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Writing

How to Write a Fantasy Series: 5 Tips for Writing a Fantasy Saga

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 27, 2020 • 3 min read

Whether it’s The Chronicles of Narnia or Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, a fantasy series has a unique ability to transport readers into unfamiliar worlds of strong characters, epic battles, and high stakes. Though the fantasy settings may be strange or unconventional, the best fantasy series reveal elements of the human condition that are recognizable and universal.

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5 Tips for Writing a Fantasy Series

Due to the ambition and scope of a typical fantasy series, beginning the writing process can be especially difficult. Here are some writing tips to help you write your own fantasy series:

  1. Work within a specific subgenre. Fantasy is a broad umbrella containing a number of specific subgenres. There’s epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian science fiction, sword and sorcery, and dark fantasy—just to name a few. Each subgenre has its own set of rules, common storylines, and built-in audience, so it’s crucial to fully understand which subgenre you intend to operate within. Having a comprehensive grasp on the conventions of your subgenre will ensure that you leave your reader satisfied while also allowing you to upend tropes and subvert your audience’s expectations. For instance, George R.R. Martin’s bestseller A Song of Ice and Fire (the basis for the TV show Game of Thrones) has many of the hallmarks of high fantasy—such as a grand scale, epic battles, and a fantastical medieval-inspired setting. Yet the author also plays with genre conventions by rendering heroes with ambiguous moral compasses and eschewing the typical “chosen one” narrative. Before you begin the process of novel writing, you should fully understand your subgenre.
  2. Pay attention to worldbuilding. Sometimes the first step in writing a fantasy novel or series is developing your fantasy world. This is not just the actual landscape that your characters will inhabit; worldbuilding also encompasses the tone of your story, its major preoccupations and themes, and the nature of its morality. Whether it’s Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy or Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the work of the best fantasy writers is full of vivid description—the sounds, smells, and tastes of their fictional world. Don’t be afraid to borrow details from the real world or your own real-life experiences. Leaning on your personal experience and knowledge of things is one of the keys to crafting believable places in your fantasy novel.
  3. Settle on a point of view. Before you begin writing fantasy fiction, you’ll want to determine your narrative point of view. Most fantasy books are written in one of two styles: first-person, in which the narrator tells their story, or third-person, which is the author telling the tale. While the former can provide intimacy, it is also limited by the perceptive abilities of the main character, who is confined to report only what they would realistically know or think. Third-person can offer more flexibility—you can be everywhere, help your reader see everything, and switch between various characters’ stories. Fantasy authors should determine their point of view before they write their first book, since it will affect everything from character development to their own fantasy writing style.
  4. Plot out your story. Novels in the sci-fi and fantasy genres tend to be ambitious, complex, and epic in scale. That’s why it’s essential to determine the basic trajectory of your story before you begin writing. Some writers begin with a detailed outline in which they plot out character arcs, story beats, and the rules of their world and magic systems. Some find it helpful to write a series of standalone short stories first, which allows them to experiment with storytelling in compact doses before diving into a full series. Either way, if you’re attempting to write a fantasy series for the first time, you should make sure your roadmap is clear before diving in.
  5. Use tropes to your advantage. There’s a reason why fantasy series often follow the hero’s journey and conclude with good guys triumphing over evil. Fantasy genre tropes are so resilient because they serve as the building blocks of a satisfying, emotionally compelling fantasy story. The most common fantasy tropes contain seeds of real-world struggles, relationships, and themes played out on the most epic scale imaginable. Don’t be afraid to creatively lean into tropes in your fantasy novel—as long as they are in the service of a story that is emotionally satisfying.

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