The Dark Tower, Creating a Fantasy World

Though Stephen King has long been known as the master of horror, his other series took on a totally different genre. The Dark Tower series mixes fantasy and western with a dash of sci-fi and horror, creating an epic eight book series.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” It’s an iconic line and the perfect start to an adventure.

It Started With a Book

The Dark Tower series started in 1982. The first four books came out every four to six years. A near death experience pushed that timeline up. In 1999, Stephen King was hit by a minivan and almost died. He decided to quickly finish the epic saga and published the final three books in 2003 and 2004.

King has described the series as his magnum opus. Many characters from the series have even appeared in his other stories, tying together a shared multiverse.

The series describes a “gunslinger” and his quest toward a tower. The tower is both physical and metaphorical. King found inspiration in the Robert Browning poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. The full poem was included in the final volume’s appendix. Lord of the Rings and Arthurian legend also played a part in inspiring the author.

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Bringing the Dark Tower to Big and Little Screens

Many of Stephen King’s books have been adapted. IT has a new big screen version coming out this year. Hollywood has long tried to adapt The Dark Tower, but it was a challenge that continually failed. That finally changes this year.

Not only will a big screen film hit theaters, a television show is also in the works. The two will work together, telling different parts of this grand story.

The film adaptation takes elements from novels one and three, The Gunslinger and The Waste Lands, while also incorporating plot details from the final book of the series. It is an adaptation, a sequel and something new all at once.

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In an interview with IndieWire, director Nikolaj Arcel explained that his film is an introduction to the franchise even as it is also a sequel. The television series will be “totally canon” in how it adapts the events from the first and fourth novels:

“It’s being written… I was part of writing the pilot, like the first season ideas and the pilot and the second episode. It’s gonna be awesome. What was exciting about that, whereas with the film, we were really trying to create an introduction and make a standalone film that could sort of live in itself, but what was also exciting, working on the TV show at the same time, is that is totally canon. We’re going back in the past. It’s very, very closely adhering to the Wizard and Glass novel and parts of The Gunslinger novel. That was exciting to be even more like, ‘Okay, now we’re going to be able to even lift lines directly, or like [write] characters exactly as they are.’ Which, as a fan, was exciting in a different way.”

Create Your Own Dark Tower

The tower is the center point of much of the story. A stronghold, castle or tower is the headquarters of a character, their home, a place to defend. Some towers have flowing edges that stretch into the sky. Other towers have hard edges with no clear entry. You can decide what type of tower best fits the story you’re making.

1: Sketch the Basic Forms
When working with architecture or any man-made structure, it’s important to start with the basic geometric forms. Keep the form basic and simple so you can make sure all the lines are in the right place.

2: Refine the Shapes
Refine the outside form and shapes for the winding stairs. Sketch the jagged edges of this mountainous tower. Add the shapes for the door and window.

3: Block in Shadows
You can sculpt a clay reference or look at a good reference photo. Pay attention to where the light hits your reference. Block in the shapes for the shadows. Remember to erase the sketched guidelines as you go.

4: Shade the Tower
Fill in the shadow shapes you just drew. Use variety in the shadows to help add a sense of depth to the form. As you continue shading, add little details such as arrow slits on the top balcony. When adding shading to the stairs, you don’t have to draw each individual step. Simply implying the stairs is enough.

5: Block in the Trees
Start by blocking in the general shape of the trees. Make sure to place one set in front of the tower and one set in the back to define the size of the tower in relationship to the trees around it.

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6: Finishing Touches
Shade in the trees. Imply leaves and branch shapes without drawing individual leaves. If your tower is in a fantasy world, add more fantastic elements such as a dragon flying around the tower. Don’t be afraid to be creative in making this your own image.


You can find more great drawing instruction in Mastering Fantasy Art by John Stanko.


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