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?