A Reader’s Perspective: World-Building in a Fantasy

Since I’m coming off the high of a good fantasy read, today I want to talk about world-building in a fantasy.

Now, let me just lay it out here that I’m not a professional writer, nor have sold books; all I’m going to do is speak from the perspective of a reader who loves to enjoy her reading.

So, the world. In a fantasy.

Needless to say, it plays as much a role in the book as the lead character does. Because the first thing that pulls you into the book is the premise, the second thing will be your lead and the third and the most important component in keeping the reader reading once pulled in- is the world.

It’s not just about the description of the alleyways or the architecture however. The most crucial thing I feel, is that it should be lived in. And it should feel lived in. Like if I take the next turn, I might find Letum woods stretched out in front of me or if I open this door, beyond it might lie the great hall of Hogwarts.

It should be believable; and I don’t mean in the physical world we occupy but to the characters within. They should find their world natural. After all that’s where they’ve been all their lives. If they feel out of place, then we definitely have no business being there.

Another thing about fantasy world building is to define the element that makes it fantastical. Maybe it’s magic, maybe it’s ice or maybe it’s the surrounding water, woods and winds. It could be animals specific to the story or people specifically created for the narrative; or it could be the politics. Whatever it is, it needs to be clearly defined. And it needs to be at the forefront of the narrative, throughout the narrative. Because, like I said before, it will be playing as much a role in the story as the main character.

So, if it makes sense to me, if I believe in it, if I understand how it works and how it doesn’t, then you’ve got it. You’ve got me, the reader, dancing at your ink-stained fingertips. Congratulations, your fantasy has been fantasised very well.

One of the easiest markers for me when I’m reading this genre is how disoriented I feel when I look away from the book. Because if I was in the middle of a quidditch match, I don’t expect to see a patchy wall facing me or if I was running for my life among the frozen glaciers of the North Pole, that bead of sweat tickling my nose can be a discomfiting wake up call.

So, if you tap me on my shoulder and I look at you like I don’t know who you are or where I am, you just pulled me out of a well-written fantasy. Hang on a minute while I get my bearings back.

Until then,

Happy reading!


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