1. soital
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    soital Member

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    Must reads for a fantasy writer?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by soital, Nov 5, 2011.

    I'm looking to more seriously write a fantasy story I've began thinking of, any books that are a must-read in order to know what makes a "good" fantasy book/series??
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'm going to be controversial, and suggest reading a whole tranche of stuff which isn't fantasy. Not because I hate fantasy (though, admittedly, it isn't my favourite genre), but because branching out your reading experience will result in you seeing different ideas and approaches in different genres. This will provide a good thrust of originality, and might well allow you to get around the sameishness which fantasy seems so easily to fall into.
     
  3. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    There is no such thing as "must reads for a fantasy writer", or any writer for that matter. You write what you want and how you like it, there are no rules (other than grammar). Taking other authors' works as basis is not good, it tends to sap originality, as Banzai mention sameishness.
    I understand if you read other fantasy books to learn, to make yourself a better writer, to make your writing smoother through it.

    There are two sites I found a while ago which seem to have a very good list of fantasy books.
    1)http://www.bestfantasybooks.com/ (adult books)
    2)http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/ (this one has young and adult books)
     
  4. Forgotten_Memories
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    Forgotten_Memories Active Member

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    The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. The character development alongside the story in it is immense!

    I think with Fantasy, you really need to flesh out the entire setting of what you're writing, because you're introducing something that is basically purely from your imagination and can't expect people to take things for granted. That's one thing that Joe Abercrombie does exceptionally well too.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Banzai is right, Soital. A good story is a good story, and reading one will give you ideas and solid examples of how to write/tell your own good story.

    If you're looking for fantasy, consider for example, what POV you want to write your story in. If it's first person, then focus on writers who've published works in first person POV. Read, not for enjoyment only, but read to learn how to do it--how the published author did it, from characterization and dialogue, to description and plot development. Read several authors and note what they did and what works for you and would mesh with your method/style and employ it.

    Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series and Roger Zelazny's Amber series both are great first person POV with top notch dialogue and action.
    Stephen R. Dondaldon's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series (especially the first trilogy) is a good example of Third Person POV, in an epic fantasy with a truly unique world and creatures that rivals Tolkien's.

    Outside fantasy, just good reads? Consider Mitch Albom's Five People You Meet in Heaven, Sandra Kring's Carry Me Home and Robert T. Bakker's Raptor Red, or David Wood's The Zombie Driven Life. You can easily look them up and see what might interest you, but you'll learn something about storytelling (Five People--characterization, motivation and empathy and dignity, Carry Me Home--first person present tense expertly told from a mentally challenged child and young adult with historical references built in, Raptor Red--combining science and fiction in a tale about a year in the life of a Utah Raptor in the Cretaceous period, and Zombie Driven Life--a fast paced YA novel that seeks from a unique setting, what's the point?

    Nonfiction never hurts--history...such as anything by Stephen E Ambrose, but especially Citizen Soldier, Flyboys by James Bradly (for example, if you're interested in WW II). There is just so much out there.
     
  6. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    You don't have to read hundreds of fantasy books to write your own. And it doesn't matter if yours is good or not, just write it!
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Banzai. You don't have to read fantasy to write fantasy. But I do believe that you should read good writing of any genre, fiction or non-fiction, so that you know what good writing is and you know the standards you're aiming for. If you read good writing, then you can apply the lessons you learned in doing so to whatever genre you want to tackle.

    I always fear that when people spend a lot of time reading dreck (I'm not saying all fantasy is dreck, of course!), then they tend to aim low in their own writing. They may not even realize that it's possible to aim high. So dreck will spawn more dreck, and trees will die to perpetuate it.
     
  8. Waltznmatildah
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    Waltznmatildah Member

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    I'm with Allan, there really are no must reads.
    I personally would suggest Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman who are both unconventional fantasy authors. If you want to step out of the box, these are the books to rip a page from.
     
  9. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another one with Banzai. Although you need a fantasy grounding with a good range (ie, not just the Lord of the Rings knockoffs which manifest themselves every five minutes and which publishers seem determined to push at every opportunity - in fact, avoid those like the plague), having a breadth and depth of reading will help you far more in the long run. And keep mixing it up. Whilst you might read some horror over the next few days, after that you might want to look at a Russian classic like Crime and Punishment, then move on to Dune, then Ender's Game followed by Perdido Street Station and Things Fall Apart. Reading just one thing for any length of time is a good way to stagnate.

    And don't just restrict yourself to fiction. Read philosophy and history. Throw in some biographies and autobiographies. Flick through a reference book every now and then. Keep expanding your knowledge of the world and fresh concepts will be easier to come by, as well as understanding what will and won't work when put together.
     
  10. Gfire
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    Myths should also be mentioned. Knowing myths can be really good for writing fantasy, I think. But for the sake of originality, look into lesser-known myths. Probably anything but Norse or Greek mythology. Often times, if all you ever read is modern fantasy literature, it limits your view on things. It's important to still make it relevant to the modern audience, though.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree with the posts that say don't worry about reading, or don't worry about reading fantasy. In any field of endeavor, you can only be helped by knowing what has preceded you, as well as by knowing the current state of the art and market. While it is technically true that you don't HAVE to do anything and can simply go about blithely writing your novel, there are reasons why so many successful authors are well-read, both in and out of their genres, and why filmmakers study the seminal works of other filmmakers, &c. It is a very good idea to do this sort of thing.

    I'd recommend hitting the seminal works and authors in the genre, a good cross-section of what is going on now in the market, and also reading a very good cross-section of fine literature outside of the genre.

    Since you asked specifically about Fantasy, I recommend a handful of authors whose works have set the stage:

    Tolkien
    Fritz Leiber
    Jack Vance
    Jack Williamson (maybe just Darker than you Think)
    Michael Moorcock
    Ursula K. LeGuin
    Roger Zelazny
    CJ Cherryh
    Gene Wolfe
    maybe something by Patricia McKillip

    Then, for more modern fantasy, a good cross-section of the genre includes the following:

    Steven Brust
    Glenn Cook
    China Mieville
    Steven Erikson
    Joe Abercrombie
    Neil Gaiman
    George R.R. Martin

    Depending on specifically what you are writing, you might look at writers like Jim Butcher, or Storm Constantine, or Caitlin Kiernan, or Tim Powers, or any of dozens of others who are writing in a particular niche.

    And then read a lot of good fiction that has nothing to do with your genre.

    But any advice that steers you away from reading in the genre in which you wish to write is bad advice, imo.
     
  12. Dithnir
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    You need to read some fantasy that's been recently released to understand what the publishers think is selling, where the scene is. I haven't done enough of that myself. Steerpike's list is exhaustive, you shouldn't have to go far beyond Mieville, Abercrombie, Gaiman and Martin, also Tim Powers from my own list. Out of the old school you'd do well to look at Moorcock, Tolkien, but only for the depth and consistency of his world, his characterisation in actual prose is more dead than stone, and I say that with love :)

    But really, all great stories are driven by characters, and while the fantasy tropes revolve around small person becomes big person by travelling all over a world and gaining incredible power to take on malevolent power, gripping stories are everywhere, from The Magus by John Fowles (an English teacher is driven to the depths of his psyche and self understanding by a malevolent figure on a Greek Island) to the single ejaculation that changes the course of two lives in 'On Chesil Beach'. There's the obsessed drum banging dwarf who's life was ordinarily extraordinary throughout the second world war in The Tin Drum to the magisterial 'Moby Dick', one man's obsession with a whale carrying far more depth and power than god knows how many boy wizards finding their way to manhood before legions of undead in struggles that shape their entire worlds :)
     
  13. shangrila
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    shangrila Member

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    It depends on what you're aiming for. Is your story more plot driven, weaving possibly dozens of characters into something Homeric in scope? Then read Malazan, Song of Ice and Fire, maybe the Wheel of Time. But if it's character driven, where the story is secondary, then read Abercrombie or Rothfuss.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ripping two of the most celebrated fantasy authors is stepping out of the box? Sounds paradoxial to me. They forged their own, personal styles and that's what makes them great. Copying them doesn't cut it.
     
  15. hyperchord24
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    You'll find your own voice once you've written enough. The people you read while you write will certainly influence you, but I wouldn't be afraid of copying. Most authors say to read other genres. The one thing you can learn by reading other fantasy is what's been done before. You may think you have a fresh idea, only to learn that author X already did it. It may discourage you, but it may also motivate you to indeed write it out with your voice. It may also help you in dealing with a plot hole you have. They've covered the same subject and you can see how they covered that particular plot hole.

    The thing about fantasy is that you can write a whodunit with elves and publishers call it fantasy. You can write a romance with elves and publishers will call it fantasy. Fantasy is all encompassing, so the more genres you read, the more you can incorporate into your own story.
     

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