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?
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.
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.