Writing Fantasy

Until now my version of the fantastic has been science fiction – speculative fiction really -extrapolation of current tech and science trends.  I have focused my attentions on the role of the mind and its place in the universe and, in particular what machine AI will mean for biological minds.  Other strands of writing have speculated on ecological disaster and unwanted alien attention.  Social implications of future democracy as it will develop under continued webification of society has also pulled on me, as has the response of traditional religions to all the above.

Now, though, I find myself embroiled in writing a fantasy novel – working title The Wearde and The Real – and rapidly coming to terms with the level of ground-up detail I need to be creating (talking of which, I came up with the creation myth for The Wearde early in the morning this Saturday – The Wearde  being where my fantasy is set).  Charlie, my main protagonist, has just entered The Wearde for the first time in my writing – though I have written a novella length chunk later in the story that sets up some of the back-story myth.

Whilst writing I am immersing myself in the fantasy genre.  Or, perhaps, I should say re-immersing myself.  Like millions of others, I have read Lord of the Rings many times.  I hugely enjoyed Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – reading it at the same time as my kids and, again, re-reading several times.  Much more recently Neil Gaiman has (finally) come onto my radar.  And, currently, I am part way through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss which, in the Goodread’s chart is the top-ranked fantasy novel of the 21st century – and a debut novel at that!!

In revisiting the complexity of these fantastic worlds with critical, author’s eye, I have come to appreciate the level of design underlying the narrative.

So, whilst all this enjoyable novel reading is going on (I love being a writer with full permission to read as part of the job!) I’m also studying the tools of the fantasy writer’s trade.  I’m reading Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendleson; The Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer; Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction by Hunt and Lenz and short but useful Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans.  All very different, but insightful works on how what fantasy is and how it’s done – by others anyway!


  6 comments for “Writing Fantasy

  1. jane Harris
    May 13, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I’m constantly amazed by the ability of fantasy writers to concoct not just characters and histories but entire new worlds (or in the case of Pullman multiple versions of the existing world) . Bring on The Wearde.

    • Jon
      May 14, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Hi Jane: that’s the joy of it – I think it was Doris Lessing who likened scifi/fantasy as the genre most akin to the roots of story telling – the idea being that, just as in the pre-written, oral tradition, FSF writers have the freedom to manipulate their worlds to address over-arching moral issues. The Wearde is a corrupted world where the yin-yang of power has been completely unbalanced. Men have simply ceased to exist – but not women though! It will be up to my protagonists, Charlie Quinn (from our world) and Anya (from the Wearde) to sort things out. Only thing is, Charlie’s a bit of a timid chap, so Anya’s going to have to give him a kick up the butt! Then there’s great-grandma Nana-Ana to contend with, not to mention King Gorbigan, the King of the Wearde…
      Thanks for your comment. Best, Jon

      • Jane Harris
        May 15, 2014 at 8:55 am

        There are some interesting essays on the use of sci fi (film in particular) to explore social and moral issues in Annette Kuhn’s Alien Zone books.

        • Jon
          May 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

          Thanks Jane – I’ve just checked the uni library and we have ‘multiple copies’ of both books – so I shall have a look. I’m going to miss being a post-grad student!

          Good call! Cheers, Jon

  2. Olly Perry
    May 15, 2014 at 9:29 am

    This is a great genre to write in, Jon, and one in which I am also writing. Bringing science fiction together with fantasy and the real world allows the reader to have some connection to the work through familiar everyday landmarks while exploring the area where myth and legend come from. I’m really looking forward to reading your book….good luck on your journey!

    • Jon
      May 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks Olly, I’m really coming to understand the importance of the architecture of fantasy. It feels like I’ve got a massive building site, or perhaps a canvas, in front of me and I’m going to need to be really focussed on the where I put the bricks (or brushstrokes – take your choice) as I move my character through the creation. Talking of which, a creation myth for the Wearde popped into my head as I woke up last weekend, which I had to scribble down as soon as I could. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks of full immersion!!
      Thanks for you comment, Jon

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