Thursday, March 7, 2013

Islands & Fantasy

I recently stumbled across an intriguing lecture series on iTunes regarding islands—their history, their culture, and even their atmosphere. This led me to think, what is the connection between islands in fantasy? What fantasy stories contain islands? What are the pros and cons of using islands in your own story-world? These are questions I’ll explore in today’s blog post.

First, some pros of using islands in your story:
  • Writing a world set on islands is a fairly unique choice. There are other examples of island fantasies, like Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Chronicles or C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader or Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice. However, on the whole, islands are an untapped treasure mine for fantasies.
  • The setting of an island can provide a frame for the story to orient your readers and allow you to construct realistic limits on the action.
  • Island stories often include ships and pirates—always a good thing, in my opinion.
  • Islands are so very intriguing in our own world, and they develop such an interesting flavor and tradition all their own. Consider Ireland, England, Japan, Indonesia, or any other famous island in our world. Use these real-world islands as inspiration.
  • Islands provide many interesting cuisine options like sharp shellfish and seaweed. Can be quite interesting for detail and, perhaps, character squeamishness.

Now for some cons:
  • The most important drawback to an island fantasy is that it can be limited, not only geographically but also in terms of characters. If you do decide to use an island story, consider carefully whether you want your island(s) to appear in isolation or connected to/warring against a mainland for more variety.
  • Also, as with many other stories, an island setting will not save your story if you have a boring plot and clichĂ© characters. Islands can only do so much—you need to work out the rest yourself!

And that’s it for today, folks. What about you—have you ever written an island fantasy? What are some of your favorite island stories?

(Side note: My first book is coming soon on Monday, March 11. Stay tuned for the announcement!)


  1. Yay! Islands!

    Nearly ALL of my fantasy stories end up being island based. It adds a lot of variety and flavor to a novel, in my opinion. Also, I personally enjoy writing and reading sea battles. It's always fun to make your characters DESPERATELY need to get to island B, but then villain comes from island C and blows their ship to pieces. Hehe...

    Thanks for posting about this! I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes island fantasies. :)

    1. Kaycee, that's awesome! I definitely think we need way more island fantasy stories! It's so true that islands have a very distinct flavor to them that we writers can exploit :) . Sounds exciting!


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