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How do I properly describe a fantasy setting that seems believable to the reader?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by iamelmo1, Oct 1, 2017.

  1. iamelmo1

    iamelmo1 Dreamer

    Hi everyone, I'm new to this website so greetings to you all. I had this problem ever since I began writing years ago with properly describing very in-depth settings with multiple layers in it. For example the environment with weather changes and complex townships in a fantasy setting. Do you guys have any advice on how to draw the reader in by giving my world appealing descriptions that won't sound tacky or boring?
  2. plasticroyal

    plasticroyal Dreamer

    Well I think an unnecessary problem you're creating for yourself is 'fantasy setting'. There's no standard for what kind of setting you can use in fantasy - or there shouldn't be in my opinion anyway.

    I think fantasy readers are willing to accept a huge range of setting choices if they serve as backdrops to stories with gripping characters and plot. Difficult to give advise on how to describe the setting because that will largely be informed by your own personal style.

    I'd write a few scenes and see which feel good and natural for you, some authors use a ton of descriptive language in fantasy, others use less. It's really up to you, not helpful I know, but true haha :)
  3. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    I'll tell you exactly. First is the fact that you are the first and most important line of defence against being boring. Your work should never bore you, no matter how many times you proofread it. That is the best scenario.

    Second don't include descriptions of changes in weather, environment, complex townships etc for the sake of it, unless you are doing it as a writing exercise. Instead have a specific goal in mind as to what you want to achieve with a scene and write to that mission. More is not always better. Always aim to say more with less. Both in depth and width of scope.
  4. gia

    gia Scribe

    I get visuals in my head and then do my best to describe that visual. I'll add other sensory info to help deepen the experience of it.

    You might have a pretend interview with your main character and ask him/her to describe the setting...develop the questions and then imagine you are on a phone getting the description. It's just stream of consciousness fun. Get out of your editing brain and just play around knowing you can change it at any time.

    Once you flesh it all out for your sake, then you'll want to figure out how much your story needs...cause those are two different goals..the description for you and then one for the reader that advances the story.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    You know that over-the-shoulder perspective in video games? Try starting with that.

    In that perspective, your range of vision is somewhat limited. Say you're on a city street. You can see that the street itself is packed earth with raised wood walks. The buildings crowd right up to the edge of the street, mostly two stories tall. The street curves here and there, to go around a larger stone building here, a plaza with fountain there. The street shows signs of traffic--wagon ruts and hoof prints--but is presently empty. The side streets are narrow and dark.

    Sure, you could pan out and describe the layout of the city, tell us its history, the era, all that sort of thing, but the better approach is to put the reader down onto the street along with your character. And the best way to do that is to make *yourself* that camera. You can turn to peer in a window, speak to a companion, dodge a runaway horse. Until you have put yourself not only in the place but in the very moment, you're going to feel disconnected with the environment. You won't know where to begin because, honestly, and for all the world-building you've done, you have yet to begin.

    I struggle with this myself. The real key is to slow myself down. I'm so eager to get on with the story, I lose the moment. When I'm able to slow down, it's that over-the-shoulder perspective I'm seeing in my mind's eye. (it really ought to be mind's eyes, oughtn't it?)

    There's another layer to this, which is to see what each particular character sees--each will notice different things. But to start with, just try walking your character through the castle, or around down, or down along the river, through the forest, or even just sitting at the camp fire. Practice may not make perfect, but at least it keeps one busy!
  6. iamelmo1

    iamelmo1 Dreamer

    Awesome responses I agree with every one of you, I think I've been punishing myself to hard when it comes to introducing characters to new landscapes or places of importance. I usually spend 2 sentences max describing what the character is seeing before returning to why the character is there in the first place. I'm starting to like this website already surfing through the forums and would like to learn from you all.

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