C.S. Lewis once wrote, “One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.”
When I was in college, I took a 19th Century British Lit class focused on solely on fantasy literature of the Victorian Era. Prior to this, I had never really thought of fantasy being older than the Hobbits, Wizards, Dwarfs, and Elves that J.R.R. Tolkien had bestowed upon the world.
Diving deeper into the genre not only opened my eyes to a greater world of fantasy but also showed me the various roads one could walk down while diving into a fantasy novel. (Definitely check out George MacDonald)
Recently, I’ve been introduced to the Discworld series (I know, I’m late to the party), which has taught me another lesson about fantasy… that you can’t take yourself too seriously. Terry Pratchett builds an entire 41-book series around a fantasy world that is as hilarious as it is imaginative and magical.
Neil Gaiman also does an incredible job of creating contemporary fantasy that creates incredible worlds while also allowing the readers to chuckle their way through. Reading Gaiman, to me, is like sitting down with an old friend who’s telling you an incredible story. You laugh, you cry, you drink a little too much, and at the end, you can’t wait to do it all over again.
Many people scoff at Fantasy as a genre, but one could argue that it is one of the most challenging genres to write. I’m beginning to learn this as I begin my endeavor of writing my first novel–a fantasy novel.
I got inspired after reading The Colour of Magic, and my idea came to me after I dreamt about it. So, as someone who has always written fiction, I rushed to my computer to begin my story. But as I quickly learned, it’s not as simple as coming up with a plot and sitting down to type it out.
This story wasn’t an ordinary story. I couldn’t write from what I know because I knew so little. What is their world like? What languages do they speak? Religions they follow? How does their magic work? Races, ethnicities, genders? There were so many questions, and I couldn’t answer a single one.
It’s a little over a month later, and I’m still knee-deep in research. I’ve written 700 words of my novel, and that’s only because I had a great thought of a scene and had to get it down. I’ve bought books, dug deep into the internet, and read a variety of fantasy novels to understand the genre better and how to wield the world-building powers of those before me.
The reason I love fantasy so much is because of the challenges it presents. In order to write a successful (in the sense that people connect to it… no matter how few) fantasy novel, it’s not enough to create an amazing world, have a great plot, or create intriguing characters. No, you must also make it relatable.
One of the biggest parts of fantasy is making sure that the world is reachable and understandable to humans in our world. No matter how fantastical the world they enter is, there must be something familiar for them to hold on to. Without that familiarity, the buy in for any novel is very low.
For Lord of the Rings, there was love, there was war, and there was friendship. More than that, we understand the greed of men.
In Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass series, we connect with the character’s fight to find out who she truly is. We connect with her love and struggle to trust those around her. And many of us, find ourselves wishing we could wear the beautiful clothes adorning Celaena Sardothien. Without these features, Celaena would be difficult to connect with and understand. Her vulnerability is human, even if she is not.
And it’s these connections that have made me fall head over heels in love with the genre. Any book can transport you to a new place and new time, but fantasy can deliver you to places you may have never even imagined for yourself. It can deliver you friends in the most unlikely of ways; for all you know, the rubber ducky in your bath could become your plucky sidekick for saving the world.
So, for those fleeting moments I have to escape to fantastical worlds (hopefully soon one created by me), I am grateful that I am finally old enough to start reading fairytales again.
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Escaping the real world by writing worlds of my own.