Hello world out there world!
What will make your story unique can be a hard question to answer. You have to look at your work and examine it in a way, not as a writer but as a reader. What will make your story stand out? What do you want your story to leave behind?
These are questions I ask myself whenever I’m about to dive into a project. As a writer of YA fantasy, I already know I’m going into a competitive market with more talented people with better stories than myself. With this thought in mind I focus on what makes my story stand out… or at least what I can do to make my story stand out.
What I’ve written below are some ways I’ve tried to make my story unique and have given examples to help you follow along. 🙂
Themes are a great way to create interest in your books. Most of mine are focused towards current events in the world. My first book – although based in a fantasy world all on its own – focused on loss, being able to adapt, and trying to keep from losing one’s culture when immersed in a new one. These aren’t common themes for YA fantasy that focus mostly on conflict resolution, friendships, and love.
Book two I focused more towards gender identity and self identity. These are two things I remembered struggling with as a young adult and even into becoming a new adult. I talk about labels and trying to put everyone into neat little boxes when in reality no one fits perfectly…
Its the themes I choose that makes my book stand out and why people have told me they love what I’m writing. The questions my characters ask and the problems they overcome aren’t the usual facing characters in a fantasy series.
Now, next to creating your characters the next important thing in the world. What makes your world special? In my case, with fantasy I had to try and get away from the traditional but for some reason ended back at where I was trying to get away from. In most fantasy books you’ll find dragons and other mythical beast. You’ll find magic and elves.
My world doesn’t have the elves… but it is starting to get magic. I wanted to create a world similar to how earth was in the dark ages – swords, knights, kings and so on. I achieved that but I needed something more. I knew I wanted mythical creatures like gryphons, dragons, and trolls, but I didn’t want them just there. I wanted them a part of the world, a functioning part of the worlds ecosystem. That’s why I focused on how these creatures and the creatures I created would work with the world, not against it. I settled with making the dragons more dinosaur like. Some have wings but the majority don’t. They work like work horses for the more difficult of terrain, or as war beasts for those desiring to use them as such.
I did the same thing with the gryphons. They were animals at one time tamed and controlled to be used for a task. Just like we tamed horses, elephants, and reindeer.
The led to how I was going to make the physical world unique. We have the two nations warring over one another – like most fantasy books – but I needed more ways of making Gaitan stand out. Come the actual layout of the map.
The South is desert, half of which consists of lava lands that the Southerns call Fire Lands. This leaves very little area for the Southerns to live, forcing them to push the boundaries of their lands more into the West, North, and East. This in turn creates conflict.
The North is very rugged with rocky hills, dense forests, and cliff faces. Perfect for gryphons to thrive but not so easy for people. Instead of going to war to gain the resources the North needed they allied with the West and East where they were provided was they requested. This rugged land fades into ancient Oak over 1000 years old and into a Valley where lush farms thrive. This is the Western Valley that leads up into the Western Mountains which have peaks so high no one has ever been able to fly over, (expect Har… but no one truly believed that story).
These small elements to my world is what makes it unique. It isn’t fantasy because it’s magic. It isn’t fantasy because it has elves or fairies. It’s fantasy because it is a world you can escape into with it’s premise in Tolkin style world development… without the thirteen pages about a sword that doesn’t matter…
When it comes to fantasy there is a lot of writers that jump to magic and super fighting abilities. This isn’t the reason I read books. I love human interactions and characters that overcome their problems with their own natural skills.
Yes, my main character has God given abilities but she only uses them when she has to or they manifest even when she doesn’t want them to. With my main character with passive abilities like seeing past, present, and future events or healing people with the touch of her hand – those aren’t useful in a conflict. I have her needing to rely on what she’s learnt from her mentors or reflect on her on capabilities. More times than not Liora realizes she’s gotten herself into a situation that is completely above her skill set but she is forced to figure things out using her mind verses her fists.
That of course doesn’t mean Liora can’t fight. She isn’t officially trained like other characters in the book but if she needs to she can scrap. I wanted to make her imperfect, curious, and troublesome to a sense because most teenagers are. Most teenagers get into situations that are out of their control that they need to fix on their own. Most teenagers think they know everything when they clearly don’t. Most teenagers are still finding themselves or realizing what they are truly capable of.
Liora is all these things and more, which is one reason why I think she’s a very unique character.