Fantasy: A Not-So-Catch-All Guide on How to Write It

Through the winter months, us at Olympia Author Hub went into a deep and restorative hibernation – planning our posts and reading our books. Finally, we’ve emerged on the other side, springing into a new-found desire to help the authors who need inspiration in their writings.

The biggest thing in fiction writing now is a wonderful mash-up genre named ‘Romantasy’ – predominantly fuelled by the fire of TikTok and the influence of their aesthetic recommendations. To welcome and encourage authors into the world of romantic fantasy, we have decided to post a two-part exploration of the genres, with some hopefully helpful tips along the way.


#1: If you build it, they will come

When you sit down at a blank page, it’s always anxiety-inducing. However, if your intentions are to write a contemporary fiction, you can use the influences of the world around you to help in your story-building. No world-building is required.

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘fantasy’ is “the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need.” You need to plan out your world and build it.

In constructing the surroundings of your narrative, you need to decide as early as possible whether you’re building an intricate society with a complex web of connections and rules. This is known as hard-world-building. J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings and the land of Middle Earth is the definitive example of this practice. There is an elvish language, a detailed map in the opening pages, and an entire appendix for myths and legends. Hard worldbuilding requires a lot of work and a complete understanding of your story – tread lightly and carefully if this is the avenue you’re pursuing.

The flip side to this creation style is soft-world-building which offers only small glimpses of the surroundings and encourages the reader to engage and wonder with your work more. Phillip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series utilises quick and shallow dives into the past and only hints at goings-on on the periphery of the central story. Soft worldbuilding is a lot more playful and leaves room for you to write about what you truly want to, without worrying about setting up the world and history to allow your narrative to playout.


#2: Follow the leader

Once you have a world to write in, you need a protagonist to follow. This can be a lowly servant, fighting for their true right; a distraught monarch, questing for the good of the Kingdom; or a whole team of heroes, defending themselves from danger.

You should always aim to find your characters first, as in a world of unknowns, the reader will want to grapple to something in the first few pages. Don’t allow all the characteristics of your protagonist to spill out on the page at once but build a strong foundation to support the readers and encourage them to keep moving forward.


#3: So, where to?

The classic set-up for a fantasy novel takes the readers across the land in a quest for something or someone. And why not do the same? You’ve built a world and should rightfully have a way to show it off!

To be afraid of convention is to force yourself out on a road untravelled – it’s dangerous and lonely. For some, this challenge is ideal and welcoming, writers and readers alike. However, it’s something we would argue you shouldn’t worry too much about.

Make your book a quest, but build an interesting goal, have a brilliant set up, make your story as diverse and fantastical as you can – people will soon forget the conventional story structure when distracted by the wonders of your world.


#4: Second, third, fourth, and…

Due to the efforts of building a world and the escape fantasy books offer their readers, this genre is prone (more than any other) for sequels and series-long epics. This is also why there are so many dedicated fans and obsessed admirers of fantasy works – there is a large amount to obsess over.

Writing one book is difficult enough and conventional wisdom is to make sure each edition is as good as it can be, standing by itself. However, it is a perfectly innocent and potentially worthwhile exercise to work out whether your fantasy story is a one-and-done situation.

If you are looking to write more books, then leave breadcrumbs and start building stories from the very beginning. This connects all your books together in a way that will cause fans and readers to engage with your writing more than they normally would – aiming to work out and manifest the continuing narrative before you write it. Hey! You might see an idea that you hadn’t thought of before and you’ll use it!


We hope this article has fuelled your passion for writing and hope that it’s let you think through your work. These are simply ideas and aim only to inspire – after all, great fantasy should be an original and personal creation.

26 Apr 2024