Disclaimer: The following ideas are based on the observations of an amateur fantasy writer. These ideas are absolutely not fact and should not be taken as more than suggestions for how to look at your own work—a tool that you use to supplement your writing at best. If you like the ideas you find here and find them useful, awesome. If you find them useful and you immediately want to share them, I only ask that you do so via link to this post.
No matter what though, I don’t want to suggest that fantasy writing should be a rote, meticulous thing with categories and bureaucracy. If you find that these ideas make your writing process feel too mechanical, scale back your reliance on them. Remember, these Stats are just a tool.
I blame absolutely all of this on D&D.
I was fine before I played that game. I was 100% heart when it came to writing and ideas just popped into my head whenever they pleased and assembled themselves into fantastic, towering messes that I barely controlled.
But then D&D came around, and playing it was the unintentional end of that era of my writing career. Oh, I’m sure D&D wasn’t totally to blame—this is also when I finally started to read good fantasy as well—but I can’t help feeling that without D&D, I never would’ve considered a lot of things; a lot of fantasy-relevant things, to be sure, but also the idea that a fantasy world could be broken down into numbers—into categories and lists that made world building incredibly more efficient than it had been. Honestly, it’s probably because I immediately wanted to (and tried to) make my own paper games (I got as far as a character sheet and vague character creation guidelines, but the overall rules eventually escaped me). In the end, I think it’s D&D (and also, prooobably college) that finally made me find a balance between mind and heart when it came to my writing.
Because there’s always that balance, right? Writing is a give and take between ideas you love and your ability to decide when, how, and if you can use them; having a great idea for a story but no idea how to deliver it is as bad as knowing how to deliver stories but having no stories to tell.
Well, that (and a lingering desire to obsessively design more character sheets for absolutely no reason) is what led to this–my list of Fantasy Story Stats. It’s years and years later and I find myself channeling that bureaucratic desire for order into the following list that I hope has some practical use for you.
This is a list of story elements that exist for and apply to all fantasy stories. The goal here is to bring important elements to light that may, hopefully, help you take a more composed look at your stories, see where they may be lacking in overall composition, and adjust one or more of their elements so they all fit together optimally. Really, that’s it; this is simply a model for categorizing all fantasy stories (that I’ll spend the next few weeks explaining in pairs). You may figure out a better approach to a subtle facet of your work or you’ll realize that your project is similar to someone else’s and compare them to find out why, how you can change that similarity, or what you can learn from that similar project (all according to your own prerogative and objective).
However, while these Stats are meant to help you hone your story and choose elements that compliment it well, the intent here is absolutely not to suggest that any one type story is superior to all others. If you find yourself using this checklist and thinking that you should completely change your story to make it more like A Game of Thrones, for example, you’re doing a disservice to your own story and misusing these Traits. I would sooner say that this story would serve you better if all you took from it was a confidence that your story’s Stats are cohesive and all complimented each other well (as I believe almost any combination of Stats can).
The Stats (So Far)
1) Genre – Self-explanatory. On this site, it’s always “Fantasy.” I’ll be covering this next week (Week1).
2) Subgenre – A more specific classification for fantasy stories. I’ll also cover this next week (Week 1).
3) Theme – The concept that pulls your entire story together (Week 2).
4) Focus – The very possibly unintentional focus of a story (Week 2).
5) Tone – The weight of a story (Week 3).
6) Spirit – This one seriously sounds like an RPG stat, doesn’t it? This is the degree to which a story involves its audience, however subtly (Week 3).
7) Novelty – The overall originality of a story, more generally applied to its premise (Week 4).
8) Concept – The specific originality of a story, applied to its elements (Week 4).
I should clarify that I obviously didn’t create a lot of these concepts; I absolutely understand that but still present them here as part of my list because they’re important to it. That said, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a similar, widely accepted list out there; if you find that this is true, all I can say is, I didn’t know and I hope that you’ll at least get something out of my Stats (I believe my concept of Spirit will still be useful).
Well, that’s enough of an introduction, I think. Come back next week for a look at Genre and Subgenre (mostly Subgenre). Again, and as always, thanks for reading.