Hello Story Nurse,
I’ve been writing fantasy for as long as I can remember. I love creating characters, I love building world, and I love the feeling of actually sitting down to write.
But when it comes to actually coming up with a plot, I struggle. I typically come up with a plot about 30K words in, and then… I ignore the plot in order to write vignettes about how the characters interact, examining their quirks and backstories, that sort of thing. I’m about halfway through a project that I absolutely love, and I have probably four words of non-plot for every word of plot. Am I writing the wrong genre? I don’t remember any fantasy books that spend this much time lovingly describing what each character’s childhood was like.
—More of a Therapist than a Plotter (he/him)
Dear More of a Therapist,
I think what’s key here is that you are loving your project. Nothing matters more than that. Your love for it will keep you going through the hardest parts of writing it, and your readers will be able to tell it was written with love, an incredibly potent ingredient that can win a reader over to something they might not expect to like at all.
I can think of quite a number of fantasy authors who have diverged aggressively from what other people thought the fantasy genre was supposed to be. Among the names that come to mind are N.K. Jemisin, Laurell K. Hamilton, Colson Whitehead, Catherynne M. Valente, Jeff VanderMeer, Zen Cho, Stephenie Meyer, Cherie Priest, Naomi Novik, and George R.R. Martin. You may have heard of some of them. Their success stems from their passion, their visions, and their refusal to be put in a box labeled This Is How Fantasy Is. In fact, very few people succeed in the genre by doing just what everyone else has done. Readers do enjoy their familiar tropes, but they also hunger for the thrill of something new.
There will be time later to consider things like how marketable the book is and where to find the readers who will adore it as much as you do. For now, get unstuck from your shoulds and write what’s bringing you joy. There’s no substitute for that feeling and you should feel entirely free to wallow in it.
Happy, happy writing!