To Build a World, Part Four

In last week’s post, I discussed some world-building basics for science fiction and fantasy writers. How to Build a World, Part Three.

These included tips of the geography and cities in your fantasy/ sci-fi novel but this week I will be looking at the themes of struggle and character development within the elements of fantasy.

Themes of struggle are found in many forms throughout fantasy novels. Part of this is due to fantasy’s origins in ideas of arcane, ‘special’, yet volatile and dangerous knowledge. The initiate often must learn to control the unpredictable surges of ‘wild’ magic, to trace or utter the ‘right’ thing to achieve the desired effect.

This process of struggle is often shown in character development. Characters struggle to understand and use one’s own power effectively or wisely.

Practical ideas for using struggle in the element of fantasy.

Think about how you can use struggle to develop interesting character arcs and developments:

  1. Show characters’ unique abilities: How is this character’s abilities (or strengths in a particular subset of abilities, such as healing or raising the dead) useful? How do they need to develop?
  2. Show characters’ distinct limitations: Just as characters may excel in some areas, they might be woefully terrible in others. Neville Longbottom, in Rowling’s series, for example, is a hopeless student generally. Yet he has a natural knack for handling magical plants.
  3. Show the origins of struggles great and small:  readers should have a sense of what motivates the characters and how they choose to wield their magical power. Why does the protagonist crave world domination, and why does a hero agree to a task they know could prove fatal?

This gives a basic overview of the struggle themes for character development, next week I will look at the genres and sub-genres of fantasy.


Post your comments and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view and answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

#DWTSmith #howtobuildaworld

magic and character

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5 thoughts on “To Build a World, Part Four

  1. Pingback: Character Goals and Motivations | Douglas W. T. Smith

  2. Pingback: To Build a World, Part Five | Douglas W. T. Smith

  3. Pingback: To Build a World, Part Six | Douglas W. T. Smith

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