Publish date:

5 Ways To Develop Your Writing Imagination for Fantasy Fiction

World-building can be an exciting process for the fantasy writer ... but what about when you hit an idea roadblock? Author A.J. Smith has 5 tips for ensuring that you keep your imagination engaged.
Author:
5 Ways To Develop Your Writing Imagination for Fantasy Fiction

As a fantasy writer, I spend my time immersed in things I’ve made up. There are certainly real-world reference points that are useful, but all of them need to be filtered through a screen of does it work in a fantasy world? There are obvious things that do—swords, language, history, etc. But, for everything else, we need imagination. I flatter myself that any failures I have as a writer are mitigated by my imagination. Below, I’ll try to walk you through five ways to massage yours into shape.

(Writing All the Times: 6 Things to Ask Yourself About Your Time-Travel Story)

5 Ways To Develop Your Writing Imagination for Fantasy Fiction

1. Start small

Don’t beat yourself up marveling at the complexity of the worlds created by other writers. Start with a single character, a single town/area, or—my personal favorite—a monster. Develop that one thing in detail, until it feels alive. As you do this, hundreds of other little threads will appear, like a spider’s web, with your single creation in the middle. How does your character interact with others? What trade is your town known for? Is your monster a nuisance or a serious threat? You can do this forever—focusing on single elements until the webs become concentric circles.

2. Don’t be afraid of real-world history

We have thousands of years of rich, complicated, beautiful, and brutal interactions to draw upon. Some are well-known, some are fringe, and some are bizarrely obscure. Finding real-world parallels to stories you want to tell is a great way to add color and nuance to your writing. Find a historical period, the lesser-known the better, and make yourself an expert on it. Medieval Europe is an obvious one, but try looking beyond this to a place whose history is seldom told. Find a place your character, your town, or your monster would feel at home and borrow. History, legend, and myth are your friends, do not be afraid of them.

The Sword Falls by A.J. Smith

The Sword Falls by A.J. Smith

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

3. Weird and strange things are good

Who says magic isn’t real? Who says non-human creatures don’t exist? If they fit within your spider’s web, use them. If you find humans boring, invent a new species. If you think magic is too powerful, redefine it. This is the point where you start to test your imagination, but it’s also the point where things truly come alive. Come up with something strange that could never happen in the real world, and develop it. Make it as weird and otherworldly as you like. Remember this is your imagination, so you can always scale it back. The weird and wonderful makes your creation special.

4. Find a story

With enough spider’s webs, the potential crossover points will become numerous. A defined character visits a defined place; two developed characters meet; a monster hunts near a well-defined town. These are your stories. You’ll find that your imagination begins to run wild. You’ll start and restart a few times—find things you dislike and discard them—but you’ll get better each time. Not every idea has to go somewhere, but they’ll all teach you something. The more you immerse yourself in your spider’s web, the more you’ll understand it and the more it will grow. Eventually, a story will blossom enough to become a plot.

(3 Things to Consider When Retelling Myths)

5. Revel in it

I can’t stress this enough. In my humble opinion, for a fantasy writer, there is simply nothing better than coming up with a cool idea. Fantasy literature is escapism, and the writer should be able to escape just as much as the reader. Own your creations; become attached to them. The more you care about the things you write, the deeper your characters and the richer your world. This is where your work becomes personal, and this is where—if I’ve been slightly helpful—your imagination will take over.

Grammar and Mechanics

Do you remember the difference between the 8 parts of speech and how to use them? Are you comfortable with punctuation and mechanics? No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Collecting Advice but Never Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Collecting Advice (but Never Writing)

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is to collect writing advice at the expense of actually writing.

The Benefits of a Book Coach for Writers

The Benefits of Having a Book Coach for Writers

What is a book coach? How could they help authors? Award-winning author and writing instructor Mark Spencer answers these questions and more in this post about the benefits of having a book coach for writers.

Clare Chambers: On Starting Fresh and Switching Gears

Clare Chambers: On Starting Fresh and Switching Gears

Award-winning author Clare Chambers discusses the fear and excitement of switching genre gears in her new historical fiction novel, Small Pleasures.

Poetic Forms

Exquisite Corpse: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the exquisite corpse (or exquisite cadaver), a collaborative poem that would make a fun poetic game.

How Opening Ourselves to Other People Can Make Us Better Writers

How Opening Ourselves to Other People Can Make Us Better Writers

The writing process is both individual and communal, as receiving constructive feedback and outside encouragement helps our drafts become finished manuscripts. Author Peri Chickering discusses how opening ourselves up to others can make us better writers.

What Forensic Science’s Godmother Taught Me About Writing Mysteries

What Forensic Science’s Godmother Taught Me About Writing Mysteries

Stephanie Kane discusses the impact of Frances Glessner Lee, the godmother of forensic science, and her crime scene dioramas on writing mysteries.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Still Alive

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Still Alive

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, reveal that a character who was thought deceased is actually still among the living.

Mark Anthony: On Destigmatizing Paranormal Communication

Mark Anthony: On Destigmatizing Paranormal Communication

Author Mark Anthony hopes to educate and normalize paranormal communication with his new spirituality book, The Afterlife Frequency.

Ways Animals Have Interacted With Writers Through the Centuries

Ways Animals Have Interacted With Writers Through the Centuries

Across the globe and spanning lifetimes, animals have always operated as more than simply animals within the stories they reside. Author Richard Girling discusses how animals have interacted with writers throughout the centuries.