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Fantasy Novel Essentials

Fantasy Novel Essentials

“Fantasy Novel Essentials” by Joan Y. Edwards

Let’s say you’re like me. You’re in the midst of writing a fantasy novel Mine could easily fall into the science fiction genre.  Perhaps yours might, too. Tricky business figuring out the essential elements of a fantasy novel. You want to include them to make your story compelling and unforgettable.

To get a better handle on Fantasy genre, read myths, legends, fairy tales, and fables to ground yourself in fantasy worlds. Read best-seller fantasy novels and watch fantasy movies: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story, Up, Mary Poppins, The Chronicles of Narnia. But what is a fantasy novel?

Don’t Confuse Fantasy with Science Fiction

Cliffs Notes says that Fantasy fiction is frequently confused with science fiction, which might incorporate some of the same tones and themes, but the plot of a science fiction story will also rely on technology that is advanced beyond what we know today.

However, if you do merge the two genres, you’ll get the new speculative fiction genre.

In Science Fiction, it could happen in real life if certain facts were true.  Science fiction is based more on facts of what could happen.

Asimov, who wrote many Science Fiction novels said science fiction should have only one untrue assumption.

I remember following a newspaper comic strip 1952 until 1963 called Twin Earths.  Another planet similar to the earth where women ruled. On this twin earth was someone who looked like you. It seemed so real. It was amazing Science Fiction.

What is a Fantasy novel?

Fantasy takes magic to make something happen.. It could never happen in real life. It could never happen without the magic element.

Sheila M Johnson states that fantasy fiction has three parts: a magical system, imaginary creatures, and a made-up setting.

Storyboard That says Fantasy is characterized by imaginary and unrealistic elements. Fantasies typically involve supernatural powers, like magic and magical creatures.

Now Novel lists five components for the Fantasy genre. They also offer you a way to test your story ideas.

After reading the resources below, I believe you need these four elements for a good fantasy novel.

What Elements Does a Fantasy Novel Contain?

  1. Magic –  creating results through mysterious, unexplained, or supernatural powers. Fantasy stories often have elements of middle ages (Medieval times)  such as castles, knights, kings, magical swords, and references to ancient spells. Give details of the cost, joys, and dangers of magic.  What are the rules for the magic that appears in your story?  What is the cause and effect of the magic? How does it change the  world and the people in it.
  2.  Adventure – dangers and joys of adventure ; gains and losses of change of imaginary creatures or characters
  3. Struggle for Mastery of Self – Using ones own magical powers effectively and wisely for positive or destructive ends . Show character’s unique abilities and limitations. Are the characters animals? Can the animals talk? What other human traits do they have?  is it a fight between good and evil? How does good combat evil forces there? Have the main character solve his problems without using his magical skills.
  4. Setting – Government, culture, religion, historical era,  geography, neighborhood, community, world,  time of day Where is this community that you built? What does the world look like?  How is it different from our world as it is today? Do they use money to purchase things? Or do they trade? Do they allow more than one wife? Are they allowed to marry outside of their community?  Do they protect the old? Do they allow abortion?  Are they allowed to use fossil fuel? What do they do with their garbage? Place/Setting World’s effects on the main character/ main character’s effects on the real world.

Here is food for thought. Study the genre. Write your story. Then figure out what genre or genres it fits into. There are so many sub-genres today. I’m sure they’ll find a place for your story.


  1. Claire Bradshaw. “5 Essential Elements Every Fantasy Novel Needs:” https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/5-essential-elements-every-fantasy-novel-needs/
  2. Creative Writing Now. “How to Write Fantasy”
  3. Josh Jackson & Paste Books Staff. “50 Best Fantasy Novels of the 21st Century:” https://www.pastemagazine.com/books/fantasy-books/the-50-best-fantasy-novels-of-the-21st-century/
  4. Myth Creants. “Five Essentials of Historical Fantasy:” https://mythcreants.com/blog/five-essentials-of-historical-fantasy
  5. Now Novel. “Best Fantasy Series – 7 Lessons:” https://www.nownovel.com/blog/best-fantasy-series-7-lessons/
  6. Now Novel. “Elements of Fantasy:” https://www.nownovel.com/blog/elements-of-fantasy/
  7. Now Novel. “Fantasy Book Writing Help:” https://www.nownovel.com/blog/fantasy-book-writing-help/
  8. Fine Me an Author. “Fantasy Fiction Genre:” http://www.findmeanauthor.com/fantasy_fiction_genre.htm
  9. Storyboard That. “Fantasy:” https://www.storyboardthat.com/genres/fantasy
  10. Writers Bureau. “Writing a Fantasy Novel:” https://www.writersbureau.com/writing/writing-a-fantasy-novel.htm

I hope this helped you decide a little about what to include in your fantasy novel.  Please leave a comment telling me your favorite fantasy novel and why you like it. What are your secrets to getting the Fantasy genre straight? Have you written a Fantasy work? What’s the title? Whose your favorite character?

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2020 Joan Y. Edwards

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A Selling Pitch Is Short with a Strong Emotional Tug

“A Selling Pitch Is Short with a Strong Emotional Tug” by Joan Y. Edwards

How do you decide to go to a movie? A few people don’t have to know the story line, they go to see the movies of their favorite director, like Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. Some people go to see any movie in their favorite genre: comedy, horror, mystery, romance, etc. Most people check to see what the story is about before they make their final decision.

How do you decide to read a book? What hooks you? What fills you with so much curiosity that you “have to read it.” It’s the pitch. Your story’s pitch has an important job. Its job is to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and cause him to feel empathy, sympathy, compassion, respect, favor, understanding, and/or support for the main character’s predicament along with an unstoppable curiosity to find out if that character solves his problem and how he does it.

To get your book published, you have to get the attention of the editor or agent reading your manuscript. The best way to do that is to write a selling pitch that is short and has an emotional impact.

If you can’t think of what to write in your pitch, think back to the reasons why you wrote the story in the first place. Which emotion pulled you to write this story? This same emotion is probably the one that will compel others to read it. Use that emotion to write your pitch.

How much time do you have to grab a reader’s attention? Probably only 30 seconds…25 words or less…one or two sentences at the most. People read longer book summaries, however, the first 25-35 words must tell the story well and hook them or they will stop reading. A sentence of Charles Dickens length, more than 100 words is too long. Write your pitch on a 3″×5″ card. If you can’t get it all written on the front side of the card, it’s too long.

Whatever your write in your short pitch has to intrigue, fascinate, arouse the curiosity, compel, and appeal strongly to captivate the reader’s interest. In your pitch include what makes your story different from similar stories in the same genre. Show the distinctive twist (unusual character, setting, or situation) that makes your story stand out from the others.

Once you have the reader hooked, he’ll want to read more. When you hook an agent or publisher, he’ll ask for your full manuscript because he’s anxious to find out how the character changed to solve his problem. He’ll want to find out how the story plays out.

The best-selling pitches show and tell:

  1. genre
  2. main character with flaws (Doesn’t always do the right thing, the wise thing, the good thing. He exudes humanity with weakness, frailty, fear that frightens him to the core and stops him in his tracks)
  3. what main character want or need in this particular situation
  4. conflict/antagonist/problem (Why main character can’t get what he wants or needs
  5. has emotional hook (Why do I care?)(How would I feel if I were in main character’s shoes?) (Can I relate? How is he like me? How is he different from me?)
  6. shows change in character
  7. universal theme (universal want, need, or common emotion)

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder, screenwriter and teacher, says in a sentence or two, a pitch should:

  • tell genre and audience (not included in word count)
  • situation should have irony in it
  • paint a compelling mental picture
  • have a catchy title

In TV Guides pitches/loglines that describe movies at the theaters are not usually long. They have to catch the reader’s attention in 30 seconds. They don’t have much room to put it. It’s got to get to the point quickly or the reader will skip over it and go to another movie instead.

An agent or editor may ask for a 300 word summary or an even longer synopsis, however, your query letter’s pitch and the pitch you tell people when they ask you “What do you write?” has to be short, catchy, and to the point with the main emotional impact of the book or movie. The first sentence anyone hears about your story must be a great stand alone pitch for the story so that it grabs the reader and holds him by his emotional heartstrings.  If it’s for a movie, he’ll watch it. If it’s a book, he’ll read it. Why? Because your pitch instilled a “need to see it” inside him.

Here are examples of a loglines from a TV Guide and ones from the internet.

American Beauty (1999 Comedy Drama) A man in his mid-life crisis and at odds with his wife begins working out to impress his teenage daughter’s friend.

The logline for American Beauty on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) stated: Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis, decides to turn his hectic life around after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s attractive friend.

Anywhere But Here (1999 Comedy-Drama) A flighty mother uproots her daughter and heads West

A mother and daughter search for success in Beverly Hills.

Rotten Tomatoes Pitch Summary Anywhere But Here

Coming of age comedy-drama. A Wisconsin mother who longs for a more exciting and glamorous life in Beverly Hills, California. So she leaves her husband and packs her reluctant daughter into a gold Mercedes Benz, heading for L.A. When a family tragedy provokes a crisis between mother and daughter, the irresponsible Adele is forced to become a traditional mom for once. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi (I summarized this)

Apocalypse Now

During the U.S.-Viet Nam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Fried Tomatoes.com: Apocalypse Now Movie Info
In the Vietnam War,  Capt. Willard , already on the edge, is assigned to find and deal with AWOL Col. Kurtz, rumored to have set himself up in the Cambodian jungle as a local, lethal godhead. Along the way Willard encounters such odd experiences that by the time Willard sees the heads mounted on stakes near Kurtz’s compound, he knows Kurtz has gone over the deep end, but now Willard almost agrees with Kurtz’s insane dictum to “Drop the Bomb. Exterminate them all.” -Lucia Bozzola, Rovi shortened by me.

Can you improve these pitches?

Choose three movies or books similar to yours. Copy the pitch from the cover, www.Amazon.com, www.IMDb.com, or www.friedtomatoes.com

Write each one on a 3″x5″ card. Then change it to make it refer and fit for your story on another 3″x5″ card.

In case you want to read more, here are other pitch articles written by me:

  1. How to Deliver a Short Gutsy Pitch to Entice Editors, Agents, and Readers
  2. Which of These Best-Selling Romance Pitches Is the Best? Why?
  3. How to Entice an Editor/Agent with a Pitch (Logline)
  4. Pitch Exercise #1 – Would you accept or reject these pitches?
  5. How to Write an Effective Selling Pitch for a Romance Novel
  6. Pitch Exercise #2 Romance – Would You Accept or Reject These Pitches?
  7. Will Your Query Letter Sell Your Manuscript?

Other Resources to help you get a grip on your pitch.

Blake Snyder. Save the Cat.
Cliff Daigle. About.com. How to Pitch Your Novel
Joel Friedlander. Why Your Book Pitch Matters
Thomas Phelps. About.com. Developing Your Elevator Pitch

Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you. Write what you believe is a great selling pitch with an emotional tug in a comment.

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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2014-2019 Joan Y. Edwards
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