Since the very first fairytale, the idea of mysterious worlds has captivated readers. Fantasy stirs our imaginations, inviting us to think outside the limits of the life we know. But this genre also involves “a heightening of reality”, as Ursula Le Guin calls it—a lens through which to understand our own world and lives. There is something about the unknown, the wildness, of these re-imagined realities that asks us to ponder the most fundamental questions about existence and human nature.
As a fantasy writer, you have the extraordinary and exciting task of reimagining the world. Perhaps this means revealing a fantastical element hidden within our “reality”—Alice in Wonderland
, for example, in which Alice enters another realm through the portal of a rabbit hole, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream
, in which humans encounter fairies in the mystical interior of the forest. Or perhaps you will dream up an entirely different world, like Harry Potter
, or Ranger’s Apprentice
, or The Lord of the Rings
In a 600-1,000 word fantasy story, take your readers on a journey into a re-imagined world.
- BELIEVE IN YOUR WORLD. GO THERE. As Le Guin reminds us, “The fantasy writer must ‘believe in’ the world she is creating, not in the sense of confusing it in any way with the actual bodily world, but in the sense of giving absolute credence to the work of the imagination—dwelling in it while writing, and trusting it to reveal itself.” To be able to write about your reimagined world convincingly, you must know its ins and outs: a) Daydream about this world when you’re walking to school or waiting for the bus or falling asleep. b) Draw your characters and/or the landscape. c) Set aside time not only to write, but to also think and imagine and play with ideas.
- INVENT A RULEBOOK. In reimagining the world, you are creating new rules to play by. Make sure you understand how this new reality works: a) Take time to map out the geography and the history of this world. b) If you are working with a layer of fantasy in the context of the “real world,” how and where does that layer exist? How is it accessed? c) Ask yourself how the physical or biological laws of our reality are being distorted or re-shaped.
- MAKE YOUR FANTASY STORY ORIGINAL. Stories don’t have to have fairies or vampires to be fantasy. Nor do they need to occur in a post-apocalyptic world or a dystopian society. Our Guest Judge, Alexandra Sheppard, for example, sets Oh My Gods in current day North London—a story about an otherwise ordinary teenage girl who happens to be related to Greek gods. We are most excited to read fantasy stories that feel fresh, so take us to uncharted territory
Here are two of our favorite passages from the fantasy masterpieces of Ursula Le Guin. Notice how in the first example the fantastical elements are bold—there is no question that this is a world with different rules—with spells and shadow spirits. In the second example, however, the elements of fantasy take shape as suggestion rather than fact. What is it about the details and tone of the second passage that feel otherworldly?
Who is Eligible?
- A Wizard of Earsea: He turned the boat around, working her carefully round with spell and with makeshift oar lest she knock up against the underwater rocks or be entangled in the outreaching roots and branches, till she faced outward again; and he was about to raise up a wind to take him back as he had come, when suddenly the words of the spell froze on his lips, and his heart went cold within him. He looked back over his shoulder. The shadow stood behind him in the boat.
- The Left Hand of Darkness: Estraven stood there in harness beside me looking at that magnificent and unspeakable desolation. ‘I’m glad I have lived to see this,’ he said. I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end … Snowfields stretched down from the pass into the valleys of moraine. We stowed the wheels, uncapped the sledge-runners, put on our skis, and took off – down, north, onward, into that silent vastness of fire and ice that said in enormous letters of black and white DEATH, DEATH, written right across a continent. The sledge pulled like a feather, and we laughed with joy.
Young writers ages 13-18
If you are not yet a member of Write the World, please create an account
to submit your entry.
600 – 1,000 words
is an author based in North London. Her debut YA novel Oh My Gods
was published by Scholastic UK in January 2019. When she isn't writing teen fiction, Sheppard is a freelance social media strategist with experience on dozens of award-winning campaigns.
- Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
- Runner up: $50
- Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, June 10th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
June 3: Competition Opens
June 10: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
June 14: Reviews returned to Writers
June 18: Final Submissions Due
June 28: Winners Announced
Our Song Writing Competition opens Monday, July 1st.
Stay tuned for more details!