or the mystery this can imbue in a world.
CON: Make sure your world is original. The problem with the fantasy genre is that arguably the greatest example of the genre is the one that started it – J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings. Much as we all love his novels, you don’t want to create a poor man’s Middle Earth. Be especially wary of this if you inhabit your world with the well-known elves, orcs, and dwarves – I’m not saying you can’t, but make sure your world and your novel is in itself unique.