Okay, class, today we’re going to have a little quiz. What do the following writers have in common: Alex, Bledsoe, Jennifer Brozek, Orson Scott Card, Glen Cook, Steven Erickson, Ian C. Esslemont, Cecelia Holland, Howard Andrew Jones, Paul Kearney, Ari Marmell, Janet and Chris Morris, Cat Rambo, Brandon Sanderson, and C. L. Werner?
I’m sorry, but while the list includes some of the best fantasy writers working in the field today, that in and of itself is not the answer. Rather all of the writers have essays in the new writing book, Writing Fantasy Heroes from small press Rogue Blades Entertainment.
The book is a treasure trove of useful information. It’s not a how-to manual on writing basics, such as sentence and paragraph construction, or the difference between active and passive voice. Instead, it’s designed to help the aspiring author take their fiction to the next level, that of something saleable.
Here are some of the topics. Howard Andrew Jones discusses how to take a pair of adventurers and make them more interesting than a couple of stock characters out of central casting, imbuing them with personality and individuality.
Paul Kearney discusses the logistics of battles. Not the parry and thrust aspect so much as the here’s what has to happen for a battle to take place, what happens in the camp, how the troops relate to each other, and why battles aren’t glorious to the men caught in the middle of them.
Brandon Sanderson takes us step by step through blocking out a fight scene, beginning with one poorly done and revising it several times to show one that fully engages the reader.
Ian C. Esslemont shows us how to show, not tell with a couple of examples. Another way of looking at this essay would be deciding how much detail and background is too much.
C. L. Werner gives us the monster’s point of view and explains why it’s important. And good monsters are a key ingredient in many sword and sorcery tales.
Alex Bledsoe reveals what distinguishes a mature hero from a young hothead. This is a topic of increasing interest as I grow older, for some reason.
Glen Cook stresses why the unexpected is important and how to use it effectively.
Those are some of the topics covered. There are others. Each essay includes examples from the author’s own works. (This was an editorial requirement, not a case of the contributors trying to toot their own horns.) I liked this approach for two reasons. The contributors showed that they knew what they were talking about and were able to practice what they preached. The other reason was that I found some new authors whose works I’m going to be seeking out.
I know a great many visitors to the Amazing Stories® blog either write or aspire to. If you’re one of these, and you want to write heroic fantasy of any variety, then you should consider purchasing and studying this book. Even if you aren’t interested in heroic fantasy, much of the advice contained herein is applicable to other genres.
I said “study” in the previous paragraph because that’s how this book will probably be most useful. Writing Fantasy Heroes is not so much a book to be read from cover to cover, but a reference, something to return to as the need arises. As such, every author, established or aspiring, should check it out. There’s enough good advice here from some of the top fantasy authors active today that you should be able to find something valuable within its pages.
My copy of Fiction River didn’t arrive in time for me to make deadline this week, so I’ll review that book next week.