Firstly, thank you Brent for having me on your lovely blog, today.
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In essence, the surreal and the inconceivable are what fantasy stories are all about, so this is a difficult question to answer. Every fantasy story must possess a lush, dynamic story, which plays out within a magical world, constructed of characters who must travel beyond their normal, everyday world, for some kind of adventure. Even if they live in the same world we live in, other, possibly unseen, mystical elements must also be presented at some point.
With urban fantasy for example, the world in which the characters reside is usually our world. The only difference is that it’s another version of our world, but with layers. In my book, the Supes layer is where vampires, weres, witches, fey, and even the Mimicanes (an alien race who’ve cloned human appearance and supernatural powers for thousands of years) live. And the paranormal layer consists of lost spirits who languish in the Shadow Lands for all eternity, unless they have power enough to walk beside you, unseen. All of whom seek refuge, or a one way ticket to move on.
Brent’s question is a difficult one to answer, not least of all because it’s subjective, but in keeping with a how-to post for story craft, I’d recommend you do the following:
1) Choose the magical/supernatural characters with care. They must maintain not only your own interest, but your readers, too. Indeed, if this is a series, that could mean many months, even years of writing time spent with them. You don’t want to choose vampires if you are already bored of them (I doubt I’ll ever get bored of them). Research other stories about them before, then try to give the element/characteristics your own twist.
2) Keep a log of all magical/supernatural elements, and keep detailed notes on the supernatural characters who possess them. Scrivener is a perfect storage place for all your notes.
3) Devise a map of your world, even if it’s the world in which we live, because the supernatural elements should be added as a separate layer on top. It needs to feel as real as our own world, but different enough to be awesome!
4) You must, above all else, believe in the world, and the characters you’re writing about. Otherwise, your readers certainly will not. I think the same can be said of any story or genre. If the author of a great romance doesn’t believe in her characters' love, the readers will sense that and put the book down.
Do you write fantasy stories? What can you add to this list? Do you read fantasy? If so which is your favourite fantasy genre?