The thing about writing a fantasy story is, you’re trying to get the reader to believe in people, places, and things that aren’t real. And not just to believe in them, but also to see and hear and have certain feelings about them.
I have been told that reading one of my books is kind of like watching a movie, which I consider high praise. It only took me almost 50 years to learn how to do that kind of writing.
Knowing that some of you have already tried to write a fantasy, or would someday like to try it, is there anything I can share with you to help you on your way?
Only this: before your reader can believe in it, you have to believe in it. If you can’t see it, they won’t be able to see it. If the story doesn’t stir up your emotions, it won’t arouse any feeling in your reader.
And the tricky part is, if you try to tell the reader too much, if you give him too much information, you might as well not tell him anything at all. This is where the writer’s art comes in–knowing when you’ve said enough, and knowing when to say no more.
Believe in your characters as if they were real people whom you’ve seen and talked to. Even the villains. Believe in their places and settings as if you’ve visited them yourself.
In The Glass Bridge, for instance, when God works through Gurun–without her expecting anything remotely like it–to perform a miraculous healing, she, who so far has been brave and uncomplaining, bursts into tears and gives way to a spasm of homesickness. I wish I could tell you why I wrote it that way, but it’s not something I can intellectualize about. It was just Gurun being herself. Being real. Because by then I knew her so well, all I had to do was step aside and let her respond to the experience as she was bound by her character to respond. Because by then she had become real to me.
Confusing, isn’t it? Well, if it was easy, it wouldn’t have taken me so blamed long to learn how to do it. Maybe in another 50 years I’ll be able to explain it better.