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Looking for an idea for a fantasy novel...


For a while now, I have been on the look out for an idea for a novel in the genre of fantasy, of course.

I have come up with ideas but they sound cheesy and clichè. I am struggling for an idea to write...
Please help!

(Btw, I am wanting a story in medieval times...)


Find a theme that speaks to you. A story is an argument, you are using characters and storylines to show readers your point of view on a subject, morale, or theme. Find something you want to tell the world, and you'll discover your plot.

The Unseemly

Find a theme that speaks to you. A story is an argument, you are using characters and storylines to show readers your point of view on a subject, morale, or theme. Find something you want to tell the world, and you'll discover your plot.

At the same time, use your imagination. Build a world. Find characters that appeal to you. And most importantly - enjoy. If you're writing something because you're forcing yourself to do it, it's not going to work.

My suggestion would be to write a sample blurb for your book. If you can get those baseline ideas down, all that remains is expansion.


Ideas are everywhere if you know how to recognise them. Think of something you read or saw on the news recently, a conversation you've overheard, a debate on an internet forum, an injustice in the world. Combine it with another. Add a theme. Add a character dynamic you like in the fiction you consume. Create an interesting character with a strong motivation. Then flesh it out a bit and start writing.

If what you come up with sounds cheesy or cliche, well, so what? Maybe once you're done writing it you'll think of a better way of doing it and can write a new version. Maybe you won't, and you'll drop the story and write a new one. Either way the writing of it isn't wasted, because in the process of writing it you've become a better writer.


World build first, story second- that's always been my philosophy. I know many people will disagree with me, and I guess it's a matter of personal preference, but for me, the world shapes the story. Once you establish the world you'll know who lives there, what might cause conflict between them and establish characters. The world is everything. Story-wise, look through history, George RR Martin literally plucked an event out of history (The war of the roses, a war between a number of households in the middle ages), changed a few things and has written five books on nothing more than history that has been re-shaped. Look at Medieval history, Ancient history- I'd even say there's a fair bit of inspiration to be found in the bible, some of the stories there are really interesting and can be moulded into a story. World build and research- those are the two things you need to do first, it will take no small bit of imagination and patience, so just keep with it.


Lord of the Rings, or at least Middle Earth, was mostly based off Norse mythology, so yeah you can find inspiration just about anywhere. What I said above is just one thing you can do to stoke the imagination, but really you can get inspired by just about anything. I tend to have little notepads near me at all times, because you never know when it will strike, and it's important to get that idea down on paper as soon as you can because once it's gone, it's gone


I have come up with ideas but they sound cheesy and clichè.

Most ideas do, especially in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. Some of the most original and masterful works in these genres sound ridiculous when summarized. I remember once a co-worker asked me what the book I was reading was about. The book happened to be God Emperor of Dune, a masterpiece of sci fi and part of one of the most popular series in the genre. But try explaining a book like that briefly. It sounds embarrassing. "I'm reading a book about a man who saw the future so he chose to become a gigantic sand worm/human hybrid and rule the galaxy as a tyrant for thousands of years." Yeah. She gave me quite the look.

My point is, don't reject an idea because it sounds cheesy or cliche. Originality is in the execution of an idea, not the idea its self.

Ideas come from everywhere. Every time you've ever said to yourself "what if...?" or "I wonder..." that was a story idea. You just have to recognize it for what it is and then you need to add your unique perspective to it to make the idea fresh and viable.
One key: don't look for "an" idea. Ideas are combinations of other ideas; much of it is either enough understanding of one thing to see the best ways to balance everything else around it (the town's been that sure the dragon's just a legend, there are these people ignoring the MC's warnings and these clues that it's waking up again, these signs about how to defeat it...) or else falling in love with one piece enough to make it fun coming up with the rest.

For one example, see Deconstructing Creativity: The 4 Roles You Need to Play to be Fully Creative - Litemind
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New Member
Mentioning LotR... In the Hobbit when Bilbo steals from Smaug waking him that was directly influenced by the thief who stole from the dragon in Beowulf. Tolkien loved Norse/Anglo-Saxon culture and was the foremost author on the subject during his life. Just find something like that, one little thing from something else that can be made into your own.


One key: don't look for "an" idea. Ideas are combinations of other ideas; much of it is either enough understanding of one thing to see the best ways to balance everything else around it (the town's been that sure the dragon's just a legend, there are these people ignoring the MC's warnings and these clues that it's waking up again, these signs about how to defeat it...) or else falling in love with one piece enough to make it fun coming up with the rest.

For one example, see Deconstructing Creativity: The 4 Roles You Need to Play to be Fully Creative - Litemind

I agree. For instance, take a look at the movie WALL-E. It combines several different commonly used ideas into a single story.

  • A future where people don't do any work, but have machines do everything for them - Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • A computer that thinks it's smarter than people and tries to take over - Any story using a Singularity I.E. Terminator
  • We have destroyed our planet through pollution - Plenty of stories

Something you might want to do is take a look at the synopsis for several books and mix different elements from these together.


I have come up with ideas but they sound cheesy and clichè.

There is no such thing as a cheesy or cliche story....let me rephrase that.

There are cliches, damsel in distress, farmer turned hero etc. But if writers ditched their stories just for being cliche there wouldn't be new stories pouring out of the ears of book stores every year. It's not what type of story you write but how you write it. If your story as a princess kidnapped to a tower or a dragon's castle, make her a princess but show that she's no damsel in distress. Ever hear of Xena?

As for cheesy, there are cheesy scenes. Snippets, quips, hate to say it but there's at least a nice smidge or even dolop of cheese in every story.

My advice is take one of your story ideas, read it over and start describing the characters. By themselves and how they interact with each other and different situations. Heck you could make a Mel-Brooks fantasy thing! What makes writers stand out is how they make the used, cliched and cheesy into something great of their own.

Hope this helped.

Good luck!


This is all great advice. I'm having the same issues as the OP, so its refreshing to read this thread. One thing, is that there will always be ideas that take up residence and stay for a while. Even if they make no sense, putting it together with something else usually ends up being "ahh, I never thought of it that way" clarifying moment. Trust your instincts and interests. As one contemporary fantasy author says, trust the zing.


I'm not a professional writer...I've always written stuff in my pc, just for the sake of my proud. :) Now I'm writing my first "serious" saga and I've faced different troubles and hard times till now...The preparation-work lasted 1 year or so and it's not over yet.

I've found "my" methods and I'll list them: most of 'em are completely different from the general idea of "writing methods", but...they work for me and others, so. Who cares? eheh

1. Don't force yourself. Just take look around and take notes.
Yeah, it sounds stupid, but it's not. Keep a bloknotes with you, and a pencil. Do some casual research, study and visits. Look for some "medieval signs" in history, in your city or in your gaming experience (if you're a gamer of some sort).

North-europe history? Arabian nights? Knights and Religion? High nobility/intrigue stuff?
Find some solid points you REALLY like and start taking notes.

Don't rush.

2. Build first.
As someone said, start with world-creation. You'll have just unconnected ideas in the beginning, but don't be afraid to start some "trial and error" processes.

In my novel, I chose to mix-up center/european culture, arabian-culture and more exotic stuff. I started from the general idea of two empires struggling for power, with some "silent shades" approaching behind their war. That was the starting idea; now I've a map, a more or less coherent world and the general outline of a story.

Start with it. Scratch some notes, draw two or three basic points and give them life inserting the things you prefer.

3. Give some touches of originality.
Don't fall in the trap of originality. A recent thread explains well what I mean.
I'm into music since I was 8. In music, originality is REALLY a mind-plague. Being "original" mostly means "find new ways to tell already told stuff." I'm not kiddin'.

If you write down stories about half-men and rings, well...you're doing it wrong. But nothing stops you to explore a concept like a "dark-lord" planning something to control a single race, i.e.
Maybe the things are not straight as they appeared in classic novels: maybe the dark lord is a damned wonderful-fae-woman that hates her former race.

Just grab the ideas you've put down on paper, start choosin' names (I can't do anything without "names"), symbols, basic social-structures and some "original" stuff starting by your reading/Gaming/movie-wathcing experience.

Remember, that most of the epic stuff we fight for is not that "original": Martin started writing by imagining some childs meeting a dead direwolf and her puppies. That's it. Then started gettin' inspiration in English history and that's it. You have ASOIAF...It's strength is not originality or "world" realism (5500 miles north-south and no lag? :)), but the compelling characters...
The story is based on the most-simple and straight fantasy question of all times: who will sit on the throne? :)

4. Storyline and characters
It's time to create some main-events of your storyline. How the world started? World-wars? World-shaking events? (write down just the IMPORTANT stuff. Don't think professional writers know EVERYTHING from the start).

In doing this, add characters. Historical and present. It's important because they'll give life to the events. A war is nothing without some crazy leader or heroic general. An exotic state is NOTHIGN without his founder; a religion is nothing without a central Order of men driving it.

Then, spend some time adding Organisations, Orders, Fantastic Places and something like that. Free your mind. You can always delete stuff if it's not needed.

5. Get organised.
At this point in time, you'll have a world basis, some cronologies, some background, some names and orders to start from. That's everything you need to start planning ahead.

If you're a practical writer, go on building your world in detail, continuing with your researches around the basic cultures you've incorporated in your world. Once you've done, you can plan the novel.

If you're a discovery writer (like me), just go on with some basic-planning and...start writing!!!

Get a blank sheet of paper, get a pencil, get your map and notes aside and start focusing. If you followed up every step, you already know what you'll write about.
If you started by focusing on Norvegian culture, you may write a compelling story of discovery, full of runists, misteries and violent wars between barbarian/viking clans.
If you focused on celtic culture, maybe you may discover how compelling is the Druidic culture...Maybe some druids circles struggle for power aroung a mighty place full of background history?

Just be logical and YOUR WORLD will show the ROAD to take.

6. Don't overplan.
Once you've figured out everything from point 1 to point 5, START WRITING!!! You'll find lots of things while you write.
Yeah, in the editing part you'll have to do some extra-work, because when you discovery-write, you'll discover even some "bad stuff" in-between your "great-discoveries"! :)

Basically, instead of doing a detailed outline, you'll use your first draft as an outline.

- look around your self and take notes,
- start world-building;
- give names, invent misteryous places and so forth;
- invent characters;
- adjust world-building to give it a concrete form;
- start writing and see what happens.

Good Luck

P.S. I close my enormous and useless post with some concrete suggestions about useful fantasy topics-settings.
- Scandinavian culture (runes, clans);
- Celtic culture (Druids, Faes, Weird beasts);
- Bards (I've always wondered to write something centered around bardic tradition...Someone who sings about the world is the most compelling witness...);
- knights, nobles, intrigue: high nobility stuff, like if ASOIAF was completeley centered on westeros and westeros was a LOT smaller.
- Egypt/Arabian environement: it works well because they're good places for necromancy, mistery, weird religions, astronomy secrets.



Also, sit on the idea. Don't jot down the synopsis or cliff notes and think that's it and start piling stuff on. Jot it down, or let it rest in your head, and think on the idea (each aspect, characters, setting etc) so they tell you more about themselves and each other. This can clear doubts and add more to the story.


toujours gai, archie
Sort of echo what others are saying here: ideas in themselves are neither cheesy nor brilliant. The cheese lies in the execution. So, grab an idea that appeals to you. It doesn't matter if it's been done a thousand times. There is nothing new under the sun, and that bit of wisdom is as old as the Bible. Your idea isn't going to be original. Your story, otoh, will be all you.
You want an idea. They are all around you, just like everyone here is saying. A good way to find ideas is to always question things with the 'what if'. Watch a movie and when something grabs your attention, say what if and change it a little. I take character personalities and consider what they could be like if I tweeked one thing or put them somewhere that could challenge them.
Also, roleplay or act it out. The best way to see if its even worth writing is to try it out in one of these. It will show you if your really into the idea and if you can go somewhere with it or not. Never give up. You'll find something that will become yours.


Thanks so much guys, this has been a great help, all this advice has been much appreciated and I can't help grinning at the amount of replies I have received.
Since I have got my answer I maybe could suggest that this thread could still go on, where we can share our ideas to get an idea for our writing. I presume there is already a thread like this though...

Thanks again everyone who has posted! :)


If I really wanted writing ideas that sounded "sophisticated" or "cool", I would write spy novels, thrillers, or political intrigues. I can imagine a cocktail party where I am wearing a black turtle-neck, sharing ideas for my next best seller. Attractive women are touching my arm ever so gingerly, commenting on my incredible genius at creating suspense, lauding my "sophisticated" ideas. I become "the most interesting man in the world". I'll have a Dos Equis please.

Fantasy doesn't seem to work like that, at least in regards to raising your social status. I suspect spy novels probably don't either, but at least you would have something to describe that does not sound goofy or weird. Weird is a little more respectable than goofy.

"Hi there. What do you do?"
"I'm a writer."
"Oh really? What are you working on?"

Compare responses:

"I'm writing a spy thriller set in the days leading up to 9/11."
"Oh that's fascinating!"

"I'm writing a suspenseful novel about a Wall Street inside trader turned whistle-blower set prior to the financial crash of 2008."
"Wow, I'm intrigued! When will you be done?"

"I'm writing a story about a gang of orcs on a quest to travel deep inside the kingdom of men, elves, and dwarves in order to steal a scrying stone that would reveal their dark lord's plans. You see, it's a twist on the fantasy trope of the "good guys" travelling into dark kingdoms. I want to reveal the orcs not as evil, but as feared and misunderstood by humans. On the way they learn to work together, and renew their orcish pride."
"Huh. That's really neat. Oh, I see someone I've been meaning to speak to, please excuse me..."
"Uh, sure. Bye."

Even the mighty staples of fantasy sound goofy when described in one line at a cocktail party.

LOTR: "I'm writing a story about little people who take an evil magic ring into a dark kingdom to destroy it."
WOT: "I'm writing a story about a young farm boy who discovers he is the chosen one, destined to face-off against the dark powers that threaten the world. See, there's a magic source where the female half is clean, but the male half is tainted by the dark one... they go on journeys and stuff."

To write in the realm of fantasy, you must choose not to care what those theoretical cocktail party listeners might think. There are people who will "get it", and then there is everyone else. You have to write what you love. Every good fantasy story sounds goofy or cliché when described. Accept it and write what comes to you.

And kids, real cool doesn't care what other people think.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
One biggie, at least for me. Pay attention to your dreams. I know, it may sound a little girlie, but some of my best and most epic story idea have come to me in the form of dreams. I'll even dream solutions to plot problems. So, my advice is to keep a dream journal. As you get more practiced, you'll be surprised by what your subconscious is trying to tell you.

Also, always, always listen to the stories the characters in your head are trying to tell you.

Trust your demon. ~ Roger Zelazny