In order for a fantasy world to be believable and accepted by the audience, there are a few things an author should keep in mind when writing in this genre. I’ve compiled these into two short lists of what to do (DO) and what not to do (DON’T).
Use the characters to move the story forward. You can add situations that force them to grow or change or show their true colors, but don’t rely on things outside of the story to move it forward. Situations are generally boring to readers - but how someone reacts in a situation is infinitely more interesting.
Put characters in situations that challenge them. I paired Kelsey with Silence in the Orphanage of Miracles because she lacked patience. Putting her with a mute also helped her to learn more about herself as she watched him interact successfully with others.
Look to everyday life to inspire you and then imagine the same situations and experiences in another world. You may be writing in a fantasy world, but there are elements of the human experience that don’t change - such as the concepts of love, friendship, family, revenge, and war. These elements that are common to our world connect the reader to your story.
Make characters say or do anything that goes against who they are. Your characters have identities of their own outside of you. You can control them no more than you can control your own children. Sure, you can provide them guidance and put them in situations that bring out the good or bad in them, but you can not suddenly make a coward have confidence or turn a basically good person evil without a strong motivation to do so (and that motivation needs to be built carefully).
Don’t rely on magic to move the story forward. The story should still be character driven, because this is how your audience connects to your world. See point number 3 above under “DO” for more information.
Don’t make objects or animals talk just for fun. If you anthropomorphize something, it needs a reason and should be part of the overall story plot and structure. Objects generally serve a purpose and animals have specific characteristics that should be included in the story line. For example, I made death a fox in my books because death is cunning and often sneaks up on people. A fox also shares those qualities.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, and no one likes to break rules more than I do. So feel free to break them, but to do so successfully you’ll need to always keep the reader in mind. The reader is, after all, your primary reason for publishing. So make sure that elements of the story don’t cause them to suddenly ask, “Where did that come from?” Our job as writers is to guide the reader safely through our realms without questioning whether or not it could actually exist. We help them to believe in it.