A while back, I broke down the 10 best tips for writing fantasy, and you know me! I like to keep things interesting. Today, I'm breaking down the 10 worst tips for writing fantasy. These are tips that I have seen people give in complete seriousness. It's usually people who have never published a book in their life, so you know, clearly they're experts! We just love that kind of content…
These are some of the worst writing tips if you're trying to tackle fantasy. Please keep in mind all of the advice I'm about to give is a 100% sarcastic. Please do NOT implement ANY of these tips! It's BAD advice. Do yourself a favor...and all of your readers.
This video is sponsored by WorldAnvil. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Number 1: If It's Not Tolkien, It's Not Fantasy!
Genre isn't a broad classification giving readers a vague idea of what to expect in a story. Genre is a single author's work. And in this case, it's Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings! This is the embodiment of the genre. If you're not duplicating Tolkien, I don't know what the hell you're writing, but it ain't fantasy!
“But Jenna, what about all the fantasy subgenres?”
I don't know what you're smoking, but Tolkien fits every sub-genre. Urban fantasy? Obviously! The Shire is clearly a metaphor for the Bronx. Romantic fantasy? Um, duh! I clearly remember some sensual lovemaking between Sam and Frodo. Look, I’m just trying to help you. Study Tolkien. Emulate Tolkien. For in the world of fantasy, there is no other blueprint.
Number 2: Spend Years Building Your World
This is commonly referred to as world builder’s disease, and anything referred to as a disease must be pretty great! After all, the intricacies of thousands upon thousands of years of global history is far more important than the actual plot of your story!
Spending years building your world is a natural part of the writing process. That's why every successful author only releases one book every quarter century! Besides, it's not like the world is just a supplementary part of the story. Everyone knows that things like plot, themes, story, and characterization are trivial in comparison to the vegetation and sewage practices of your world!
Take your time building that world. Don't worry, no one thinks you're procrastinating the actual work.
Number 3: Get Your Advice from a Gatekeeper
You know the super vigilant Star Wars fans? This is the fantasy equivalent, and boy, are these people a delight! You can usually spot them because the only true writers, in their opinion, are Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, and Brandon Sanderson. You know, white men.
Is anyone else allowed in this boys club? Pfft, of course! But only if you write exactly like these guys! I mean, who actually believes that different people from different gender expressions, different racial backgrounds, or from different walks of life may have different contributions to a genre? Sounds like some snowflake bullshit!
Besides, as we already covered, that's not how genre works! Anyone who deviates from this basement dweller's expectations needs to get back in the kitchen where they belong! Or some other rude statement, I don't know...
Number 4: Write ALL the Exposition
Everyone knows that fantasy is one of those genres that requires a bit more exposition than the norm. And by “a bit,” I mean chapters upon chapters of that shit.
There are several benefits to endless exposition. After all, nothing is more riveting than an info dump! Why would I read about monsters, battles, and romance when I can get pages upon pages describing leaves on a tree?
Besides, you really have no other option. It's not like you can seamlessly weave need-to-know information via the plot beats, the character's journey, or the dialogue. That wouldn't make sense!
Number 5: The More Complex the Better
Specifically, the more complex your magic system, the better. It's not a real magic system unless it confuses the fuck outta your reader. They didn't come here to be entertained, they came here to study!
I need a magic system with enough powers, components, and rules to require a spreadsheet and a flow chart. That's what really gets me invested: crippling frustration and mind-numbing boredom! And once your reader gets the slightest grasp on your magic system, throw in a curveball and topple down that house of cards. They'll thank you for it...by not buying anything else you ever write!
Number 6: Conveniency Wins
On the flip side, got yourself into a pickle? Invent some convenient magic! Main character about to die? Invent some magic that'll save their life. Problem solved!
So what if the magic has never been utilized, mentioned, or foreshadowed at any other point within the story? So what if the magic could have been used earlier to save someone else's life, or to eliminate the conflict of the story entirely? And so what if the magic directly contradicts scenes from earlier within the plot? Readers aren't interested in stories that make sense! Put your focus where it matters, like in more world building.
Number 7: Historical Accuracy is a MUST
After all, you're writing historical fiction! Wait, you’re not? Then what are we even talking about?
I know you chose to write fantasy because it's one of the most creatively free genres. You can write about dragons and wizards, but you still gotta make every single social custom historically accurate–to medieval Europe, specifically.
“But Jenna, I can write about dragons but not a multicultural society?”
You got it! That's historical accuracy. Cultures don't mix! I mean, what even is immigration?
“But Jenna, I can have characters resurrect from the dead but no females in power?”
I mean, you can try it, but I'm just gonna pretend a male's in charge. You know, for shiggles!
“But Jenna, none of this is ACTUALLY historically accurate, so wouldn't this advice be contradictory?”
Don't you dare bring factual information to this fight! I'm here to be right, not to be smart!
Number 8: The SJWs
You better not include a token, you social justice warrior! Look, I know you want to be ‘inclusive,’ but we all know the facts. People of color didn't exist until the 80s. Gay people didn't exist until the Obama administration. Women have technically existed since the Virgin Mary, but in very, very small numbers. And Santa Claus created all of us equal!
With all these scientifically proven stats in mind, it's only logical that your story should consist exclusively of cis het white men. Or elves, or dwarves, but you know–white ones. Maybe you can include one woman. Maybe! But only if your other characters sexually assault her.
Hey, I don't make the rules! Chad over on Reddit does.
Number 9: Language is Static
Remember what I said, folks! Fantasy has to be historically accurate, specifically to medieval Europe. That means your character's dialogue has to match their vernacular, ‘cause it's the law! No idioms whatsoever, even if you specifically created them to fit your world building.
I know I said world building is important, but that doesn't apply here. Titles need to come straight from existing government, religious, and royal lineages, because writing isn't about creation or having ideas. Leave the thinking to the experts! And don't even think about including swear words, even though they've existed for thousands of years. After all, do you really want Karen to call your manager?
Number 10: Writing Expectations NEVER Change
You may have noticed a common denominator from this list, and that's that all of these points–or at least, a lot of them–are mirrored in a lot of classic works. That's because the writing industry and reader expectations never change! Literally, never.
Compare Tolkien's work to Rick Riordan. Identical, isn't it? I don't see a difference! The storytelling expectations from a hundred years ago are exactly the same as they are today. It's not like people who pick up a classic are expecting an entirely different structure or language than they would see today.
That's why it's so deeply encouraged to emulate ancient methods that have not at all gone out of style. It's like wearing a bustle dress and a fascinator to a job interview. Everyone will take you super seriously!
So that's all I've got for you today!
Again, while these are tips that I have seen floating around the Internet, I am presenting them to you sarcastically. Please do NOT follow them. They suck! They're the worst. Write better!
What’s the worst fantasy writing advice you’ve ever heard? Leave it in the comments so we can bitch about it together!
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