Writing, Critique Partnerships and Other Stories

From a community of writers, critique partners and beta readers.

Mar 9, 2020

Tips on Writing a Fantasy Setting

By Rosalyn Briar.


            Fantasy novels should pluck readers from their everyday life and thrust them into a magical new setting. Too often, though, writers want to reveal every detail of their world-building into a prologue or write lengthy paragraphs explaining its history. This is called “info-dumping” and can bore readers because it doesn’t immerse them into the setting or plot. Readers are intelligent and enjoy gleaming a world’s information for themselves.

            On the other end of the spectrum, some writers leave out important fantasy setting details. This leaves the reader feeling as though the plot is taking place in a white room (a.k.a. white-room syndrome). In this example, there aren’t enough descriptions and details to immerse the reader into the story.

            What’s the solution? Balance. Below are FOUR tips for creating an engaging, magical, and realistic fantasy setting in your novel!

1.    Show Don’t Tell

The first thing you should do is take a look at your manuscript and search for instances of info-dumping. Look for lengthy “telling” paragraphs about the setting and/or background information. Next, break that paragraph up into pieces and find ways to sprinkle the information into the plot creatively. “Show” your world-building through action, emotions, and dialogue rather than exposition.

2.    Five Senses

What makes your setting different from others? What type of experience do you want your readers to have? To truly immerse your reader and give them a magical experience, describe your world using all five senses. Take magic, for instance. You can give it a sickly-sweet smell or a static in the air or a ringing in the character’s ears. The more senses you use, the more unique and realistic your fantasy setting will feel.

3.    Tone

On a line level, make your word choices fit the tone you wish to achieve. Do you want your dark fantasy novel to have a grim, gothic, or gritty tone? Do you want your contemporary fantasy to feel whimsical and wonderful? Do you want your high fantasy to feel mythical and magical? It all comes down to word choice for even the smallest detail. With practice, this can come naturally, but anyone can achieve this with line-level edits.

4.    Details

As a way to incorporate the previous tips, make sure to describe both large and small details that are unique to your fantasy setting. Giving readers large-scale details, such as landscape, along with small details of everyday items, can immerse them into the setting and make them feel like one of the characters in your book.

BONUS TIP: Work with critique partners to ensure your novel is immersive and engaging. It is difficult for a writer to see where they have written boring info-dumps or where they have created scenes suffering from the white-room syndrome. Ask your critique partner to point out large chunks of exposition, then sprinkle them into the storyline.

Happy writing!


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About the Author: Rosalyn Briar
Rosalyn Briar is an emerging author of Dark Fantasy and enjoys working with critique partners here on critiquematch.com. Her debut novel, The Crown of Bonesis available for pre-order at www.rosalynbriar.com. You can find her @rosalynbriar on Twitter and Instagram.