Summons can fall into two categories. One is filled with beasts that follow orders and usually appear for a specific, temporary purpose. They are summoned multiple times as they are needed. The other category is where you would find characters who have been called from another location or dimension. They take a role as either as the main hero or support. Both are very different from each other with the first being easier to do than the second. After all, beasts tend to not require as much depth, especially if they go away within a few pages of appearing.
So, these tips are primarily for the second group. Only brought up the first to make sure people knew what I was thinking of here.
- If your summons is a main character, you need to have a clear idea of why they have been called. This doesn’t mean telling the reader and characters the reason, but to have a general idea of why they are in their situation. Even if they were an accidental summons, there had to be a reason for the ritual to go off in the first place. This helps give the characters some urgency and focus. Otherwise, they’re just wandering around without any path.
- If the character is summoned from another dimension, they shouldn’t know exactly what is going on. A current trend is for a hero to be pulled into a video game or story that they know about. This gives them an advantage, but it also erases all sense of tension if they are 100% right. Having them know nothing or some of their knowledge be wrong helps in making them the avatar for the audience. Otherwise, there’s very little sense of exploration in a new world, which is something that fantasy stories highly benefit from.
- A summoned character doesn’t always have to want to go home. If they came from a boring or painful life, they may be more inclined to stay. The idea of being sent home after their adventure could be a source of fear. Considering if they want to stay or go from the beginning of their adventure. This will guide all of their actions and establish how close they get to people. Why be friends with people if you’re planning on leaving as soon as possible?
- The summoner and summoned do not always have to get along at first. Remember, this character has been yanked from their life to follow orders. There could be some resistance if the summoner isn’t polite or nice. It could result in a spell being put on the summoned figure to keep them in line. That adds to their shaky relationship, which can either improve, degrade, or stay the same depending on where you want them to go. Much of this part will decided on the reason for the summoning. Save the world? Maybe they’ll be okay. Needing a person who can do their chores? Not a good start.
- A person summoned from Earth won’t always know everything about technology. In fact, most people won’t be able to recreate things without the help of prior training or the Internet. So, a guy summoned to a world of magic with an Associate’s in medical coding and has only handled a gun in Call of Duty won’t be creating sniper rifles unless magic is involved. You need to give these characters the right background for these skills. Otherwise, they have to find ways to copy technology using the magic in the world.
- Summoned heroes don’t ALWAYS have to be involved in romances. Is it because they come from Earth and shower more often than those in fantasy worlds?
- Characters who are summoned tend to be special in some fashion. It could be that they appear with unique gear, special powers, or have knowledge that give them an edge. If they are completely normal and no better than the locals then readers might not thing there is any reason for them to be involved. Whether it be at the start or down the road, they need to stand out for some reason. There has to be a justification for why they were called to action. You can even have people questioning their presence if they aren’t perceived as useful.