I love fantasy. I love reading it, I love watching it, and most of all, I love writing it. There’s something so incredibly liberating about letting your mind run wild with infinite possibilities. Because, really, the only thing that limits the creation of fantasy is our own imaginations.
But how, exactly, does someone create a “real” fantasy world? Because by definition, fantasy means something that is impossible or improbable. So how on earth can it be “real”?
*Shrugs* Beats me! But let’s see if we can flesh out some possibilities.
First up, even though it’s fantasy, there still have to be limits. Otherwise the fantasy just becomes chaos. And nobody likes chaos—it’s gritty and difficult to read. You get lost and caught up in the nuances. It’s better to refine the scope of the fantasy than it is to have no rules in place. A good example for this is that a lot of fantasy writers who use magic in their stories always make it so there’s a cost. Whether it’s energy or pain or loss of some other kind, there are limits to it. Even Harry Potter is limited to using a wand for magic (unless in the case of the super-crazy-awesome-powerful wizards who can do some wandless magic… but now I’m geeking out so we’ll move on before I go off on a whole new blog post and fan-girl all things HP related). Just like with the magic example, fantasy worlds have to have boundaries. Limitations. Otherwise things just get… messy.
Next up, it has to not be too crazy. I’m a sucker for a fabulous story with a fantastic fantasy backdrop, but if there is too much detail it can sometimes be overkill. Especially when there’s such vivid descriptions that the reader has no room left for their own imagination to run rampant. There’s something beautiful about being able to fill in the gaps with your own ideas, so if an author paints the picture so completely that you don’t get to do that, it’s almost annoying. You also don’t have a way to relate to the story. It’s like, I don’t know… I guess it’s like someone telling you all about a place they’ve visited down to the very last detail, as opposed to you actually getting to visit the place and see for yourself. You have no connection to it other than what you’ve heard, and thus it doesn’t mean much to you at all. Does that make sense?
Next up, it needs to be consistent. If your sky is purple in one place and you travel to a different place and the sky is green, you need find a (realistic) explanation for why that would be the case. Fantasy can be a lot of fun and you can go a little wild with some of the things you come up with, but your ideas can’t be so insane that they make it all unrealistic in the end. Just because it’s fantastical, it shouldn’t be confusing! So let your imagination go free, but keep it consistent with whatever it comes up with.
Lastly, it needs to, at least somewhat, make sense. I read a book the other day where the main character was swept into the fae realm of the Summer Court and she had her cell phone with her and she was able to make a phone call. I mean, come on, what was that? Firstly, traditional fae legend tends to favour the belief that human tech messes with the vibe those pesky immortals have going on (ie. they freak out when near human tech because it stuffs up their magic or whatever)… But as much as that’s a deviation from the norm and could be “accepted” as a new spin on the fairy tale possibility, there’s NO WAY there would be phone service in another realm! That just does not make sense. Seriously! What gives? I doubt there are cell towers anywhere near the Summer (or Winter) Court. Thus all credibility of a “real” fantasy world went out the window.
When it comes down to it, I think a good rule of thumb when creating fantasy worlds is to put yourself in the position of your main character and act as if it’s the first time they’re visiting the world you’ve created. What questions would they ask? Would they accept the world or would they find it too chaotically impossible? And if it is impossible, how can you make it more possible, or at least possible enough that your main character can accept the weirdness and just get on with the story? Because that’s a big thing too—the world you create is a background only. It sets the scene for the story to flow along from, allowing the reader an escape from reality—literally, in the case of fantasy.
So there you have it! That’s my (very brief) guide to creating “real” fantasy worlds. I hope it helps in some way!