Fantasy stories allow our imaginations to conjure up entirely new worlds, characters, and even magical powers. Our exploration of these realms and adventures is limited only by how much we can dream. Blending real world events, battles, cultures and places into a fantastical adventure helps to ground the reader while immersing him/her in the story.
Being a fantasy story, you don’t need to keep strictly to original historical events from which you are borrowing elements for your story. Nor do you need to stick to only one set of events. Merge the real world items into your story, rather merging your story into the real world history. This frees you to create your own unique world and characters while preserving a sense of reality and convincing the reader that this story may just be possible.
If you plan to use existing history or cultures in your story, be prepared to spend a lot of time researching. The more relevant material you can gather, the more you will have to draw from as your story evolves. Read other fantasy stories as well to get ideas from them. Being original does not mean you can’t borrow ideas from many different sources. Just remember, you are borrowing the idea, or the historical account, and not the specific characters and story lines of other writers’ novels.
Basing your story on historical times, such as the medieval era or the Roman Empire, means that you must represent people, places, and technologies accurately. For example, readers will most likely know how a trebuchet is supposed to work and perform. They may also know that cross guards appeared on swords in Europe in the tenth century, and the Vikings and Normans favored them.
You may attribute magical powers to weapons like swords or battle-axes, but make sure you clue the reader in first. Provide some background on how the item acquired its powers and describe the extent of those powers. Then be consistent throughout the story in the use of the powers. Don’t conveniently throw in a new fantastic power towards the end just to put an end to a dastardly opponent. That will confuse the reader who has imagined your world and the powers that operate within it for some time.
Try to avoid copying ideas for characters and themes from existing fantasy stories. You don’t want your new creation to read like an amalgamation of everyone else’s work. That will make you work seemed clichéd and unoriginal; a recipe for losing your precious reader fan base. If you have already begun with characters that seem as if they could be from any number of other stories, that is okay. You can always go back and edit them to evolve into your own unique creations. Let your imagination run until you feel it is starting to go crazy, then write it down.
Simply adapting existing successful fantasy stories into your own version of similar events will most likely fail to attract readers. If you can imagine an alternate scenario for a fantasy story, then you must be able to imagine alternate realms and domains in which the events occur. A unique story with unique characters and worlds will always be more appealing.
Bring your world to life in detail slowly throughout the story. This is your imagination and you want it to be as real as possible for the reader. The trick is to tell the reader the essential things but leave just enough for their own imagination to fill in the gaps. Take time to build scenes and set the stage for the events to occur within them. Create detailed outlines and charts to lay out the scenes and the flow from one to the next, along with the characters and key events that will take place in each. This way you won’t lose threads of the story that leave the reader hanging.
Develop your hero character when the story begins. Tell the hero’s story, where he/she came from as a seemingly ordinary person, how he/she acquired special powers and training and any apprenticeships involved. Decide if you are telling the story of the hero in the first person or from the point of view of a third party. This will be the time to introduce the wisdom and experience of a sage or guru. This character will play a key role in counselling the hero throughout the story.
Like any good work of fiction, make sure you have plenty of conflict in every scene. Make the reader aware of the key villain very early on. Sometimes the villain is someone who should be a guardian of sorts to the hero, but evil aspirations betray the villain and reveal his true intentions. Your hero is, of course, on the opposite side whether voluntarily or out of the need for survival. Have the villain attack and inflict damage to the hero’s supporters or even the hero him/herself. Then more training and support from experts during the recovery process will better prepare the hero for future battles and ultimately to kill the villain.
If your fantasy story is more of a romantic novel with mystical powers, you can create conflict by having villains who have the ability to destroy or render these powers useless. The story becomes a romantic struggle in which the hero and his/her love interest are tested repeatedly until they destroy the villain. Interrupt scenes of intermittent joy and harmony with repeated villainous attacks, but in the end, their love triumphs over evil. Is your imagination fired up? Write on!