Ever read a great book about dragons and knights and magic and thought to yourself, “I want to write a story like this one”? This is quite a common thought among the teenage population. Many of them are The Lord of the Rings fans, fascinated with the world Tolkien created and inspired to make one of their own. This is a great thing, by the way, and I’m not against it; however, their are certain writing traps that, in my experience, have swallowed a great number of teenage writers. If you are a teenage writer, don’t feel offended just yet! Those young people who don’t fall into these traps are, I think, truly gifted, and I’m about to give you some advice so you too can avoid them.
The first trap that seems to capture most amateur writers is making the beginning of their story too short. The protagonist’s home-town is not described enough or ‘lived in’ enough before he/she is sent off. The reader should be just as surprised at the protagonist having to begin their adventure as he/she is. There needs to be a home to miss, friends to leave behind, and the knowledge that things might never again be the same when the protagonist returns. Let the reader get to know your character and their home a bit, so there can be a contrast when they leave it. You can also inform the reader of the protagonist’s old life throughout the story by adding flashbacks.
The details and necessity of the adventure should not be shared too early, either. I find a story more strong when the protagonist resists the Call to Adventure, but eventually has no other choice. They must leave in order to save their town, a friend, their honor, etc. Not the world yet, that’s still too big. If their quest/adventure is about something personal, as the story develops, the problem can turn into a more global affair. For example, going to save a princess from an evil magician, then finding out that the magician has an even bigger scheme of taking over the world. The protagonist must then address a more global conflict.
As for the protagonist themselves, please don’t re-create Super-Man! A story is much more effective if the character is incompetent for the job. That is why allies are needed to help the protagonist out. If a character isn’t there for the plot, they have no business in your story. Also, remember that if your protagonist has powers or special gifts, they need weaknesses that are just as strong. Otherwise, the reader will not be able to relate to them.
Characters are so important for a story–have you ever read a fantasy novel without characters? You haven’t; so spend some time making your characters relatable, lovable, and unforgettable! Don’t copy from another book; make them your own. Find a list of the different types of characters found in a fictional novel and use that list as your guide. Get to know your protagonist and give them internal struggles to overcome, as well as external.
Lastly, make the characters in your story suffer. Is your problem big enough? Did enough people die to demonstrate how bad this problem is? Are the stakes high enough? Make them higher. Does you protagonist face a life-or-death trial? Make them die–no, I’m kidding, but I hope you get my point.
Don’t get your story started too quickly and make it intense, in you OWN way, with external AND internal battles. What do you want to show the reader with your story? How do you want to change their life?
I hope this helped! If after reading this you have found yourself already in one or more of these teenage-fantasy-writer-traps, don’t give up! Fix it if need be and keep writing! Not all of this advice will apply to your story, but it is good to be aware of what could go wrong. I guess the only thing left to say is: make your story your own, have fun with it, and really get to know your characters–even the bad guy!
Thank you for joining me!
The Dragonfly Net