Monday, April 01, 2013

Books read in 2013: No. 18 -- Writing Fantasy Heroes

edited by Jason M. Waltz

Started: March 31
Finished: April 1

Notes: It's been at least a couple of years since publisher Rogue Blades Entertainment has released a new work, so I was more than delighted when this book recently came out, especially as it's almost as if it is written for me, the fantasy writer. Inside are supposedly ruminations and ramblings about heroes, fantasy heroes, and writing such characters. Also, the names of those who provided material for this collection are quite impressive, and should be recognizable to fantasy writers and fans:

Steven Erikson
Janet Morris
Brandon Sanderson
Cat Rambo
Glen Cook
Orson Scott Card
Cecelia Holland
Jennifer Brozek
Ari Marmell
Paul Kearney
Ian C. Esslemont

Mini review: Okay, this book should be mandatory for anyone writing or wanting to write epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, adventure fantasy, Sword & Sorcery ... whatever you want to call the various sub-genres of fantasy that tend to be action oriented. Despite the title, a number of the essays here are not strictly about the nuts and bolts of fantasy writing. Such articles are not going to inform beginners on specifics of how to write, nor how to become a bestselling fantasy author, but by following the advice within, one's craft of writing will be improved along with one's chances of becoming a bestselling author. Nor does this book outline the history of adventure fantasy literature, mainly because it should not be needed; the authors and their work presented here are themselves the history of such fiction, and fantasy readers and fans should become familiar with such work (if not already). What is here is a fairly wide range of topics, from intellectual discussion concerning heroes and heroics to what particular authors feel works or does not work within their writings (and to some extent the writings of others). The authors give examples from their own works to make their points, providing the reader with direct results of the topics discussed. Keep in mind, this is a book of advice, not necessarily a book of schooling, though there are a handful of articles pointedly about the craft of fantasy writing, with different looks at various devices that can be utilized to strengthen a story. In the introduction, fantasy author Steven Erikson suggests it is "between the lines that you will find the hard truths." Erikson's words are never truer than here (and this is a man who writes of monumental truths). It was often not the main subject matter of each of these articles which enthralled me, but the underlying themes, the things not being said directly, the little idiosyncrasies of the individual authors, the way they discuss their craft seemingly from a distance while also being quite up close and personal with it. Yeah, yeah, I realize it sounds like I'm off in la-la land or something, and this is difficult for me to describe, but it was often the subtexts which interested me here, the little details, but maybe that's because I'm a writer. For beginners, this should probably not be their first book about writing, because that nuts-and-bolts stuff needs to be covered beforehand (in my opinion). But when a writer feels ready to think deeply about his or her characters, when a writer is ready to truly sink into the thematic materials of what she or he has penned, when a writer is ready to openly, blatantly and honestly discuss heroes and the heroic, this book is what should be turned to. I know it gave me a few things to think about.


Charles Gramlich said...

Excellent. I'm gonna order this one right away. I forgot it when I made my order the other night, though I was intending to get it.

Ty Johnston said...

Charles, I don't think you'll be disappointed.