6 Steps To Writing A Fantasy Blockbuster


These days if you want to make money as a writer of genre fiction it seems you have to write a fantasy blockbuster. Everybody’s doing it. Never mind honing your craft with short story submissions or exploring the more original forms of the genre. Go where the money is!

But how can you write a fantasy blockbuster? It has to be difficult right? If it wasn’t difficult everybody would be doing it. It used to be, but not anymore. Follow my simple 6 step plan and soon you too will be churning out bestselling fantasy novels the size of a small forest.

Step 1: The Hero

All bestselling fantasy should have a teenage boy hero. No exceptions. Yes they’re whiny and inclined to do really stupid things, but a lot of the people buying your book will relate to them… (See Eragon by Christopher Paolini.)

If for some reason you insist on making your hero an adult or (god forbid) female, make sure that they are naive and remarkably ignorant of the world around them. That allows you to conveniently explain what everything is to reader in the guise of telling your hero. It will also excuse them when they do the same stupid things that a teenage boy would have done.

Step 2: The Villain

You can’t have epic fantasy without a villain. Villains are evil. They do evil things. They want to either destroy or rule the world. Your villain should be all-powerful because that’s just cool. Though he (and villains should always be male!) will have some remarkably obvious weakness that makes him vulnerable to teenage boys of a heroic persuasion.

Never, ever explain why your villain is so set on destroying/ruling the world. Explanations are for wusses. The Fount of All Evil does not explain. (See Lord Foul in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson).

If you must have a scene where The Fount of All Evil explains his actions, the correct answer is… Because. (See Mordant’s Need by Stephen Donaldson.)

Step 3: The Setting

Epic fantasy is set in the middle-ages with magic and very little mud. Do not diverge from this setting or you will confuse your readers who have come to expect this setting from the last 100 fantasy blockbusters they just read.

It is acceptable to have a number of non-human races in your book. These will be dwarves, elves, hobbits and orcs. Feel free to randomly change the names to keep things fresh.

If your inner artist forces you to get creative you can always spice things up by throwing in random modern equipment and using magic to explain its existence. (See the Shannara series by Terry Brooks.)

Step 4: The Plot

The Fount of All Evil is bent on destroying/ruling the world. Our hero must stop him. He will do this by traveling to all the locations conveniently written on the map in the front of the book (you must have a map, no exceptions). On the way our hero will collect a rag tag group of companions, culled conveniently from all the different races. (see The Belgariad by David Eddings.)


Don’t worry about personalities for these new characters, simply come up with 5 personality tics that can be inserted randomly whenever the character is in the chapter. This saves a lot of time and looks just like a real character. (See The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.)

Of course you need an excuse for all this travelling. I recommend a treasure hunt of some sort. Treasure hunts are always popular. Once they have gathered the Necklace of Doom (Sword of Despair, Destiny Gem etc. etc.) they will confront The Fount of All Evil. And win.

Once they have travelled to all the countries of the world, our hero must return home, in order to discover how much he has grown.

Step 5: The Ending That Doesn’t Conclude Anything

The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind

Once the hero (who may no longer be a teenager, but he’s still a boy!) has discovered how much he has grown, you need to drop the bombshell that actually the world has not been saved at all. Dealing with the Fount of All Evil has merely opened the door for a new (and naturally even worse) evil to enter. (See almost any book in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.)

Step 6: Write The Second (and Third and Fourth and Fifth) Book

This is the most important step of all. Simply repeat the previous 5 steps again and again and again until people finally catch on and start to accuse you of padding. At that point announce that the next three books will conclude the saga and start work on the prequels. (See, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan; The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.)

Visit Solar Flare: Science Fiction News for daily news, reviews and commentary by Eoghann Irving on science fiction, fantasy and comics.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Jonna on April 23rd, 2009

    please repair/check the link in your posting! cheers and greets

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