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Laurel C.

Introducing A Fantasy Setting

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How do you like to introduce your readers to your fantasy world?

Do you drop them in and let them figure it out or do you present a description of it at the outset?

Or some other technique?

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I generally like to "drop them in" with as little description as possible at the beginning. I like to let the readers get to know who is important and what is going on as quickly as possible, without too much description of the fantasy world. If there is important information needed, I include it through dialogue or internal monologue. Other important info can come up as it is needed or where appropriate. 

Basically, I like to introduce a fantasy setting in much the same way that a movie does. Think about Andrew Adamson's version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  First thing we learn is that there is a place called Narnia, that it exists between the lamp post and castle Cair Paravel on the Eastern Sea. We then learn that it's been winter for a hundred years, that there is a witch, etc. It is only much later that we learn that animals can talk, that there is lion named Aslan, discover the frozen river, hear of the Stone Table, etc. We learn of each detail as we need it.

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Laurel,

I agree with Claire wholeheartedly. It is a big mistake to try and front load a fantasy with the details of the fantasy world. That can quickly overload the reader. It is far more interesting, and it can really draw the reader in to start with something interesting ( a geographic feature, an interesting character, or even a specific fantasy creature) and then slowly (or quickly, depending on your desired story pacing) build the world as your characters move through it.

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First thing you do is, you make up a language. You have to be really good at this, as good as, say, a British University professor...

 

And when you actually write your story, tell it to a four-year-old first.

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I'm a big fan of Tolkien and Lewis and their style of development. I try not to "plop" down an intense moment of character/ setting development, because if I were reading such it would knock me out of the story. As I write, I try to simply sprinkle the development throughout - a little bit in conversation here, a little bit of description as my character is walking there, a little bit of backstory as part of an overall description of what is happening in the scene... just a dash to clue the reader in to where the story is taking place while allowing them to remain connected to whatever is happening in the story.

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Thanks, Joshua.  That's the approach I've been taking, too.  Glad to hear it doesn't have to be an overwhelming introduction.

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As long as you keep in mind that your fantasy world is a blank page in everybody's mind but yours, a slow, sparing introduction of details is best. Which details are most important to include depends on how fantastical your imaginary world is. If you have dragons, for example, most people have a relatively solid mental picture of what a dragon looks like--you needn't describe them much. If you've invented, say, some kind of flying armor-plated elephant type thing, you'll probably have to describe it in more detail.

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I agree with Zee on this and can only add that sometimes it's even advisable to simply start your story outside the fantasy world and have your protagonist lead your readers into it as they discover the world for themselves - i did this with my own story and I've seen it done really successfully in other authors' work - C.S. Lewis - Narnia did it, so did Stephen King's in "The Talisman." 

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