Where is the road to a New York Times bestseller? Let me point you in the right direction—write a fantasy! Different sources of fantasy have inspired a torrent of novels and films. I’m sure you’re familiar with Rowling’s Harry Potter novels or G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Or perhaps you’ve read Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Alrassan or The Last Light of the Sun? Jack Whyte wrote histories of royal courts with complicated relationships between a royal family and their nobles. All very byzantine.
Yet, there are oceans of supernatural creatures and people who know just how to wield magic power without a single novel to tell their stories. Most fantasies are influenced by Old English, Celtic or Norse traditions; this course will concentrate on those origins. But there are the stories of Dracula and vampires set in Transylvania, Romania. This course may inspire you to create a new subgenre!
You must still have what most readers expect: a structure with a major character who has a problem or a need. You tell the same stories in different ways. (You may have heard that once or twice before.) A fantasy will have all sorts of supernatural people and creatures. Tolkien’s books are chockablock with hobbits, elves, orcs and dragons; you get your fill of engaging characters in his books. In the novels of GRR Martin and Guy Gabriel Kay, you have palace intrigues galore. Where did all that inspiration come from?
Your task will be to find original magic for your fantasy. Create a world rich in detail, at least initially, and capture the reader in this world. But don’t betray that world. If a creature exists at the beginning, it must exist at the end unless you’ve had a mass extinction. Whatever they are, humanoid, animal or alien, whatever their language and culture, the main characters must have some human characteristics which appeal to (human) readers.
European tales called märchen are of ancient origin, and you may read about old birth and marriage customs or unusual forms of inheritance. The hero, often poor, can gain an audience with kings and may win the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage. And live happily ever after, of course. When you read these stories, you immediately think of the Middle Ages. But imagine the same story told in the Elizabethan era or the Roaring Twenties or the indeterminate future. Add a leprechaun or a nice banshee. (I like banshees.) Or a talking tree, a malevolent robin or a kindly old alien. And stir.
Each lesson will challenge you with questions or exercises & discussions which will help you write your fantasy novel.
Sheila Currie lives in a world of thousands of books, fiction and non-fiction. Visiting friends worry about avalanches.
She was born on the east coast of Canada where there are many other people whose families came from Scotland and Ireland. Her love of those countries led her to study in Nova Scotia, Canada and then in Scotland where she obtained an M.A. in Scottish History and Celtic Studies from the University of Glasgow. She was fortunate enough to have a summer job selling Gaelic books door-to-door in the West Highlands and Islands. She went from one cup of tea to the next–a wonderful opportunity to talk to local people and hear their stories.
She has taught history and Gaelic at university and for Hearts Through History Romance Writers. At long last she has published The Banshee of Castle Muirn, the first book of a trilogy–set in magic and historical Scotland.
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