Creating a Diverse Fantasy World

  Hello all, I'm back again today with a fantasy-related post regarding Diversity in Fantasy for Indie E-Con 2018! If you go on over to their website you can find my other post on today's featured genre, all about Worldbuilding!

  There's a lot of talk about diversity in fiction these days, movements, hashtags and discussions galore abound all across the internet, with the majority of us all agreeing that yes, we like diversity, difference, variety in our fiction. But what exactly does that look like?

  Some would say it's about representing minorities, giving voice and fictional life to characters underrepresented in media. But is that all there is to creating a diverse fantasy world? Personally, I would have to say a resounding NO of course not! So today I'm here to discuss some other methods of creating a diverse fictional world and why I believe it is so important.


  While this is not the ONLY aspect of diversity in fantasy, it is a huge and important one. Everyone is talking about the representation of ethnic minorities in all sorts of literary genre these days, but one place where that is seen less is fantasy. And why is that? It is fantasy after all, and not every fantasy world needs to look like medieval Europe. People of all backgrounds and ethnicities can be easily represented in fantasy works. But, since it is fantasy, we needn't stop with just skin color. Diversity of fantasy races is also a huge method of creating a large variety in your story. You can even take a typical fantasy race, like elves, and change them up to something unique and new! Elves are usually portrayed as "fair" or "white" but imagine how beautiful a black lady elf would be!


  Again with everything being like medieval Europe. Another great way to promote diversity in your fantasy fiction is to create a diverse landscape. Not just the rolling green hills of England, but the shifting sands of the desert, the hot white beaches, the deep jungles, the grim mountain peaks, the frozen wastelands of the north, etc, etc. The only limit is your imagination! Especially if you are creating a vast world, this should be a priority. Our Earth's environment is different everywhere and it only makes sense that the landscape of your fantasy world would be full of variety as well.


  Often in fantasy the world has one of 3 options:

a) there is no mention of god(s) or higher powers.
b) There is only one God/god.
c)  There is an entire Roman-like pantheon of gods and goddesses.

  In the real world there are many different religions and belief systems spread across every continent. You may have your own belief system that you want to reflect in your work, which is totally fine and commendable! However, if religion/philosophy isn't your primary focus and you are looking for ways to build your world and amplify different cultures and countries then creating multiple different religions and belief systems may be the way to go. In my own fantasy series I have nearly as many religious systems as countries and while they aren't all fully developed and certainly aren't all reflective of my own beliefs, they do add a lot to the different societies and help strengthen the believability of my world.


  While traditions and social hierarchy are often closely tied to the religious beliefs of a particular culture, they do need to stand on their own, and of course require their own thoughts and ideas on your part. Often fantasy stories reflect the traditions and social structure of medieval European cultures, which is very limiting in my opinion. You have your entire imagination at your disposal, as well as an array of other world cultures and systems to draw inspiration from in order to create something new and different! One very basic example would be creating a matriarchal society rather than the traditional patriarchy. Although that is fairly obvious and well-used already, it is a step in a different direction from many other fantasy works.


  This one is a bit trickier to create, but it's nothing a little imagination can't solve! There are lots of cliches in fantasy magic but there is also SO MUCH to put into a magic system to make it consistent and believable as well as interesting. You need to know where your magic comes from (from the gods, from life energy, from a parallel world), who can use magic (a chosen one or ones, supernatural entities, wizards and mages, certain genetics, students of magic, nonhumans, or even everyone), how is magic used (effort of will, magic spells, hand signs, rituals), the limitations of your magic (lack of energy, finite amounts of magic, range of magic), and what are the consequences of magic use? Ask yourself these questions and brainstorm ideas, try to set aside influence from other fantasies you've read or watched and focus on creating something new and unique - maybe by combining old ideas, or by studying other genres. It's all up to you!

  While showing diverse people and cultures is at its heart good world building, don't let the desire to meet some imaginary "diversity quota" inhibit your storytelling. Above all else, write a good story and everything else will magically begin to fall into place.

  What are some diverse or unique aspects of fantasy books that you've read or written? What do you think about the diverse books movement? Let me know in the comments below!


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