Guide to Writing Fantasy

I heard recently that eighty-one percent of Americans believe they have a book in them. I believe if you polled fantasy fans, that number would be in the nineties. And I'm just talking novels, I'm not including all the movie and TV screenplays we have in mind. It's one of the best aspects of being science fiction and fantasy fans: you live a big chunk of your life in your imagination.

But, ask anyone who has ever tried to write fantasy, and he or she will tell you. It ain't easy. How do you make a fantasy world? How do I make up a type of magic that doesn't seem stupid? How do I make interesting characters? And on, and on, and on.

Well, now there's help. The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy is a collection of nineteen essays on the craft of writing, the business of writing, and what you need to know to write intelligent fantasy.

The book begins, appropriately, with an overview of the history of fantasy, making it clear that fantasy comes from a rich tradition dating back hundreds of years, and not simply starting with Frodo and the magic ring. The history of fantasy includes King Arthur, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and the ancient myths of every land and culture.

The next several chapters focus on the craft of writing fantasy, with chapters focusing on Characterization, World Building, and Race Creation, among others. Of course, many of the lessons applied here can just as easily be applied to writing in general.

The middle chapters consist of beginning reference materials specifically for the fantasy author. Since many, many fantasy novels take place in a medieval/feudal setting, there are chapters dedicated to medieval clothing, food, and medicine. The chapters give information of these topics in a real-world historical sense, and also include ideas as to how they may differ in a fantasy setting. How would people's diets be different of foods could be imported by magic? What if foods could be made to last by means of mystical refrigeration? They teach the reality, giving a proper jumping place to dive into the unreal.

Then come the fun chapters. The Errol Flynn, Hercules and Xena, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Blade chapters. Combat, Martial Arts and Fantasy, Arms and Armor. Don't know the difference between a pistol and a musket? A cuirass and a gorget? Jeet Kune Do and Tae Kwon Leap? These chapters are for you.

The essays finish off with Humor in Fantasy, Research, and Market Resources. Following Market Resources is a list of the authors who have contributed to the book.

But the big question is, of course, whether or not the book will help you write your big fantasy novel? Yes, it will. I, like most fantasy fans, has a book in mind. This book has given me several helpful pushes in the right direction. Can't ask for more than that.

The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy
     edited by Darin Park and Tom Dullemond
Published by: Dragon Moon Press; July 2003

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

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