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The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference

60 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 003-5313107108
ISBN-10: 1582970262
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Editorial Reviews Review

The fantasy writer has a lot to keep track of: fantasy cultures and races, magic, mythological creatures, unusual punishments, castles and fortifications, and more. Plus, though fantasy writing "must be grounded in both truth and life experience if it is to work," says Terry Brooks (A Knight of the Word) in his introduction here, it must also be "as inventive and creative as the writer can make it." Find your groundedness elsewhere. This is the place to turn for all the other stuff. Need a refresher on the difference between aleuromancy (fortune cookies) and alomancy (fortune-telling by salt)? Can't remember the term for starting a new witches' coven (hiving off)? Need a glossary of particularly gruesome punishments from the Middle Ages? It's all here, and more. With illustrations of architectural structures, Maori weapons, and various types of dress and armor; and references to many more sources, should you crave even greater detail. --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The title exaggerates considerably, but this handbook does live up to its claim to be "an indispensable compendium of myth and magic," introducing basic concepts in both areas, drawing on Western and selected non-Western cultures, and bringing the evolution of some of the concepts down to the present, as in the capsule account of wicca, offered for the aspiring urban fantasist. There is also enough illustrated material on the relevant basic historical aspects, with emphasis on northern Europe, to help the would-be fantasist needing help in telling a serf from a fief and a castle from a chattel. Considering the number of published fantasy writers who have run into difficulties at that level, the book certainly deserves wide use, though it would be more helpful above the basic level if it had a reading list. At the level it attains, though, the editors and authors have done a singularly good job. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (November 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582970262
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582970264
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

188 of 198 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Tarrani on May 4, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Terry Brooks' introduction to Fantasy Reference is a writer's guide in disguise. He learned from his editor of fifteen years that "It is harder to write good fantasy than any other form of fiction." Why? "The temptation to free-fall through a story chock full of incredible images and wonderful beings can be irresistible -- but, when not resisted, almost invariably disastrous." The book is worth the price just for this introduction, but there is so much more.
Chapter 1: Traditional Fantasy Cultures. These essays help writers get a sense of history for their fantasy tale to develop successfully. These include Feudalism, Christianity, Knighthood, Political Entities, and more. Each of the main topics is subdivided for ready reference. For example: Peripheral Cultures provides a brief history of the Mongols, Moors, Magyars, Normans, Picts, Saracens, Saxons, and Vikings.
Chapter 2: World Cultures are a critical backdrop in any story. "Nevertheless, many fantasy novels today seem to be set in an unending series of northern European countrysides..." (Michael J. Varbola) This chapter discusses science, art, military, economy, etc., to help writers make the places real and visual. There are great ideas here.
Chapter 3: Magic. The heart of a good fantasy is the magic that binds the world together or can rip it apart. Reading the history of magic helps writers understand spells, and know how the culture developed within Magic's realm.
Chapter 4: Witchcraft and Pagan Paths describes ways to recognize a witch, what witchcraft is, traditions and religions, and herbs. An example is "weik" is an Indo-European root word having to do with religion and magic.
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231 of 252 people found the following review helpful By StalkingGhostBear on March 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Every so often I am griped by the strange delusion that I am an author on the verge of writing a great novel. It was in one of these states that I ordered "The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference. Upon receiving the book my first thought was that it was much thinner than I had imagined it would be. My worries that the book was less than complete were confirmed in reading just a few pages. I recognize that one book could not hope to fully cover the various worlds of high fantasy and the background necessary to create a viable fantasy world. Yet I had hoped for so much more than what was presented here.
The book seems to suffer from many problems the most prominent is that it has a very bad case of bad editing. The book is obviously a collection of articles that have appeared elsewhere and they lack any sort of overall cohesion.
The chapter on medieval Europe, the traditional fantasy setting, is severely lacking. It begins with a discussion of feudalism, leaving out the fact that feudal monarchies differed in structure and power from place to place. The feudal system of twelfth century Bavaria looked nothing like the system in place in England. Worse the book provides the impression that the singular kind of feudalism presented was the only governing system in use. The chapter includes a short list of titles of royalty but there is no indication of how these various personages would fit together to form a ruling class. What exactly is the difference between a Baronet and a Viscount? Who has more power a Marchioness or a Duke? What kind of social or economic benefits do these titles provide? None of these questions were answered. Additionally there is no indication of hierarchy among the nobles. Three is no indication of how nobles might interact with those of lesser stations.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie L. Letterson on April 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fantasy Reference is a dictionary of everything related to the Medieval Era of Europe and a bit more. This book is full of lists and descriptions of cultures, creatures, weapons, clothing styles, social titles, magic, and common structures.
While the information in this book is very good, it is not inclusive nor does it claim to be (in fact in the culture section, the authors' suggest further study). The book itself is meant as a desk reference and a starting point for ideas, studies, and reinventing.
What this book is good is for is when you can't remember the difference between a baron and marquess, the names of practiced trades, what the name is of a particular piece of armor on a full plate suit is called, the name of various cultures around the world, etc.
It will not be the only reference book on your shelf, but more of an index to the rest of your reference.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Fantasy is probably one of the most difficult forms of literature to write a story. While the genre does give an author freedom to create a breathtaking and beautiful world of his own, the author has to make that world believable, which can be quite a daunting task. Thankfully, the editors of "Writer's Digest" books have given us "The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference" so fantasy authors, newbies and pros alike, can do just such a thing.
The book starts out with an excellent introduction by renowned fantasy author Terry Brooks, and his words effectively tells the reader the lessons a fantasy author must learn to make his fiction acceptable. Then comes the rest of the book, all of the material to help a fantasy author realize his potential.
Although this is a reference book, I seriously recommend going through the entire book cover to cover, or at least skim over some of the important points. That way, you can get a sense of what this book really has to offer and you can return to the right pages when an idea strikes you.
The book covers practically everything, from cultures to magic to religions to monsters to clothing to castle anatomy...almost everything a fantasy author could want at his disposal. The amount of information within this book is so immense it's nearly impossible not to find something to beef up a story.
But at the same time, this book doesn't get too big-headed. While it does contain a lot of information, it doesn't brag about possessing everything known to man on the subjects found in the book. In fact, the book encourages the writer to branch out and look for other sources related to the information within the book.
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