Writing Christian Fantasy Tip #1: Start with the Familiar

One of the main reasons I love to write Christian fantasy is because I get to create whatever kind of world I want. (Then I try to tell myself that I’m not a control freak.) And of course it’s necessary to share all the cool aspects of your world in the first few pages of your novel because everyone will love it. Right?

Wrong.

This excitement can lead you into making a dreadful mistake. If you want to keep readers turning pages, do not begin with all the unique stuff. Instead, start with the familiar. Do not expound greatly about the strange places, difficult names, new customs, or all the unique creatures your world has.

Writing Christian Fantasy Tip #1: Be Familiar 

J.R.R Tolkien began The Hobbit by describing a house. Yes, the house is a hole in the ground, but it is still easy to imagine. The Lord of the Rings starts with a birthday party. Robert Jordan, author of the massive series of fourteen books, opens his books with a peaceful farm scene with a farmboy just wanting to dance with a girl he thinks is pretty. Terry Brooks, in the Sword of Shannara, has one of his main characters walking home through a forest. Of course, the Pevensie children start in London in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but even after Lucy enters Narnia, it is a familiar place with snow, woods, and a lamppost. Only after this normal scene does a faun introduce himself.

I can hear you saying, “But wait! My new world is cool! You’ll love it! I can’t wait to show everyone all the wonderful things about it…

Why can’t I show all the great stuff first?”

When you hit the reader with too much newness, they will find it too much work to read. If it’s too much work, then they will put it down and go to the next book. I have put down countless fantasy books because the learning curve was too much. As fantasy writers, we need to give our reader something to grasp – a place, a feeling, a longing. We need to give them a beginning to relate to, and then they will keep reading.

Of course, you want to venture into the new aspects of your world. J.R.R. Tolkien’s house was a hobbit hole which quickly leads to a sense of another world. Lucy was only at the lamppost for seconds before a faun appears. Don’t linger in the familiar too long.

Action Steps

Read through your opening paragraphs. Check to see how much new information you have given the reader. If you have a lot of new situations, customs, names, creatures, or places, save some of that for later. Weave these unique details into the following chapters slowly in order to give the reader time to enter your world. 

Using the comments below, feel free to share your first paragraph of your Christian fantasy novel so that we can see more examples of how the familiar draws in readers. 

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5 Comments

  1. Kristi Bauman says:

    ‘Hope I’m doing this right! This is the first (very rough) draft of a new novel I’m playing around with. Feel free to pick it apart and tell me what needs fixin’! 🙂

    Frozen November wind wrapped around Fenux, grasping him in a loveless embrace. Frosted ground, cold and unforgiving, wore at the soles of his bare feet as he wandered aimlessly in the middle of nowhere. Slate gray sky reflected the frozen earth, forming a frozen dome over-head. It all matched the way his heart felt; cold, colorless, unmoving, and hard as a frozen bolder heavy in his chest. He’d had no idea how disorienting leaving what he had grasped so tightly to for the past eight hundred years would be. For the first time in forever, he had no idea what he was supposed to do or where he was supposed to go. He had no idea who he was supposed to be now.

    1. I love it! But I always love your writing! 🙂 I think it’s great in that it moves from the familiar of cold November (which is very familiar to me!) and then hits you with “the past eight hundred years.” Oh, and he’s leaving too. So not only are we familiar with the cold, but we know what it’s like to move, but you tease us with that whole 800 years.

      By the way, I’m dying to read more! (Hint, hint…)

      1. Kristi Bauman says:

        Thanks! You’re making me blush just a little. 🙂

  2. Found you on Pinterest – I sense this blog will be super helpful when I start editing my Christian fantasy YA novel in the new year!!

    1. Hi, Stefanie! Thanks, and I’m glad you found it. I have lots more to say about YA! But that’s exciting about your novel. I’d love to hear more of how the writing goes!

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