• T. Mark Mangum

Become a Better Fantasy Fiction Writer

In this article, I will provide you, with ideas and methods that will help to exercise and challenge your imagination.

In this article, I will provide you, with ideas and methods that will help to exercise and challenge your imagination. To expanded and broaden your artistic horizon when it comes to writing fantasy and fiction tales.

I write fiction, I have to date published 17 Flash-Fiction or Very Short fiction stories on Medium, in 5 different Medium Publications and I am pursuing publication in two others. Please take a look at my work and tell me what you think.

I have exercised my imagination now for over 50 years, the difference between the boy who daydreamed in class and played Dungeons and Dragons all weekend with his friends and the man I am now is; today I actively exercise my imagination in a way that will result in, novel-length genera, fantasy-fiction stories, on shelves, at books stores virtual and physical.

“I have spoken. So, it shall be.”

Fiction is defined as; literature in the form of prose, especially short stories, and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.

Basically, any event, person, in any timeline, on any planet, or in any dimension, in any circumstance that can be imagined. You must not fear writing what you imagine. If it is whacky, out of this world, unheard of, or taboo. Write it!

In Fantasy Fiction writing, nothing is out of bounds when it comes to the who, what, where, when, Why, and how of a story. Remember the superhero, teenager, gaining his powers from an irradiated spider? Or the teenage girl, who is the reincarnated, space alien queen, who owns the Earth?

Let us get to the down and dirty How did I come up with Growler Ink’s Drug trafficking CEO or Growler Ink’s alternative storyline, the CEO who kidnaps, and harnesses the minds of writers, to create alternate realities through extradimensional portals? Where did the Native American Storyline of Hopes Dashed come from, or the Utopian vision of the story, New world?

The answer is Prompts. Prompts and the unbridled courage to put anything down on paper. Prompts, for me, and they can for you, cause the imagination’s creative juices to perk and flow.

I use prompts in a random and unique way, if I dare say so myself, let me explain.

One prompt style I use is a numbered list see the example below.

If I am feeling random, just to get me going, I grab my 20-sided die and let her fly. In the case of Hopes Dashed, I rolled and 20, Critical Hit! … I digress. Then I rolled an eight-sided die and got a 7. Now, if you’ve read, or when you read Hopes dashed, you will say, “Wait, that is a Modern Fiction Drama, not a historical western?” Right. Remember, this is exercising your imagination as well as challenging it.

The prompt is to kickstart the mind and start the process of words to paper. I started the story, but the western wasn’t coming through, so I took the element of Native Americans and kept rolling or writing.

Using Prompts to start a story is something we all have heard of. I will bet, some of you have tried it before. I received from the Random Prompt Generator, created by the publication, “The Weekly Knob”, See it here, “Mouse Pad” That prompt lead to the story “New World”. It started with a security guard, hand on the mouse, sitting on the mouse pad, click click click, from one security camera to the next, every move of the citizen watched day in day out. Ultimately the story morphed into the Utopian New World where citizens cheerfully participate in the monitoring of the cameras.

The Red book that I have on my desk, titled “Complete the Story”, by Picadilly USA Inc., gave me the prompt.

“They’re out there,” he told me. “Fields and fields of them. As far as the eye can see.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. He pointed to the horizon, and I looked, but all I could see was.”.

In the end that prompt became part of the “Palistade-9” story, about three quarters the way through, as shown below.

(“Captain look, it's fucking amazing, they’re out there,” He told me. “Fields and fields of them. As far as the eye can see.” Waving his arms about, I looked but all I could see were trees.)

When you use prompts. The prompts can spur the mind; you start to type, you think on it, type some more before you know it, if you lose the bonds of the imagination, you will be knee, I mean elbow, deep into the story before you know it.

In the case of the story “Talk to me 2037”, the writing prompt was from a writing contest, “a group of travelers leaves Japan in 2017, but they land in San Francisco in 2037”.

For the Story “Next in Line”, another writing contest, the prompt was the phrase “Next in Line”. The contest’s instructions were, produce a completed Flash-Fiction story in 24 hours.

So, I rolled the dice, got a 20. Woo Hoo! Critical hit! … But I digress. Remember 20 is Earth Historical Fiction, then I rolled my trusty 8-sided die and got a 6, War. I then went to my bookshelf where there be a shelf of historical War books before I went there however, I rolled a 6-sided die and got a 5. The fifth book on the shelf was “Images of a Lengthy War” by Joel D. Meyerson. In the completed story, the word Vietnam, and the era of the picture I selected to accompany the tale is all that there is pertaining to Vietnam. But the prompts sparked the imagination, the brain warmed up and the rest of the tale gathered around a young man being conscripted into the military, his trials, and the prompt “Next in Line”.

Prompts spur the imagination, kickstart the mind, loosen up the inhibitions, each prompt will spur a uniquely different story from each author. There were over 3000 entries in the writing competition for the story “talk to me 2037”. Not one of them read like mine.

Here is another unique prompt creator I use. Often, I will close my eyes after I get to a place in the house or yard. I will spin, stop, open my eyes and whatever I am looking at is my prompt.

Obviously, I have many stories that are not published or even working toward publication. But this prompt generator has helped me exercise my imagination plenty. That is the point of this article. The following excerpt is from a story that started from one of these “close-eyes — open-eyes” prompts.

“An empty black bookshelf sat against the wall next to the kitchen. Dan my Stepfather had boxed up all of my brother’s books a week after he went missing. Why he prefers an empty bookshelf over a full one, I’ll never understand. Why he spent his time there instead of out looking for him infuriates me.”

Sometimes, in the midst of a story I will do this, Close-eyes — open eyes prompt process, because life is random. So why not throw a random thing into the story and unclog the thought pipe that might lead to writer’s block. After all, there is an editing process and the red, 1994, Triumph 2000, Roadster that really doesn’t belong in the story, can come out as easily as it went in. However, I was stalled at the moment, not writing, just thinking. So, I looked up saw the classic car calendar and all the sudden words to screen were happening again. I circled back to the story in the Red Roadster and being back in the grove moved the story forward.

Challenging yourself to take stories in different directions is an excellent way to exercise the imagination. In “Growler Ink”, I asked the readers at the end of the story to select an ending theme, I gave four choices. I wrote the two most popular alternative endings, Growler ink #1 and Growler ink #2.

There exists an unpublished alternative ending for Under the Bridge. In that storyline, the heroine police officer trinity, come to save the boy on the ledge from suicide, commits suicide herself.

The challenge and exercise of taking a story down a completely different path than you intended, or to cause a character to do the out of character thing, is a massively productive exercise and challenge for the writer’s imagination.

I have illustrated for you several unique ways to come up with writing exercise to exercise your imagination. Now I challenge you to use them. Get to writing, Author!

“So, let it be written, So let it be done.” Ramesses pharaoh of Egypt, Disney.


Become a Better Fantasy Fiction Writer is also published in the Medium online publication Great Writing Tips. Please consider joining Medium as a paid subscriber

. When you read my stories on Medium I get paid.

Copyright: T. Mark Mangum, 2020. All rights reserved. No part of my story may be copied, reprinted, or published without my written consent.

T. Mark Mangum, is the product of the 60s and 70s, his imagination, wonder, thoughts, and ponderings, emboldened by Star Trek, Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, and The Hobbit. He loves a good story and hopes you will love reading his stories. Veteran, Father, TTRPG, and Board Game Junkie. He spent 20 years in the United States Army, another 10 working for the government, before realizing he should write.

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