One of the larger drawbacks about writing fantasy is that the settings must be created. Unless you are writing historical fantasy or steampunk, the places where your story unfolds simply do not exist in the real world. While this opens up the possibilities of amazing and creative spaces in your novel, it also means that you can’t visit any of your places and get a handle on how they look, smell, and feel.
One of the main reasons people read is to escape. As writers we must give our readers interesting places to escape to. One of the greater perks to fantasy writing is that there are no limits to how weird and terrific those places can be. In fact, if a scene feels like it isn’t interesting enough, one of the best recommendations I’ve heard is to move it to a more interesting place.
A great example of this is the movie Avatar. The story of Avatar is not new, many have joked that it is a high-tech reincarnation of Pocahontas. However, the planet where the movie takes place is visually stunning. To get the right feel for the movie I’ve heard it rumored that James Cameron took his artists scuba diving. The investment paid off, Avatar is the top grossing movie worldwide, beating even Titanic.
Another example is Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books. Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, Lost Symbol, and his latest, Inferno, have all been set in amazing real world locations. The character of Robert Langdon takes us on an in-depth art history tour that runs the length and breadth of Europe and Washington DC. Who wouldn’t want to read about the secrets of the Vatican or what’s beneath the US capitol? It doesn’t hurt that the stories themselves are filled to the gills with intrigue and unexpected twists and turns.
It’s after reading books like Inferno that I sometimes wish I worked in real world fiction. A business trip to Belgium to study castles would be a welcome break from the sweltering desert right now. I do use ruins and castles in my current work and this kind of trip would help give those scenes more depth and detail. However, in a fantasy I’m still stuck with creating a history for these locations instead of using their actual history. And as we have seen from Dan Brown, the history of famous locations is pretty darn amazing.
The next time your writing needs an added boost, seek out a terrific place for your characters to work in. Your characters and readers will thank you.