How to start a fantasy novel

When a potential reader is scanning the shelves at their local bookstore, a few things catch their eye and make them pick up your book. First are the title and book cover. Second, the blurb. Finally, they’ll open your book, thumb through the pages, and read the first couple of sentences. Will your first paragraph be enough to hook your audience into buying your book? Let’s discuss how to start a fantasy novel.

Why the first few paragraphs are important

A reader may like the looks of your cover art and they may even think the title is clever. If the blurb is intriguing enough, they may open the book to find something special within the first couple of paragraphs. If so, they’ll want to continue reading the entire story.

This also goes for e-books. Amazon has a special preview mode called Look Inside where readers can peruse the first few pages of your book. This includes the cover, copyright page, table of contents, and the first handful of pages or the first chapter.

After reading the first couple of paragraphs and possibly reading ahead through the first few pages, readers will then decide whether they want to read your book or not. 

So, how can you keep your audience reading the first few paragraphs and drawing them in enough to want to buy your book?

Leave a lasting first impression

Unfortunately, not every reader may enjoy your writing style. Some people prefer a certain point of view, while others don’t care much for certain tropes.

When a reader opens your book for the first time, they read the first few paragraphs to get a feel for how you write. They want to be sucked into the beginning. Once they’re hooked, they want to know what happens to your characters and to the world you’ve introduced.

If they’re not hooked right away, they’re going to close your book and put it back on the shelf.

Make them curious

As a writer, it’s fun to throw your characters into trouble right from the get-go. After all, you’re supposed to torture them, right?

Begin your novel with something enticing, something that will make your readers question what’s happening or what will happen.

By the end of one paragraph, they should read onto the next paragraph and so on without even realizing it.

With all this in mind, how can you begin your fantasy novel?

How to start a fantasy novel: know your genre and subgenre

Beginning a novel is tricky. Depending on the genre you write, you’re targeting a specific audience. Fantasy is a broad umbrella term for many types of fantasy genres and subgenres. Such examples of different types of fantasy and subgenres are high or low fantasy, magical realism, or superhero fiction.

If you zero in on your novel’s type of fantasy, you can have a better understanding of where and how to begin your fantasy novel. If you’re writing epic fantasy, take a look at popular epic fantasies and study how the beginnings of those novels worked.

What did you like about those beginnings? Or what didn’t you like? What do your favorite authors do? If you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to figure out what your audience wants from your novel.

How to start a fantasy novel: introduce your world

World-building is common in a lot of genres, but especially fantasy. Though not all fantasy needs elaborate world-building, yours might. If your novel is set in a vastly different place out of our normal imagination, make that clear from the get-go.

Not only will this help you establish the world to your readers from the start, but it will act as a slow-build to introducing anything different from the real world to your novel. Info-dumping is when the author gives the reader too much background information at once.

One way to avoid info-dumping is to pick something important about your world, something special that pertains to the plot, and open a new world for your reader right away.

Finally, introducing bits and pieces of your world at the beginning of your novel will entice readers to keep reading because they’ll be interested to see what this world has to offer them.

How to start a fantasy novel: establish a conflict

A third way to start a fantasy novel is to get straight to the heart of the matter. Throw your characters into the conflict immediately. Draw your readers in by showing them the high stakes right away.

Depending on your subgenre, a lot of conflicts can occur. For example, who wouldn’t want to see a magic spell go awry right away? What’s going on? Why is this happening? Who are these characters and how did they get mixed up in this mess in the first place?

These are questions your readers will surely ask themselves as they keep turning the pages of your book to find out what happens next.

How to start a fantasy novel: introduce an important character or two

Similar to introducing your world to your readers right away, throw in a deep conversation between two important characters. There are some people who prefer not to open a story with a conversation, but it’s okay to do once in a while, especially if it’s the right time.

It’s easy to show off a character who has strong ties to the main plot. This character doesn’t necessarily have to be the protagonist. As long as they push the plot forward and get the readers thinking right away, it can be a useful way to draw your audience in.

This tactic is especially effective if this particular character is special in some way for the plot or has magical elements, depending on what exactly your fantasy is about.

How to start a fantasy novel: time is of the essence

Finally, another way to start a fantasy novel is to begin at a different point in time. This can be before something major happens or after. It could be a flashback scene or a flash-forward scene. These kinds of scenes can be tricky to pull off, but if done in the right way, it works.

This can be useful if, for example, time travel is incorporated in your novel or if someone or something can see into the future or the past.

Beginning at any other moment than the actual beginning is another great way to get your readers thinking about what’s happening. 

How to start a fantasy novel: run a PickFu poll

If you’re unsure how to start your fantasy novel, or you’re torn between a few ideas, try running a PickFu poll today. Creating a poll on PickFu is simple and takes as little as one minute to set up. Split test a couple of fantasy novel openings, and poll respondents will give an unbiased opinion on which they prefer. 

You can test the first couple of sentences, paragraphs, or even the first page. You’ll see results from respondents within 15 minutes of your poll being published immediately after creating it. Then, you’ll have a better idea of which opening to use for your fantasy novel.

In addition, you can start a poll for your fantasy book title and book cover as well. The options are endless. Try a PickFu poll today and make your fantasy novel the best it can be.

Remember, you’re not going to be able to please everyone. Different readers prefer different writing styles. But running a PickFu poll can help give you a better understanding of what will work and what the majority of your readers think.