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Writing Tips

Arthur Slade: Breaking the fantastical ice

The "Young Adult Fantastical Fiction Guy" on why you might want to put down that plasma gun if you want to keep people reading.

"When writing fantastical literature, your biggest problem is getting your audience to believe the fantastical elements of your story. This can be accomplished in several ways. 

First, you could gradually introduce the fantastical elements into the story. That is give the reader details about the real world and slowly layer in the details about the fantasy aspects of the story. Just a suggestion or a hint here and there. This slow process of adding fantastical elements allows for the gradual suspension of disbelief.

Conversely, you could also introduce the fantasy immediately. Here’s an example sentence. 'Edward plunged the knife into the man’s chest, then leaned in close, nostrils flared to suck in his soul. It smelled like cinnamon. Souls always smelled like cinnamon.' Now that first sentence forced the reader to confront the fact that he or she is reading about a fantastical world. 

As with all types of writing, fantastical fiction depends on the same basic rules. Make your characters believable and your reader will believe what they believe. If your character suddenly shouts, 'There’s a ghost! Someone get me a plasma gun!' you might lose your reader. Instead what is it the character feels when they first see a ghost? Disbelief? A coldness along the spine? Or is it a euphoria that their long-held beliefs about the undead are true?"

Arthur Slade is the author of more than fifteen novels for children and teens, including Tribes, Megiddo's Shadow, and Jolted. His sci-fi horror novel Dust was a national bestseller and winner of the 2001 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature. The Hunchback Assignments, the first novel in his acclaimed steampunk series, won the 2010 TD Children's Literature Award and was nominated for twelve other literary prizes. Island of Doom, the final book in this series, is out now. Arthur lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with his wife and daughter.  

Photo credit: Brenda Baker

Read our Laferrière Questionnaire with Arthur Slade.

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