Recently, Fiona Skye asked me if I had any advice about world creation for high fantasy and I realised I’ve only ever written one post about creating worlds and I’ve never written anything on the blog about high fantasy. So, one step at a time, I am going to look at what high fantasy is and sometime next week I’m going to look more specifically at world building.
What is High Fantasy?
High fantasy is defined as fantasy fiction set in an alternative, entirely fictional (“Secondary”) world, rather than the real (“Primary”) world. The secondary world will normally be internally consistent but its rules are in some way different from those of the primary world. By contrast, low fantasy is characterised by being set in the primary world, or a rational and familiar fictional world, with the inclusion of magical elements.
I know Wikipedia is flawed as a research source but when it has the correct information it has the benefit of being put into simple and easy to access language which is why I borrowed my definition from the website. It at least makes sense which puts it far above most definitions of what makes something high fantasy. Though I would object to them classifying Harry Potter as High Fantasy even though Hogwarts is technically a secondary world within the primary world.
Personally, I love reading high fantasy and I love writing it as well. Every aspect of the world and characters is controlled by you and you can change as much or as little as you like as long as you make the world and characters believable to your reader. The danger, or course, is getting so caught up in world building and character creation it takes 100,000 words just to set the scene. We all know that fantasy is prone to becoming serialised and trilogies and quadrilogies are pretty standard in the genre for a reason. Writing a high fantasy stand-alone novel is hard because you have to condense a lot of details and yet still make sure people understand where they are and what is going on.
Debbie Ledesma argues that high fantasy tends to concern itself with two themes. The battle between good and evil and the quest and for the most part she is right. There is no rule that says your high fantasy has to deal with either of these themes but for the most part high fantasy books have dealt with them. Debbie also lists the characteristics of the quest. I would think the quest would have to be popular because after creating an entire world most writers want to show it off and the quest is a convenient way to wander everywhere and see everything – see my comments on Eddings and Tolkien from a previous blog post.
The Buried Editor discusses why many fantasy books are written in third person point of view and not first person – again it is all about showing off the world you’ve spent so much time creating.
Thanks to Fiona for giving me a great suggestion for the post and I hope some of this is helpful – I will look at world building in a bit more detail next week.
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