Creating a Fantasy World

by Zoe Hale

Hi, I just wanted to start out by saying thank you for this website! It's so helpful and I read it all the time, forever grateful! On to my question.

I want to make it as believable and original as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I can't seem to get away from that universe. I can't come up with an idea that differs enough from J.K Rowling's world. Is there anyway I'd be able to get inspired? I'm not looking for something as successful as her stories, honestly I really only write for my own entertainment, but I keep getting frustrated that I can't get away from the whole magical wizards, Hogwarts theme. How can I get inspired for making my own world?

Thanks again.

Answer: It may not be easy, if you are a hardcore Potter fan, but it certainly can be done, just as The Lord of the Rings inspired a wave of high fantasy books several decades ago, all of which had similarities as well as their own departures from Tolkein. Here's what I would suggest...

Start out by making a list of the central features of the Potter universe. Point form is fine.

Now engage your critical faculty and mark the features that you find a little weak, illogical, dissatisfying, or that you think could have been better. It may be hard, but if you get stuck, I'm sure you can find plenty of Rowling's critics online who have pointed them out. (I'm not personally criticizing Rowling. But every great work has its flaws which even its fans enjoy spotting.)

For each of these points, brainstorm ideas on how you think they could be made better, or more interesting. How might you step up the awesomeness? Everyone is different, and your personal taste will be unique.

You might also do this process with some other books you really like. What do you personally find are their best and their weakest characteristics? What could have made them better?

Also, make a list of your personal interests? Do you like certain periods in history, cultures, subjects? What would you like to see more stories about?

Make a new list containing the best ideas from all of this thought and effort.

Now... can you take some of these ideas and weave a story world around them? You don't have to use all your ideas, but try to pick contrasting ideas.

Consider, for example, that in writing the Potter series Rowling combined a traditional vengeance plot with stories about wizards and the boarding school genre. The resulting story of the teenage boy wizard in secondary school thus seemed like a fresh new idea. (Of course, no idea is every totally original. The Worst Witch was an earlier version.)

Then books like Twilight and Vampire Academy took the concept and changed it a bit--using female protagonists and vampires instead of wizards.

That's all you have to do. Take an existing idea and either change a key feature or combine it with something else to get a fresh concept.

Then take that fresh concept and start asking yourself all kinds of questions about it. How will it work? What are the implications?

By the time you have answered all the questions that arise, your concept will be completely different from anything else and wholly your own.

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