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13 Fantasy Writing Tips from Reedsy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Steerpike, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Someone in my writing group sent these, and I thought I'd share them here:

    13 Kick-Ass Tips for Writing Fantasy Fiction • Reedsy

    My thoughts:

    1. Ok, yes, this is a good idea.
    2. Bollocks, at least to the extent the implication is it is better to start with short stories and flesh out your world. If you want to write short stories, great. If you'd rather go straight into a novel then do that.
    3. For a novel, I tend to agree with this. For short stories, it isn't necessary for me. I am sure some people can write a novel by pantsing.
    4. I agree with this. And I think one should refrain from expounding on details of the world that are well outside of what the story demands. That's one way people go into 'infodump' territory.
    5. Fine, if you want to do that, but not necessarily (unless you interpret this tip so broadly that it's meaningless).
    6. Yes, more authors should do this.
    7. Yes.
    8. Yes, mostly. If you're going to break them, come up with a good reason why, and make it just as unexpected to those in the world as it is to the reader. Don't use this as a deus ex machina.
    9. OK, sure.
    10. Bollocks. Movies and books are entirely different media for a reason. To the extent they're just saying 'show' what is going on rather than 'telling,' I think that's OK as long as you don't run too far with it. There are times to tell, and it is fine to do so.
    11. Fine, if you want to use this technique, but not necessary.
    12. Good, as general advice.
    13. Well, yes, reading is important.
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Totally second your take on these.
     
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I don't quite agree with this one. Sure, if you want to write a novel, go for that, but if you haven't done it before starting with a shorter piece isn't bad advice.

    From a world building perspective, I think short stories is a great idea. It'll let you as the writer explore concepts of the world in order to get more familiar with them from the view of an inhabitant of the world.
    It also ties into what's mentioned in the fourth point. If you write a short story based around some aspect of your world, you might be less inclined to go into the same level of detail when the same aspect shows up in your novel. A short story might be a way to "get it out of your system" so to speak.
     
  4. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

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    I feel like the last one (spoiler alert: read more good fantasy books) is tragicaly underrated. Not all voracious readers make good writers, but there's no way you can reach your potential without reading other fantasy stories - and then re-reading them simply to delve into how they told their story. There's a lot of books about the craft of writing, but all that advice gets exponentially more valuable when you tink about it while reading another great story and see different ways it can be put to use.
     
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  5. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    I guess they're all good potential things to do, but I'm pretty sure I've seen all of them broken by successful authors, and in some cases (i.e. planning it all out before hand) by lots of successful authors.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    First, any article that uses "kick-ass" in its title (that isn't about Kick Ass) automatically goes down several spots on my Respect list. It is thirteen tips. Let the reader decide if they kick ass or kick anything else.

    1. I can never make sense of this. Market is an abstraction. The tip in its details is talking about genre and sub-genre, and I'm not convinced that's important to know.

    2. I have experienced the benefit of writing short stories. It got me my first publication, which was huge. It was a completed work, which was huge. But the tip specifically says to do this as an aid to world building, a suggestion I find kicks no ass at all. Moreover, Tolkien did not write a "gazillion" short stories before he wrote the Hobbit. He wrote a few, most of which were never published until well after the Hobbit.

    3. Get a "general idea of your plot." Now doesn't that kick ass? How general is general? In any case, the details are far less dogmatic than the headline here.

    4. This one's just silly. Does anyone know of a fantasy story where the world building is unrelated to the plot?

    5. Oh, this tip "can be" explored. I mean "who knows" it might even turn out to be interesting. So far, it's Ass 5, Kick 0.

    6. File under Painfully Obvious

    7. Ye gods. This tip says, before you write anything, learn economics, politics, philosophy, and my very favorite subject: "more." Check back with me when you graduate.

    8. Be consistent. Gee, thanks for that one.

    9. Ask questions while world building. Excuse me a moment ... ... ... ok, even after three fingers of Scotch, that's still vapid. Shall we not ask questions while writing, or do we get the day off?

    10. *grrrr*. How come no one ever advises the aspiring film maker to think like a novelist? Dancing about architecture, here.

    11. OK, look, I know people do this. They say it's great for them, and that's great. For them. I can't make the thing make sense. I can't interview my characters because I'm the only one in the room. I'm the one with the pen. My characters speak only what I put into their mouths. I've tried interviewing them and it just becomes play acting. I'd rather just write the story.

    12. Still laughing at the image of all the characters in a book coming on stage at once, like taking a curtain call at the start. More Scotch, please.

    13. What, done already? Oh, one more. Pick a good book. Oh sage advice! If this person knows how to pick a good book, they really should write *that* article. They'll be famous. But, do we really need to be told to read? Does anyone know an author who doesn't read?


    And another thing, you bloggers. When you make a list, every item on that list is thereby made to be equal to the others. That's almost never the case. Here are five important things to do before you start your next novel. Here are a couple of suggestions that may or may not work for you; give 'em a look. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you are writing.

    I admit it's tough to pack all that into a headline. But you're a blogger and clever is your stock in trade. Just don't say kick-ass.

    *throws his glass aside and goes for the bottle*
     
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  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    It’s all personal, but my take...

    1: Obvious, but very general. Truly identifying your audience will take lots of advertising and trial and error. The point they make is so general as to be only mildly useful.

    2: Screw that.

    3: I have mixed opinion here... of course, you should have an idea of the story before you write it, but have the story before you have the world? Screw that. Don’t get me wrong, that will work, but the notion that the opposite won’t is foolish.

    4: This one seems nonsensical.

    5: Hrrm, there’s no way to not involve “real world” issues in a fantasy book if there are issues at all, we can’t truly escape ourselves. Keep it relevant on a human level, sure, but the suggestions here tend to lead to preaching.

    6: I think Ron Obvious (see Monty Python) just stabbed me in the eye. Levels of detail will vary by reader, but ummm... yeah.

    7: I agree with the premise, but the more I read, the less I agreed. Strange, that. But I mean, this is the opinion of a proofreader... huh. Better to just point to Sanderson’s lectures and shut up.

    8: Except when breaking what was perceived as a rule works. It’s absurd, but I’m sure there are plenty of writers who make this error.

    9: Oh for... Okay, I admit, I’ve seem many a fantasy map that makes ZERO sense, but seriously, anybody world building asks questions, the trouble is, are they asking the right questions? heh heh.

    10: Borders on, maybe surpasses useless.

    11: Oh, I just hate this one. I’m sure it’d work for some people... not at all for me.

    12: What if you only have one character? Heh heh. But in general this is good advice, but again, it’s extremely basic.

    13: Yes, to a point. Reading bad writing can also educate. Reading alot while writing can also screw you, shifting your voice to mimic the author you’re reading.

    My determination is that this advice was intended for YA wrters, as in still young adults thinking of writing a story.
     
  8. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    From a purely logical, practical aspect, I understand the wisdom of #1. The thing is, I'm not a marketer, salesman, or promoter. I'm a writer. When I imagine my target audience, I think of myself as a boy, thirsting for good stories to get swept up in, portals that could take me from this world. That's who I have in mind when I create a story - the person seeking that experience.
     
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  9. Some of these are like...painfully obvious lol
    Id like to point out a few tho:
    2. This is a good way to get fatigued, distracted and bored if you ask me. If youve just got a world and no ideas for a plot, sure do shorts, but if youhave characters ready to go and do their thing, they're there for a reason. Don't make them wait.
    3. How general is general? Screw planning "scene by scene" tho
    4. I would really like to know how you write a story where there isn't any plot relevant worldbuilding
     
  10. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

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    I agree with this almost 100%, there's just one exception. I've heard authors talk about breaking all these rules except for the one about reading a lot. I've never heard a successful author say "Yeah, I don't read much, I just have a knack for writing." It's one that I can't imagine someone forgoing. I don't know how you could get to be successful at writing without also reading.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think there are good reasons to understand your target market, whether in terms of age group, genre, or what have you. If you're doing short fiction, it is good to know the markets that are geared toward an audience for your stories, and which markets are less of a fit. If you're submitting to agents, it is good to know which agents handle your genre, age group, or other demographic and which don't. If you're self-publishing and doing any kind of marketing, then you'll want to know the "market" to concentrate your "marketing" on.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I agree about reading, but not in a causal way. Reading a lot doesn't cause anything. It's just that writers tend to read a lot. Being writers, they learn things specific to writing, in a way that a non-author doesn't.

    But I do wonder how much Shakespeare read. Or Chaucer.
     
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've read at least one interview where the author admitted he doesn't read a lot (I can't remember who). Even though I've sort of cautioned against reading as the solution to being a better writer, the comment made me less interested in his writing. I wonder how many published authors don't read much but are afraid to admit it?
     
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Since you mention it, I was just noticing that this tip comes from Brandon Sanderson----'s proofreader. I mean, what?
     
  15. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    Umberto Ecco says he doesn't.

    There's a guy named Jason Reynolds who didn't read a book until he was 17 and says he got most of his love of words from hip-hop and poetry (I don't know how many books he read after he was 17 though).

    Mark Lawrence says he only reads about 10 books a year and he's the guy I was thinking of when I made that comment. That said, further googling says he read a lot more when he was younger and he recommends that authors read as well.

    For me though, this begs the question - when should authors read? All the time? That's clearly not true because there's definitely active authors who don't read that much any more, not to mention historical authors who wrote at a time when they had no access to books (the Marquis de Sade had none in prison, I think there's some Russian guy who likewise had none).

    So if you don't have to be an active reader to write, how long a break from reading can you have prior to being an author? How many books do you have to read before you have internalised enough to be a writer and anything more begins to have diminishing returns?

    I think its pretty difficult to be an author without a good grounding in some form of literature (although probably some fluke of nature has done it) and even more difficult to get that good grounding without reading (again, I imagine some fluke of nature has done it). But - and here's the kicker for me - I think that a lot of would-be authors have acquired that grounding already by the time they're reading that list. If they have that grounding, is reading more books absolutely mandatory to progress from there?

    I doubt that it is absolutely mandatory.

    And this isn't my excuse for why I'm not going to read more books. I love reading, of course I'm going to read more books. But am I learning more about writing by spending 4 hours reading Kings of the Wyld (a fine book but of a type I've read dozens of) or by actually writing? Or 2 hours writing, an hour walking to refresh myself, and maybe an hour watching a TV show I can mine for ideas?

    Reading lots (and reading with intent, which is the actual tip in the article) is a good tip. But as a permanent must do, without much consideration of what exactly we're getting from it or the ? I think that's very questionable.
     
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