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The Fantasy Fiction Formula

4.53  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  68 reviews
There's more to writing a successful fantasy story than building a unique world or inventing new magic. How exactly is a plot put together? How do you know if your idea will support an entire novel? How do you grab reader attention and keep it? How do you create dynamic, multi-dimensional characters? What is viewpoint and do you handle it differently in urban fantasy than ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 11th 2016 by Manchester University Press
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 ·  348 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
A great book on the craft of writing. Most of the information in here is relevant and important no matter what genre you are writing.
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Dwight V Swain's TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER is a classic 1960s writing manual that really helped me with many of the nuts and bolts of fiction writing. Swain's pupil was Jack Bickham, who developed and taught Swain's methods in more depth. Bickham's pupil was Deborah Chester, who has now reworked the same method into a new book with a special focus on the fantasy genre.

This book is focused on fantasy, but of course, good storytelling transcends genre and while it was helpful to
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not just fantasy. This one has good info for all writers who write genre fiction and want to learn more about the craft.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I will likely end up using as a reference for wiring. It beautifully outlines how to write--teaching by showing, not just telling me. And the author does such a fantastic job of doing so.

I find myself wanting to read the book ,highlighter in hand, pen and aper beside me to take notes, and considering it is essentially a manual on how to write fantasy, it reads smoothly. Because of this manual, I want to read her fantasy books now.

I've read other how-to writing b
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, read-2016
This is an excellent book on the finer details of crafting a novel, not just those in the fantasy genre though that is the focus. Chester focuses on not just creating a story, but structuring it in a way the reader finds compelling and moves the plot forward.

The early exercises focus on creating writing elements, but the later ones focus on published work analysis. I only wish that Chester had continued the "create..." prompts so the exercises could walk a reader through a finished d
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I bought on Jim Butcher's recommendation and I am glad I did. I was 15,000 words into a book and struggling to find my way. This book has really helped me focus the story and plan it all better.

As other's have said, the word "Fantasy" in the title might put some people off, but the bottom line is, this is a great manual for writing fiction period!

There is some great advice for every stage of writing from plotting, outlines, character biographies all the way to conflict, s
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Stephanie by: Leigh
Shelves: nonfiction
By far the most useful writing book I've read up to this point. Gives tons of concrete instructions with examples, as well as examples of what doesn't work as well. These are techniques that will still take a lot of practice to get used to, and I may not end up using 100% of Chester's suggestions, but it's so helpful to have it spelled out very clearly what makes a fiction story effective and why.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference, writing
Not long ago, I launched into the rough draft of my very first speculative fiction story. I started with great gusto, but after a few chapters I realized that I had a problem.

For some reason my characters seemed to jump from scene to scene like fleas and were equally hard to relate to. I knew the story wasn’t working correctly, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong.

After perusing internet resources, I found the problem. I was writing my novel like it was a screenplay, looki
Scot Parker
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an utterly invaluable tool for the speculative fiction writer. It is crammed full of practical advice presented clearly with concrete examples. Chester herself is quite an accomplished fantasy author, and she clearly knows what she's talking about. There is a lot I could write in this review, but the bottom line is that if you are a speculative fiction author or wish to become one, you need to read this book.
A.M. Bochnak
**2nd Read**
It just keeps getting better. This is my second read of this book. I've picked up on so many new little tidbits of info that I didn't get the first time around. I will pick this book up as a refresher before every book I plan to write. It's a goldmine of a resource!

**1st Read**
To date the best book about writing I have read. This book will be a reference book I call upon often as I write. Deborah's approach is clear and concise. She makes writing sound easy. T
K. B. Frazier
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
Excellent. An invaluable resource -- really an entire class in creating fantasy fiction in a book. Logically, there's a ton of things I understood intrinsically about story structure going in, but it's really helpful to parse and understand and play with these elements in the aftermath. I'm confident that this is going to further my career and craft.
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Use this a lot for reference in editing and writing.
Mauro Vincenti
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Made me start writing again, reason enough to buy it!
Lyndon Hardy
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Please see Lyndon Hardy's Blog for my review
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A solid, easy-to-read writing book. Most of it was widely applicable, but some was indeed fantasy specific.
Lisa-Marie Wilson
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this read. Chocked full with a lot of really useful and actionable advice, I believe this book would be helpful to a great number of budding authors, or those that want to take a harder look at their structure. It delivers the lessons in easily digested language and a very matter of fact tone that I think amateur authors would find comforting.

I disagreed on quite a few points, vehemently in one or two cases, but that doesn't negate the benefit the other les
Graham Bradley
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A six-star book. This one will always be in arm's reach of my writing desk. Can't wait to put it in practice.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Definitely the best book on writing I have read so far. I left this book on my desk and I think I am going to consult it a lot in the writing process. I do not agree with everything that is presented as obligatory in this book, but I think the instructions are intended as a sort of a recipe for a cake which you can modify according to your tastes (to a degree).
The best part is about action/reaction units and the "dark dismal middle". Suprisingly, many how-to-do writing manuals go to a grea
E.A. Copen
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Finally! A book on the craft for modern fantasy writers from a master!
Deborah Chester lays out in easy, comprehensive terms how to write a fantasy or urban fantasy novel in this how-to book. She touches on everything from building scenes to how to negotiate contracts with agents and publishers to avoiding predatory services when self-publishing. Every fantasy writer, whether the seasoned veteran with 10 books under her name or the ones just beginning their journey can benefit from what Chester
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
Last night I was curled up in bed reading, as I do, but I was reading a craft book. Have I reached peak writer yet? Lol
When I picked it up it wasn’t available on kindle but it is now, and it’s worth reading the sample just to see Jim Butcher’s Forward.
She is the woman who taught the professional writer class at OU that he attended.
I saw some comment he made when people asked him what craft book to read and he said to get this one.
I own a hundred craft books. My theory is
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the BEST novel on the craft of writing I have ever come across. There are tons of books about how to keep motivated and how to complete your first draft and how to multi-task and still fulfill your dream. Deborah Chester clearly and precisely details how to write an exciting, well thought out, cleverly crafted fantasy novel. At the time of this reading, I have two manuscripts complete. Well, I thought they were complete until I opened THE FANTASY FICTION FORMULA. Since beginning the n ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm glad I discovered this book. It's very practical and offers concrete tips on how to come up with a complete idea (the SPOOC method), and the middle section on A/R units and scene structure is particularly instructional and illuminating. Chester largely uses examples from her own books to illustrate her points, but considering she's written over forty novels and has won awards for her Ruby Throne trilogy, it's not so bad.

I'll be keeping this one close at hand and I'll try to plug in Chester'
K.J. Miller
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester is a craft guide that goes into the minute details that go into constructing a plausible fantasy read. The author does a good job of laying out each of her points. I find that she did an excellent job on the structure of a great plot. She narrowed it down to the scene structure, and those break moments called sequels. I've been reading a fair amount of craft guides, but I have never seen an author go into that much details on basic story structure.< ...more
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although the author speaks about writing Fantasy Fiction, I would recommend this book for any aspiring or new author.
Some of the lessons reminded me of "Techniques of the Selling Writer" by Dwight V. Swain and "Scene and Structure" by Jack Bickham, there was a very good explanation for that. Mr. Bickham was mentored by Mr. Swain and Ms. Chester was mentored by Mr. Bickham.
If you're a Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files) fan - she was his teacher and he credits her with much of his success. ...more
May 24, 2016 added it
Though I wouldn't change how my own writing journey has played out, wouldn't have been bad to read this book earlier in my journey. Great one to read if you're a fairly new writer. Still plenty to get out of it is you've been at it for awhile.
Chester was very thorough, going into detail and providing exercises on all the elements that make a novel. Like with any writing advice, take what works for you and ignore the rest. But overall I found some useful techniques to mull over.
I also
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every aspiring author should read this. Incredibly helpful in understanding how to compartmentalize a story. However, I wouldn't recommend this as a first read. This is a necessary read for someone who has read a lot of books (especially fiction and fantasy) and wants to begin writing a story. Once you get an organic understanding of storytelling, then move on to this book when you want to write your own story. For the money, this is an extremely good deal. You essentially get an entire high lev ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Though the title and examples in the book all relate to fantasy the contents applies to all good writing. If you want to write a novel then everything you need to know is here. You will note she doesn't waste space on stupid advice like don't use adverbs. She will teach you how to write a story that works every time. She makes writing a novel sound easy. It's not. I will be studying and re-reading this book for a long time to come.
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Look, I could waffle on for pages about how useful some of the information in this book is, or I could just steal from Jim Butcher's foreword. If you're writing fiction at all, especially if you're writing things of the fantasy persuasion, "SHUT UP AND DO WHAT DEBBIE TELLS YOU TO DO." His words, not mine, and they're far more intelligent and succinct than anything I have to say. Carry on.
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for every genre fiction writer, not just fantasy/sci-fi writers. My only quibble is that there weren't as many fantasy world-building techniques as the title suggested. Still, Chester's explanations and examples of elemental story structure and character design were a master class. Five stars all the way.
Leslie Davis
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a novice writer, I have read several books on the craft. This is, by far, the best book for my level of experience. Ms. Chester's point by point explanations were particularly helpful. She covered all the necessary concepts in a thorough and complete manner (with more than a little humor). I will definitely be using this book again and again.
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The internationally published, award-winning author of 41 novels, Deborah Chester has written Regency romances, historical romances, young adult, science fiction, and fantasy. She is a tenured professor of professional writing in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches novel and short story writing.
She holds a B.A. with Gener