Worlds Away: Creating Fantasies Loyal Readers Love

wildmagic-sns-reissue-coverWhether contemporary, historical, alternate or parallel worlds, steam-punk, time travel, magical realism, or something completely new, fantasies conjure ultimate dream-scapes. Readers love them so much, they re-read original novels, buy sequels, stand in line for autographs, create fan-art, write fan-fiction, & create fan websites. Fantasies inspire movies, beautiful paintings & illustrations. DiscWorld site-including merchandise/art  Pottermore: Harry’s Potter’s world-news/shop/features

by Mary GrandPre –Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Anniversary Ed.
Illust. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 50th Anniversary Ed.


Image from Miyazaki movie, Howl’s Moving Castle, based on novel by Diana Wynne Jones
Original painting by Paul Kidby of Discworld

How do readers become so loyal? Imaginative, believable, fully immersive worlds that feel absolutely real to the reader. These take such time to create, authors often write multiple novels in the same or a related world. The more readers dwell in these worlds, the more real the world becomes, soon it feels like returning to a place you’ve lived in, traveled to, or want to visit! Some worlds continue after the author passes away. Sir Terry Pratchett chose a novelist to write more novels for his disc world series. 



Beautiful cover art by Kinuko Y. Craft
  • ALL WORLD ELEMENTS INTERCONNECT IN RATIONAL, REALISTIC WAYS. (theme, time period, setting, characters, flora, fauna, topography, geography, climate, culture etc.).  (i.e., a desert community’s food, cultures, buildings, machinery, transportation, political systems, ‘beings,’ plants, birds, animals & insects, etc.)
  • STRONG CHARACTERS ECHO THEIR WORLD IN SOME WAY: AFTER ALL, THEY LIVE THERE. And the reader needs to feel that the characters belong there. Characters act the way they do because their own psycho-social profiles are impacted by their world.  
  • THE WORLD’S SCIENCE MAKES SENSE. Great video on the science of Discworld:
  • MAGIC/BACKSTORY SPRINKLED THROUGH THE ACTION, REVEAL WORLD NATURALLY. The reader experiences the story like a movie in his/her mind.
    Illustration by reknowned fantasy artist, Charles Vess
  • THE IMPACT OF ILLUSTRATORS IS HUGE WHEN ARTWORK IS INCLUDED- Maps also helpful. Short-list of fantasy illustrators below.

I read, write, & love fantasy. If you write fantasy also, the the authors below should be studied as well as read, for in my opinion, they excel at world building!


Favorite World-Builders:

Ms. Tamora Pierce. I CALL MS. PIERCE ‘THE QUEEN OF WORLD BUILDING.’ Her novels also have wonderful characters and plots. Favorites include the Immortals Quartet, beginning with Wild Magic, follow-ups Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen, and the Beka Cooper TrilogyBeka Cooper: Terrier, etc –set in amazing TortallHer MG/Y/A novels feature diverse characters across color/gender lines. Incredible worlds! Ms. Pierce also offers great advice, book lists, answers to reader questions, & more, on her site: Tamora Pierce

Ms. Diana Wynne Jones, unique, quirky, beautiful worlds. Alas she has passed away, but her books are beloved and inspiring. I love Howl’s Moving Castle (illustration from Miyazaki animated film above).  and The Chronicles of Chrestomanci.  The Diana Wynne Jones Official Fan Site

Sir Terry Pratchett, whose amazing books are set in his discworlds (including novels for adults). In a series for tweens/middle graders/young adults, young witch Tiffany Aching starts her adventures in The Wee Free Men. Having read one, you will embrace discworld’s quirky philosophy, political satire, and humor as so many have.  Terry Pratchett Books

Ms. Shannon Hale – her wonderful novel The Goose Girl an all time favorite- plus her other books set in Bayern and Princess Academy, etc. Her worlds are filled with sensory details that draw the reader in & reflect her main character’s struggles & sensibilities.  Shannon Hale’s Official Website

Ms. J. K. Rowling, whose absolutely wonderful Harry Potter series has inspired countless readers. I will always love the world and characters she has created.  J. K. Rowling

Please note: some authors I mention have also written wonderful novels in other genres/or for adults. 

Here’s my added ‘short list’ of authors who write amazing worlds–and characters. To keep it short, I list only authors I’ve read to date who have written multiple novels set in the same world as the initial one.  

20160211_130833 - Copy20160211_130833

Additional Favorites: 

Rachel Hartman Seraphina & Shadow Scale Kristin Cashore Graceling Series; Cornelia Funke Inkheart Series;  Scott Westerfeld Leviathan Series; Gail Carson Levine Official Site  Ella Enchanted, Fairest;  Juliet Marillier Wildwood Dancing; Rae Carson – The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy; Robin McKinley Spindle’s End, Rose DaughterJohn Flanagan  Ranger’s Apprentice Series; Grace Lin Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Starry River of the SkyUrsula K. Le Guin’s Website Earthsea TrilogyChitra Banerjee Divakaruni Conch Bearer Series; Rick Riordan Percy Jackson Series; Patricia C. Wrede Dealing With Dragons -others from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Regency Magic Series, Co-written with Caroline Stevermer: beginning with Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot ; Philip  Philip Pullman His Dark Materials Series- The Golden Compass/Northern Lights Kathi Appelt The Underneath, The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman SwampCharles de Lint specifically-Little (Grrl) Lost, The Cats of Tanglewood ForestLloyd Alexander ; J. R. R. Tolkien;  C. S. Lewis; Lewis Carroll ; L. Frank Baum ;  J. M. Barrie  Kenneth Grahame Brian Jacques: The Official Site 

Great Articles on Fantasy Writing-World-Building:

Good Wiki Article on World-Building

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions By Patricia C. Wrede 

 Writing Fantasy: A Creative Approach to World-Building

p9charles vess girl on branch
‘Girl on a Branch,’ Illustration by Charles Vess

Favorite Fantasy Illustrators:

Arthur Rackham (passed away but his iconic illustrations have influenced many of today’s artists)

Charles Vess  

Kinuko Y. Craft

Paul Kidby 

Mary GrandPre 

Hayao Miyazaki-animator/illustrator (see also my post on Mr. Miyazaki )

Interesting, helpful fantasy writing craft books…

*Here, I mainly focus on authors extremely skilled at world-building, who’ve set multiple novels in the same world. I’m not a fan of the macabre or gruesome, so some authors are not included, good world-building or no. Also, I do not include dystopian novels or science-fiction. Though these also have incredible worlds, I’ll save them for another post.

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