Fantasy heroes endure. They are embedded in our cultural fabric, dwarfing other literary figures and the mere men and women of history. Achilles and Odysseus, Gilgamesh and Beowulf. King Arthur and Robin Hood, Macbeth and Sherlock Holmes, Conan and Luke Skywalker. They dominate our legends, and tower over popular culture.
The stories we tell each other begin and end with fantasy heroes, and the 21st Century is as thoroughly captivated with them as ever. From Batman to Gandalf, Harry Potter to Tyrion Lannister, the heroes of fantasy speak to—and for—whole generations.
But what makes a fantasy hero? How do the best writers create them, and bring them to life on the page? In WRITING FANTASY HEROES some of the most successful fantasy writers of our time--Steven Erikson, C.L. Werner, Brandon Sanderson, Janet & Chris Morris, Cecelia Holland, Alex Bledsoe, Jennifer Brozek, Ian C. Esslemont, Orson Scott Card, Ari Marmell, Cat Rambo, Howard Andrew Jones, Paul Kearney and Glen Cook--pull back the curtain to reveal the secrets of creating heroes that live and breathe, and steal readers' hearts.
Whether you're an aspiring writer or simply a reader who loves great fantasy and strong characters, this book is for you.
Uneven but strong overall. In depth review to come. And here it is.
The Hero in Your Blood, Janet Morris and Chris Morris: Something about finding your inner hero? I didn't take away anything practical from this. 1/5
The Heroic Will, Cecelia Holland: Better, talking about the hero's indomitable will. Again, though, not a very practical piece. 2/5
Taking a Stab at Writing Sword and Sorcery, Ian C. Esslemont: Now we're talking! Ian discusses world-building, and how to show and not tell, by going through several drafts of the same passage, improving it each time. 5/5
Writing Cinematic Fight Scenes, Brandon Sanderson: Exactly what it says on the tin. Sanderson also goes through a passage (a fight scene) and improves it step by step, explaining exactly what he's doing. 5/5
Watching from the Sidelines, Cat Rambo: Cat discusses the merits of telling a story from the perspective of a bystander, rather than the actual hero. Not bad, but it didn't click with me. 3/5
Man Up: Making your Hero an Adult, Alex Bledsoe: Alex discusses the benefits of writing an older, experienced character, instead of the Luke Skywalkers and Harry Potters. 4/5
Two Sought Adventure, Howard Andrew Jones: Howard discusses adventuring teams and partners, using examples from Star Trek and his own stories. Amusing excerpts and useful information. 4/5
Monsters - Giving the Devils their Due, C.L. Werner: Herr Werner discusses the benefits of creating creepy, intimidating monsters through description (or a deliberate lack of same). 4/5
NPCs are People Too, Jennifer Brozek: Jennifer describes the proper usage of, and importance of, background and supporting characters, with plenty of examples and a few techniques to help you create your own Non-Player Characters. 5/5
Tropes of the Trade, Ari Marmell: Ari explains the difference between cliches and the proper usage of fantasy tropes, i.e. the Dark Lord. He also shows you the good ways to use tropes without accidentally falling into cliche. 5/5
So You Want to Fight a War, Paul Kearney:Must read! Paul describes the logistics you'll have to consider if you want to write about a war between fantastic armies. It is a hell of a lot more difficult than setting up the armies and throwing them at one another. 5/5
Shit Happens in the Creation of Story, Including Unexpected Deaths, with Ample Digressions and Curious Asides, Glen Cook: Glen talks about the utility of, as Raymond Chandler put it, sending a man with a gun flying into the room. This includes talking about things like characters who pop up out of nowhere, and characters who end up dying suddenly. 4/5
The Reluctant Hero, Orson Scott Card: Mr. Card talks about three different types of heroes (heroes who seek to be heroic, circumstantial heroes, and reluctant heroes), focusing on the latter and drilling down into what makes a hero selfless. If you want to write a selfless hero, this could be useful for you. 3/5
Writing Fantasy Heroes Envision this as a transcript of 14 enthusiastic panelists at a Convention as they tackle the topic "Fantasy Heroes." Would it be worth the price of a book (~$10) to get the transcript of this panel of authors (Orson Scott Card, Brian Sanderson, Steve Erikson, Glen Cook, Janet & Chris Morris, Ian Esslemont, Paul Kearney, Howard Andrew Jones...etc.) ? Heck, yes!
All key elements are tackled within, from the origins of heroes, their motivations, reader expectations, presentation strategies for fight scenes, handling armies, crafting monsters, and amplifying the "epic-ness" via side characters; there is even a chapter on how to balance tropes/clichés, and an entertaining reminder to keep the pressure on the heroes by drowning them in a sea of scat/stool/egestion. Only one contribution of the 14 was disappointing, it reading more of an advertisement rather than providing advice (>75% of that chapter's words was an excerpt). The majority were excellent, concise reads that deliver on what it promises: advice from the pro's.
As the authors dissect their own writing in their case studies, you will find it easier to dissect your own writing. Is your hero too powerful to ever struggle? Are your fight scenes too abstract to engage the reader? Would your hero appear more like a legend if you described him/her via "distant" perspectives (from third party villagers)?
Overall really interesting although some of the essays are much better than others.
The Hero in Your Blood, Janet Morris and Chris Morris: 1/5 Long list of one liners taken from mythology interspersed with a lot of self-important tripe.
The Heroic Will, Cecelia Holland: 2/5 90% excerpts from one of the author's books. Not bad but not what this anthology is about.
Taking a Stab at Writing Sword and Sorcery, Ian C. Esslemont: 5 big stars out of 5 A discussion of the old adage "show don't tell" in which Ian makes some great points in an entertaining, clear and informative way. The fact that the Malazan series (which he co-authored with Steven Erikson) is infamous for its telling nothing made this all the more interesting to read for me.
Writing Cinematic Fight Scenes, Brandon Sanderson: 5/5 This one starts from the (hopefully) worst action sequence ever written and then improves it with a step-by-step method, every time explaining the choices made by the author, the goal he's attempting to achieve and the tools he uses to do so.
Watching from the Sidelines, Cat Rambo: 3/5 Discussing the possibility of narrating the story from the PoV of a minor player. Not bad but gets repetitive and overuses excerpts from the author's works.
Man Up: Making your Hero an Adult, Alex Bledsoe: 5/5 Another one I really liked. Bledsoe analyzes the necessary differences in behaviour and characterization between a young hero and a rugged veteran. Interesting and really funny to read.
Two Sought Adventure, Howard Andrew Jones: 4/5 An essay on characters group-dynamics, in particular discussing the relationship between main and secondary or co-protagonists
Monsters - Giving the Devils their Due, C.L. Werner: 3/5 The importance of giving "the monster" a good presentation. Makes a valid point but not really memorable.
NPCs are People Too, Jennifer Brozek: 3/5 Creating vivid minor characters can really improve a story, as Jennifer says in this essay. One thing I didn't like is that she tends to focus too much on the details, losing contact with the bigger picture. (and the "eavesdrop on people" part was slightly creepy)
Tropes of the Trade, Ari Marmell: 4/5 Tropes can be good if used correctly and this essay attempts to prove it.
So You Want to Fight a War, Paul Kearney: 4/5 This one makes some really valid points about the importance of logistics in a military campaing, a detail often overlooked by fantasy writers.
Shit Happens in the Creation of Story, Including Unexpected Deaths, with Ample Digressions and Curious Asides, Glen Cook: 5/5 Weird as fuck but another personal favorite. Glenn explains how throwing random stuff into the story every once in a while can make it a lot better.
The Reluctant Hero, Orson Scott Card: 2/5 I'm probably biased because I don't know OSC as an author but only as a crazy fundamentalist jerkbag, but this essay felt flattish, overconfident in the author's own literary prowess and at times a lil' bit disturbing. A man saving 10000 people is a hero, but a man saving 10000 people and his girlfriend is just trying to preserve his favorite hole? (Or, as the author puts it: his main squeeze, his primary reproductive opportunity) Wait, what?
This guide is composed of short essays from a variety of fantasy writers and includes advice on several aspects of building a story, including developing a hero, using minor characters effectively, etc. The essays are uniformly short and read a bit like a collection of blog entries, casual and chatty in tone.
The first two essays were among the weakest, for me, because they read like extended advertisements for the author's works, including massive quotes from the author's existing works highlighting their main character in the middle of battling various foes followed with brief suggestions that amounted to "heroes act like that." Later on, other essayists mention that part of their brief included using their own works as examples, so this seems to be a weakness built in by the editor.
While initially purchased because of the implied focus on the main character, I found the strongest sections to be those that both veered from that focus and included less wholesale quoting. Since the reader's interest in the topics will vary, the variety of topics is helpful and appreciated. Among my favories were the essays on making an adult hero (in terms of maturity) and Glen Cook's celebration of the unexpected element. These read like entertaining convention discussions with pithy reminders of things to watch out for and to allow.
The shortness of each section makes it perfect for keeping close at hand for reference when stuck.
It's hard to rate a collection of essays that vary in quality from really poor to outstanding, so I gave it a middling rating... however, some of the essays have some real gems of inspiration and this makes the book good for aspiring authors (such as myself). The first three essays were particularly poor, and read like vanity pieces showcasing how much the author likes their own work. Those essays had more excepts from their novels than substance. A quote should be used to illustrate hard to understand concepts... otherwise, the quote is unnecessary. Most of the quotes in those essays could be safely skipped - they illustrated concepts that were not difficult to understand in the first place. Cat Rambo's section (the fifth essay) was probably the worst at this.
The essays by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Andrew Jones, and Alex Bledsoe, were good essays with clear points and easy to use tips. Also they referenced other stories beside their own, making it seem like less of a vanity piece. I understand the editor wanted them to reference their own work, which is fine, but they used other works to prove that their way was supported by greater and more famous works. The last three essays were particularly good.
Having read this entire book now, Chris Morris and I feel that we can comment on the other authors' contributions. We found this volume of essays to be at times insightful and always useful. Whether you are a professional curious about other viewpoints, or a hopeful looking for guidance, you will find value in this anthology of short essays. We were particularly struck by the degree of consensus in similar topics tackled be several writers independently. -- Janet E. Morris and Christopher Crosby Morris
A very nice collection of essays on how to write fantasy heroes. There are some really big name writers, such as Glen Cook, Orson Scott Card, Janet Morris, and Brandon Sanderson, and some others that folks outside the genre might not recognize. I got something out of all the articles, though, and also discovered a couple of new writers whose work I want to try out now. Perhaps my favorite piece in the book was "Tropes of the Trade," by Ari Marmell. Good stuff overall, though.
I'm giving this book four stars because I enjoyed pretty much every word in it. So why not five? Because for the most part I did not come away from the book with any great insights that would change the course of my writing. It was a very entertaining read, especially Orson Scott Cards' section, but there wasn't anything terribly earthshaking in terms of the creative process. The one exception I will make in this claim is Jennifer Brozek's section on NPCs.
In her essay, Jennifer describes how the NPC can be used to display the thought processes of the hero. In one example she uses an injured horse, and what decisions the hero makes in dealing with it, to show what kind of a person he is. Later she uses another example with the hero's reaction to an object he finds on the corpse of one of his enemies. In other words, the NPC doesn't have to be an observer, making comments about the hero, it doesn't even have to be a living person, or a person at all. They are there to serve as a catalyst, to make the hero think, grow, show us his true self.
The other bonus I got from this book was a whole bunch of new books to add to my "to read" list. That was worth the read right there.
I definitely recommend this book. It's short, entertaining, full of interesting observations (which may or not assist with your writing), and may provide you with new sources of reading enjoyment.
Resenha: Writing Fantasy Heroes - Dicas Doidimais de Escritores Fodásicos da Fantasia Contemporânea #dicasparaescritores #nitroblog
Eu adoro ler dicas e as experiências de escritores veteranos e não podia deixar de ler o Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros assim que descobri esse livro em um blog americano de dicas para escritores.
O Writing Fantasy Heroes é uma coletânea de artigos escritos por feras da literatura de fantasia, e introduzido por não menos que Steven "Malazan" Erikson, um dos meus maiores ídolos da literatura (incluindo todo tipo de literatura!). Além do Steven, o livro contém dicas de feras como Glen "Companhia Negra" Cook, Paul "Monarquias de Deus" Kearney, Orson "O Jogo do Exterminador" Scott Card, Brandon "Mistborn" Sanderson, Ian C. "Malazan, é o parceiro do Stephen" Esslemont, entre outros.
Além de descobrir novos autores para colocar na minha lista de leitura, o livro é cheio de dicas e exemplos valiosos para escritores de fantasia de qualquer nível de habilidade. Recomendo!
Anotei algumas dicas do livro (tem muito mais), que seguem abaixo; mas devo ler esse livro novamente, é muita coisa! :)
ALGUMAS DICAS DO LIVRO Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros
1) Prólogo - Steven Erikson
Regra Principal: Termine o que você começou, sempre. Seja uma parágrafo, uma cena, uma história curta ou um livro, termine sempre o que você começou. SEMPRE!
O mais importante é a experiência, é escrever e reescrever sempre.
Aprender com os fracassos.
Leia dicas para escritores de autores renomados prestando atenção nas entrelinhas, no que eles não falam, que é o enorme esforço gasto pelo escritor para desenvolver a sua arte. Escrever bem é fruto de muita escrita e muita leitura.
Um escritor só pode passar as ferramentas para criar a narrativa, você é que deve descobrir sobre o que vai escrever, e ver quais ferramentas mais apropriadas para o seu estilo de escrita.
2) O Herói em Seu Sangue - Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Descubra o herói em você mesmo, baseie-se nas suas experiências de luta, de derrota e vitória, nas suas sensações.
Leia narrativas heróicas do passado, mitologia, personagens históricos considerados heróis, e se coloque em seus pontos de vista.
Cada herói deve ter uma jornada única, diferente. Vasculhe no passado do seu herói, humanize-o de todas as formas possíveis.
Descubra como o seu herói define a si mesmo. Questione o personagem, descubra seus valores, veja se ele tem características redentoras, veja como ele reage em situações extremas, como ele se recupera de um fracasso terrível, etc.
3) A Vontade Heróica - Cecelia Holland
A essência de um herói é sua força de vontade. Um herói se distingue pelo seu desejo ilimitado de superar qualquer coisa que seja um obstáculo em seu caminho. Ele busca dominar a realidade, e impor sua vontade sobre o mundo.
4) Exposição em Histórias de Espada e Magia - Ian C. Esslemont
Exposição (passar informações da trama, cenário, ou do histórico dos personagens para o leitor) deve ser feita dentro do contexto da história, para evitar os infodumps, que chateiam o leitor e soam "forçados".
Show versus Tell (Mostrar versus Contar). Sempre que possível dramatize (mostre) os eventos, ao invés de contar genéricamente o que aconteceu. Coloque o seu leitor dentro da história, experienciando a narrativa de "dentro" do seu personagem Ponto de Vista.
Fantasia se baseia em experiência sensoriais. Use mais substantivos, símiles, metáforas e descrições concretas e específicas para aumentar a imersão e a experiência sensorial do leitor.
Cuidado ao passar muita informação, ou excesso de informação para o leitor. É uma tentação grande em quem escreve fantasia, mas tente passar apenas a informação essencialmente ncesserária para a história. E dramatize essa exposição, coloque-a dentro da história, relevante para o que está acontecendo.
Uma narrativa é como um sonho, quando se faz exposição direta e sem contexto (os infodumps, blocos de informação do cenário) , o sonho é quebrado.
Narrativas heróicas precisam de drama e ação. Blocos de informação não tem drama e ação e quebram o fluir da narrativa. O truque é misturar e colocar essas informações do cenário no meio do drama e da ação.
5) Escrevendo Cenas de Ação Cinematográficas - Brandon Sanderson
Envolva a cena dentro do ponto de vista narrativo, evite a descrição mecânica de "golpe a golpe". Seja criativo, misture as emoções e motivações do personagem com o combate.
Cenas de combate tem que ser significativas, valer a pena estarem na história. Ter consequências para o protagonista. Devem caracterizar e mover a trama ao mesmo tempo.
Combate pode revelar novas facetas da personalidade do protagonista.
Revise até ficar bem claro a movimentação, como o combate se dá.
Use símiles para descrever o combate com coisas concretas.
Use dos golpes para ao mesmo tempo descrever o local do combate, de maneira dinâmica.
Descreva cenas de combate dentro da visão e do POV de um dos personagens envolvidos. Faça o leitor entrar no combate evocando todos os sentidos (tato, cheiro, visão, textura, dor, etc.).
6) A Narrativa pelo ponto de vista de coadjuvantes - Cat Rambo
Narrar uma história pelo POV de um personagem coadjuvante pode revelar novas facetas e detalhes do protagonista.
7) Heróis Experientes - Alex Bledsoe
Um texto sobre as diferenças entre heróis jovens, em início de carreira e heróis experientes.
Algumas Características de um herói experiente: Cinismo, não necessita se provar para os outros, usa mais da inteligência do que da força bruta, mais estratégia, tem marcas de seu passado, cicatrizes emocionais ou psíquicas, uma descrença em relação aos ideais e sonhos da juventude, problemas com ferimentos antigos.
A jornada de um herói adulto é diferente de um herói jovem. Pode ser uma jornada de auto-redenção, ou uma jornada de entrega total à corrupção. Pode ser uma jornada de superação de preconceitos arraigados em sua vida ou uma jornada de busca de uma aposentadoria pacífica.
8) A Dinâmica das Duplas de Heróis - Howard Andrew Jones
Duplas de heróis bem sucedidas na literatura de fantasia são, na verdade, um herói completo dividido em duas partes (ou três partes como no caso do Spok, Kirk, McCoy no Star Trek).
As duplas devem se complementar, devem ser diferentes o suficiente para gerar conflito. Conflito de personalidades em duplas de narrativas de fantasia deixa a narrativa mais viva, mais vibrante e mais divertida, além de delinear bem as duas personalidades.
Ao criar duplas, tente criar personagens que, apesar de diferentes, se complementam. E evolua-os ao longo da narrativa, mudando a dinâmica ao sabor dos acontecimentos.
9) Monstros merecem atenção - C. L. Werner
Monstros merecem a mesma atenção que os heróis que os matam. Pensar no monstro por dentro, como ele vive, suas motivações, sua personalidade e mente, seus desejos.
Agir como um biólogo do monstro, pensar o que ele come, o que ele deseja, o que ele sente, ver o herói pelo seu ponto de vista.
Se for seguir a linha do monstro misterioso, esconder o monstro e ir revelando-o aos poucos (como no primeiro filme do Alien).
Cenas de combates de monstros tem que ser pensadas dentro da narrativa, tem que estar contextualizada, servir para alguma coisa, seja caracterização do herói, seja para avançar a trama, ou até mesmo para reforçar algum tema (com o monstro agindo como algum tipo de metáfora).
10) Personagens Coadjuvantes são Gente Também! - Jennifer Brozek
O seu herói irá, muitas vezes, interagir com vários personagens que aparecerão apenas uma ou algumas vezes na narrativa. Esses personagens coadjuvantes merecem atenção.
Faça perguntas básicas antes de criá-los:
O que eles fazem? Qual é a sua profissão?
São casados ou solteiros? Jovens ou velhos?
Como enxergam o herói? Quais são suas motivações?
Qual é a sua reação com o herói? São amigos, inimigos ou neutros?
Quais são seus interesses? O que querem? O que temem?
Tem animais de estimação? Tem filhos, parentes, irmãos?
Qual é o papel deles na narrativa? O que eles representam?
O que eles revelam do cenário? Do contexto histórico? O que eles revelam do protagonista?
11) Os Tropos da Fantasia - Ari Marmell
Tropos são estruturas narrativas, motivos, mitos, temas, personagens típicos, classes de personagens, tipos de desenvolvimento de história, tipos de história; ou seja tudo aquilo que pode ser identificado e classificado em uma narrativa. Por exemplo, histórias de detetive são repletas de tropos (o detetive amargo e durão, a feme fatale, etc.).
Diferença entre Tropos e Clichês: O clichê é um tropo sem conteúdo. Tropo são estruturas básicas, por onde o escritor começa a criar sua história. Todas as narrativas possuem tropos, até mesmo as mais experimentais (o tropo existencialista por exemplo, de um personagem em busca de sua identidade ou fragmentando a própria identidade, pode ser encontrado em autores como Camus, Lispector, Joyce, etc.). É o esforço do escritor, sua criatividade em trabalhar com os tropos, em quebrar as expectativas dos leitores é que faz com que a sua narrativa fuja do clichê.
Existem trocentas milhões de histórias de órfãos que se torma heróis, é um tropo, mas o que quebra o clichê é usar esse tropo como ponto de partida e criar personagens únicos, peculiares e vivos, que horam quebram a tradição, hora seguem a tradição do tropo. Harry Potter é uma versão desse tropo, Luke Skywalker outra versão, e são dois personagens bem diferentes entre si, tem vida própria.
Assim, ao escrever fantasia, não se preocupe de estar usando um tropo conhecido. Não existe nada que não seja um tropo (ou que não vai se tornar um tropo depois de publicado), assim, liberte sua criatividade e quebre (ou não quebre) as expectativas dos leitores em relação aos tropos que você usar (seja tropo do bárbaro, do anão guerreiro, do lorde das trevas, etc.), se concentrando em criar personagens vívos, com detalhes específicos, variados, aumentando a complexidade, recombinando tropos diferentes em novas configurações.
Clichê é preguiça de escritor, não tem nada haver com o conteúdo. Um escritor talentoso pode escrever qualquer tipo de história, seja ela considerada clichê ou não, e irá colocar sua marca pessoal nela, dando vida a seus personagens.
Clichê, repetindo, é preguiça de escritor. É falta de levar a sério seus personagens, mergulhar em suas almas e ver suas vidas de dentro, e não de fora.
12) Então você quer começar uma guerra? - Paul Kearney
Pesquisar na história para dar mais realismo às suas batalhas, mesmo se envolvam seres fantásticos.
Exércitos em marcha tem diversas necessidades. Você precisa de comida para os soldados, tem que evitar doenças que surgem com tanta gente junta, saber como manobrar a marcha, entender que quanto maior um exército mais lento ele se movimenta, estudar estratégia de combate, criar uma hierarquia nas tropas, entender o papel de cada parte de um exército (rastreadores, lanceiros, infantaria, cavalaria, etc.).
E quando narrar, colocar o leitor dentro da batalha, sentindo os cheiros, sofrendo as dores, percebendo o desespero e a confusão do combate por dentro, para aumentar a experiência visceral e horrífica de uma guerra.
13) O Inesperado nas Narrativas - Glen Cook
Muitas vezes, ao escrever, acontecimentos aleatórios ou inesperados surgem na narrativa e mudam completamente o planejamento do escritor. A dica de Glen Cook é de abraçar o inesperado, aceitar completamente o randômico, mesmo que seja a morte do seu personagem favorito em sua narrativa.
Esses momentos inesperados, aleatórios, aumentam o realismo narrativo (a plausabilidade narrativa) e deixam a história mais interessante e imprevisível.
14) O Herói Relutante - Orson Scott Card
Mais do que o herói que aceita a missão que lhe é entregue, um dos tipos mais populares é o herói relutante, que é forçado pelas circunstâncias no papel de herói. Esse é um tropo muito comum e popular, mas para funcionar, é preciso que o personagem seja completo, tenha passado, motivações, interesses pessoais, e conflitos em relação ao que é forçado a fazer.
Um exemplo do herói relutante que deu certo é o Han Solo do Star Wars, que, na última hora, decide ajudar os rebeldes a destruir a Estrela da Morte.
A dificuldade é fazer com que a relutância do herói de assumir o seu papel seja convincente, para evitar a síndrome do "mimimi eu não quero isso mimimi", a razão para a relutância tem que ser muito forte, e misturada com a história do personagem. Caso contrário, fica forçado e bem paia.
Essas foram algumas das anotações que fiz desse livro, mas tem muito mais, e o mais legal, cada dica é exemplificada com trechos das obras dos autores. Recomendo o Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros e reforço o pedido às editoras nacionais para investirem mais em livros com dicas para escritores, são muito úteis e dão um certo alívio na luta solitária para dominar a arte de criar histórias doidimais!
There was informative and practical advice in Writing Fantasy Heroes, from masters of the craft. Each chapter is written by a different author, and many of the authors use past heroes as examples or relate heroic deeds to how we feel as heroes and how society perceives heroes.
I found the cinematic action scenes chapter by Brandon Sanderson particularly practical and useful, by taking it in stages and making the scenes more meaningful. The examples here were superb.
Of interest to my writing was a chapter written by Jennifer Brozek on how to involve NPCs, your supporting characters, in helping to construct a story and add ‘character’ to them that can also impact how we view the main character or what it says about the main character’s personality. I found this really helpful in looking at the bigger picture of writing stories as opposed to focusing on a single main character.
Glen Cook wrote a chapter on ‘Sh*t Happens in the Creation of Story, Including Unexpected Deaths, with Ample Digressions and Curious Aside’. I found this chapter one of the most interesting reads because it was about that aspect of writing, and life, that isn’t often acknowledged: sh*t happens. And sometimes you can’t do anything about the fact that sh*t happens, only that you need to respond to it. There were enough ironic examples here to keep me fascinated in the chapter and point of view.
The epic tales of legendary heroes have been around for thousands of years. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the first hero story and perhaps the oldest story on Earth, was believed to be written around 2500 BC or earlier. The story of Beowulf was told around 1000 AD. The Greeks wrote about heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Achilles in their ancient mythology and the heroic efforts of King Arthur were told in medieval times.
These ancient tales of heroic feats accomplished by gallant men, both mortal and godlike, are still read and enjoyed today. New heroes have even been created in the last century for this day and age by Marvel and DC and have been dubbed superheroes. And these are but a handful of the many hero stories out in the world today.
Why do these stories of chivalrous knights, unstoppable demigods, and brave men stand out to readers? What makes a great hero? How can one write a hero people will remember for years and years to come? A great stepping stone in finding one’s inner hero and bringing him or her to life through words is in Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros. This collection of essays, edited by Jason M. Waltz, captures the essence of what it means to be a hero. Twelve essays written by thirteen well-known writers share twelve different insights as to the steps a writer can take to create a hero.
Like most writing books, these essays are only pieces of advice and tips given by published authors. These writers are not telling other writers what to do, but merely giving suggestions to help them reach their goals. Some essays may be exactly what some writers are looking for while other essays may not help at all. Whether or not a reader and/ or writer finds this information useful, the words of advice are very insightful.
Brandon Sanderson dedicates an entire essay on how to write fight scenes. As many writers know, fight scenes are easier to accomplish on camera than on a page and Sanderson takes writers step by step through a process of how to write a battle between the hero and villain(s) that keeps the readers interested.
Jennifer Brozek suggests to writers to focus not just on main characters, but also on NPCs (Non-Player Characters). The minor characters in a book are an important part of the story and aid the hero in his or her quest. What do the NPCs do while the hero is on his or her quest? Do they have families or are they alone? Are they wealthy or poor? Are they in the story to help the hero or are they actually aiding the villain?
Monsters in a fantasy story are a vital part to bringing one’s fantasy world alive and C.L. Werner writes about how to create a memorable monster, whether that monster is a part of a species or becomes the main villain the hero must face. Werner recommends getting inside of the monster’s head and to allow readers to know what the monster is thinking. Is the monster fighting out of fear or rage? Is it fighting because it desires something? Is it acting on orders or does it really not know what its purpose in life is?
Other essays by the other wonderful writers include writing the will of one’s hero and what makes that hero fight (Cecelia Holland), knowing when to make one’s hero an adult or child (Alex Bledsoe), how big to make an army that follows the hero (Paul Kearney), and many more insightful tips.
As aforementioned, these essays may not be for everyone, but a writer is sure to find some useful information in one of them. Each essay is fun to read and readers can tell the writers had fun writing each one. Not only does Writing Fantasy Heroes offer advice, but also multiple fantasy books to add to one’s reading list. Writing Fantasy Heroes is a short and insightful read to add to one’s collection for those who believe in heroes and have one of his or her own who wishes to be released into the world to save the day.
**Originally published on November 21, 2014 through www.examiner.com. Moved to my blog, Roll Out Reviews on August 6, 2016**
An enjoyable series of essays on writing fantasy, although the quality of the essays varies. overall a good introduction with some thought provoking ideas. Even if you are not a writer but only a fan of fantasy stories/novels, it will make you reconsider the choices your favorite authors have made in terms of characterization. Fairly short and easily read, this collection is worth your time.
I was going to read this book quickly and write a quick review, but it’s not that sort of book. Think writer’s workshop. Plan to spend a few days (or weeks, or more). Sit down with pen and paper, or convenient computer. And expect to work for the things you’ll learn. Then your writing will improve. You’ll know how to answer those “How did they do that?” questions as you read the masters’ works. And you’ll have fun.
Writing Fantasy Heroes is an enjoyable read, with lots of excerpts from intriguingly heroic fantasy books. But it’s far more than that, and some chapters are surely must-reads for any aspiring writer. Examples are drawn from sources as varied as Gilgamesh, Shakespeare, Star Trek and even the movie Escape from New York, to bring out the different qualities and aspects we use to define a hero. C. L. Werner, who writes about reptilian skaven in his Warhammer novels, adds monsters to the mix. Ari Marmell invites us to think about tropes (which are not the same as clichés). Glen Cook keeps it disastrous and logical. But my favorite chapters are those that most clearly show the editing process. Ian C. Esslemont and Brandon Sanderson offer repeating samples, rewriting scenes to show how editing gives opportunities to the author. Exposition gives way to dramatization, the reader’s imagination is effectively guided by the writer, and paragraphs that grow into chapters read faster despite being longer, with motivation and emotion taking over from the blow-by-blow of battle.
Lots of authors, lots of examples, lots of amazingly powerful advice; this book was a far longer read than I expected, and a more valuable one. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be given a free ecopy with a request for my honest review.
This is a decent book, and I learned a couple of things from it. I think my major disappointment was that it was focused more narrowly than I was expecting. When you say "fantasy heroes," I think all kinds of protagonists in all kinds of fantasy. In actuality, in this book, most of the contributors interpreted "fantasy heroes" to mean hulking Conan types, the big, barbarian hero who swings a sword and hacks limbs off of bad guys. Okay, that's one kind of hero, but there are a lot of others, most of whom weren't addressed at all.
Orson Scott Card's chapter stepped away from the mighty-thewed barbarian, but even reading that one, I had the impression that it was only a small slice of what he had to say. His chapter was entitled "The Reluctant Hero," and that's where he focused, but he mentioned a couple of other sorts, and I came away with the feeling that I was missing a lot of info.
Paul Kearney's chapter, "So You Want to Fight a War" was useful at the level of how to organize a war at the classic fantasy tech level, so although it wasn't about writing heroes per se, it was still one of my favorite chapters.
Cat Rambo's "Watching from the Sidelines" discusses how and why to write from the POV of a character who's not the one hacking and casting. It's an interesting viewpoint and let me see how that kind of "from the sidelines" POV could be effective in telling a story, so good stuff there.
In general, though, I would wish that the editor had made sure that a broader selection of hero types were discussed. Either that, or made it more clear in the title and/or marketing blurb exactly where the general focus of the book was going to be.
Writing Fantasy Heroes does have a few gems. I was however very disappointed that many of the essays included large quoted material from the authors. I do understand examples and vicarious experiences are the best way to learn, however, I can read the author to gain that. I had hoped a book that promises "Powerful advice from the Pros" would be more centered on the advice.
I wonder if there was a certain meta mentality to this collection. In the forward, Steven Erikson shares "I have come to the belief tht it is precisely between the lines that you will find the hard truths." I will have to reflect longer to determine what truths were hidden behind some of these words. However I did find it a certain echoing irony that the author of the 'Reluctant Hero' essay seems to be a reluctant author, at least in advising on this particular topic.
There is goodness here though. I do wonder if the authors with the most evocative advice have discussed it elsewhere. I also think the collection, when read as a whole, can help a writer center and focus on their heroes creation. So reading the book at the onset of a new story and new heroes may produce more questions and considerations.
This is my first book from this local publisher: Rogue Blades Entertainment. I've got to say the writers really demonstrated the creation of heroes and their worlds. Even talking about how to mislead a reader through illusionary tropes and the quality of NPCs in a story. And Jason M. Waltz (and the late David Gemmell) really helped sum up a great definition of what makes a "hero" in the afterword too. I feel if I ever go on to creating a heroic fantasy I'll have a better idea of what to watch for, and to avoid in the story process. Just to point out a few wordy things (as my teacher was grammar-crazy and drilled it into my skull) so the next edition is even better. On pages 65-66 the name Lisette turns to Liselle (which is the right one?). And on page 178 I think in the last paragraph it has a run-on sentence with multiple negations in a clause (maybe then again it could be intentional). Otherwise it was very informative, and introduced me to new authors and their processes. I think I may check out more of this publisher's titles in the future.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A collection of essays focused on different aspects of fantasy writing. Indeed, quite a few of them don't even touch on the idea of heroes/characters. Some focus on aspects of writing action, taking in considerations of the world you've set your story in, or logistics.
Nonetheless, there is something to be taken from all this. Admittedly, not all of the essays read as well as the others. Some of the writers (not naming names) come across a little holier than thou, others use too many passages from their own books to get the point across to the point where it's lost. Obviously I appreciate them drawing on their own writing for examples, but I just wish there were less extracts.
For a writer looking to write fantasy, or maybe even just fiction, you could get something out of this book, give it a look. It's pretty short.
If you enjoy writing fantasy, this is an excellent collection of essays that delve deep into the concept of the hero of heroine. It gives practical writing advice with examples that will help you improve your prose. It also takes a more philosophical viewpoint on the reasons why fantasy is such a beloved genre, why we need the characters we read (or write), and how something that seems so divorced from reality is so relevant to our lives, thoughts, and dreams.
Some of the contributions are quite academic while others are simply an exploration. There is something in this for everyone, whether you write or not, or if you are new to writing or experienced.
I was especially pleased to note the mention of the late David Gemmell at the conclusion as he is my all time favourite fantasy author. His would have been an awesome contribution.
Excellent advice from numerous successfully selling authors of today on how fantasy heroes should be created! Every genre writer and reader will find inspiration to create or identify their own compelling heroes.
This collection of essays on writing fantasy heroes had some real gems in it, and not just from the authors I already loved and expected great things from. To be honest, there were a lot of writers in here I was unfamiliar with, including some of the best essays.
One feature--or bug, depending on your perspective--is that almost all of the writers here use their own work as examples, and there were moments where I felt like it was at least as much about self-promotion as instruction, but truthfully those moments were relatively few and far between.
Foreward by Steven Erikson: Erikson is one of my favorite writers, so I'm always interested to read anything he writes, including an introduction. Of course, this isn't a full essay on writing, but he offered one very good piece of advice for any writer ("Finish what you start") and he also, I think, establishes a good framework for reading the essays that follow, talking about his own journey when he was just getting started as a writer and relating his own growth as a writer to how we take advice from others.
The Hero in Your Blood by Janet Morris and Chris Morris: I thought this one was on the weak side. Basically, find the heroic within yourself. Um, okay. I guess it's a starting point, which is why it's the first essay, but it didn't exactly grab me.
The Heroic Will by Cecelia Holland: Just a couple days later and I can't remember much of anything about this one. Not a good endorsement.
Taking a Stab at Writing Sword and Sorcery by Ian C. Esslemont: Esslemont sometimes gets a rep as the junior partner in the Malazan world, but I was really impressed with this essay. It was a thoughtful piece about world-building and how to effectively show instead of tell, with some successive drafts of a passage discussed to illustrate his points. Solid.
Writing Cinematic Fight Scenes by Brandon Sanderson: This was a fantastic essay, not only for the wealth of knowledge that Sanderson offered but also for the way he presented it, taking what is quite possibly the worst fight scene ever written and taking it through several drafts, each illustrating some point he had just made, and turning out a very good scene in the end.
Watching from the Sidelines by Cat Rambo: Rambo explores the possibility of telling the story through the perspective of a character who is more or less a bystander to the actual hero, with one of her stories to illustrate the idea. All in all, a fine look at this narrative technique and its possibilities.
Man Up: Making your Hero an Adult by Alex Bledsoe: In part, Bledsoe argues for mature heroes vs. adolescents, but more than that he explores the sorts of characteristics of each type of hero, the ways that age might typically change the nature of heroes. Very good.
Two Sought Adventure by Howard Andrew Jones: Jones looks at the idea of a group of heroes and partner heroes, looking closely at examples from Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser to Kirk and Spock (and McCoy) to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Interesting, and great examples chosen.
Monsters - Giving the Devils their Due by C.L. Werner: Good discussion of monsters, bringing them to life, some different approaches to them, and associated issues.
NPCs are People Too by Jennifer Brozek: In gaming, NPCs ("Non-Player Characters") are everyone who's not the "Player Character." In other words, Brozek is writing about how we make the secondary characters and the bit players in our stories into something more than placeholders, and I thought she offered some really excellent suggestions as well as examples.
Tropes of the Trade by Ari Marmell: As Marmell points out, there's a sense in which the tropes are the genre, but I'm sure every reader of fantasy has come across works that felt like nothing more than a rehash of Tolkien or of D&D or of (fill in the thing we've all seen before). Marmell discusses interesting ways of using tropes as a sort of shorthand, of subverting them, and ultimately of bringing them to life and avoiding cliche. As he sums up: "'interesting,' ultimately, is at the core of the point I'm making. Tropes in and of themselves? Not interesting enough to be relied upon; [...] But as a basis on which to build, as a means of communicating with--and, yes, manipulating--the reader? There they come into their own, there they make themselves useful. The best fantasy writers aren't the ones who refuse to make use of the tropes and archetypes of the genre; they're the ones who know when to use them."
So You Want to Fight a War by Paul Kearney: Absolutely fantastic discussion of the nitty gritty details of a pre-modern army in action, from raising the army to feeding and moving it to how it actually functions in combat. A must-read for anyone doing large-scale fantasy that includes battles (and, really, is there any large-scale fantasy that doesn't?).
Shit Happens in the Creation of Story, Including Unexpected Deaths, with Ample Digressions and Curious Asides by Glen Cook: Meh. I mean, Cook's a great writer, and it was interesting to get this glimpse into his process, but it's essentially an essay about being a "pantser" (i.e. writing by the seat of your pants) and being willing to inject some chaos, some shit happening, and see where it takes things. Okay.
The Reluctant Hero by Orson Scott Card: Although I feel like Card sometimes gets a little preachy here (but then, he's had a tendency to do so for at least the last decade), there's some interesting discussion in this essay exploring the motivations of heroes and the moral choices they make in the course of a story. I thought this aspect of Card's approach was particularly interesting: "This is how I morally torment my characters: Whatever they have righteously decided is the right thing to do, I make impossible; whatever they regard as utterly wrong, I require it of them."
All in all, I thought this was a very good collection of essays and I would highly recommend it both to those who wish to write and those who wish to see the craft of writing fantasy in a new light.
If you're looking for a technical manual on the nuts and bolts of writing, things like basic story structure, you won't find it here. Well, not much, anyway. This book is designed more for the aspiring writer who is looking to hone his or her craft and take it to the next level, which preferably would involve publication, rather than the novice writer just learning to put a story together. I read Writing Fantasy Heroes from cover to cover, albeit in pieces between other books, but I think the book's values rests in its use as a reference that one picks up and consults as needed more than as volume to read straight through.
The reason I say that is that each chapter addresses a different aspect of heroic fantasy, and not all aspects will appear in all stories or novels.
For example, Howard Andrew Jones discusses the dynamics between partners/friends/comrades and how to use the interaction between two heroes to best effect. Paul Kearney explains what it really takes to move a large army and to fight a major battle. not so much the combat itself (although he does address that issue), but the logistics involved in military life. Alex Bledsoe contrasts the older, wiser hero with the young pup and delves into how to write maturity in a way that's consistent with the reality of that stage in life..
Ari Marmell talks about using tropes effectively and how to avoid cliche in doing so. Glen Cook deals with adding a dash of the unexpected. C. L. Werner discusses things from the monster's perspective. Brandon Sanderson blocks out several fight scenes, taking them from boring to engrossing. Ian C. Esslemont demonstrates the difference between showing and telling.
There's much more. One of the added bonuses is that Jason Waltz required each contributor to use examples from his or her own work. I found several authors whose work I want to hunt down and read through this process, so thanks, Jason.
I learned a lot from this book. More than that, some of the chapters helped me to bring together concepts or techniques I'd been more or less aware of and helped me either to see them in a new light or to see new connections or applications of them. It was the same kind of A-Ha moment I get when I gain new insight into a physical system after studying a scientific problem. One of those Oh-of-course!-Why-didn't-I-see-that? kind of thing.
There's a lot of good advice here, and while I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, I like to think I've acquired enough wisdom to realize that there things in this book I'm not ready for yet. What that means is that I haven't yet tried to write the story where I need that piece of counsel. But if/when I try to write that story, I know where to go to find out how it's done.
The list of contributors is impressive, with some of the major names in the field weighing in on various aspects of the craft. The glimpse into their minds is fascinating at times. And invaluable.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, this isn't an introductory writing manual. It's delves into the deeper, more accomplished aspects of the craft. If you write heroic fantasy, or aspire to, then this book needs to be on your shelf. It will be more valuable to you than any number of the writing guides out there.
Overview In, Writing Fantasy Heroes (Rogue Blades, 2013), Editor Jason Waltz assembles the thoughts and musings of seasoned fantasy writers who examine the art and science of heroic character creation. The book sets out to identify those ingredients that make heroes, monsters, battles, and the universes that contain them, come alive to the reader. Targeting aspiring writers and general fans of fantasy, the book seeks to engage both groups through a blend of philosophical insights and practical writing advice. General themes and topics covered include an existential overview of the heroic character (i.e., a look inside the hero’s soul, will, emotions, motivations, and maturation), insights into the creation of a heroic character, and general advice for the beginning fantasy writer. (e.g., writing cinematic fight scenes, creating realistic battles, crafting descriptive universes, and others). The book concludes with short biographies for each contributing author and a select listing of their works.
Analysis Waltz assembles a terrific group of established and successful writers for this book. The contributing authors know, from experience, the level of excellence required for publication. Their essays reflect this experience and provide valuable coaching for those who choose to willingly read, absorb, and apply. That the authors took the time to write these instructive works speaks highly of them and of their desire to help novice writers. If a reader knew nothing of the genre beforehand, upon finishing this book, they would possess the basic knowledge, tools, and insights necessary for writing a fantasy story. To the general fan not interested in writing a story, these essays hold value in the way they reveal the inner workings of each author’s unique approach to the writing process. Through their essays, each author displays an amazing diversity in worldview and philosophy that colors how they approach their craft. Cook’s fatalistic, “shit happens,” approach contrasts sharply with Card’s pursuit of the reluctant hero, chosen by providence. Yet both approaches work because they authentically reflect the authors themselves. Fans of the genre will enjoy the way Writing Fantasy Heroes offers a glimpse into the minds of some of the genre’s favorite authors. The weaknesses of the work lie mostly with the reader himself, for anytime I read a compilation I naturally like certain essays more than others. As Erickson instructed in the Foreword, I found myself at times reading between the lines, for the lines themselves said little to me at all. Fortunately, these moments of disengagement were very few, and my overall experience with the book was positive.
Conclusion Writing Fantasy Heroes provides an opportunity to sit at the feet of competent, successful fantasy writers and learn. What is learned depends upon the reader. An aspiring writer will learn that, “finishing what you start” requires a level of engagement few attain, while the general fan of fantasy will discover an open and welcome window into each writer’s soul. May those who read be encouraged, motivated, and inspired to discover the heroes trapped within themselves, and choose to set them free.
Writing Fantasy Heroes is a splendid book, filled with some excellent advice and tips on how to make your characters leap off the page. Every chapter is a gem, and well-worth studying. My favorites are "The Hero in Your Blood," by the excellent duo of Janet and Chris Morris. Cecelia Holland, Ari Marmell, Orson Scott Card, and Howard Andrew Jones are also on hand to share their skills, their experience, and their writing process. This is a valuable book for anyone who wants to write, and even if you have no designs other than to read and enjoy the works of others, this book will give you some excellent insight into "how it's done." There are many other authors who contributed to this wonderful volume, and Jason Waltz deserves kudos for assembling such a splendid cast. If I may pick one nit . . . I am more than a little familiar with the works of many of these authors, and while I found the use of their own creations to be a natural, a given, I would have liked to have read more about what authors, what books, what scenes and passages inspired them, taught them, showed them the way. I'm hoping a second volume will be forthcoming, and they will take us back to the roots of fantasy and adventure: E.R. Eddison, Lord Dunsany, Talbot Mundy, H.R. Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, to name a few. Writing Fantasy Heroes belongs on everyone's shelf --whether it's your regular bookshelf or your research shelf, it doesn't matter. Just buy it!
This is a very good collection of ruminations by various prolific and successful authors of heroic fantasy, on the topic of what makes a hero. The contributions are a little uneven, but they are all interesting and pleasant to read.
The contributions go wider than the stated topic and provide thought provoking views on a wide range of story telling skills and traps. All of which neatly capture the essence of heroic fantasy (how to make the reader participate in the story) rather than resolving the complex and multi faceted question they were originally set (a “hero” being different things to different people, hence the joyful diversity within the genre).
All together, this makes a resource I’ll gladly return to time and again. It should be better known.
First of all when I was asked if I would life to read and review this book I totally jumped on the chance. I review a book earlier this year something like it. But when I opened the cover of this one, Oh My.....
I am not a book writer, I am a book blogger. Let me get that out of the way first as well. Upon reading the first couple of chapters, well I will put it this way:
Very uneven. Some pieces are excellent, and some I found tedious. Glen Cook's piece was fabulous, and one or two others were pretty fine, but overall I wasn't very taken with this book. Some of the essays are promo pieces overall, with the authors quoting long swaths of their own work, which can be fine in some instances, but in others, not so much. Also referring to secondary characters as NPCs I found particularly grating, as they aren't. You're not writing a gaming book. Even if it is a novel based on a game world, they still aren't NPCs.
Overall an uneven book of some great essays and some that really missed the mark (for me at least). It's hard to rate this type of book and so I settled for a middle of the road rating. It's not a "how-to manual" and won't really get too deep into building a "fantasy" hero. The essays were all focused on some aspect of fantasy fiction but could be applicable to any other writing. Brandon Sanderson's essay on fight scenes and Paul Kearney's essay on the realities of pre-gunpowder warfare are worth the price alone.
This is one of those collections that will give something different to different people. The articles that I did not care for, you may, and the ones that I got something out of, you may not like. The good news here is that there is something for everyone that looks to write a story about a hero. While not 100% what I expected out of the book, and while it is also not 100% the perfect learning tool, there were enough nuggets scraped out of this book to give me an extra thought or two when creating my next work.