Diving into the depths of the fantasy genre is like free diving … The deeper you go, the more out of breath you get. I got that feeling when I read Elric of Melnibone for the first time. After reading it, I was left breathless.
Fantasy taps into everything a human being experiences through life. What scares us? What piques our curiosity? What sparks our imagination? In fantasy, anything and everything is possible, and as writers, we grab onto that and lay it out for readers to dive into.
Fantasy has three critical elements: fear, adventure and magic. I know the last one is a bit broad, so let me start with that.
Magic covers everything from the fantastic to the supernatural. It is the mystery that brings out the curiosity in all of us. What we can’t explain or understand, we associate with magic. That’s what makes it an essential part of any fantasy story.
But magic is more than spells, Wizards, faeries and unicorns. Magic is the lifeblood of all these things and more. Magic has been a part of stories ranging from Paul Bunyan to Santa Claus.
The second element is adventure. Adventure is more than swashbuckling, chandelier swinging, high seas sailing adventures. The first part of the adventure is–as in real estate–location, location, location! What would Harry Potter be without Hogwarts, or Lord of the Rings without Middle Earth. Location establishes the adventure, from the urban jungle to a floating island.
Another part of adventure is, of course, the action; hence the term action/adventure. Whether its sword fights or bare knuckle brawling, you need to bring the excitement into your fantasy; but make sure your keep it real and accurate. I watch a lot of Errol Flynn/Bruce Lee movies and professional wrestling to guide me through scripting my fights.
The final element is fear. It is the basic element at the core of every human being. Our fear makes us human, gives us that innate curiosity to explore that which we do t know. Without fear, we wouldn’t gather or strength and courage to fight back, that basic survival instinct.
Fear can be visualized in scary monsters, spooky places and death-defying adventure. You see my point? Fear is what brings all three elements together into one story of fantasy.
Like a painter, you start with broad strokes and work your way down to the fine details. In the end, you should have a memorable story you can call all your own. Mine’s called Forever Avalon, what’s yours?