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How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing) 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 182 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0898794168
ISBN-10: 0898794161
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Product Details

  • Series: Genre Writing
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; 1st edition (July 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898794161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898794168
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Wolverton on March 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Only the first two of Card's five chapters deal exclusively with SF&F. The other three apply to all genres. Card spends the first chapter defining just what is SF, what is F and how to tell the difference. SF&F have many sub-genres (space opera, hard SF, cyperpunk, sword & sorcery, etc.) and Card shows the reader that they all have several elements in common. The second chapter focuses on creating believable worlds that readers will want to explore. SF&F is not an "anything goes" genre; you must have rules and follow them, especially with regard to time, space, and magic. You also have to work out problems in your world's history, language, geography, and of course science.
Chapter 3, Story Construction, has already opened up new worlds for me (no pun intended). Almost every story, no matter what your genre, falls into one of four categories: milieu (the time or place of the story is the most important element), idea, character, and event. Knowing which your story is will help you write it better. Very helpful examples are given.
Chapter 4, Writing Well, shows how to unfold your story. True, this chapter is geared to the specifics of SF&F, but contains extremely valuable information. How much information should you share with the reader early on? How much is too much? Have you dropped enough clues or interesting pieces of information early on to keep the pages turning? This chapter answers those questions and more.
Chapter 5, The Life and Business of Writing, is probably the most honest look at the writer's life that I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback
If you're looking for the ultimate tome and guide that will take you from simply reading science fiction and fantasy to a best-selling writer of it, then this book is not for you. However, NO book fills that role, nor can it, as writing is something best learned by doing, not following a formula in a book.
Card, like most writers, is well aware of that fact and does not take the pretention that his book is a how-to that will have you churning out sci-fi and fantasy like a pro. However, for those enthusiasts who aren't sure where to begin or what mistakes to avoid, Card's guide is a good, if ill-titled, one; it describes the different types of stories (idea, character, event, etc.), plus offers tips on building a world with consistent and believable rules, what constitutes sci-fi/fantasy, etc.
More advanced writers or even rather astute readers may find some of the book's guidance obvious or a matter of common sense, and the book is not the only one an aspiring writer might wish to own (Writer's Market, various plotting, characterization, marketing, etc. books also being invaluable), but it is a good starting point for the average sci-fi enthusiast.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not biased for or against Orson Card. I simply own the book, and I have the right to say that there is nothing wrong with it. I've noticed people complaining that the author doesn't keep up with science, is biased against Star Trek, gives nonsemsial info in order to confuse you, etc.
This is not true. Moreover, that is not what the book is for. The author encourages you, gives you examples, and makes you comfortable with writing fiction. Card doesn't give you specific advice ( insert character A here). He gives you examples of tone. He doesn't give you a compendium of data on the medieval world. He shows you what it feels like to write about it. He points you in the right direction, gives personal pointers, uses fine humor. You supply your own storylines. Enjoy this book.
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Format: Paperback
If you are familiar with Orson Scott Card's Hatrack River site, you know that there is nobody in the field of science fiction and fantasy who is more committed to helping new writers. If that is news to you then certainly his resume as a writer is well known to any one interested in writing in this field. This is one of the thinner books on writing you are going to fine and that is because Uncle Orson is extremely focused in explaining his craft. Consequently, there are but five sections to this volume in The Writer's Digest Genre Writing Series. (1) The Infinite Boundary looks at the spectrum covered by science fiction and fantasy with some attention to the distictions between the two as well. (2) World Creation details how to build, populate and dramatize your new world, including working out all the necessary elements such as history, language, geography and customs. (3) Story Construction deals with finding the right character for an idea or the right idea for a character (and do not forget about "the MICE quotient"). (4) Writing Well is a collection of fundamental tips, otherwise known as the "don't do this at home" section. (5) The Life and Business of Writing deals both generally with the business but also the specifics of science fiction and fantasy. I find his use of examples, especially when he lays out a series of variations on a theme, to be helpful because they demonstrate in practice what his theoretical points and show how many additional ideas each idea generates. Perhaps most importantly, Uncle Orson is having a conversation with you; he is neither lecturing nor pontificating. His non-fiction is as readily as his award-winning fiction, and that should come as a surprise to no one. There are other books better suited to getting into the nuts and bolts of constructing brave new worlds, but I have yet to find a better book at covering the basics than this one.
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