Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to Add Instant Originality to Your Fantasy

One of the reasons speculative readers love fantasy is the originality. When reality doesn’t apply, the possibilities for unique characters, worlds, powers, politics (you name it) are endless. But one of the chief complaints of many inveterate fantasy readers is that few stories provide that sense of originality. Raise your hand of you’ve ever read a Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time knock-off (Eragon, I’m looking at you). So, as a fantasy author, how do you add originality to your story?

Aside from having a knock-out premise or a generally offbeat sense of creativity, one of the easiest ways you can add originality to a fantasy story is simply by looking outside the box. Since most fantasy stories are grounded in specific eras of our own history and mythology, all you have to do to leave the beaten track is to start hunting out little-used time periods.

Image by Farazsiyal
For example, “high fantasy” has long utilized familiar medieval European history and Norse mythology for its foundation. So what if you wrote a story that took the basis of its setting and worldview from the ancient Mayans? Or the Maori? What about Native Americans? Or how about keeping the European setting but changing the timeline to something less medieval and more Renaissance or Roman? When reading Brent Weeks’s The Way of Shadows, I was excited at his early hints of an unusual Orient-based setting and disappointed when it didn’t play out and the author returned to the familiar medieval archetypes.

This trick, of course, won’t guarantee you a unique story—or reader satisfaction. The worth and originality of your story is based upon many factors. But you can take your first peek outside of the box and into a realm of exciting new possibilities simply by switching out a few of the “normal” fantasy stereotypes.
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