One Handy Way to Add Instant Originality to Your Fantasy Novel

One Handy Way to Add Originality to Your Fantasy Novel

One of the reasons speculative readers love fantasy is the originality. When reality doesn’t apply, the possibilities for unique characters, worlds, powers, politics (you name it) are endless. But one of the chief complaints of many veteran fantasy readers is that few stories actually provide that sense of originality. (Raise your hand of you’ve ever read a Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time knock-off.) As a fantasy author, how do you add originality to your story?

Aside from creating knock-out premise or a generally offbeat sense of creativity, one of the easiest ways you can add originality to a fantasy story is simply by looking outside the box. Since most fantasy stories are grounded in specific eras of our own history and mythology, all you have to do to leave the beaten track is to start hunting out little used time periods.

For example, “high fantasy” has long utilized familiar medieval European history and Norse mythology for its foundation. So what if you wrote a story that took the basis of its setting and worldview from the ancient Mayans? Or the Maori? What about Native Americans? Or how about keeping the European setting but changing the timeline to something less medieval and more Renaissance or Roman? For example, when reading Brent Weeks’s otherwise excellent The Way of Shadows, I was excited at his early hints of an unusual Orient-based setting and disappointed when it didn’t play out and the author returned to the familiar medieval archetypes.

This trick, of course, won’t guarantee you a unique story—or reader satisfaction. The worth and originality of your story is based upon many factors. But you can take your first peek outside of the box and into a realm of exciting new possibilities simply by switching out a few of the “normal” fantasy stereotypes.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! How do you add originality to your novel—whatever the genre? Tell me in the comments!

One Handy Way to Add Instant Originality to Your Fantasy Novel

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. robert easterbrook says

    I got loads of originality in my stories… plus something borrowed. ;p

    Recently someone said if I wanted to find quick success, I had to write fan fiction. What say you, Katie of the Poetical? 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Definitely not. Fan fic is fun and great way to practice writing, but there’s no monetary success of notoriety to be found there. It’s true that such mega-hits as Mortal Instruments and Fifty Shades of Grey found their starts as fan fic–but those stories are few and far between. Plus, I rather doubt you’re wanting to write that type of story anyway. 😉

      • robert easterbrook says

        Ah so very true. But then I did try writing a short story based on my fav Sci fi read Dune. So if I ever did try to write Fan fic, it would definitely be based on this extraordinary saga. 🙂

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Fan fic’s fun. It’s a good way to practice, so to speak. Just not, generally speaking, a good way to go pro.

  2. Mic Meguiar says

    It seems all your posts on the AuthorCulture site only allows access to “invited readers.” I would love to read these older posts as I find all your articles very informative. Hope you don’t mind me asking for your assistance to access them!

  3. Great article! And so true, too–readers love new experiences.

    I tried shopping various pure high fantasy genre manuscripts around for a while when I first started writing, but my first small success with a literary agent was with a fantasy western genre mashup. They loved the idea of it and were very interested in the pitch, query, and partial manuscript. I didn’t follow up on it because I was a bit down on myself and my writing abilities at the time (this was in 2012), but that experience always stands out in my memory.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That sounds awesome!

      • It was fun to write, and I’ve recently picked it back up. I was a tiny bit disappointed when I found out a few years later that Stephen King had done the same thing with his Dark Tower books (amazing fantasy in a wild west setting featuring Excalibur melted down and forged into a pair of six shooters), but that doesn’t bother me so much now.

        There’s always going to be a piece similar to whatever you work on, but treading that less-traveled path in the ways you’ve described here will still always be advantageous.

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