I think I’ll do a month of Do I Need to Use a Dragon? (Fantasy Writing Tips) teasers to see what people think. I can’t put full sections down, so I’m going to grab random introductions. Hope that works since I would like to showcase this project a little bit. Enjoy.
Do I Have to Go Medieval?
The original question I was asked was ‘Do I have to use England’ and I was taken aback by it the first time. It never crossed my mind that most fantasy stories take place in a medieval Europe setting. Shows how aware of my literary surroundings I am. The real meaning of this question is about the classical setting of fantasy.
When you think of the genre, you imagine robed wizards, hills rolling into forests, towering castles, roaring dragons, and knights in disturbingly shiny armor. Seriously, what kind of polish do they have in some of these fictional worlds? This setting standard has been around for decades, if not centuries, and many people feel that this is the only way to write fantasy. Before you ask, urban settings get a pass by these gatekeepers as a subgenre, but many will turn up their nose at a non-Earth fantasy book that refuses to imitate Camelot at some point. Thankfully, they are a minority, but this brings up a secondary question:
WHAT IS FANTASY?
Hands down. You’re all wrong and you’re all right. Fantasy is a really wonky genre at times because there are so many varieties. Fans will grab their favorite version and act like that’s the epitome of the style. You have adventure, political, social commentary, urban, dark, romantic, magical technology, post-apocalyptic, and so many more subgenres that can cause some friction among fantasy readers. Every part of a story can be criticized depending on a reader’s personal definition and taste of the genre.
People who want a highly political fantasy adventure or one with minimal magic don’t like Legends of Windemere because my stories are adventures with magic everywhere. This doesn’t mean I wrote something terrible or they have no taste in stories. It simply means that while I am a fantasy author and they are a fantasy reader, we aren’t on the same subgenre wavelength. Nothing you can do about it because personal taste is filled with nuance and individuality. Just write your story, hope a reader gives you a fair chance, and prepare to get drawn into one of the many genre debates.
Over the years, I’ve run into many bizarre arguments where I haven’t always been civil because I can get passionate. We all have this issue, so it takes a lot of willpower to remain calm when discussing how a fantasy world works. I’ll be touching on the larger areas in detail throughout this section of the book, but we can do an overview here.
The important thing to realize is that fantasy is very fluid and may be one of the most imaginative genres because you don’t have to work with reality. Earth isn’t necessary. Humans aren’t necessary. Nothing from our world is necessary. You may need a few familiar objects for readers to connect to, but this can be done working under your own rules. The trick is to establish those rules early on because readers will need something to hook them and carry them to when the story really kicks off.
One could say that fantasy is run by guidelines once you step out of the writing mechanics area such as grammar and story structure. This is why you can stumble into a debate about if magic is required for a fantasy story or what level such a thing should be at. People argue over if ‘real’ fantasy has politics or quest-based adventures because the loose guidelines can work with both. I feel the genre is driven primarily by the setting and characters who carry whatever story you give them. Guess you could say this about any genre, but I always sense it’s more so for fantasy. People really take these stories so seriously that fandoms will feud and authors will get drawn into the middle at times. Best you can do is decide on your own definition and set a polite example. That or shout about how such puny mortal discussions are beneath the attention of a god who is in the middle of crafting more of his world. I’m sure that wouldn’t backfire.