3 Tips for Writing Fantasy as a Christian | Guest post by El

As promised, CoCo’s Chitchat will be featuring more guest posts this year! I am beyond excited to have an article by my own best friend to get us started! El and I met during swim lessons over 7 years ago, and have been friends ever since. She is a founding member of 3 Strands band, as well as a NaNoWriMo 2020 winner. Here’s what she has to say about writing…

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”

– Lloyd Alexander

When I found out that Coco was having guest posts on her blog, I immediately asked her if I could write one. But little did I know that writing a blog post is not my forte! All the same, I’m so thankful to have my writing feature on Coco’s Chitchat, and I hope my guest post about my favorite hobby, writing fantasy stories, can be of some use to you.

So, I’m a fiction writer. I primarily write short stories, but I’ve been trying my hand at novels in the past year. As for genre, I prefer fantasy, more specifically for a middle grade or young adult audience. And that brings me to the meat of this post.

Why I Write Fantasy

I can’t think of anything more liberating than being able to create something. Maybe that’s why I’m attracted to art in general. After all, art is centered around making something. All writing involves creating, but writing fantasy is a special kind of creating. You get to reimagine everything and be inspired by God’s creation in a uniquely unrestricted way.

Fantasy, however, is difficult to write. There’s no denying it. 

Not only are its boundless possibilities tough to navigate, it can also be controversial.

Let’s be honest; all art is controversial. In the literary branch of art, however, I’ve always considered fantasy to be the most controversial genre. I often find it associated with things like grey morality, evil magic, and darkness in general. And yet, I grew up surrounded by and fascinated by fantasy books like James and the Giant Peach, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Howl’s Moving Castle, and–when I was in my teens, the pinnacle of controversial– Harry Potter.

So, how do I go about writing fantasy that doesn’t prickle my conscience?

How I Write Fantasy

In November 2020, I tried my hand at and won the National Novel Writing Month challenge (write 50,000 words of a novel in November) alongside Coco. About two months before, I had written the rough draft of a fantasy story that had been kicking around in my head for the past few years. When Coco suggested doing NaNoWriMo together, I decided to write a second draft for it. Objectively, both drafts were successful.  Unfortunately for me, though, the magic wasn’t so easy to get right.

Pretty early on in writing this story, I decided to invert the usual trope of the hero; that is, having them be born into and raised by the villains rather than the heroes. The idea was to have my main character struggle through a redemption arc, where they fight to become a hero rather than be exalted into the position of being a hero. This meant that my main character would, pretty much by default, be exposed to black magic and general villainy in a normalized setting, which proved difficult to write.

The truth is, writing magic is hard, and it can be intimidating, but I have a couple tricks that I apply to my writing which help me a lot.

Let me introduce you to my three rules of writing:

Rule 1: Never write anything you would be embarrassed to have someone else read

The first of the rules is honestly the hardest to follow. First, art is highly subjective, and second, everyone has a different comfort zone. Different comfort zones don’t necessarily make one person wrong and one person right. For instance, my friends and I recently discussed whether or not you should have your characters swear (specifically in rough drafting). Although none of us swear ourselves, we all held different opinions.

If you’re concerned about what one reader or another might think of something you wrote, my advice is this: If God read your book, would He like it? If He would, then it’s okay.

Rule 2: Never write anything that you wouldn’t want to read

This rule might seem obvious. Why would you ever write something that you wouldn’t want to read? The thing is, it’s easy to lose focus as you write. With the demands of word counts, finished drafts, and following writing norms, losing your way is inevitable. So, every once and a while, it’s a good idea to step back and ask yourself: am I writing what God wants me to write? Is this His will?

Rule 3: Always write something you are proud to have made

When you write the end of a story, there’s always a thrill. But when you get to the end, it’s a good idea to ask yourself: Am I proud of what I wrote? If you are, ask yourself why you’re proud. Or, maybe the question is: why am I not proud? Maybe you’re disappointed in not meeting goals you had, or maybe you feel like you didn’t properly execute a moral in your story. Either way, I suggest regrouping and sorting out your feelings about what you wrote.

Conclusion

All of this is easy enough to say, of course, and harder to do. I’m still finding my “line”, I’m still trying to write only what is God’s will for me to write, and although I’m proud of everything I’ve ever written, I always stop and regroup after writing something.

In the end, I only really know one thing about writing:

— Write for God

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” – Proverbs 16:3

So, whether you’re a writer, a reader, or endeavoring in any other art or sport, my suggestion is to follow God in what you do. If you follow God, you can’t do wrong.

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