Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

William Fothergill: 26/01/17

It is a not very pleasant fact that there is a huge snobbery in the world of literature towards fantasy. The general reason for this is that people either think that the genre is purely for children, and that children’s  books cannot be enjoyed by older people, or that fantasy can never be as good as books about real life and the real world. In an attempt to remedy this, I intend to show some of the most enjoyable aspects of fantasy novels, in particular,  their unique and interesting worlds.

There are three different types of world in the fantasy genre: the ‘in our world’ world, the ‘like our world’ world, and the completely different world. The ‘in our world’ world is one of the most common of the different worlds; these are fictional worlds that are hidden in our own world, such as the wizarding world from the Harry Potter novels or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. The main character starts off in the regular world and then discovers the fantasy realm. The reason why this approach is so popular among readers is that the world is slowly introduced and often there are characters that are unaware of the fine detail so they can ask the questions that the reader is also asking. The alternative world is slowly revealed rather than thrust into the narrative at the very opening such as in the other two worlds.

The second type of world is the similar world. These are normally used in books about steampunk or alternative history but are also well used in science fiction. They are  hybrid of two different worlds. Often they are set in a world like our world, sharing geography, landmarks and cities: for example, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. In this world, history and places are shared with the real world but with key thing changed; magic might exist in this world, or historic events have changed, creating a completely different world.

The third and final type is the completely different world. This has led to some of the largest and the most complex examples of fantasy fiction.  This is Middle Earth, an early example of a grand world with different countries and wars and years and years of backstory. These are often what people think of when they think of fictional worlds. They are more enjoyed by people who are well acquainted with the fantasy genre as they are the most detailed and in depth. Their drawbacks are that they can be quite overwhelming for a reader at first.

If you are thinking of creating a fictional world, the key thing is to think of something that makes your world different. There are hundreds of different types of fictional worlds that are all rather similar, usually half way between a dungeon and dragons’ world and Middle Earth, so it is crucial to try and make your world stand out from the others. Then it is important to give your world a history. This is less important in similar worlds and worlds in our worlds but it still important. There has to be some reason for why the way the world is as it is. Things never just pop into being so it’s important to give reason for events. The history you add to the world will give it more depth.

Another important piece of advice is to naturally follow a detail in your world. If you have a large event in your history, a technology or magic, think of how this would affect your world. Think of how a piece of magic would be used. Think of how different people would react to a historical event. Through this, you can add different parts of the world that the main character or character might not even be involved in. Different areas can be developed, so think of how people would live in this world, their work, their homes and everything else. Once you have created the different aspects of the world, link them back together so that the world fits together: this will make your world feel lived in.