Sunday, July 06, 2014

Resources for Fantasy Writers

A writer's world will influence the stories that they write. The books they read, people they meet, and places they visit will provide details that color the narrative. Fantasy writing is no different. Fantasy writers can benefit by taking advantage of the many resources available to them. A variety of books can help them craft the perfect story.

Pay attention to the people around you, especially when it comes to dialogue. Listening to the natural rhythms of speech patterns can help you learn to develop realistic characters. Every character should have their own unique voice, so begin to notice what is unique about the people you encounter.

No matter what you enjoy writing, it is important to read as much as possible. One of the best ways to learn about a particular genre is to immerse yourself in it. Study the books that you read rather than just becoming immersed in the plot. Seek out new fantasy authors to see how they have created their stories. What do you love about them? What do you hate? What ideas seem to be overdone? How does the writer develop the characters and plot? Knowing what is already out there can help inspire you to do something new and different with your writing.

A quick Google search can bring up a variety of other resources. From manuscript guidelines to name generators, there is something out there for everyone. One of my favorite places to start is with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America:
http://www.sfwa.org/writing/

There are many books out there on the subject of fantasy writing, but a handful of them particularly stand out to me. Here are my top four choices that fantasy writers should have on their bookshelves:

1. "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card
Card's book, like his writing, is geared more towards Science Fiction, but I believe that fantasy writers can get just as much out of this book. Card is especially helpful in the topics of world building and character development. Make sure that your fantasy world has rules!

2. "The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel" by Diana Wynne Jones
This is one of the most hilarious books on fantasy cliches that you can get. I recommend it to fantasy readers and writers alike! It is structured in the form of the encyclopedia and uses humor and wit to make its point. Any writer who wants to avoid writing the same cliches that have plagued fantasy in the past should make sure this is a part of their collection.

3. "The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference"
This book is from the editors of the Writer's Digest Books, and contains chapter ranging from "Magic" to "Dress and Costume" to "Anatomy of a Castle." While it can work to create your own world with its unique rules, you may reach more readers by using some of the conventions of the genre. Rules are meant to be broken, but you have to know what the rules are first. This book can help you determine how authors traditionally use fantastical elements.

4. "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White
While not specifically on fantasy writing, every author should have a style guide in their reference collection. No matter what genre you write, proper grammar is important. Have this reference on hand! A good dictionary and thesaurus can also help, although alternatives are readily available online.

The most important thing in any type of writing is practice. Continue to write, rewrite, and get critiques on your work. This is the best way to develop your skills and style. Writing fantasy well takes time and patience, but it is a rewarding pursuit.

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