Writing fantasy fiction is a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed it because you get to imagine anything you want, and then find ways to make it work. I mean, a lot of the time it would be much easier to not bother with the making it work part and just throw stuff on the page because it is so cool, but I found out the hard way that coolness without a foundation tends to falter. So you have to find the cool, with some rules.
So when I approach stories now, I start with the cosmology of the universe in which that story is set. It might never see the light of day, may never become important, but for me it needs to be there, the foundation upon which everything else rests. Like a turtle with elephants on its back. That kind of thing. Did those elephants ever get fed gigantic peanuts? And how did the turtle feel about their peeing and pooping on its shell? Wouldn’t that make their footing troublesome? Asking for a friend.
Anyway. The point is that fantasy offers up worlds of possibilities, and I love that I can have total control of the world from the dawn of creation on. It’s not that I’m a megalomaniac you understand. Not. At. All. In your own universe there’s no need to follow conventions or rules set by anyone else, all I have to do is create my own rules, and then try to be consistent. Until such time as a rule breaking or two may be fun. Dangerous road, that, do it wrong and you risk reader goodwill.
In universes I’ve fleshed out so far I’ve had pacts between law and chaos, an involuntary cosmic compromise (my favourite, but I’ve yet to find the story that works in that milieu), demons created because the gods were too lazy to do the boring stuff and were then surprised when their chosen servants decided they didn’t like doing the hard work either, and thus rebelled (as demons are wont to do). The World Belt’s cosmic origin is none of those things, by the way, it involves… well I can’t say. It does explain where the magic comes from though, and one day I may share it within the books.
And that for me is where the magic comes from in fantasy, the act of creation, of breathing life into situations that readers may at first find familiar, but possess enough twists of originality to hold their attention, hopefully!
A final word on cosmology – it is amazing how often in fantasy the origins or great powers in the universe do end up being important to the story, if not the primary antagonist. Evil Gods and Dark Lords a plenty populate fantasy. When you create a mythos it is hard not to create a big bad in the process, an ultimate whatever that may have to be defeated. But beware, once you wheel out the big bad and face him/her/it down there aren’t many other dramatic places to go afterwards. That’s why I think gigantic godly conflicts need to end a series, and be the final ending. Going back to a kitchen sink drama exploring how the protagonist’s marriage didn’t quite work out due to existential burn out having beaten the origin of evil in that universe and finding the flavor of ordinary life has quite faded… well maybe that would be worth doing! Or just, you know, go the classic route and ship out with the elves. Club Valinor, please!