There are three basic sorts of fantasy writers as far as I can tell. There are those who write fantasy because that is all they have ever read. There are those who write fantasy because they somehow consider it ‘easier’ than having to research the real world or true-to-life science. Finally there are those who write it because they simply love fantasy.
First let me address the former two varieties. You can write well having only read in a single genre, but only those who have read broadly are able to transcend to a whole other level of writing quality. As for fantasy being easier, I don’t really agree. It is certainly freer in certain ways. You don’t have to pay attention to the nature of the real world as closely, nor do you have to research science or locations or any of the other trappings of other genres. That doesn’t mean there is less work to write quality fantasy. If you are going to make it believable, you still have to do a lot of research on obscure aspects of varied societies used as references. You need to work out where everything is in relation to the rest of your world. You need to flesh out entire cultures and societies! Maybe a different sort of work, but certainly not less.
My Love of Fantasy
That leaves the last variety. Those who love fantasy. I admit I fall into this category, sometimes to a fault. Until adulthood, I don’t think I ever wrote a single story that wasn’t fantasy. The furthest I strayed was Science Fantasy (somewhat like Science Fiction, but with less reliance on factual science) once or twice. I’ve mentioned in the past that I was a huge fan of Piers Anthony when I was younger. I first encountered him as a young child, somewhere between the age of 5 and 6. My father read to my sister and I, choosing a book from the Xanth series. Golem in the Gears, book 9 in the extensive and ongoing series. He didn’t just read it, but portrayed each character in their own voice. It drew me in. More than those silly kids books ever had.
Sure, some were interesting, but they were so short and often had just one or two characters. This was something special. Hours of reading were spent raptly listening. I don’t recall why he never finished the book, but it probably had something to do with work. All I knew was that I simply had to know how it ended and there was no one to do it. My sister was younger than I was and my mother would never have managed to read this sort of book in the same way he had. She would have read it I suppose if we had asked, but I never did. Instead, I set out on a mission to read.
Collecting Piers Anthony
I don’t recall how I got from that point to where I did, but by the time I was in second grade, I had read the full book and done a book report on it. From there forward, I couldn’t get enough. I owned nearly every book he had ever written after scouring used bookstores. Even now, there is only one of his series I never managed to find at an affordable price. That aside, I have every other book he has written up to around 2004. Around then I noticed a trend in his writing I didn’t like. Beyond the fact that the 7th book of his shorter series was always terrible, he was growing too tightly focused. Every novel seemed to end up on the same few topics over and over.
This love of fantasy was slow to accept other writers. I was in Junior High before I recall actively reading other writers and even then I stuck mostly to fantasy. There was always something about the rich worlds that could draw me in. Science Fiction never quite had the same effect on me. Sure, lots of it was worth reading, but futuristic settings had so much less draw than other realities entirely did. It was here that I really began to work towards writing them for myself.
Broadening My Reading
High School saw me begin roleplaying games, but it also saw me expand my book collection greatly. I began gathering up classics, authors I’d never even heard of, famous works of science fiction and fantasy. I even started gathering random books on whatever struck my fancy that day. Research material to feed my own writing.
I think it was College and looking hard at what writing was as a career that got me opened up to writing more than fantasy. Even though I was reading broadly, I was writing in a fairly tight focus. Worse, I realized that there are an endless sea of people writing fantasy, but hard science fiction was always light on competition. Horror authors were limited largely to a handful of well known names and people doing anthologies. Even romance novels had an easier market than my precious fantasy did. Worse, if I sectioned myself away and only focused on what I already knew and loved, how long before my writing suffered the same fate as my favorite author’s had?
Broadening My Writing
And so I have worked hard since then to broaden my range of ability. I’ve gone so far as to use twitter (which I have ever hated and continue to dislike to this day) as a means of improving my ability to write quality offerings for people to read. I always did have a weakness when it came to brevity and tightly controlling the number of words I use to say something. Those of you new to my blog can go back along my Friday offerings and see several varieties of poetry, flash fiction, ultra flash fiction and all manner of ways I have tried to challenge myself.
I am growing as an author. Who I am as I write this is not who I will be in a few years. Who I am now is not who I was in college. I will always love fantasy and continue to write it, but now I look out at all the other options as well. How that develops is yet to be seen, but enjoy the show. I hope you’ll stay with me through the journey.