Magic is a mainstay–some might even argue a defining characteristic–of fantasy fiction. A writer determines whether magic follows a system of rules or leaves it mysterious and unexplained when building the world the story is set in. That is only the first step of using magic in fantasy fiction, however. The writer then needs to decide how they will depict the use of magic by the inhabitants of the world.
The means and methods of using magic really adds flavor to the setting of a fantasy fiction story. Witches and shamans casting bones or reading entrails sets a very different tone from wizened old men with long, white beards invoking the Read more
Top ten lists provide good fodder for blog posts. I came across a “top ten” rules of using magic in fantasy fiction article last week. While I’m all for magic-related rules that fantasy fiction writers should follow, a good writer learns how and when it’s appropriate to break the rules. I’ve broken several of the rules the author of the article listed, and disagree with a few others.
Whatever the good guys have, the bad guys still have a chance to beat them
A good conflict in fantasy fiction will create tension by making the reader believe there is always a chance the protagonist can fail. That doesn’t require both sides having access to magic, however. Read more
If you haven’t read my previous posts on building a fantasy fiction world, you’ve missed out on discussions about using geography to support your story, integrating the history of your fantasy world without resorting to large information dumps, and creating dynamic inter-character relationships by developing cultural factors like race, religion, government and social mores. Of course, it wouldn’t be a fantasy world without magic.
Much like methods for world-building, how a writer handles magic generally falls somewhere between two poles: a system of extensive rules or no explanation whatsoever. Unlike world-building, where you can find a happy medium somewhere along the continuum, if you stray too far from the poles with magic, you’ll end up with confused and dissatisfied readers. Read more
A close second to epic fantasy in popularity would be the sword-and-sorcery sub-genre. The term was originally coined by author Fritz Leiber in response to Michael Moorcock’s demand to classify the fantasy adventure stories written by Robert E. Howard. As such, Conan and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser came to typify sword-and-sorcery.
The genre suffered some bad PR in the 1980s, when the release of cheaply made knock-offs of the successful Conan the Barbarian film combined with poor quality of shared world novels to turn “sword-and-sorcery” into a derisive term. However, the 80s also saw the emergence of strong female protagonists where they previously served as damsels-in-distress.
Both my novel Maiden of Pain and short story “How Burlmarr Saved the Unseen Protector” fall into the sword-and-sorcery category. If you’re interested in writing a sword-and-sorcery story, here are four defining concepts that you’ll want to include: Read more