Monday, July 2, 2012

TOTW: Craft Books for Fantasy Writers


I recently tried my hand at a mystery story, and asked around for recommendations of books specifically devoted to the crafting and structure of mystery stories. I discovered dozens, which spurred me to ask my fellow Inkies what books they love that are similarly devoted to writing fantasy fiction. As you see below, I struck gold! Here are their recommendations:

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card (Miriam Forster): “A great breakdown of the boundaries and challenges of writing speculative fiction. It explains the differences between science fiction and fantasy, how ideas and worldbuilding develop and gives some great tips for how to keep the rules of your world straight.”

Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy by Crawford Kilian (Phillipa Bayliss): “Loads of most excellent advice. Kilian's information is on-line, too, and well worth searching. I'd recommend him over Orson Scott Card and I think Card is a genius.”

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones (Jennifer Nielsen): “[A] great book on the cliches of fantasy writing. It's a very entertaining A-Z travel guide through fantasyland, where all elves sing beautifully, the villainy of a character can be determined by the color of his clothes, and why the all-knowing mentor will only give out cryptic clues. This is a very informative book for fantasy writers determined to be creative in their writing.”
Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks (Miriam Forster). “My absolute favorite writing book of all time. He talks about his career and his writing process. At one point he gives you some basic storytelling principles, like "The strength of the protagonist is measured by the strength of the antagonist" and my favorite "Don't bore the reader."”
 
The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. (Deva Fagan): “This isn't so much of a writing craft book, but it's one I find inspirational when struggling with the act of writing. It includes interviews with Lloyd Alexander, Franny Billingsley, Brian Jacques, Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen and others. I was particularly grateful to read the interview with Lloyd Alexander in which he talked about having to entirely re-write one of his manuscripts, because at the time I had just embarked on doing the same with my own second novel! The interviews provide both fascinating insights into some of the most beloved and talented authors of our time, and inspiring and informative advice.”

The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell (Lisa Amowitz): “Hero's Journey is something that felt so familiar to me---the archtypical storyline we all seem to have embedded in us. To see it mapped out so clearly was a revelation to me.”

 Talent is Not Enough by Mollie Hunter (Amy Greenfield): “An older book that has many wise things to say about writing fantasy, especially for younger readers. (The title comes from her paraphrasing of an Emerson quote: "Talent is not enough; there must be a person behind the book.")”
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler (Patricia J. Hoover): “This is my number one book recommendation always because: (1) It has mythology at the root of it (and mythology is awesome!), (2) It takes The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell and makes it so much simpler, (3) It uses examples that I can relate to which helps form a better picture for learning in my mind, (4) I can picture some of my favorite stories broken down into pieces (like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Odyssey, etc)."

The Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore (Amy Greenfield): “Packed with entries on everything from "abandonment" to "Cat Maiden" to "zombie." Not an in-depth guide to these subjects, but wonderful for browsing and brainstorming.”

Reflections by Diana Wynne Jones (currently available in the UK, US edition forthcoming September 2012) (Kate Coombs): “It’s a collection of DWJ’s essays and talks about writing. Naturally, it's wise and witty, pungent and pithy. The best quote so far is for young writers: "Most teachers will tell you that you need to make a careful plan of your story before you start. This is because most teachers do not write stories."”

Some Inkies also had favorite books to recommend that, while not specifically focused on fantasy, they’ve found as useful for fantasy as for any other genre: On Writing by Stephen King (Lisa G. Green, Lisa Amowitz), Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (Lisa G. Green), Don’t Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden (Hilari Bell), The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (Amy Greenfield), Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott (Lisa Amowitz), and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (Jacqueline West).

So check out these books - or, if you already have, tell us what you thought of them! And what other craft books specific to writing fantasy would you recommend?

17 comments:

  1. yellowbrickreads.comOctober 6, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    found this post through Book Aunt. Great list. Looking forward to getting my teeth into Reflectons

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  2. Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin isn't strictly for fantasy writers, but I suspect some of this blog's readers would really enjoy it. It provides many exercises, which gives it a playful tone. I often use it with students, and I love to turn to it when I'm feeling stuck.

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  3. I remember getting my mom to pre-order The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as soon as I heard it was coming back into print and I remember it getting passed around to a lot of my friends in high school, which such amusing entries it was fun to read even if you weren't thinking of writing anything. And thanks for the heads up about Reflections, I had not heard about this one and shall have to grab that as well!

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  4. I'm a total craft book junkie, so I was excited to see some titles in this list I hadn't heard of. Off to check them out!

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  5. I have The Wand in the Wood--it's wonderful.

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  6. That & the Tough Guide to Fantasyland were actually the only ones I had heard of before I did this post. I'm glad you found it both helpful and affirming. ;)

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  7. I just looked that one up and it looks amazing. Thank you!

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  8. I ran right over here to shout about Orson Scott Card's book, only to see it's the first on your list! I feel very smug now. This is a great list! There are some on here I haven't read, I'm going to have to look into it.

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  9. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine! It's sitting next to several of these on my shelf.

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  10. You're welcome! And I'm putting The Wand in the Word on my TBR list too.

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  11. I think that's going to be the next one I read, too!

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  12. Oops, you're right! Fixing now. Thank you.

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  13. Wait, wait, wait, I thought Reflections was coming out in the US THIS September. Can anyone confirm or deny?

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  14. So, I didn't even make it to the end of this post before I went and ordered "The Wand in the Word." Thanks for all the fabulous recommendations! I'll be perusing all of these (all the ones I don't already have, that is!).

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  15. Thanks for sharing these recommendations, Leah! I can't wait to read the ones I don't know, and to re-read some I do (like Wand in the World, which I remember as being wonderful, but had forgotten till Deva mentioned it).

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  16. Thank you, Natalie! And I agree, that is a great idea for a post. Maybe we can get a "research books" post up later this summer.

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  17. Thanks for sharing all the books. Many I hadn't heard of and will check them out. I'd love to know any research books you all use like the folklore one to get ideas as you are doing your world building. Maybe you can do a post on that sometime.

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