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Please find below an article written about his 14th book – Creating a Fantasy World, by my younger son Philip which, it seems to me, deals with creation of fantasy and/or new reality.
Bona fortuna! Dr MOW.
Creating a Fantasy World by Philip Womack
Philip Womack 10 May 2023
Creating a world for others to enjoy is one of the great joys of fiction writing. Ever since the dawn of literature, readers have enjoyed being transported into places completely unlike our everyday lives, and yet which have recognisable features. In Homer’s Iliad, the gods descend to our mortal plane: you have to be careful, in case the person you’re talking to turns out to be Athena, disguised. There you are, going about your daily business of fighting or arguing or feasting, and your mother, the goddess Thetis, turns up to console you. And in The Odyssey, if you get thrown off course on your way home, you might end up facing a Cyclops or worse. These supernatural concepts work because they are seamlessly rooted in the real, in the sweat of the rowers on the boat, in the bronze of the spears of the soldiers, and in the very human desires and frustrations of Achilles and Odysseus.
When writing a fantasy world, you should first consider the human core of your novel. There will be a person, with all the complicated concatenations of thoughts, needs and fears of any one of us. There are two ways of dealing with what follows. You could focus on your protagonist first. When you’ve built up a clear picture, start building outwards. The second is that if you have a high concept idea for a fantasy world (giant talking dolphins in space!), then you need to work inwards, and move towards that human (or cetacean) centre. J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a consummately built world – aside from the meticulous world building, from languages to mythology – because at its heart is the flawed Frodo, with his impossible task (and with Samwise Gamgee guiding him); and when Frodo gets too saintly, we have Merry and Pippin to remind us of ordinary life in the Shire, and how normal people can become heroic.
GhostlordIn my latest novel, Ghostlord, I was building on material I had used in the previous book, Wildlord, which sees a race of magical beings known as the Samdhya fighting against an evil magician in a Suffolk farmhouse. The landscape in Suffolk is very important to me: its flat fields, its burial mounds, and its moated houses. But Meg, the protagonist of Ghostlord, couldn’t live there. Instead, I made her a city girl, torn from her normal life to go and live in what she thinks is a boring old cottage in the home counties. Magic intrudes: but first I had to ensure that the landscape around her – the shops, the houses, the fields – was solid, so that when she moves into a different, magical world, it felt just as real.
All writers work differently, but you will find it immensely useful if you do any of the following: you can draw up a timeline, from birth to death, with important events along the way. You can then write diary entries for those events – a mother’s perspective on your protagonist’s fifth birthday, for example, or a child’s perspective on a funeral. All of this will help to deepen your knowledge and will also help you to understand how these rites and rituals operate within your world. How do your space dolphins celebrate birthdays? How do they bury their dead, if at all? Do they worship? Do they dream? This, in turn, will help you to understand the customs, religions and philosophies of your fantasy world.
You should also spend time with your protagonist. When you have a spare moment (on a train, in a café, on the International Space Station or whatever) jot down how your protagonist would respond to the same situation. Write a version of events from your protagonist’s viewpoint. (This will, incidentally, help you with that crucial thing: voice.) None of this has to be actually in your finished work, of course. But you should know it.
(c) Philip Womack
Philip Womack is a British author and journalist. His writing has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Literary Review and The TLS. His books for children and teens include fantasy trilogy The Darkening Path, The Arrow of Apollo, and Wildlord. The nonfiction How to Teach Classics to Your Dog was published in 2020.
Ghostlord‘It was her own power, she reflected. A power she knew nothing about, it was true. A power which made everything unstable.’A gripping teen fantasy about the defeat of the dark powers of deceit and corruption.From the critically acclaimed author of Wildlord. A child’s desperate voice is calling to Meg Lewis from the garden of her new house.As her investigation leads to a knot of deceit, betrayal and cruelty, Meg discovers magical powers of her own.Mysteries abound: why is a shape-shifting vixen following her? And what secrets lie hidden in the Golden Tower? Meg finds herself embroiled in a centuries-old battle that threatens the very balance of the world itself.
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