Bringing Fantasy to Life

July 21, 2010 at 6:36 am (Character, fantasy, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I was visiting Elizabeth Spann Craig’s very amazing blog when she posted a list of links that she’d posted on twitter. One of the many links that caught my eye was a link to the blog Novel Journey where Robert Liparulo was sharing his 5 tips for making fantasy fiction feel real. As an avid reader of fantasy fiction and a writer of it, I found this a fascinating read.

More importantly, his number one tip, I thought was possibly the best bit of advice that could be given on this topic. So, his number one tip for making fantasy feel real:

Characters who feel. The way to a reader’s heart is through a story’s characters. Doesn’t matter if they’re fighting dragons or stepping into the Roman Colosseum during a gladiator fight, a character has to experience fear and courage, love and heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears—all of it realistically rendered in a way the reader understands.

As I said, I’ve read a lot of fantasy and as a reader I know this to be true. The world can be beautifully structured and described but unless the characters feel real the story just isn’t going to work. And it is the way that characters react to situations that make them feel real. Stories where the characters shrug off weird thing after weird thing are really hard to connect to because you want the character to look closer at something and they don’t, and you want them to ask the right question, and they won’t. It makes it hard as a reader to really get into the story.

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing this link and thanks to Robert Liparulo for sharing some great advice with us all.



  1. Alex Willging said,

    There’s a story I’m reviewing next Thursday called “The Scarlet Cloth,” which annoyed the heck out of me because I can’t connect with any of the characters. The conflict just rolls right over them and we don’t really get to know what they’re feeling inside.

    Great post, and great advice from Robert Liparulo.

  2. Lynn Rush said,

    When you said, “unless the characters feel real the story just isn’t going to work.” I nodded. That’s so true for me.

    I can even overlook some story/plot issues if the characters draw me in enough. I want to be crying when the character is crying.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I have to agree. I’ll overlook a lot of plot issues if the character have grabbed me. Not so the other way round. Flat characters just destroy a piece of work.

  3. Jemi Fraser said,

    So true! It’s always all about the characters for me. If they’re not real, the story doesn’t stand a chance.

  4. Talli Roland said,

    That’s definitely true! Plots can be a action packed as we make them, but if we don’t connect with the hero, why should be care?

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Even if the hero is unpleasant, we need to care enough about their dilemma to want them to overcome the problem.

  5. Talli Roland said,

    Ooops. WE care. WE!

  6. Carol Kilgore said,

    The most important part, for sure. And sometimes the most difficult to create.

  7. Mike Nelson said,

    It doesn’t surprise me that Robert Liparulo wrote the referenced article. I’ve been a fan of his for years. Most of his adult thrillers are not in the fantasy realm–they are action shoot-em-ups with lots of high-tech weaponry and science, but his characters are always strong and he explains complex things in easy ways. I’ve also read his YA series, which IS fantasy (time travel) and all six books are excellent. Thanks for posting this!

  8. AlexJ said,

    I think I often focus too much on the characters and not enough on the world building, but I am working on that!

  9. Vipula said,

    I definitely agree with it. I recently read some of the books in the Percy Jackson series but somehow could not find myself being involved in the story as I couldn’t empathize with any of the characters. And I contrasted it with Harry Potter , where there is so much focus on the growth of Harry’s character and his relationships with others.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      That was one thing that Harry Potter got right. The change in the characters was good and you could believe their progression.

  10. Casey Lybrand said,

    “Characters who feel” — I love it when characters feel things which are challenging or out of the ordinary, at least for them. I find myself deeply compelled by characters who are changed by the story, and as a result of those changes, feel things they aren’t used to experiencing.

    Great post, Cassandra. Thanks for the links.

  11. Hema P. said,

    That sounds like a great tip. Thanks for sharing. (I’m going to go read the rest of them now.) I’m currently writing a fantasy for MG, so it comes in pretty handy.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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