At first glance, writing a fantasy story seems like an easy proposition. Unlike writing fiction based in history, or in the modern day, you don’t have to worry about getting facts about the world wrong. Locations, languages, even basic laws of physics can be tailored to your story’s needs. This is something that simply can’t be done in most other types of literature. But writing a fantasy story well can be as difficult as writing more realistic works.
Like with any sort of story, the first thing you have to figure out before you put pen to paper is just where the story is going to go. Who are the main characters? What can they do? Who is the villain? What is his motivation? How will the main characters stop the villain? These are the important questions you need to answer before you start writing. At the very least, consider them strongly. It’s possible to write a good story while simply making it up as you go. It is, however, much more difficult unless you’re a very talented writer.
Because you’re setting this story in your own unique fantasy world, it’s up to you to decide just how the world works. There are a few questions you’ll need to consider. Is there magic? If so, what does it do, and how does it work? Is it available to everyone, do you need to go to a special school for it, or do you need to be born with it? How does the magic affect the world? If you have powerful magic that can change the landscape itself, how does this affect industries such as farming? Keep in mind, always, that if you want a world to be believable, it has to be consistent and make sense.
It’s easy to set a fantasy story in a world that’s based on what you remember from your medieval history classes, but to make a truly believable world, you have to think hard about how the fantastic elements you’re adding would affect every day life.
Another important thing is to maintain consistency in the story. Once you’ve decided on answers to the above, remember them as you write. If you establish rules for magic, for example, make sure that whatever happens in your story is possible within the parameters of those rules. Nobody reading your story will demand that it be realistic. But they will demand that it be believable, and a story contradicting itself will break the all-important suspension of disbelief.
At the same time, don’t neglect to research things that do exist in the real world. If your characters are riding horses as they go about their quest, read up on how to care for and ride horses. If your story contradicts what people know from real life experience, it can break the flow of your story just as much as if you contradict your own rules.
It’s tempting to treat the fantasy genre as carte blanche for a story. Certainly, a fantasy setting gives you more options and freedom, but in order to write a good story, it must be internally consistent, and above all else, it has to make sense within the world you’ve created.