If you stepped into your back yard today and found a tumbling, shimmering magic portal, would you dive through?
Or might you first load up a backpack or recruit a friend to come along? What you’d choose would tell me a lot about you … and the same is true for characters in fantasies.
Fantasy stories are filled with flying carpets and the whizz-bang of spells exploding from wands. That’s why it’s so easy to miss the fact that writing a fantasy is not only fun, but also a worthwhile way to spend your time.
Honestly, I’m not sure I should tell you.
You’ll gain most of the benefits of writing a fantasy without knowing how excellent the process is for you. And you’ll have so much fun, you won’t realize how much you’re growing.
So, if you would dive through that portal without any additional information, and you’d delight in the unexpected discoveries along the way, by all means, stop reading right now and go write a fantasy
If you’re still reading, though, I’ll give you three (of a possible thousand) reasons why writing fantasy will improve your life.
Fantasy teaches you problem-solving skills.
When we write fantasy, we put our characters into extraordinary circumstances and explore the possibilities those circumstances create. After following a character through a magical portal, writers find themselves solving problems such as how to reverse a floating charm or extinguish dragon fire.
The ability to problem-solve in high-stakes circumstances is a meta skill. If you can extinguish dragon fire, how much more likely are you to roll with forgetting your history speech in front of a crowd, or see the tiny gap where you can score that goal on the soccer field?
It may seem like writing about a challenge is nothing like real-life problem solving. However, when you solve a problem on the page, you must generate ideas, give your characters the opportunity to prototype a variety of solutions, and then ultimately, choose the one that will work best. Idea generation, prototyping, and decision making are three crucial problem solving skills, and every time you use them in your writing, you create stronger mental pathways for doing those same activities in real life.
Fantasy teaches you that what’s happening on the surface is hardly the whole story.
We don’t read fantasies to see a character trade a cow for magic beans, climb up a beanstalk, and ultimately, bring down a giant. What makes a fantasy interesting is its characters. If we care about the hero, and we know why their adventure matters to them, we care about the story.
No matter how spectacular the magic, a fantasy isn’t about the wild and unexpected happenings in the plot. It’s about the characters affected by the magic. Most particularly, a fantasy is about the main character and how the adventure transforms their life. They may gain courage, new friends, a better understanding of themselves, or a host of other benefits, all because they stepped through that portal—with the backpack or without it.
Even in our non-magic daily lives, the same principle is true. It can seem that our life stories are about the events that we experience. However, the truth is, what matters most about our experiences is how they make us feel, and how we learn, grow, and thrive through them. When we write fantasy, we see how interior and exterior storylines play off one another, and we can’t help but take that knowledge back to our own lives.
Fantasy shows you what matters to you.
At some point in the writing of a magical story, writers stop and ask: Why does this story matter to me? Why am I writing it?
We may not know what prompted us to start the story, but at some point in the drafting process, we realize we’re writing about friendship or courage or peace. Once we see what we’re really writing about, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves whether what we’re writing matches our actual beliefs.
Sometimes, we realize we’ve bought into a limiting belief, and when we see our belief played out in a story, we change our minds. Other times, we see that we intuitively knew the answer to a problem we thought had no solution. Once we see the solution play out in the story, we know how to make it real in our own lives.
When we write, we make our thinking visible. Fantasy offers a unique opportunity because through the metaphor of our magical world, we can often see truth that we weren’t able to see in the more “real” ordinary world.
You might choose to write a fantasy because you love the adventure of slipping into the world of your imagination. Or, you might write a fantasy because you know the experience will stretch, challenge, and enlighten you. No matter why you choose to say yes to the adventure, you’re sure to have a rollicking time along the way.
Ready to write?
Check out our Story Sprint: Write a Fantasy
course, which guides you through the experience of writing a magical story from the seed of an idea all the way through “the end.” It’s packed with games and shortcuts to keep your enthusiasm and momentum high. You can even throw a Story Sprint party! Learn more here