Seeing strangeness in fantasy writing

Monday, September 3, 2018
Leanne Hall interviewed by Amelia Theodorakis

a portrait of Leanne Hall
Leanne Hall

The line between fantasy and reality can be fertile ground for writers. Ahead of her workshop, we spoke to Leanne Hall about seeing magic in everyday life, responding to strangeness and getting in touch with your inner weirdo.

If we look for it, there's space to find magic in everyday life. What do you think writers find attractive about blending fantasy and surrealism into the everyday?

I can only speak for myself, and maybe it’s the same thing for other writers. I experience everyday life as quite fantastical and surreal of itself. Whenever I see an entire tram scrolling on their phones I think of zombies. I have quite poor night vision, so if I’m in a car at night, I’m always seeing strange things on the side of the road in the corner of my eye.

In your upcoming workshop 'Reality and Fantasy in Fiction', you'll cover how to balance realistic and fantastical elements in stories. What are some common problems people face when they start writing stories involving magical/fantastical elements?

Writing magic is difficult. Writing uncanny occurrences and non-rational events is really difficult! Some people have trouble visualising it or feeling it in their bodies or imagining what a character could be thinking and how they would respond to strangeness. Fantastical elements don’t often come as a first-thought thing, but they are really fun to play around with.

World-building is a big part of any fantasy story. How do you personally start this process?

 I don’t build the world from the get-go, as a pre-writing step. I build it as I go, on a needs basis. Each location gets added as my characters need it to be there. I do really like to collect lots of visual references and pin them up around my computer. Images help, and I find picking music that suits the tone and atmosphere of my world also helps.

What single piece of advice would you give to a writer who wants to start writing fantasy?

My advice about any kind of writing is to read a lot, and read widely, and this applies to fantasy writing as well. I like to read really widely because I’m constantly discovering writers who are doing things with words I wasn’t aware you could do! I think getting in touch with your inner weirdo, your kooky side, through whatever means, can help.

About Leanne Hall

Leanne Hall is the author of two novels for young adults: the Text Prize-winning ‘This Is Shyness’ and its sequel ‘Queen of the Night’. Leanne has had shorter pieces published in ‘Meanjin’, ‘The Age’, ‘Best Australian Stories’ and the anthology ‘Growing Up Asian In Australia’. Her work plays with the borders of reality and fantasy.

About Amelia Theodorakis

Amelia Theodorakis is a Writers Victoria Program volunteer, and a Melbourne-based writer working on her first poetry collection. You can check out her poetry on her website