14 Quick Tips for Fantastic Fantasy Writing

Start with action, be funny, and ask the tough questions! Fantasy author Bruce Coville shared the following insights on writing fantasy for children at the 2011 SCBWI Southern California Writer’s Day! Here are fourteen quick tips he suggested to make your fantasy novel soar!

14 Quick Tips for Fantastic Fantasy:

1.  Start with Action. Set up your problem. Set up your villain.

2. Use the rule of threes (see below).

3. Discover “The Twilight Zone” – this is the place where you leave behind the mundane world and discover the magical world. “When you leave behind the fields we know, for the fields of what we do not know.”

4. Be clever with names. Mr. Elives = Mystery Lives

5. Add window dressing. This is why we come to this type of story. Provide the ambience of a scene/space to help create a feeling of your world.

6. Get your words to do two things at once. Use a word to describe both mood and character (for example).

7. Ask the tough questions: Why are we here? What do you need?  (This is the riddle of our lives).

8. Kids love a sense of destiny in books. “This is what you came here to get,” say’s the shop keeper.

9. Butt is a great word in any kids book. It’s funny! Bring on the funny!

10. Slide in the “data” sideways. Sneak it in. Don’t be too on the nose or frontal about it.

11. End a chapter with a cliff hanger! You want to keep your reader with you. Every kid tells his/her mom “Let me finish the chapter” before going to do what mom says. Don’t let them put down your book without feeling like they must come back to it asap! There’s too much to compete with in this world (video games, internet, etc.)

12. With your first paragraph grab them by the neck, with your second paragraph stick your thumbs in their jugular, with your third paragraph hold them against the wall and don’t let go!

13. Ha, Wa, Yikes! In your novel try to include these three elements: Ha = belly laugh, Wa = Genuine tears, Yikes = Surprise.

14. You don’t have to outline, but it is often good to know where you are going, just not exactly how you will get there.

The Rule of Threes:

  • Use the rule of threes (which is really the rule of four). You need three plus one to complete the group. Example: The three bears, plus Goldilocks = 4.
  • The rule of threes is based on the three parts of the feminine (Goddess, virgin, and crone) plus the fourth element, the male element, which you combine together to create a full 4.

Other Great Posts on Fantasy Writing:

Bruce Coville is the author of nearly 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien and the wildly popular Unicorn Chronicles. Bruce has been a teacher, toymaker, magazine editor, gravedigger, and a cookware salesman.  His books have won Children’s Choice Awards in over a dozen states, including Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada and California. His books have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Learn more about Bruce Coville and his books at his website: http://www.brucecoville.com/books.asp

Finding the Fantastical!

Fantasy Author Bruce Coville spoke at the 2011 Southern California Writer’s Day. Filled with enthusiasm and joy, he spoke with passion about the adventure of writing fantasy novels! The following notes were taken during his talk:

Fantasy is about Building Dreams:

  • Fantasy helps us to start to build dreams, which is what lives are built on.
  • He shared the poem “Ragged John” (about chasing the Unicorn) – this can be found on the internet, possibly under the name Beatrice Ferrington – which is a pen name for Coville.
  • Have the courage to pursue the Unicorn! Have courage to pursue your dreams!

Fantasy Books are About Truth:

  • Fantasy books are a way to talk about big dreams and big ideals.
  • Fantasy books are about hope.
  • C.S. Lewis said “Fairytale is the best way to tell the truth.”
  • C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein were in the same writers group.
  • We seek the untamed world where there is possibility.

Who Fears Escapist Literature?

  • Who is most concerned with escape? It is the Jailers. Those who are jailing the human spirit. They are afraid of what one could achieve.
  • Truth and liberation is a threat to keeping things as they are.

The History of Fantasy:

  • The first fantasy book/story is Gilgamesh.
  • Followed by the Greek and Roman Myths (Yay, our first boy book series!)
  • Then comes Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare.

Why Kids Love Fantasy:

  • It liberates kids. It sweeps them off to a new place.
  • The world has become too small for the heart of a ten-year-old. They want to discover their own new worlds. But now Google maps has mapped the world for them. They want a place that is theirs to discover.
  • They want to get away from the everyday mundane world.
  • Fantasy is the re-enchantment of the world. Meaning “we sing the world into a musical state.” If you break down the word re-enchantement:  Re = Renew, Chant = Sing, Enchantment = Magic.

Why are Many Fantasy Books Series’?

  • Fantasy books are often a series because there is a price for entry to every book. A price of time and commitment to go into another world. Once the child has paid that price (read the first book) they feel connected to it and are compelled to read the next book because they are already familiar with it and invested in the world.
  • Readers get very very passionate, and thus (as a writer) there is a lot to live up to.

What’s the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy?

  • Sci-fi is the Literature of the Future.
  • Fantasy is the Literature of the Past. We are obsessed with the mythic and futile, of the medieval mindset. We love kings and hierarchy.
  • Sci-fi is the literature of the head.
  • Fantasy is the literature of the heart. It asks questions like “What is a good life?” “What is the honorable thing to do?” Some Sci-fi asks this too, but a lot of Fantasy does.

What is the Difference Between High Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy?

  • High Fantasy is books like Lord of the Rings and Dark is Rising.
  • Contemporary books are about where the mundane world meets the magical world.
  • Harry Potter is both Contemporary and High Fantasy (Epic in quality).
  • The Lightening Thief has no hard lines; there is a lot of exploration. This is common in contemporary fantasy.
  • You can invent your own genre in contemporary fantasy.
  • Paranormal is contemporary fantasy.

Other Great Posts on Fantasy Writing:

Bruce Coville is the author of nearly 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien and the wildly popular Unicorn Chronicles. Bruce has been a teacher, toymaker, magazine editor, gravedigger, and a cookware salesman.  His books have won Children’s Choice Awards in over a dozen states, including Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada and California. His books have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Learn more about Bruce Coville and his books at his website: http://www.brucecoville.com/books.asp

Bruce Coville’s Eight Tips for Fantasy Writers

Bruce Coville author of almost 100 books for children spoke at the 2011 SCBWI Writer’s Day. Among his many insights he shared these eight tips for writing fantasy novels and stories:

1)     Know the Rules

  • There must be rules and structures and limitations in your book.
  • When anything is possible, nothing is interesting.
  • Solving a problem with wits is always more interesting than solving it with powers.
  • Superman must have kryptonite! Otherwise there are no weaknesses.

2)     Humor is Always Welcome

  • No matter how serious your book is, humor can be a part of it and help.
  • We often deal with tragic things through humor. It holds the dark at bay.
  • Kids use humor to get out of trouble.
  • The best jokes arise out of character.

3)     Do Your Research

  • The best fantasy writers do the best research.
  • You better know your lore, because you’d better bet your reader knows it.
  • You can break the rules (lore, etc.) but do it with intent. You have to know it first, too.
  • Research can often help you find the solution to a story problem.
  • You have an obligation to do your research.
  • Beware of the carbon copy of a carbon copy. Avoid contemporary works for research.

4)     Use Sidekicks

  • Sidekicks are your character’s friend. They are also the writer’s friend.
  • Sidekicks offer up a lot of juice and fun for the story.
  • Think about the use of sidekicks in Disney movies or The Wizard of Oz.
  • They provide comic relief!
  • Sidekicks tend to be mono-dimensional, with larger than life personalities. They are drawn with bold lines, have quirky speech patterns, and if you need to you can always kill one off (and the reader will care).
  • The mono-dimensional quality will contrast nicely to your multidimensional protagonist (this of course relates to the length of your story. Shorter stories can get away with mono-dimensional sidekicks. Longer stories need to flesh out sidekicks.)

5)     Start at Home

  • A magical story always needs to start in the backyard and then move to the other-world.
  • Ground your reader in the world your character is familiar with then move to the magical world.
  • Lord of the Rings starts in the Shire.
  • Harry Potter starts with the Dersley’s house.
  • Chronicles of Narnia begins in England.
  • The call to adventure is when your character is pulled into the other-world.

 6)     Retain a Sense of Mystery

  • We long for awe and mystery, and the mystery of a presence.
  • We like the questions.

7)     Strive for the Numinous

  • Look for the sacred.
  • We want a sense of world that is beyond the fields of the world we know.

8)     Master the Art of Naming

  • Use a poets art and a linguistics art.
  • Words have power, strength, and weight. They have a sense of presence.
  •  Example: Mordor –> Mor = Darkness
  • Be masterful with your naming and not cheap. Beware the “clang of brass versus the cling of silver.” Beware of the clone of literature that will clang your words.
  • Play with the sounds to find the right names.

Bruce Coville is the author of nearly 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien and the wildly popular Unicorn Chronicles. Bruce has been a teacher, toymaker, magazine editor, gravedigger, and a cookware salesman.  His books have won Children’s Choice Awards in over a dozen states, including Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada and California. His books have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Learn more about Bruce Coville and his books at his website: http://www.brucecoville.com/books.asp

The Quick Take Away: 2011 SoCal SCBWI Writer’s Day

It’s been awhile since I reported on a conference event, but never fear I’ve got lots of good information coming your way. I attended the 2011 Southern California SCBWI Writer’s Day this past Saturday with a variety of speakers from Susan Patron to Bruce Coville. Here’s a few quick take-away’s from the event:

Susan Patron Newbery Award Winning Author said:

  • Writing a novel is a thrill, it’s like riding off on a runaway horse, it’s thrilling and terrifying.
  • For children growing up is something that happens in the tiny details of everyday.
  • More on to come on winning the Newbery, new projects, and finding the heart of your story.

Tony Johnston author of almost 125 Picture Books shared:

  • If I keep alive to everything, a story will find me.
  • Keep it simple. But writing simply does not mean words must be short and easy. It should be the words that belong.
  • Don’t play it safe. Writing is about risk taking!
  • More to come on being inspired by your own emotions, the essence of childhood, and where to begin when writing a picture book.

Rachel Cohn New York Times Bestselling Young Adult Author said:

  • First impressions are really important with teen readers. You must get it right from page one.
  • Everything feels so big to a teen. It’s epic! It’s biblical!
  • Voice is the way you speak on paper.
  • More to come on what makes a good first page, working with a writing partner, and how to keep your teen voice authentic.

Bruce Coville Fantasy author of almost 100 books shared:

  • “Fairytale is the best way to tell the truth.” – C.S. Lewis
  • The world has become too small for the heart of a ten year-old. Fantasy liberates kids, it sweeps them off to a new place.
  • Ask the tough questions. Why are we here? What do we need? These are the riddles of our lives.
  • More to come on the difference between Sci-fi and Fantasy, tips for writing fantasy, and how to find the courage to dream.

The End of All Our Exploring: The Journey of Narrative

M.T. Anderson’s books ask you to question your reality. They demand you take nothing for granted, and they show you a new perspective of the world you thought you once knew. His keynote address at the 2010 SCBWI LA Conference was just as powerful in turning the world of writing on its head.  “This keynote,” Anderson began, “will address writing, travel, leaving home, and returning again.” The following notes share the journey of narrative through the unique eyes of M.T. Anderson:

Real Life Adventure Vs. Reading About Adventure…

  • When reading about adventure, Anderson, was not thrilled with the specific moments of adventure, but the vastness of the landscapes that were presented in the story.
  • Anderson spent some time traveling but it did not sit well with him due to lack of knowledge of foreign language, and a finicky appetite wherein the lack of protein in his diet turned him into a rabid crazy person.  “There’s got to be a way to experience exotic adventure and still be able to have cookie crunch readily available!”
  • “Canada is America’s France.” (Funny anecdote).
  • The answer of course is reading and books! Books take you to faraway places.

We Long for Exotic Lands…

  • Do we Americans embrace the landscape of fantasy? We are immersed in the same rotation of Home Depot after Home Depot, Walmart after Walmart. We long for new kingdoms!
  • Anderson encourages you to check out his online interactive map about the state of Delaware. This Delaware may not resemble the one you know, for it is the one featured in his book Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware. Anderson created this interactive map in addition to his books as a way to explore landscape and the world without exploring character. This was a creative way to expand upon the world, and hey, he had fun making it! This wasn’t a marketing stunt, but a way in which to spend time in his exotic land.
  • The Conan books are initially based out of Texas (where the author is from). Take what you know and let it be a basis to inspire your worlds.

Travel as Metaphor…

  • There is something metaphorical about travel in books. They take us away from home so that we can see home. We can only view our home from far away. We must be up high upon the hill looking back for it to actually be viewed.
  • Travel is about understanding the past. Through exploring the geography of a place we learn about the history of that place, and thus ourselves. We discover a new landscape.
  • Good examples of books that explore the landscape and result in self discovery are: Holes, The Arrival, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Estrangement Helps Us to See the World in a New Way…

  • The definition of literature is that seeing something through estrangement forces us to see the world in a new way.
  • There is so much that we take for granted when we look at our world or think of our homes.
  • Literature restores a sense of the unknown to what we already know.
  • Put any object in front of us and we know what it is, but we do not see it anymore. Art is meant to show us what we do not or no longer see.
  • We perceive things, but not as they are.
  • Literary books are ones that work through estrangement.

Examples of How to Estrange the Reader…

  • The use of a striking image or striking language can show you things in a new way. The language will break you out of a trance so you see something anew.
  • Sean Beaudoin’s book You Killed Wesley Pane creates a new language out of modern slang and 1940’s noir. There is an active language throughout the book. Examples include calling the police terms like “The Snout” (aka: pigs) and the police station “The Snout House.” Or the use of the phrase “Rust apple rust” in describing the color of a car, which is more poignant than simply writing a red car. These demand attention.
  • The Monster Blood Tattoo books are a good example of fantasy and plenitude and language. The world created has its own linguistic history. There is an ancient quality to the language, and it has a life of its own. Example: Sailors are called “Vinegar-oons”. This juxtaposes the familiar and the unfamiliar. The use of the ending “-oons” is familiar, while the term “vinegar” references the fact that the sea is so salty it has turned acidic. By grounding the nickname in the mythology of the world it becomes more powerful.
  • If writing horror, use Freud’s theory of the unheimlich. The idea is that the root of all that is terrifying is something that is also the most familiar. Only you take that familiar thing and turn it on its head. Change it ever so slightly. Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a great example of this. The little girl goes into her home where everything is familiar; it’s her house, her room, her parents. But the horror comes when her parent’s eyes have been replaced with buttons. The domestic turned alien now becomes horrifying and scary.

Use the Internet to Expand Your Work…

  • There is artistic pleasure in creating things on the internet. Be open and embrace the new media. There is new expression in using the internet. It can expand your world in a new way, give it new breadth and depth. It doesn’t have to be about marketing. It can be about your story.
  • Again, check out M.T. Anderson’s Delaware Map.

In Closing…

  • Remember, if complex or simple, it is the books that take us away from what we are expecting that show us something new.
  • Press yourself to stay away from the cliché.
  • Take the hand of those looking to see the door and present it to them. Open the door for them. Show them the world.
  • Push your language!

The State Song of Delaware…

  • And in true closing, M.T. Anderson serenaded the crowd with his state song of Delaware. Check out some quick snippets, and see for yourself - M.T. Anderson Singing.

M.T. Anderson has written stories for adults, picture books for children, adventure novels for young readers, and several books for older readers (both teens and adults). His satirical book Feed was a finalist for the National Book Award and was the winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize. His first volume of his Octavio Nothing saga won the National Book Award and the Boston Globe/ Horn Book Prize. Both the first and second volumes of the two-part series were Printz Honor Books.

Ari Lewin: Writing Fantasy Novels

Ari Lewin is the senior editor at Disney/Hyperion, and she loves fantasy novels. She’s loved them ever since she was young. In fact, she loves fantasy so much that  her personal list for Fall 2010 includes four fantasy novels (out of five books coming out). Two are zombie books, one is high fantasy, and one is contemporary fantasy. The following are her tips on fantasy writing, the market, and what she’s looking for.

We Are Living In the Golden Age of Fantasy YA:

  • That’s right! We are in the golden age of Fantasy YA books. We are living in it! So there’s no better time to write a fantasy young adult novel.
  • Fantasy books are popular because they are escapist and they are aspirational.
  • YA fantasy has a huge readership of both adults and kids.
  • The NY Bestseller list is almost all fantasy books. Barnes and Noble’s top 20 books of the year is also almost all fantasy as well.

What Constitues as a Fantasy Novel?

There are up to sixty different sub-genres of fantasty. Some include:

  • High Fantasy (Lord of the Rings)

    Steampuk

  • Steampunk (Leviathan, The Golden Compass)
  • High Magic
  • Low Technology
  • Urban Fantasty (Set in the city, such as Holly Black’s Mortal Instruments).
  • Paranormal Romance (Bluebloods, Hush Hush, Twilight)
  • Distopian (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Feed, Hunger Games) Distopian was described as a future where something major, like an atom bomb, has caused the government to collapse and a new world has emerged, completely changing the way of life.
  • Ari sees no big demarcation between fantasy and sci-fi.

Why Editors Have to Be Picky:

  • As an editor, Ari, has to be super selective. She has to weigh both cost of getting the book against the potential demand for the book. She feels like she is both betting on the race horse, and the jockey at the same time.
  • A few books that Ari lost in auction but thinks we should look for when they come out are: When There Were Lilies and Matched.

A Succesful Fantasy Novel Will Have:

  • A strong writing baseline. This is super important!
  • Good characters and dialog.
  • A refreshing plot line.
  • The story stays personal to the character.
  • The concept is workable.
  • The world has  rules, structure, and limitations. And it’s clear how the creatures operate.
  • Powers do not work for convenience only.
  • Unfolding your world is important! Learn how to do this by reading books that do it well. She used an example of Black Juice by Margo Lannagin. (She also wrote Tender Morsels which won the printz a couple years ago). Take us into the world. You don’t need to explain everything through exposition.
  • If you are going to start with a pivitol moment, you need to orient the reader in the character first.
  • I want tension and fear.
  • I like horror.
  • Authors she thinks write fantasy really well are Kristin Cashure and Cinda Chima.
  • For Tips on World Building check out the websites of Holly Black and Cinda Chima.
  • Beware of being too aggressive with fantasy elements. Don’t try and cram as much as you can into your world. If there’s too much we we will be overwhelmed. Focus on one world and your character.

Books Ari Has Bought and Why:

Cinda Chima’s The Warrior Heir:

  • This book has a slightly overdone premise but it was done in a fresh new way that worked.
  • The book has good writing.
  • It’s fun.
  • It’s fast paced.
  • It has good strong sub plots.
  • It was a fresh idea to start in a contemporary setting and then move to the fantasy world.
  • It was an American story – not a British story (which we see a lot of in fantasy).
  • The story has a complex political and social system. The author actually created her own historical time line for the book.
  • Despite the complexity of the world the story and the way the information is presented is uncomplicated.
  • The book is timeless, and thus will have longevity.
  • It’s a book for all ages.
  • Ari, also bought the author’s new series, and The Warrior Heir was also turned into a series.

Sarwat Chadda’s Devil’s Kiss:

  • The book is high concept.
  • It has good action scenes.
  • It has a good tone.
  • Ari, bought this book on a proposal – though she doesn’t usually do that.

If You’re Writing a Fantasy Series…

  • Many authors don’t have a stand alone story, they have a series in mind. Ari, likes this because it means there is potential for the future. If a fantasy book does well, she will probably try to turn it into a series. But that doesn’t mean she wants to know that you have six books written. In fact, that will scare her because you may be too attached to your work. Write one book with other books in mind. She assumes that if your book does well that you will be willing to do more books in a series. Leave some loose threads in the book so that there can be a sequel or companion books.

Before You Send Ari Your Book:

  • Try and poke as many holes as possible in your story before sending it to an agent or editor.
  • Make sure you have an end game in fantasy. You need stakes that will create tension! Beware of a disconnect with characters or other worlds we don’t care about.

A Few Other Annecdotes:

  • Hand selling makes books sell well, and helps with a book’s popularity. Hand selling is an actually book seller (in the store) will pull out a book and tell you about it and encourage you to read it. This happens a lot at independent books stores.
  • If you query Ari and never hear from her that means she is not interested.
  • A good middle grade historical fiction novel to check out is A Drown Maiden’s Tale.
  • “You have to make yourself a writer!” It is always about craft, craft, craft!!!

A Bit About Ari and Disney/Hyperion:

  • The title Disney/Hyperion means that Hyperion is owned by Disney. Disney is  their cash cow, but they are independent in terms of editorial decisions and what they buy and publish.
  • Yes, Ari is interested in multi-format work like The Invention of Hugo Cabaret.
  • One of Ari’s favorite books when she was young is Artemis Fowl.
  • Ari will usually do around three drafts with an author before she is ready to line edit.
  • The darkest book that Ari is publishing right now is By the Time You Read This I’ll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters.

Arianne Lewin is a Senior Editor at Disney * Hyperion. She edits an eclectic list that emphasizes young adult novels and fantasy, but also includes picture books and chapter books. She works with authors Cinda Williams Chima; Whoopi Goldberg; Julie Anne Peters; EB Lewis; Scott Magoon; and Daniel Waters, among others. Arianne is currently looking for fresh new voices in all genres.

Holly Black: Examining the Strange – The Basics of Writing Fantasy

Holly Black is the author of fantasy novels including The Spiderwick Chronicles, Valliant, Ironside, and a graphic novel called The Good Neighbors. She was a keynote speaker a the 2009 Summer SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. The following notes are from her address:

You Must Read in Order to be a Part of the Conversation…

  • Holly grew up believing in Fantasy. She thought fantasies were true stories. She has read a lot of folklore, and encourages you (if you want to be a fantasy writer) to read as much fantasy as you can. Read both MG and YA books, read adult fantasy books, read folklore, and research! Holly believes that all books are in conversation with the books that came before them. So you must read in order to be a part of that conversation.

What Defines a Fantasy Novel?

  • Fantasy is often labeled as “escapist.” But Holly doesn’t think fantasy is escapist at all, not any more than any other book about a fictional character.
  • Fantasy allows for distance and metaphor. Many fantasy books are huge metaphors. With that, beware of the metaphors you are using, as those can affect the real world. For example, don’t use a girl who is in love with her horse, and she enjoys the way the horse nuzzles its nose against her neck, while that same girl does not like humans. That can be a bad metaphor.
  • The difference between fantasy and horror is the inclusion of Awe.
  • “All novels are fantasies; just some are more honest about it.” -?
  • One writer (author’s name forgotten) believes that realistic fiction books that do not include the supernatural and the divine have left out the most important stuff.

In Creating Your Fantasy World You Must…

  • In creating a fantasy world you must be specific. The reader has to believe that you (the author) have actually been to this place, that you have seen it, smelled it, tasted it, and experienced it. It must feel authentic. Fantasy resembles historical fiction because it is a place that you have never been before, and you must convince the reader that you have been there. You’ve got to research!
  • Every magical society will have its own rules. There are two types of logic: Day Logic – this is when the magic works the same each time. Night Logic – This is when the rules are seldom spelled out, instead the magic works intuitively.

Plotting a Fantasy Book Includes…

  • Fantasy stories must always have two stories. One is the fantastical story – “the plot” such as an evil dragon that is destroying the country side and the king must find a way to stop it. But the fantasy must also have a human story, one that affects the main character. For example the King’s wife is cheating on him with his brother. The human story usually starts earlier and ends later. The two stories need resonance, for example the king finds out that his wife is cheating on him, and now makes the decision to send her lover (his brother) to go battle the dragon – probably to die.

Holly Black is the bestselling author of contemporary fantasy novels for teens and children. Her novels include The Spiderwick Chronicles, White Cat, Valliant, Ironside, and the graphic novel The Good Neighbors. Her book the Spiderwick Chronicles was adapted into a film by Paramount Pictures in conjunction with Nickelodeon Films, and was released in 2008. Learn more about Holly and her books at: Holly Black’s Website.

Holly Black: Examining the Strange – The Basics of Fantasy Writing.

Sunday Morning Keynote Speaker

Holly Black is the author of fantasy novels including: “The Spiderwick Chronicles” “Valliant, “Ironside” and a graphic novel called “The Good Neighbors.”

Holly grew up believing in Fantasy. She thought fantasies were true stories. She has read a lot of folklore, and encourages you (if you want to be a fantasy writer) to read as much fantasy as you can. Read both MG and YA books, read adult fantasy books, read folklore, and research! Holly believes that all books are in conversation with the books that came before them. So you must read in order to be a part of that conversation.

Fantasy is often labeled as “escapist.” But Holly doesn’t think fantasy is escapist at all, not any more than any other book about a fictional character.

Fantasy allows for distance and metaphor. Many fantasy books are huge metaphors. With that, beware of the metaphors you are using, as those can affect the real world. For example, don’t use a girl who is in love with her horse, and she enjoys the way the horse nuzzles its nose against her neck, while that same girl does not like humans. That can be a bad metaphor.

The difference between fantasy and horror is the inclusion of Awe.

“All novels are fantasies; just some are more honest about it.” -?

One writer (author’s name forgotten) believes that realistic fiction books that do not include the supernatural and the divine have left out the most important stuff.

In creating a fantasy world you must be specific. The reader has to believe that you (the author) have actually been to this place, that you have seen it, smelled it, tasted it, and experienced it. It must feel authentic. Fantasy resembles historical fiction because it is a place that you have never been before, and you must convince the reader that you have been there. You’ve got to research!

Every magical society will have its own rules. There are two types of logic: Day Logic – this is when the magic works the same each time. Night Logic – This is when the rules are seldom spelled out, instead the magic works intuitively.

Fantasy stories must always have two stories. One is the fantastical story – “the plot” such as an evil dragon that is destroying the country side and the king must find a way to stop it. But the fantasy must also have a human story, one that affects the main character. For example the King’s wife is cheating on him with his brother. The human story usually starts earlier and ends later. The two stories need resonance, for example the king finds out that his wife is cheating on him, and now makes the decision to send her lover (his brother) to go battle the dragon – probably to die.