Over the weeks, I have been posting segments on fantasy world-building.
Here are the past segments –
- How to Build a World, Part One.
- How to Build a World, Part Two.
- How to Build a World, Part Three.
- How to Build a World, Part Four.
- How to Build a World, Part Five
This week will be the last segment for the To Build A World Series, and I will be focusing on the Place and setting for fantasy.
Place and Setting
Place and setting are one of the key aspects of fantasy novels. Some places are created through magic or discovered through a parallel cupboard or train platform.
In fantasy, we strongly experience both characters’ effects on their world and their worlds influence them. World-building is an important process, particularly if you want to make your world believable to the reader (be wary of info-dumping, I mentioned this in an earlier post, here).
Tolkien, in his fantasy cycle, gives each place its distinctive character. The land of the elves is full of majesty and a timeless sense of peace. The Shire, the home of the hobbits, is full of family histories, pranks, and merriment. It’s a typical example of intimate, community-based rural life. Mordor is full of volcanic, dark rocks and treacherous terrain.
Yet each of these characters world is woven in so that it is relevant to whatever the characters are experiencing at the time.
Practical ideas for using place in fantasy novels.
- Add relevant detail: What fauna and flora are there in your world? What do characters have to do manually because magic can’t solve every problem? Think about the small details along with the big things.
- Give places different levels and sources of tension and intrigue: Authors like Rowling use place well because some places are full of discoveries waiting to be made while others are drab, mundane, yet intriguing by contrast to this world.
- Know the rules of place in your world: Understanding what characters can and can’t do in certain settings, where they may and may not go, helps to place some limits. For example, Rowling creates the Ministry of Magic that penalizes wizards for displays of magic around ordinary, non-magical people.
There are many more elements of fantasy, yet the above gives a basic overview of common features. Think about the power, learning, adventure, and conflict with the characters and place – how is place relevant to the characters? Give place its own intriguing character. Remember to give your reader reasons to wish, wonder and marvel.
“Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make.” J. R. R. Tolkien.
This is the last of my How to Build A World Series, I hope they have been helpful to fantasy writers/ authors.
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