Fantasy stories, in the beginning

And no, I’m not talking Bible. I’m talking about how hard it is to write the beginning of a fantasy story, especially one set in an entirely new world. You have a brand new setting, new peoples, new concepts, maybe some magic or fantastical creatures. But the current trend in writing is to have little to no exposition in the opening pages, or even chapter, of a novel. It’s gotta be action and conflict, pedal to the metal.

Thing is, I know this leaves some readers, especially ones used to older fantasy, feeling ungrounded. Personally, I like being thrown into a story in medias res, but right now, I’m trying to find a happy medium in my writing between people like myself and those who want to feel the ground under their feet. I open with a chase, and try and slip in info as we go, waiting at least five pages, maybe more, before any true exposition, and then I do it while my characters are traveling. I’m trying to give the impression that the story is moving forward even as the main character is thinking.

I’ll just put this out there, too: I don’t really want to do prologues. I have no problem reading them, but writing them, bah. I’ve heard that editors and agent frown on them now, anyway, and let’s face it, that’s who we writers trying for publication are really wanting to impress.

How about you? How long will you wait in a story for background? Is it fine if you get little snippets along the way? Do you put yourself in a writer’s hands and trust them to fill you in? Or do you prefer a little paragraph o’ summarizing near the beginning? “She’d been a tracker for six months now, ever since her father had been killed by wild boars in the high north. A sturdy woman, she lived by her wits and by her nose, not taking guff from man nor beast…” And so on. ^_^


6 thoughts on “Fantasy stories, in the beginning

  1. I’ll read anything as long as it is done well.

    I don’t actually have a preference, but honestly, I dislike large sections of expose, back story and unrealistic dialogue just to get the info in.

    Give it to me in action bits and I’m a lot happier.

  2. Maybe not so much a summary, as a shadow of what’s to come.

    I don’t like a lot of exposition–especially in the beginning when I’m trying to decide whether I like the story or not.

    I like to tell people that my last book, Touch Of Fire got published because of five lines. That’s all I had when Samhain ran their ‘Hook Contest’. It was enough to hook the editor and she asked for the full.

    Two days after I submitted the manuscript, Samhain offered me a contract.

    For what it’s worth, these are the five lines that won the contest.


    The Reverend Mother used to tell acolytes that if men were going to brawl, they should at least be naked and glistening with oil.

    Leda’s money was on the hulking brute with the Cydian blade, but right now she needed the other guy to win. That one had information she needed, and she wasn’t going to get it if he got himself killed. She was just about to intercede when her quarry tripped on his feet and knocked himself out cold.


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