You're going to write a fantasy novel. You've come up with some characters, you've come up with some spells, you've even outlined your basic plot. Now what? How about research? The most important element of a fantasy novel is originality. Therefore the cardinal sin is not knowing what's already out there.
Tip For Writing Your Fantasy Novel: Start With Your Plot
What sort of fantasy world do you want as the setting for your story? If you're going for something completely fantastical and otherworldly, start collecting material that seems similar in concept to your story. If you have a detailed, overarching quest with plenty of scattered details, pick up copies of The Lord of the Rings. Start asking yourself the question: what can I do to differentiate my story from this classic? The key to your story is to create something that fantasy readers have never seen before.
Tip For Writing Your Fantasy Novel: Original Characters
The first step toward to an original story is an original set of characters. These are your heroes and your villains, and they're likely fighting for the proverbial keys to the kingdom. What compels us as readers to follow their story? What do they offer in terms of emotional depth and background that we haven't yet seen in other stories? What familiar elements can you spin in their favor to make them appear tried and true and at the same time fresh and exciting? Again, research the literature that's come before you to make sure you're not treading well-worn ground.
Tip For Writing Your Fantasy Novel: The Real World
The real world is a perfect place to find inspiration. With all the pain and strife that surrounds the military conflict in the Middle East, there is a wealth of material out there dealing with various forms of heroism. What could you take away from these real life situations to build a story in your novel? What is it about the “everyday hero" that makes him or her akin to a sword-wielding mage?
Story and character rely primarily upon imagination, but crafting the world in which your story takes place requires a foundation of reality. Yes, even in a fantasy novel. It must make sense to the reader.
Research in this area doesn't have to be difficult - you might want to study the landscape and topography of the lands around medieval castles, or the characteristics of a massive volcano around which you center your penultimate battle, or the ancient feudal system. What's important is being able to relate a new world to your reader that's believable. To do this you're going to want to make sure your fantasy novel is original as well as relational.
Remember this tip for writing your fantasy novel: research is more about maintaining a fresh perspective rather than memorizing facts and figures. It's just as important to know what your audience has already read as much as it is to know what they want to read.
David B. Silva is the webmaster for The Successful Writer , where you can learn all about writing fiction, creative writing, writing fantasy , and more. You're invited to stop by and visit.