The biggest problem with writing fantasy stories is that we have to present a whole new world organically without overwhelming readers with names and places. Tolkien has an interesting way of presenting his world which I don’t think many have tried to emulate since. He does something that is generally frowned upon in the writer’s world today and that is he stops the plot by giving context to his places. This might seem like a bad idea but I think this is extremely vital to do in a fantasy setting. It usually goes like this: The heroes reaches a new place and then Tolkien gives some context to the history of that place and what the people living there are like through narration. One example is his introduction to the people of Bree, why there are both Humans and Hobbits living there and that it once was a an important crossroad town.
What’s so genius about this is that Tolkien can show a world and tell about organically because he makes us care about his world as we explore it. Many writers dumps a lot of information about places that the reader, and often the heroes, have never been to.
Why should we care?
Another important thing that most fantasy authors don’t do, I think, is that they fail to give context, or history, to small places, places that does not necessarily involve the main plot. Often the heroes just visits a town, something happens there, and then they move on. It’s just a nameless town with nameless people, a plot device. This makes the world hollow and forgettable, I believe.
Is there other ways one can convey the same information? You could use dialogue but I find it highly unlikely that the history of the places the heroes visits would come up in conversation very often if they are on a quest to save the world.
I don’t know about you guys, but if I would journey across the land, I would like to know a thing or two about the places I visit. Today we have the internet, but decades ago, people would have to pick up a history book, and that’s how LoTRs sometimes feel like, a very entertaining history book.
*This is another old post I made; June 2016 in fact. But it still rings true and I think it deserves to be shared ^^
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men; true nobility lies in being superior to your former self – Earnest Hemingway
I love this quote so much; self-improvement is to be better than you once were. To always challenge yourself, to try new things, to never do what’s easy, that is my creed.
You will never get anywhere if you’re content with your current skills or trying to measure yourself to others success. It is only what you can accomplish that matters because you are different from the person you look up to.
I hear sometimes people ask who you wish to be and they usually pick a celebrity. But that means you as a person is dead. You become this other person because you’d never had this person’s experiences while still retaining your own identity.
You can never emulate another person’s journey to success.
*I wrote this a while back but it still holds true. I’m glad that I’m getting closer to understand my own process.
When I write a fantasy story, I start with a concept and go by instinct. Everything unfolds as I put words on paper, but while I work on the first draft, I have to ignore contradictions (that may arise along the way) because I don’t have a clear grasp what the story is about yet. Just plow through it until the draft is finished.
When that’s done, I go back to the beginning, and I mean from the very beginning, a creation story. From there I did what I did before and let the story unfold itself and fill in the blanks of the first draft.
But, often it’s not as simple as that. I’ll find more contradictions that I need correcting and I find that I have to go back again and correct it from the start.
That’s how the process is: I write until something need correcting and I start all over again, polishing it until it all makes sense.
This makes it very difficult to write fantasy as I need to go back to the beginning of time for each story, unless I make several stories from the same universe. I understand why people borrow heavily from Ronald Tolkien when they make their own fantasy story and why people write urban fantasy.
I haven’t tried yet, but it feels like I could finish and polish a story set in the real world in a fraction of the time than if it was set in a fantasy world.
Is it the characters that carry the plot or is it the plot carries the characters? I’m not sure. Perhaps there isn’t a simple answer to that, at least not for me.
For me, stories never start with a character. My mind is so deep in the gutter I imagine entire worlds before I move down into a single character’s perspective. Sometimes it feels like the purpose of my stories are to give a satisfying conclusion to a tale that will never be published, that only exist in my head. Kinda like the first three Star Wars movies, a lot had happened before then and the prequels didn’t really need to be made.
Not that I’m a very big Star Wars fan but I just saw the Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars was on my head… In any case, this means that the characters are not in control of the plot, right? They have a destiny to fulfill and that is to finish what the past started.
Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s not the characters that make me excited, it is the concepts and ideas that I love to explore; the characters just helps me do it.
For instance, lets say there’s a boy who finds a magic item in a world where magic shouldn’t exist. He has to come to terms with magic existing and what he should do with that power. Do I then need to know the character before I start writing or will the character reveal himself through his actions?
Have you ever had a story so vivid play out in your mind only to disappear once you start thinking about it? The story was so clear and masterful that I wanted to write it down, but in that instance, it’s gone… All I remember is that there was a dragon involved, and sort of a eureka feeling, other than that, it might as well never existed.
It wasn’t a dream, however, because I was awake. I had my eyes close, sure, but I was never unconscious, I’m pretty sure. Perhaps I simply touched dreamland rather delw deep into it?
I believe stories are brought to us from another realm, how else do you explain the things we come up with? Why does words appear when I write and how do they somehow become a story, as if it wanted to come into existence from another place? I just simply have to let go and let it exist, use me as a vessel of its creation.
Which I don’t mind, really, but perhaps some of them doesn’t want to be revealed yet, perhaps I saw into something I wasn’t supposed to? I was thrown out because I revealed myself, I made a noise, or in this instance, I had a rational thought, which doesn’t belong in this realm, in dreamland.