The fantasy genre, whether done in a novel or a video game has been beloved for generations. As the title suggests, this will be a quick rundown of some of the more important features in fantasy writing including characters, world building, and magic systems and tips to do them well.
Writing Characters in Fantasy
Writing characters for fantasy stories is going to be similar to writing characters for any kind of story but with a few differences. What follows is a list of some of the characters you will commonly find in the fantasy genre.
The hero: This is the most important character who will drive the story with their motivations and goals. Tip: It is important to remember to make this character have flaws and weaknesses to prevent them from being not relatable and to keep the plot interesting.
The villain: This character is the main adversary to the hero and has goals just as strong as and in direct conflict with the hero’s goals. Tip: Remember to give them a reason for being evil so as to prevent them from being evil for the sake of being evil.
The mentor: Tends to be a very wise character who helps the hero on their journey by giving them training and/or wisdom. Tip: Prevent this character from having all of the answers. The hero must find some of the answers on their own.
The sidekick: The hero’s trusted subordinate and also usually best fried who helps them on their journey. Tip: Remember to make this character actually influence the plot. Keep them from being useless.
The alternate hero: A heroic character that is not the protagonist but not a sidekick either. Is on the hero’s side and against evil. Tip: This character will help the hero fight against evil but will not be primarily focused on.
The henchman: Evil underlings working under the main villain. Tip: Give them a good reason for being involved with the plot.
When writing any of these characters, its useful to ask whether or not the plot would be affected if they did not exist. If the plot is not affected without them, then you must work on that character.
Writing World Building
World building is another important aspect to consider when writing fantasy. World building is the process of creating a world that your characters will explore throughout their journey. This process could involve creating the following: unique geography, fantastical creatures, religion, and cultures.
Its important to remember that your world will greatly affect the plot. Think about a story like The Lord of the Rings and how many of the obstacle the characters have to face are the world itself. For example, when Frodo and Sam need to find a way into Mordor because it was not exactly accessible. You can use your world to create several obstacle your characters will have to face, whether it be a physical obstacle, the laws of a particular culture, or perhaps some kind of dangerous creature. The possibilities are endless.
While world building is important, do not go overboard with it. Too much world building within the story can distract the reader and slow down the pacing.
Writing Magic Systems
One of my favorite aspects of fantasy worlds are their magic systems. Magic systems are the rule sets for how magic will work within a fictional setting. There are two types of magic systems: hard and soft.
Hard magic is described as having specific rules and regulations. It is something that can be fully explained and understood. The pros of this type of system is that the characters will learn to use it over time which will establish growth and it can make for interesting problem solving. Ex: Avatar the Last Airbender.
Soft magic is more mystic. In other words, it is not clearly defined what one can or cannot do with it. This type of magic system allows for you to keep the magic mysterious and interesting. However, beware you do not use it to solve so many problems that it becomes a deus ex machina(someone or something that can solve a seemingly impossible problem) as this will cause the story to lose tension. This type of magic is commonly used as a metaphor. Ex: The lord of the Rings
When deciding what kind of magic system to use, consider how it will work in the context of your story. If your story is inspired off of religion and you want your magic to symbolize being connected to the divine, then a soft magic system might be better. If you want to use magic for combat and/or to solve lots of problems, then you might want to use a hard magic system.
When writing fantasy, above all else, remember to have fun with it!