As a new fantasy writer, how can I avoid making common fantasy writing mistakes?

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Answered by: Owen, An Expert in the Fiction Category
How to Avoid Common Fantasy Writing Mistakes

Many new fantasy writers feel that fantasy is a more exciting genre to write in, or else that it is easier to write because you can simply invent any details instead of needing to research them. However, these authors fail to realize that there is much more to writing a good story than that. There are many common pitfalls and mistakes which inexperienced fantasy writers make that can be the death knell of their writing, leaving their stories poorly constructed and unbelievable. If you take the time to learn these common mistakes and avoid them, you make it that much more likely that your story will be a great one.

Setting Is No Substitute for Plot

One mistake many new fantasy writers make is to focus so much on developing a rich, deep fantasy setting that you lose sight of the plot of your story. The setting of any story is important, to be sure, but its importance is in serving as the stage that the story takes place on. Your fantasy world might be a strange, beautiful place, but we as readers care about it mainly as it affects and informs the characters and their adventures. A good setting can enrich a story, but without a good plot the story will fail to resonate with readers.

Research Lends Verisimilitude

Another often-seen error is to assume that you don’t need to research just because you've chosen to set your story in a fantastic world. In fact, poor research can tank a story’s believability. Even if your story features cultures that have never existed on Earth, they will still be based on aspects from existing societies and common knowledge of human sociology. And if you write about a sword fight when you don’t know the first thing about a sword, you’ll only look foolish when a real expert on the subject points out all the ways that that scene is wrong. If, on the other hand, you take the time to learn the subtleties of the various researchable parts of your story, whether swordsmanship, geography, or human nature, your knowledge will shine through and enhance the story as a whole.

Challenge Your Characters

When writing a story with characters that you've lovingly created, cultivated and nurtured, it can be tempting to spare them many trials and tribulations. After all, we have to face enough of those in real life. The truth is that this is one of the worst blunders that fantasy writers commonly make. A story is fundamentally about the resolution of a conflict; no conflict means no story. For a story to be interesting, its characters must be continually challenged by their circumstances and their adversaries, must fail time and again in their struggle to overcome all obstacles and finally right the great wrong, save the world, or otherwise bring the conflict to a close. A character who is never truly challenged or even inconvenienced by their problems risks becoming that most dreaded of uninteresting caricatures, the Mary Sue.

Knowing how to avoid these errors while writing fantasy stories won’t guarantee that your fantasy story will succeed, but you will be stacking the deck in your favor. By circumventing the most common writing pitfalls, you’ll do much to strengthen your story’s appeal and overall writing quality.

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