Elements of Fantasy #1 – Wizards, Warlocks and Witches

You don’t know how hard it was to resist adding “…Oh My!” to the end of that title. But this is planned to be a (relatively) serious series of articles, so resist I did.

So in this, the first in a brand new series entitled “Elements of Fantasy”, I want to explore one of the most defining elements of fantasy: magic users. I’m starting with perhaps one of the most expansive topics, probably because I’m a masochist, so this may very well end up becoming “Part 1” of an article on magic users.

A magician is someone who uses or practices magic that derives from supernatural or occult sources.
Wikipedia: Magician (fantasy)

Good old Wikipedia. Have you ever failed us? Well, yes, many times, but I’m pretty confident the above snippet is accurate. Continue reading

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The Top 10 List of Fantasy Famous Last Words

Welcome to this week’s Epic List of the Week! As always, you can let us know if you agree/disagree with our list by leaving a comment below.

We missed last week’s Fiction Friday: The Story, but rest assured it will be along this week!

  1. ‘Hmm, I’m not sure if you should touch that sword. It’s glowing an awful lot…’
  2. ‘There’s no way you can hit me with that bow and arrow from all the way over th–‘
  3. ‘Zombies? Yeah. I’m 100% sure you stake them through the heart.’
  4. ‘Werewolves? Trust me on this. Get the garlic crusher.’
  5. ‘A sea monster? Well, I don’t see anything… apart from this huge dark cavern.’
  6. ‘If you’re really a demon prince, why don’t you prove it?’
  7. ‘What kind of giant evil chicken god are you? Why, you couldn’t even squash a fly! You chicken or something?’
  8. ‘It’s our last chance to defeat evil! Just put that cursed amulet in the slot on the pedestal and pull that lever.’
  9. ‘When the wizard said it was a bad idea to experiment with our powers, I’m sure he wasn’t referring to genocide… right?’
  10. ‘A horse? Nahhhh! I want to ride that huge thing with the spiky back!’

Come on, I dare you to tell me those were rubbish!

The Top 10 List of Magic Objects

Welcome to the second Epic List of the Week! I want to hear your suggestions to add to the list, so drop a comment below.

  1. Excalibur (King Arthur)
  2. The One Ring (Lord of the Rings)
  3. Stormbringer (Elric)
  4. Frostmourne (Warcraft)
  5. The Infinite Gauntlet (Marvel Universe)
  6. The Flying Carpet (Aladdin)
  7. Elder Wand (Harry Potter)
  8. Dagger of Time (Prince of Persia)
  9. Necromantic Bells (Abhorsen)
  10. Hermes’ Winged Sandals (Ancient Mythology)

Got anything to add?

Writing For Children: World Within a World

Welcome to a brand new subject area here on the blog: Children’s Fiction! You’ll find all future posts like this one under the Children’s Fiction category or you can just do a search from the top of the blog.

One of the things I see time and time again in stories for youngsters is the idea of the world within a world. It’s in Harry Potter and it’s in Artemis Fowl. It could even be argued that it’s in the Young Bond and Alex Rider books, too. Essentially, it’s something fantastic or impossible, existing within the confines of Earth as we know it. The reason I think it is so used and so successful, is because of the following reasons:

  1. It’s so versatile
  2. It gives the reader familiar references
  3. It makes our boring world feel more fantastic

You only have to look at concepts such as Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic to know that it’s such a great concept to use in children’s fiction. You can literally take anything from the real world; be it school, home or something as generic as a forest and transform it into a place only possible in the reader’s imagination.

Personally, I feel this concept works the best when reality is tweaked very slightly. For example, a secret restaurant for London’s pigeons hidden at the top of Big Ben. The environment and landmarks are all there, we’ve just changed one tiny thing, but it’s something that could never possibly happen… or could it? There’s the beauty. Nobody really knows whether pigeons have a restaurant at the top of Big Ben, because nobody ever looks. You need to make children believe that these fictional things could possibly exist in the real world. Take Harry Potter as another example. You had tourists trying to push trolleys into a solid brick wall at King’s Cross Station, between platforms 9 and 10.

How many hopeful geeks out there occasionally wave their hand about in the hope they have been granted superpowers? Loads, I bet. There’s the secret – make people believe that something could be real and you’re onto a winner.

Remember, you’ve only got 3 days to leave your entry for Fiction Friday: The Story! Episode 6 is at this link!

~ James

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Worldbuilder’s Workout – Transport

Worldbuilder's Workout

In our last Worldbuilder’s Workout, we talked about Distance. Well, today we’re going to look at Transport.

By Land

By their very nature, fantasy worlds are usually medieval, in technological terms. What did people use back then to get around? Horses and their own two feet? It’s sort of correct, but not very imaginative. Horses/mules were important because they were the tools that drove society. They drew wagons and carriages, helped farmers work their fields and transported goods from one place to another. However, they were also expensive; in much the same way that some people can’t afford to buy a car nowadays. Bicycles weren’t invented until the 19th century, so walking was the other option. But that shouldn’t be the end of the matter. Think how someone who buys a horse and cart could profit from it. The medieval world had taxis, just not as you know them today.

Carriages

By Sea

Sailboats and rowboats are usually the transport of choice for the high seas. When you start bringing in steam-powered ships, you edge out of fantasy territory and start to add in steampunk elements. There’s no reason why you can’t do this, but I’m talking about standard fantasy here. Writing about ships and adventures at sea can be really good fun, but you need to know your stuff. Look up some basic information on sailboats so that you have a good idea of where everything is on one and how they worked. You can adapt things for your story’s needs, but I find its always best to stick relatively closely to established real-world rules.

By Air

Now, this is an interesting one. Airships or dragons/giant birds are usually what we’re presented with in fantasy. I find airships don’t sit well with me. Warcraft uses them, but I feel they detract from the fantasy setting a little. Giant winged creatures, on the other hand, can sometimes work if done well. However, I would advise steering clear of dragon riders or anything similar, as this has now become a huge fantasy cliche, in my humble opinion. Magic systems providing flight is another option, of course, which I cover in the final section.

Airship

By Any Means

Depending on how cleverly you can do it, you could try to invent new ways for your world’s inhabitants to get around. It could be magic-based or not. What about a new species of animal that’s different to a horse in some way? How about a crude and unexplained form of electricity that is used to give speed to ships? Or what if instead of roads there were tracks and horse-drawn wagons ran on them? The possibilities really are endless, it’s just up to your own imagination!

What’s your view on transport in fantasy settings? Got any ideas/questions for the community?

* * *

Remember – if you missed the chance to take part in the second episode of our community-written fantasy story, you can still leave your entries by following the below link!

Friday Fiction: The Story – Episode 2

More Worldbuilder’s Workouts…

Worldbuilder’s Workout – Distance

Imagination and What To Do When It Runs Away

Dragon

I thought I would write about imagination today. It’s not a subject I’ve touched on before, but it is a crucial part of writing. The reason I chose to blog about this today is because I was sent a link to an eBook (link at the end of the post) called Everflame, which I thought was exceptionally imaginative.

Now, sometimes I feel as if my own writing loses its sense of imagination as I progress with it. I have all these fantastic ideas in the planning stage of my story, but they get lost along the way and I end up with something far more grounded and ‘human’ that I’d planned. Usually, this really annoys me. I do want strange fantasy creatures and stunning magical battles, but some part of me says: ‘No, we’re sticking to humans, gritty realism and a realistic plot.’

The only trouble with this, however, is that if I’m not careful, I end up writing something that’s not really fantasy, but modern-day people with weird names, wearing weird clothes and living in a carbon copy of Earth. As a fantasy writer and reader, it’s not fun writing this sort of story. I soon get tired with the banality of it all and long for at least some element of fantasy to rear its head. That’s when things start to fall apart. That’s when I stick in a dragon. You know the trouble with doing this? It scuttles any sense of plot that you had and it causes the story to plunge to the murky depths of your mind, never to return.

With my current project, however, I’m pleased to say I’ve made a change. I started out with the plot and the setting. Then I began to incorporate some original, not over-the-top, fantasy species (not races – Africans and Europeans are races, elves and dwarves are not… well, they could be, if you explain it as an evolutionary change). Next, I make sure that these species truly fit into the world. If not, they’re gone. What I mean by this is having dragons in your world but no history to make them believable or a suitable environment to sustain them. Only once all the above was done, did I start to write. Now, I have an interesting, truly fantasy world with a halfway decent plot to match.

Next time your imagination ‘runs away’ (i.e. abandons you mid-story), stop and take a look at your project as a whole. Figure out what’s missing and try to weave it into the world so it doesn’t feel out of place. Don’t stick in a dragon for the sake of it and certainly don’t try to make your story something that it’s not.

Until next time, adieu.

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