Hey, fellow fantasy writers. Today, I wanted to share with you a few perhaps lesser-known ways to find inspiration for your fantasy worlds and characters…
Anyone who is a Harry Potter fan will know of the site Pottermore, which is rich in extended content about the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts universe. I’ve recently become intrigued by it again because reading in-depth about the Harry Potter world, which we all know is one of the most well-thought-out worlds ever, is helping me to explore the intricate details of my own. It’s helping me to consider people, place, plot twists, backstory, connections and angles that I hadn’t thought about before.
Pinterest is my go-to for outfit ideas, recipes, life advice, and fantasy inspiration. I have more Pinterest boards than I care to admit. If you don’t know, Pinterest is a site (and app) where you can “pin” links and images of…well, anything. It’s a great way to get ideas because it literally has images and ideas for everything. I’ve found great artwork, illustrations, character designs, world designs, writing prompts and explanations about existing elements from fantasy worlds that has really sparked ideas for my own.
Another thing that I’ve become a bit obsessed with lately is watching fan theory videos on YouTube, especially about the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts stories, alongside Pixar and Disney films. My family are a little worried and perhaps irritated that I watch so many. But not only are they generally interesting and ever so clever, they actually help me with story, too. Think about it, any good fan theory is based on evidence found in a narrative. They don’t just come from nowhere and no one would even entertain them if they didn’t have some backing.
This is particularly a thing with fantasy narratives. The worlds and the people are usually so vast that fans can connect dots that the writer didn’t even know were there! Now, I’m not saying that I want to ensure there are breadcrumbs for future fans to find (although, yeah let’s all do that), but I now see the importance of exploring your story beyond what is obvious and at the forefront of your narrative. Even if it’s never explored, knowing small details and expanding your world can be what takes your book to the next level.
I don’t know how many of you know, but many fantasy books often draw inspiration from mythology. Harry Potter does, obviously Percy Jackson does, and even Disney does. You can use or be inspired by mythical creatures, storylines, heroes, powers, or cultural elements. Why make something up when there is a wealth of mythological stories to pick ideas from, right?! Some people may never even find out…
Similar to mythology, you can also draw from stories from our history, or at least make your narrative more realistic by using elements from history. Witches were considered real in our history, especially with the Salem witches. Game of Thrones is very Medievalesque, drawing setting from history. It is common for fantasy books to be reminiscent of things from history in general, but it is also good to just think about the fact that a lot of things from our history have influenced our world today. So, this should work in the same way for your fantasy world and narrative. Perhaps studying history can help us do this realistically.
Other fantasy worlds
Of course, no fantasy writer will be any good if they have never read or at least watched some fantasy stories unfold. Otherwise, you may have a “great idea” that’s actually the plot for Harry Potter. Studying other fantasy worlds is a great way to understand how to craft and describe your own. You’ll see how a magic system is used, how setting detail matters, and how to make it very real for the reader who is only from a simple world like Earth (*urgh*).
You can’t just have a world that is cool but makes no sense. These are real people that you’ve created, living real lives, in a world that should feel plausible. Only by reading about other fantasy worlds will you be able to truly get this right, or learn from the mistakes of others.
Not only should you read these books or watch these films, though. The real detail and ideas can come from doing your own research about these worlds online.
Though, be careful with the fine line between using a cultural idea, and misusing it and saying it’s yours to the point of cultural appropriation…
But anyway, I’ve found that drawing from the ideas of other cultures is not only useful for you the writer (and cool too) but it’s also a great way to share other cultures with your readers. Of course, you may not get the chance to say “they are doing a ceremonial dance which is from Spanish culture” but anyone who loves your story may come to look deeper into it and realise that you got the idea from Spanish culture, which leads to the reader gaining not only understanding about the crafting of your story but also that culture. Win-win.
The fact is, all writers draw ideas from their own lives. It can also be beneficial to draw ideas from other people’s lives, too, and from all around the world.
I’ve mentioned this before so I won’t go into too much detail, but anime is brilliant for fantasy inspiration. Not everyone grew up with anime like myself, but I’m super happy that I did because it’s enriched my work ever since. Anime is just…amaze-balls. When watching the right ones, you can find well-thought-out worlds and magic systems that are unparalleled. Just, go watch some! (I suggest Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Attack on Titan, Full Metal Alchemist, Soul Eater…)
Again, if you want a fantasy world that can’t be faulted, sometimes studying science can really help. It can help you understand how a species can survive, what they need, how ecosystems, food chains, and life in general works. It can add depth to your magic system, powers, and character abilities. For example, Alchemy is a real thing and it is used in Harry Potter and Full Metal Alchemist in depth. Those without an understanding of science may think that alchemy is made up for witchy or magical things, but it’s not!
You can use real science from our world to add realism, or use it to make a cool power that your readers won’t know came from existing scientific beliefs.
Again, some may not know that the spells and even the names used in Harry Potter often come from other languages, usually Latin or Greek. J.K. Rowling, I believe, studied languages at university, so it’s no surprise that she understands language pretty well and uses them to bring real magic to the HP world. You can do this, too, with even basic research (just make sure it’s right if you’re going to say it’s a set language from our world).
Lastly, there are video games. I don’t play now like I used to, but I believe that playing a good video game can really inspire our writing. Video games are often set in other worlds, with magic systems, and a narrative – just like fantasy films. But the great thing about a game is that you get to immerse your own character in said world. With a game character, you can explore this world (usually at a slower pace than a film that’s out of your control) and see how it works. Then, even better, you can go and do your own research about the game and the world to gain even more insight and inspiration.
There you have it, some less conventional ways to find some fantasy inspiration for your fantasy world-building and characters if you are a fantasy writer. Good luck, guys!
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