Sunday, May 21, 2017

Writing Fantasy Heroes, ed. Jason M. Waltz

Writing Fantasy HeroesWriting Fantasy Heroes edited by Jason M. Waltz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a non-fiction anthology of writing advice from various fantasy authors:

"The Hero in Your Blood" by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
"The Heroic Will" by Cecelia Holland
"Taking a Stab at Writing Sword and Sorcery" by Ian C. Esslemont
"Writing Cinematic Fight Scenes" by Brandon Sanderson
"Watching from the Sidelines" by Cat Rambo
"Man Up: Making Your Hero an Adult" by Alex Bledsoe
"Two Sought Adventure" by Howard Andrew Jones
"Monsters -- Giving the Devils their Due" by C.L. Werner
"NPCs are People Too" by Jennifer Brozek
"Tropes of the Trade" by Ari Marmell
"So You Want to Fight a War" by Paul Kearney
"Shit Happens in the Creation of Story" by Glen Cook
"The Reluctant Hero" by Orson Scott Card

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 of 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. (Much of which is included in Card's other writing books -- he gives great writing advice.)

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.

If you write classic sword and sorcery type fantasy, there's a lot of good, useful stuff here. 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. My star rating reflects more the marketing disconnect and the disappointment I felt with the narrow range of focus than with the quality of the book over all. For me, as a writer who writes different kinds of fantasy, it was decent but not great. I don't regret reading it; I just wish it had been labelled more clearly.


Charles Gramlich said...

I got this a couple of years back and read it. You may have seen my review on Goodreads. It is pretty specific but I do write those types of heroes so it was quite useful for me.

Angie said...

Charles -- you know, I thought of you when I was reading this book. :) I figured you'd like it; glad I was right.