by thefourpartland

Last Friday, I was asked to write a guest post for Thomas Knight on fantasy architecture, for his 29 Days of Fantasy event. Writing it was a blast, and here’s an excerpt from it.

You’ve all seen Lord of the Rings, right? (If you haven’t, go watch all three, and come back tomorrow. You’ll thank me). Now, most people think about the story, the sweeping epic tale of victory through perseverance. I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about something a little duller: Architecture. Specifically, Fantasy Architecture.

In Lord of the Rings, it mostly lives in the background, created through the use of brilliant fantasy art and CG. And in fantasy stories, that’s all too often where it lives – the background. And if it’s not in the background, it’s architecture that looks Asian or European, architecture that draws on landscapes and vistas taken from the medieval world.

In both cases, the author is missing out on a wonderful opportunity to create a mood, a feeling that carries throughout the novel. Take modern architectural design – a well traveled person can look at a city and see exactly where he or she is. And that’s how architecture should be used in fantasy as well.

Here’s some fantasy art that conveys much of what I’m looking for. Yes, I know, it’s a boat, not a building. But it’s unique, and different, and I bought that book (and read it) based on just the cover. And while the architecture of your fantasy society might not sit on the cover of your book, once the reader turns to the first page, you can be damn sure it’s going to make an impression.

Okay, great, you’re saying. Architecture matters. But I’m not an architect and I haven’t got a clue how a building is designed. And it doesn’t matter. It’s called fantasy for a reason. The construction process doesn’t need to be described in detail, the building doesn’t need to pass contemporary safety codes, and the author shouldn’t let fine detail cramp a good story.

So, you want to do that. You want architecture that fits the story without taking too much space. First step – for each culture, pick one or two words or phrases that describe their architectural design. As an example, I’ll use ‘Open’ and ‘Windy’. (I’m cheating, by the way. I already built this culture). ‘Open’ – most contemporary architecture uses this to mean open plan, but think a little outside the box – remove walls. So every building has no exterior walls, aside from some grass mats that can be rolled down in a storm.

To read the rest, just click on through.


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