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

4 thoughts on “14 Quick Tips for Fantastic Fantasy Writing

  1. Great post! I had the pleasure of seeing Bruce Coville speak at the SCBWI Rocklin Regional Conference in April, and then afterwards my nervous-introverted-self sat right next to him at the speakers & volunteers hosted dinner. He was wonderfully personable and a wealth of knowledge!! 😉

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