Guest post by Hannah Shoop
So you’re writing a story with dragons and elves. Maybe you’ve even invented a race or two. You’ve figured out the rules of magic and developed a detailed world, complete with maps and sketches of your characters.
But how do you convince your readers to stick around? How you do grab their interest and make them hang on for dear life until they’ve read the last page of your novel?
Well, the first step is by making your writing believable.
Realistic fiction and fiction that is believable are not the same thing. Neither are fantasy and believability an oxymoron. While orcs and hobbits are products of Tolkien’s imagination, when we enter Middle Earth, we believed them. No one had every heard of Aslan, but when C.S. Lewis sent him roaring through our imaginations, we stood in awe with Lucy and maybe even shook with fright with Trumpkin. Though these characters share little resemblance to anything we know in our world, somehow their substance connects with something deep inside of us. These fantasy stories—with all their fantastical elements—ring true.
So how does a fantasy author do it? Here are a few tips.
- Give your characters real emotions. Though we may never have met a three-foot being with hairy feet that lived in a hole in the ground, we can relate to the desire to be safe and comfortable. We can understand the feeling of stepping outside one’s comfort zone and the fear that comes with it. Whether you’re writing about a human or a creature of your own invention, make sure your character experiences basic human emotions. Even stories that are told from a non-human’s perspective like Black Beauty and Saphira’s portions of Eragon still rumble with human emotions—loyalty, fear, confusion, and contentment. For readers to connect with your characters, your character must feel these things.
- Ground your stories on truth. Your characters may not be quoting scripture, but you can still frame your story inside a biblical worldview. Take the parables of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20) for example. It includes believable reactions from men who thought they were being short changed, and it also shows the grace of the master. Or, think about Bible stories that move you; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s audacious courage in the face of an arrogant ruler, Jesus’ surprising mercy to the woman caught in adultery, Judas’s painful betrayal with a kiss. Then, think about larger themes found in scripture: good triumphing over evil, sacrificial love, forgiveness that baffles the brain. Your readers will be moved by these things because that is how God made the human heart.
- Get help. If you want your stories to outlast you, they must be bigger than your imagination. Timeless truth must be woven in them, for truth is reality. Know the scripture, for that is what will endure to the end (Matthew 24:35). Ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply it to your writing because he is the one who guides us into truth (John 16:13). Then show your work to trusted readers, and ask them if your writing rings true.
Fantasy’s merit are not restricted to the fact that it help us escape reality, but that it helps us understand reality.
So write on, and may your writing ring true because it is steeped in Truth.
About the Author: Hannah Shoop is a lover of fantasy and other good stories, and she is currently working on a fantasy trilogy. On her blog, hannahshoop.wordpress.com, she posts her poems and writes about her faith. When she is not writing, she loves to read, play the piano, have good conversations over a cup of tea, and take walks. She sees her life as a great adventure through the world with her Savior and cannot wait to see what He has planned next for her.