Out of this world

I’ve always been a sucker for fantasy novels. I blame Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series for this, as it hooked me as a teenager and I still read it today.

From a reader’s point of view, I love the fact that fantasy novels are set in strange and amazing worlds. From a writer’s point of view, I’ve hit the hurdle of having to create a world of my own and – most difficult of all – make it believable.

I think that the believability of the setting is key to any good fantasy novel. When I think about all of the good books and series that I have come across over the years, one defining feature is that I simply do not question the worlds in which they are set.

The prime example is, of course, Tolkein. His books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, have influenced the setting of many a fantasy novel. But it is not the only one: epics such as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series also inhabit worlds so rich and detailed that they seem almost like characters in themselves.

I’ve decided to take this approach to my fantasy world: I’m treating it like a character, building it up layer by layer into something tangible.

I’m thinking about its geography and physical appearance; its cities, towns and villages; history and religion; and the social structures, support systems and technology that it has developed over time.

I’m planning a few research trips and should soon be tramping through parts of Scotland that I’ve not yet had the pleasure of seeing. While I have been up to the Highlands many times before, this time I’ll be focused on capturing the sights, sounds and smells, so that I don’t forget them. Hopefully this will help me to evoke the right atmosphere when I start to write.

(It’s also a good excuse for a day out – but don’t tell my husband!)


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