Category Archives: World Building

How to Write a Compelling Story Using a Familiar Setting

This article is by Daniel Adorno.

fantasy planetAs a fantasy and scifi geek, the settings I choose for my stories are always quite imaginative. I want to transport the reader to some distant planet outside of our galaxy. Or to a magical realm with a deep history and interesting creatures like centaurs or wyverns flying around. It’s the fun stuff that comes with being a speculative author: worldbuilding.

Unlike realistic genres like thrillers, crime, and romance, the environments in fantasy and science fiction novels are very important. They’re almost another character in the story. Continue Reading

Producing Developed Worlds in Cross-Genre Fiction

american godsThis article is by Selah Janel.

There are a lot of reasons to write cross-genre books. While many stories thrive on rigid classification, many authors find that their potential readership increases by incorporating different genre elements.

Cross-genre fiction is a way to stretch boundaries and challenge yourself. In a world where these plots are embraced in television and movies, where titles like the Sookie Stackhouse books, Sandman, and American Vampire get shelf space with more traditional horror and fantasy, producing interesting cross-genre worlds is not only possible and acceptable, but a lot of fun. Continue Reading

‘Soft’ Magic Systems Still Have a Place

This article is by Ashley Capes.

soft magicThe idea that magic in fiction might possess or need a ‘system’ was nonexistent to me when I first read my favourites as a boy in the early 1990s.

Magic was but a component to the awe and wonder within the stories. I didn’t need to know how magic worked, only that magic worked. I never questioned it and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to. Gandalf, for instance, simply wouldn’t have been the same figure of mystery and power if I knew the way his magic functioned. Continue Reading

Surviving Grimdark Fantasy for the Squeamish

grimdarkWhile there is still some debate about whether it’s a legit sub-genre or not, grimdark has become part of the fantasy lexicon in recent years.

I actually like a lot of the authors that some label as grimdark, so I’m a bit torn on if it’s a good or bad thing. The term can be used to define fantasy with more realistic grit, where morals are gray and blood is bright red. Sounds cool to me.

However, on the flip side, it’s also used as a pejorative term for fiction that is perceived as too bleak, dark, and soul-sucking. This being the opposite of the good vs. evil type of conflicts that may be more familiar for fans of fantasy.

Well, I’m here to show you that grimdark doesn’t have to be unpleasant at all. Continue Reading

Using Role-Playing to Rein in Your WIP

D&D DiceSo, you’ve been busy writing, I see. That work in progress (WIP) is coming along pretty well. But you just don’t know how your audience will feel about it. Or perhaps you’re ready to throw a new element into your story, but you’re not certain that your world is ready for it. So, you pace to and fro, sipping on a cup of coffee while you think it over. Suddenly an idea pops into your head:

“Hey, maybe I can get someone to be a beta reader!”

Suddenly, a knock sounds at your front door. But isn’t it, like, midnight? You open it, startled, and a bit confused to see a group of people clad in mail crafted from pop-can tabs and dresses woven from bedsheets. And there’s a guy in the back wearing sweats. But it’s okay, he has Cheetos. Continue Reading

Names in Fantasy – 3 Ways to Invent Names for Characters and Creatures

Sirius Black
Sirius Black

This article is by Grace Robinson.

People sometimes ask me how I come up with names for my fantasy stories – names of characters, as well as names of creatures, places, and things.

I don’t have a standard formula for inventing names, but after doing some thinking, I realized that there are three main methods I use.

I believe that many authors use these methods in one way or another: Continue Reading

Focused Ambiguity: Using Metaphor in Fantasy Writing

This article is by Walter Rhein.

Star TrekThere is an inherent paradox in the phrase “focused ambiguity”. Yet the disconnect achieved by putting those two words together approximates the mental state necessary for writing good fantasy.

One of the big mistakes a lot of new writers make in their world building is too much of a focus on practical construction. However, unless the overall theme of your fantasy book is economics, you really don’t need to explain how your “diamond city in the desert” gets enough drinking water to support its population.

An effective novel always has a strong connective thread, and, in fantasy, every character, setting, and action can be molded to function as an integral part of the extended metaphor that supports the novel’s overall theme. Continue Reading

J.R.R. Tolkien: Myths That Never Were and the Worlds That They Become

Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Ian McKellen as Gandalf

This article is by Dan Berger.

It’s strange to imagine today, but there was a time when the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was a matter very much in doubt.

There were two primary reasons for this near tragedy. One was the scarcity of paper that plagued the United Kingdom in the aftermath of World War II. The other was Tolkien’s initial insistence on releasing The Lord of the Rings to his publisher, Allen & Unwin, only on the condition that The Silmarilion be published in concert with it.

The price of printing the full text of a book the size of The Lord of the Rings posed significant challenges in and of itself; adding The Silmarilion to the mix, particularly given its sometimes tenuous connection to The Lord of the Rings’ narrative, was seen as potentially disastrous. Continue Reading

The Fact and the Fantastical – 5 Tips for Creating an Urban Fantasy World

fantasy cityThis article is by Michael Cairns.

Fantasy is an expansive genre in which the reader can be transported to far-off lands. Urban fantasy does something quite different, laying the fantastical world over the one in which we live.

This can be a tricky thing to get right. Too much fantasy and the realism can be lost. Not enough fantasy, and the wonderful sense that anything can happen disappears, and the story becomes humdrum.

Following the writing and copious editing of my Urban Fantasy Trilogy, the Assembly, I’ve identified a few pointers as to what works and what doesn’t. Here are my top five tips to help you blend the real with the fantastical, and create a world your reader will become lost in. Continue Reading

Using Multiple Texts to Develop Your Story World

BestiaryRecently at Mythic Scribes, we’ve enjoyed some exceptional articles on world building. I have incorporated tips from several already, with noticeable improvements in my organization and productivity in this challenging craft.

This process has also led me deeper into my worlds. In fact, lately I have been almost overwhelmed by all I have yet to discover about them—let alone communicate to my audience.

Faced with the gargantuan task of immersing readers in a whole world, one novel seems kind of, well, puny.

So I asked myself: “How can I redistribute that burden?” Continue Reading