“It’s easy to write because write whatever you want in fantasy”
“Fantasy is stupid because anything can happen.”
“Fantasy is for kids so it doesn’t have to make sense.”
Ever heard any of those before? I know I have. Let’s all take a moment to sigh.
I understand that if fantasy is not really your thing you may think things like this. Or maybe you read some really bad fantasy and it’s tainted your whole view of the genre. However, fantasy is much more hard work than people think, as is science fiction.
You can write whatever you like, but should you?
If you write whatever you want without thinking, is anyone going to become invested in that world? Will half-arsed ideas that don’t make sense create an immersive world for your readers? Will they pick up your second book if they didn’t believe in your first one?
Fantasy is more complicated than writing whatever pops into your head. Your stories need to make sense within the context of the world.
Suspension of disbelief
The suspension of disbelief can only go so far. The more things that make the reader stop and question the world, the fewer chances you have to keep them invested in the story.
If you’ve established one thing about the world in the beginning, don’t go back on it and start changing the world by page 100. It’ll just annoy the hell out of the reader – unless of course you have a reason for this change up.
So, for example, if you’ve got a Viking-inspired world with swords and arrows and stuff, don’t just shove machine guns in there (unless you have some kind of time-travelling reason why). This wouldn’t make sense. Why are they still using arrows when they’ve got machine guns?
That might be a bit of an extreme example so here’s another.
If your world is about witches and witches are (seemingly) the only magical creatures about, are you really going to start introducing dragons in book 3 out of the blue? Is the reader meant to just accept that dragons have always existed in this world if you’ve never mentioned them before?
If I was reading that I’d be like: “What? Why? Where did that come from?” I’d probably put the book down in frustration and let’s face it there’s plenty of other books out there we could read instead.
Now I don’t mean that fantasy and sci-fi have to be limited or feature boring, sensible stories for the “well actually, that’s not scientifically accurate” crowd.
The stories can be as mad as you want, just be a little consistent. Be respectful of your own world and the reader’s trust in you as a writer to create it.
Getting readers to believe
Writing about all the weird and wonderful things in your head is one thing, getting it to make sense in someone else’s head is a difficult task.
First of all, I think there’s something we should all accept – Some people will never believe your world. Your world won’t be for everyone.
But, for those with the potential to love your world and writing, how do you get them to believe it?
Consequences to your creative choices
You can put whatever you want in your world but one of the ways you’ll get people to buy into it is if these choices have larger consequences in your world.
A world where humans can fly does sound pretty cool, but what are the effects of this on the rest of your world?
Something as big as this doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Everything affects everything else. Humans flying = no need to invent cars? Imagine a world with no cars, roads, planes, trains, no road accidents and so on. It also opens up a ton of possibilities to take this further. Imagine getting your pizza delivered by air. These are the important issues.
Other things to think about:
- If some can fly and others can’t – how does this affect the class system? Are ‘flyers’ rich and upper class while the rest of us have to walk everywhere?
- How does this affect trade, transport?
- Is there an industry related to flying e.g. flying school? Jet pack factory?
There are endless possibilities here. While some people might not want to think too much about the economic consequences of a world where humans can fly, you can easily tie this to bigger stories. For example, if one country has flying humans and their enemy country doesn’t, this could affect warfare and weaponry.
These consequences and details will make your world more believable, even when your story has fantasy elements.
How far do you go with your world? Does everything need an explanation or reason? Please share your thoughts below.