Special Items: Fantasy

Hi gang, Craig with you again. In my last post, we talked about special items that you might find in a paranormal tale of some kind. The key involved a list of things to consider when creating an item for your story. Let’s include the list again.

• Enhancing the world you are building.

• Balancing the scale between ultimate power and limitations on usage.

• Resale Value.

• Costuming.

I’m taking on one of the biggest genres today, fantasy. This field is so big that I can’t cover everything. It includes urban fantasy, Greco-Roman, medieval, and about a billion other things.

We’re going to have to paint with a broad brush today, and it’s up to you to formulate my suggestions into your fantasy world…or not. These aren’t rules, they’re merely things to consider.

I also have to limit these magical items to things you can carry with you. Fantasy is full of magical spinning wheels, wells in the forest, and more. Let’s say Arc of the Covenant at the big end. Even that took a couple of guys.

Start off by deciding what your character(s) are going to do. Are they seeking, finding, protecting, fighting, etc. Then design your magical item to help with that task. The Harpoon of Fate might not do much if your story involves rappelling down cliffs and exploring caves. It might do some world building in a sea adventure.

It looks like we’ve moved into the points for consideration and started glancing off double duty with the harpoon. Your magical item can enhance the setting, the character, or both along with its magical purpose. If your character is a musician, maybe a magical instrument can help with character.

Don’t make the mistake of putting a magic light bulb into your Greco-Roman fantasy. Make sure such a thing existed during the times your story is set. An oil lamp might be a better choice.

Fantasy is full of magical weapons. Make sure you adjust the dial on how powerful your item is. Readers will feel let down if they spend 90K words reading about an awesome adventure, then it all ends suddenly by deploying the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioc. The real solution should come from within your heroes.

I’m going to take just a minute to talk about story structure here. Everything in a book weaves together to create the whole. We design characters with flaws and fears. Part of the character arc involves facing those shortcomings and overcoming them. This action should be what solves the big story problem, not a magical doo-dad. If it were as simple as deploying said doo-dad, the elders might send out the village idiot instead. There would be no need for heroes. Moving on…

Take resale value into consideration. Would you want this item if it were to exist in the real world? This can really hook fans, because you’re playing to their desires while nudging your story ahead. An enchanted stone that summons a creature is great. In the story, it can spy, steal, deliver messages, all kinds of things. In my world, I’d make that sucker mow the lawn and pick up pizza. I wouldn’t even need to put on a mask. (Note: for longevity sake, this is posting amid the C-19 disaster.)

Fantasy is loaded with magical armor as well. You have to adjust the dial here, too. If your character is impervious to everything it takes all the fun away from your battle scenes. However, it gives you a chance to play around with costuming. Costuming helps with character and world building if you take the time. Things like capes are out of fashion today, but your eccentric wizard might make a real statement wearing one in an urban fantasy. Give him a turban, he’s eccentric, remember. Maybe the turban can unwind and the strips of cloth can do some amazing things.

This is fantasy, so the sky’s the limit. I’d avoid any science fiction gadgetry, but beyond that, create to your heart’s content.

I’d love to hear from you today. What do you think about the consideration points? Tell me about your magic fishhooks, belt buckles, or timepieces.

C. S. Boyack

53 thoughts on “Special Items: Fantasy

  1. Great points about making fantasy objects logical and relatable and not too powerful. Powerful items are fine if there’s a huge cost to using them. I love Sanderson’s magic systems because of how tight they are. They need to stand up to some tough tests.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Craig! What a fun post! Although I read many genres fantasy is my favorite. I enjoy writing fantasy as well. In my current WIP my characters, Golem carries a stone amulet that comes to life when he utters a magic phrase. Another character, Sabina, is a ‘white’ witch who uses essential oils in her healing rituals. Love your picture! You’d make a great wizard. 😉 xo

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You made some really great points here, Craig. One, in particular, stood out to me when you talked about fantasy being almost limitless, yet it still has to believable such as the magic lightbulb in Greco-Roman fantasy. That is really true. Even though it’s fantasy and almost anything goes, it still has to be something the reader can believe. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love your photo. I’m always concerned when I call things fantasy since there are so many rules that can get one torn apart in the den of critics. I enjoyed this, Craig, because you lightened things a bit with some common sense stuff to watch out for. My latest has fantasy elements but nothing bordering on magic unless time travel fits that description. Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m with Marcia on the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioc! It does make a huge point about the role that magical things play in a story. There has to be peril for us to worry about the task being undertaken and the character needs to have qualities that have us rooting for him/her and which contribute to the successful outcome. Great piece, Craig!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I don’t do fantasy on any regular basis, but have dabbled. I agree that the object and be the end all be all problem solver. The hero needs to be the one who solves the problem. Also, if I have an object, I use something ordinary that anyone can have. This way, it will not be obvious in the story. Nice post, Craig.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Ooh, I loved the magic turban that can unwind to do multiple things. In one of my Muddy River stories, I used magical tattoos that could reach for each other, and when you touched them, they showed part of a vision. Magical doo-dads can be fun:) Really enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I love the line: “If it were as simple as deploying said doo-dad, the elders might send out the village idiot instead.” I loved the humor in this post, Craig.

    I use to write a ton of fantasy, and did a lot with enchanted weapons (swords, knives, bows). I also used a stone with special powers in my Hode’s Hill supernatural mystery series. In short stories I used a well, a bottle, and probably some other things I don’t remember. But it’s always the characters who draw me. One of my all time favorite characters is an undead sorcerer named Gerald Tarrant from the Cold Fire trilogy. I have a lot of fond memories of fantasy writing and reading 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Craig Boyack is holding court over on Story Empire today with a post called Special Items: Fantasy. Yep. It’s all about the magical items so often included in great fantasy, and how to best incorporate them in your own. Hope you’ll head straight over to check it out, and will keep these suggestions in mind as you write (or read) your next fantasy. Thanks, and as always, please remember to pass this one along so others can enjoy learning from it, as well. Thanks, and thanks to Craig for a post both informative and entertaining. (And for the fun picture, too!) 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. “Please, Sir … where can I buy the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioc?” 😀 (I have something I’d like to do with it, but that’s a fantasy for another day.)

    Absolutely loved this post, Craig. Some very good points here, for sure. I don’t write fantasy myself, though there are a few things in my books that could be called paranormal here and there, and some bits about angels and their emissaries. But I read more fantasy than anything else these days, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with how important magical items are and the reasons why they can’t be the only answer to everything. Those heroes are what keep us reading, and while they may make use of these magical doo-dads–to great fun, I might add–it really should be about them, in the long run. And I agree that they shouldn’t be impervious to everything. If there’s no risk in what they’re doing, then there’s nothing all that heroic about it, after all.

    And finally, may I just say you and your … umm … accessory … look MAH-VELOUS, dahling! Love the picture! 🙂 Sharing this one all over the place! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Nice overview. Though, I’ll admit that I cringed at ‘the sky is the limit’. Only because I’ve seen authors and readers use that as an excuse to do whatever they want regardless of the established world rules. You have give yourself some limits or the story is going to fall apart. As you said, adding technology that is closer to sci-fi can be a problem. Yet, you can do this if you establish the existence of magi-tech. Having a giant robot slam down in the middle of a battle with no warning is definitely the wrong way to go. Showing abandoned ones or having a character working on relics from a ‘lost civilization’ can fix that. This goes back to my first point that one of the first things an author should do is decide on the general limits of their world.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. You look fantastic in the wizard hat, Craig. I think fantasy writers are magicians at heart–they create magic for the rest of us. Thank you for this informative post!

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Pingback: Special Items: Fantasy | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

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