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The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference: An Indispensable Compendium of Myth and Magic

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Fantasy writing must be grounded in both truth and life experience if it is to work. It can be as inventive and creative as the writer can make it, a whirlwind of images and plot twists, but it cannot be built on a foundation of air. The world must be identifiable with our own, must offer us a frame of reference we can recognize. --Terry Brooks This is your complete guide to Fantasy writing must be grounded in both truth and life experience if it is to work. It can be as inventive and creative as the writer can make it, a whirlwind of images and plot twists, but it cannot be built on a foundation of air. The world must be identifiable with our own, must offer us a frame of reference we can recognize. --Terry Brooks This is your complete guide to the realm of the fantastic. Whether you write science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance or historical fiction, here you'll find the factual information you need to construct a fantasy world full of wonder, imagination and spellbinding detail. From fabled creatures to occult religions, every page of this intriguing guide reveals the hidden realities of all things mystical, mythical and supernatural. Featuring charts, lists, illustrations and timelines, each chapter focuses on a different facet of fantasy, including: * Pagan orders, secret societies, witchcraft and the rites and rituals of magic * Detailed profiles of fantastic societies and ancient civilizations, from the Incas and Aztecs to Egypt and the Far East * Medieval trades, occupations, laws and punishments * Dragons, naiads, kelpies and other creatures of myth and fantasy * Legendary races, including elves, dwarfs, giants and more * A comprehensive look at the anatomy of a castle, describing the forms and functions of everything from barbicans to trebuchets This guide also goes well beyond standard reference books, offering sound advice on the writing styles and structures of this complex genre, with important tips on how to weave the elements of fact and fantasy into an absorbing narrative. Fascinating and authoritative, The Writer s Complete Fantasy Reference is the resource you need to create fiction that is compelling, fresh and wildly fantastic.


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Fantasy writing must be grounded in both truth and life experience if it is to work. It can be as inventive and creative as the writer can make it, a whirlwind of images and plot twists, but it cannot be built on a foundation of air. The world must be identifiable with our own, must offer us a frame of reference we can recognize. --Terry Brooks This is your complete guide to Fantasy writing must be grounded in both truth and life experience if it is to work. It can be as inventive and creative as the writer can make it, a whirlwind of images and plot twists, but it cannot be built on a foundation of air. The world must be identifiable with our own, must offer us a frame of reference we can recognize. --Terry Brooks This is your complete guide to the realm of the fantastic. Whether you write science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance or historical fiction, here you'll find the factual information you need to construct a fantasy world full of wonder, imagination and spellbinding detail. From fabled creatures to occult religions, every page of this intriguing guide reveals the hidden realities of all things mystical, mythical and supernatural. Featuring charts, lists, illustrations and timelines, each chapter focuses on a different facet of fantasy, including: * Pagan orders, secret societies, witchcraft and the rites and rituals of magic * Detailed profiles of fantastic societies and ancient civilizations, from the Incas and Aztecs to Egypt and the Far East * Medieval trades, occupations, laws and punishments * Dragons, naiads, kelpies and other creatures of myth and fantasy * Legendary races, including elves, dwarfs, giants and more * A comprehensive look at the anatomy of a castle, describing the forms and functions of everything from barbicans to trebuchets This guide also goes well beyond standard reference books, offering sound advice on the writing styles and structures of this complex genre, with important tips on how to weave the elements of fact and fantasy into an absorbing narrative. Fascinating and authoritative, The Writer s Complete Fantasy Reference is the resource you need to create fiction that is compelling, fresh and wildly fantastic.

30 review for The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference: An Indispensable Compendium of Myth and Magic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ben Aaronovitch

    Not wide enough to be a general overview, not detailed enough to help with the minutiae and disorganised in its layout. There's some useful stuff in here but ultimately it's a disappointment.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Love of Hopeless Causes

    This is an outdated title that sells on brand recognition, if my experience is common. I bought it because of the Writer's Digest brand, but better info can be had online. A set of Dungeon's and Dragon's books might teach you more. For the $18 price you could get about six used TSR books (like a DMG, PHB, and several MM's) or you could go on RPGnow.com and buy PDF books specific to your needs @ $4 (or less) each. What it does go into, it doesn't go far enough. I needed to know more about horses t This is an outdated title that sells on brand recognition, if my experience is common. I bought it because of the Writer's Digest brand, but better info can be had online. A set of Dungeon's and Dragon's books might teach you more. For the $18 price you could get about six used TSR books (like a DMG, PHB, and several MM's) or you could go on RPGnow.com and buy PDF books specific to your needs @ $4 (or less) each. What it does go into, it doesn't go far enough. I needed to know more about horses than what was here, so I bought Fur and Feather: Volume 1, In the Saddle: Mounts in All their Glory (at RPGNOW.) It has 101 pages of mountastic information for $3. I recommend this series: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... for value. Gary Gygax's: Living Fantasy, Insidae, and Nation Builder, put any of these entry level fantasy "guides" or "references" to shame.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Korinetz

    As a reference, I found this disappointing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference The title of this book makes a bold statement; can this truly be the definitive reference book for fantasy writers? I have my reservations. This book is a mere 262 pages long, I find it impossible to claim a book of this length to be the complete reference guide for fantasy writers. The Fantasy Reference guide can be a good tool at times but it could also be so much more, perhaps this book should have been released in separate volumes, this being volume 1. If The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference The title of this book makes a bold statement; can this truly be the definitive reference book for fantasy writers? I have my reservations. This book is a mere 262 pages long, I find it impossible to claim a book of this length to be the complete reference guide for fantasy writers. The Fantasy Reference guide can be a good tool at times but it could also be so much more, perhaps this book should have been released in separate volumes, this being volume 1. If this were volume 1 of a 10 book set then I would say it was a good start. Much of fantasy writing can be based upon religion and religious aspects, this book touches upon a few traditions, but just barley. Entire chapters can and should be devoted to such beliefs and traditions. Shamanism, with it’s many spirits and spiritual sites seem to have been given a pass by the authors of this book. There are a few paragraphs devoted to shamanism in the “Witchcraft and Pagan Path” chapter, but this information barley scratches the surface, this can be said for most of the information in this chapter. This is not a bad book by any means, there is helpful information within this book but it is hardly the complete reference guide it claims to be.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarai

    I think I went into this expecting more and came out disappointed. This really doesn't help writers of fantasy write it gives more of a history of cultures which is interesting but not enough details to make it all work. Basically it is a bunch of fantasy writers got together and did 3 to 4 pages of culture information that anyone who knew how to work a library could do on their own. I did like that it was a jumping off point but that was all. I would only suggest this to authors who need bare fa I think I went into this expecting more and came out disappointed. This really doesn't help writers of fantasy write it gives more of a history of cultures which is interesting but not enough details to make it all work. Basically it is a bunch of fantasy writers got together and did 3 to 4 pages of culture information that anyone who knew how to work a library could do on their own. I did like that it was a jumping off point but that was all. I would only suggest this to authors who need bare facts to start off with otherwise it is a waste of time

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rod

    There certainly is a ton of information in this book, and I especially plan on making use of some of the historical information in creating my own graphic novel. But I will admit that some of it, especially the sections on Magic and Pagan Traditions, came across as rather jumbled. An avalanche of information on various traditions, paths, and beliefs, little snippets of data that often didn't make much sense from section to section or even sentence to sentence. Teaching someone about paganism lik There certainly is a ton of information in this book, and I especially plan on making use of some of the historical information in creating my own graphic novel. But I will admit that some of it, especially the sections on Magic and Pagan Traditions, came across as rather jumbled. An avalanche of information on various traditions, paths, and beliefs, little snippets of data that often didn't make much sense from section to section or even sentence to sentence. Teaching someone about paganism like this is like trying to teach someone about botany by handing them a fruit salad.

  7. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    Uneven and confined entirely to high fantasy, but, within its limits, it's not without its useful points. It does provide a decent overview of fantasy standards and stereotypes, and it offers some good foundational info about historical archetypes and inspiration for drawing from little-used cultures.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Not much good unless you're doing generic sword and sorcery. It's more a 'how to bluff your way around the pseudo-middle ages' book. I have now given it away as I don't think I'll use it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Neither broad nor detailed enough to be truly useful unless you've never read a resource like this before.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joy Pixley

    I wouldn't call this book "complete" or "indispensable," but I did find it useful. It focuses on traditional or classic fantasy worlds that are based loosely on Medieval Europe, plus standard witches, wizards, and monsters and races based on Tolkien and D&D. Many sections also include variations on those standards, including monsters and myths from non-Western cultures. I think the best audience for this book is new writers, or writers who are new to fantasy, who would like to have all the basic I wouldn't call this book "complete" or "indispensable," but I did find it useful. It focuses on traditional or classic fantasy worlds that are based loosely on Medieval Europe, plus standard witches, wizards, and monsters and races based on Tolkien and D&D. Many sections also include variations on those standards, including monsters and myths from non-Western cultures. I think the best audience for this book is new writers, or writers who are new to fantasy, who would like to have all the basics put together in one place. The lists of terms are especially useful. Sure, you can find this stuff online, but it's nice to have it all laid out here, especially when it's specifically targeted for writers of fantasy books. For instance, I might look here to figure out which term I'm trying to think of, and then go online to learn more about that specific issue or item. I especially liked the chapters on weapons and armor and on castles and siege warfare, and the illustrations that pointed out what was what. I've been writing fantasy and world building for a long time, so there were many parts that felt old hat to me. But whenever I started to think a section was useless and I'd just skip to the next one, I found some new nugget of information in the next paragraph that I either hadn't known or had forgotten about over the years. So despite the generality of the material, the book is now covered with a virtual forest of post-it notes telling me to go back and enter ideas into world building notes. Overall, I'd recommend this most to new writers of fantasy, but I think any writer of classic fantasy would find at least a few bits of useful information or ideas here.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Allan Walsh

    The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference is a non-fiction title for writers. It covers aspects of the genre that will help the writer to create a believable fantasy world. The Cover: This is a beautiful cover and screams fantasy, however if it were not for the title and other elements on the cover, I would not have picked it as a non-fiction book. The cover designer made good choices with these additional elements to consolidate the genres. The Good Stuff: This book is packed with useful informatio The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference is a non-fiction title for writers. It covers aspects of the genre that will help the writer to create a believable fantasy world. The Cover: This is a beautiful cover and screams fantasy, however if it were not for the title and other elements on the cover, I would not have picked it as a non-fiction book. The cover designer made good choices with these additional elements to consolidate the genres. The Good Stuff: This book is packed with useful information for a fantasy writer. Ever wondered what the parts of a castle are? Look no further. Need to know what weapons were around in the middle ages? This is the book for you. What did peasants wear? It’s all in this book. The Bad Stuff: It is only a non-fiction title and with such a great cover, I wanted more. The book is informative, but a lot of the details are common knowledge. Did I really need this book? Probably not. Will I ever refer to it? Probably, now I know what’s between the covers it will be easy to refer to if I need more details. It could even be used for some inspiration. Overall, this is a good reference guide. It covers different cultures across our evolution and will certainly make you think a little more about things when you are writing your next fantasy novel. I appreciate the content, but reading a reference guide is a little boring for me, better suited as a reference, but it’s kind of a catch 22, without knowing the content how do you know what to refer to? I think there is value in this title and it certainly reminded me of the deeper level of thought required when planning your novels. For that reason I’m ranking this one 3 out of 5 golden bookmarks.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Mitchell

    The title of this book is a little misleading. I do not consider it a complete reference in any way. It is a helpful book; I’m not saying it isn’t. I just did not feel it offered as much as it could have. I read about 2/3 of the book, as a large portion was just reference lists, which is my favorite aspect of the book, given that it is a reference book. This book uses mostly Middle Ages history to offer ideas to the reader on how they might build their fantasy world, and things to consider to mak The title of this book is a little misleading. I do not consider it a complete reference in any way. It is a helpful book; I’m not saying it isn’t. I just did not feel it offered as much as it could have. I read about 2/3 of the book, as a large portion was just reference lists, which is my favorite aspect of the book, given that it is a reference book. This book uses mostly Middle Ages history to offer ideas to the reader on how they might build their fantasy world, and things to consider to make it feel realistic. It covers everything from religion and politics, to castle life, warfare, and clothing. I did not feel it was very exhaustive, and mostly focuses on English-based inspiration. I’m glad I bought this book, as it will make a good reference for my bookshelf, I just don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been. Overall, it was kind of a disappointment in that regard. That being said, if you are super new to writing fantasy, you will likely find this book more helpful that I did.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    This book would be invaluable to anyone writing in the fantasy genre. It's not necessarily a fun or entertaining read, as it reads like a textbook, yet the amount of information it covers is astounding. A non-fiction reference guide at it's core, The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference is filled with topics ranging from ancient to medieval cultures and their warfare tactics, myths and legends, politics, wardrobe, and commerce. Cultural history provides lots of inspiration to draw from. One of a This book would be invaluable to anyone writing in the fantasy genre. It's not necessarily a fun or entertaining read, as it reads like a textbook, yet the amount of information it covers is astounding. A non-fiction reference guide at it's core, The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference is filled with topics ranging from ancient to medieval cultures and their warfare tactics, myths and legends, politics, wardrobe, and commerce. Cultural history provides lots of inspiration to draw from. One of a fantasy authors jobs is to allow the reader to suspend disbelief, and utilizing information gleaned from factual history and cultures will help authors to do just that, and that is where a book like this comes in. If you're a writer or just an avid fantasy reader, have this book on your shelf at least as a reference guide.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Dressler

    A really great reference for the fantasy writer. It covers a broad range of topics and most of the chapters are really fantastic! It does have some editing hiccups, but they are rare and easy to overlook. If anyone wants to get a jump start on learning how to write in the fantasy world, particularly with a knowledge of what has come before you, I recommend you start here. Consider it a good diving board, from which you can take deeper dives in specific areas of interest elsewhere.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gilfillan

    Mostly full of historical information about medieval Europe, with a few factoids about other cultures thrown in. Very superficial coverage with a lot of technical detail about weapons and castles. I was able to glean some useful information from it, but I guess I was hoping for something more inclusive of all the fantasy genre.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sonja

    This book could be considered outdated by some, but the basic information is still very much useful to the new writer, and to those who wish to at least know what tropes they're elbowing out of the way. Handy as reference, but well written and well presented, making a pleasure of necessity.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hareesha

    Here's some perspective: I've never read a book on creating fantasy worlds before, I've never attempted to create my own, and the ideas I've had on creating my own fantasy world have been incoherent at best. So if you're a complete newbie to worldbuilding like I am, you might find The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference a thought-provoking and useful introduction to the topic. I'm using this book to lay a rough outline for a fantasy world. The book contains brief introductions to traditional fant Here's some perspective: I've never read a book on creating fantasy worlds before, I've never attempted to create my own, and the ideas I've had on creating my own fantasy world have been incoherent at best. So if you're a complete newbie to worldbuilding like I am, you might find The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference a thought-provoking and useful introduction to the topic. I'm using this book to lay a rough outline for a fantasy world. The book contains brief introductions to traditional fantasy societies, like feudalism and manorialism, and some information on magical systems, clothing, fantasy races/monsters, etc. There's also some interesting information on non-European cultures as inspiration for fantasy worlds- we need to see way more of this. Many other reviewers here (negatively) mention the book's lack of depth into any one topic. They're right: this book is hardly a "complete" fantasy reference like its title claims. But the brevity of each section stimulated my own brainstorming about the covered topics, and the topic order helped to organise my ideas. If this book were too detailed, and you are like me, you could easily spend too much time anxiously considering the thread count of the typical fantasy garment in your fantasy world (there's a time and place for this, of course, but I find too much detail too early in the process derails worldbuilding). So The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference is best-equipped to inspiring you and guiding you in worldbuilding's earlier stages. One major oversight of this book is not acknowledging fantasy stories set in the modern world, and fantasy stories with science fiction or futuristic elements. These settings would have different types of rules and societies and cultures to those the book mainly covers, and their inclusion might've made the book even more useful to novice worldbuilders.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Attila

    A dry presentation of basic Medieval European concepts and objects, without much "fantasy", and without any tips about how to put the pieces on the board (i.e. tips for world building, for creating a culture...) It describes medieval society, ranks, trades, arms, clothing, and so on - you already know about most of these if you paid attention in History classes, or read a couple of historical novels (if you did not, a short Google search can set you straight). Even the chapters about magic talk o A dry presentation of basic Medieval European concepts and objects, without much "fantasy", and without any tips about how to put the pieces on the board (i.e. tips for world building, for creating a culture...) It describes medieval society, ranks, trades, arms, clothing, and so on - you already know about most of these if you paid attention in History classes, or read a couple of historical novels (if you did not, a short Google search can set you straight). Even the chapters about magic talk only about medieval occult beliefs instead of concepts and tropes characteristic of fantasy literature. Despite saying TERRY BROOKS on the cover in big letters, the book was not written by Terry Brooks. He wrote only a three-page introduction; the content was put together by various minor authors (for this reason, the chapters are quite different in tone, and certain things are repeated in multiple chapters).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Galloway-Miller

    This has been a great source of inspiration when world building during the writing process of my epic fantasy novel. Unfortunately, the information was not as detailed as I would have preferred. However, since I am not well-versed in this genre, I've found it indispensable when I run into a problem and needing to identify a generic term. The book included chapters on Medieval Life, fashion, castles and religious rites and beliefs. A female centered Goddess religion plays an important role in my This has been a great source of inspiration when world building during the writing process of my epic fantasy novel. Unfortunately, the information was not as detailed as I would have preferred. However, since I am not well-versed in this genre, I've found it indispensable when I run into a problem and needing to identify a generic term. The book included chapters on Medieval Life, fashion, castles and religious rites and beliefs. A female centered Goddess religion plays an important role in my piece, so I've referred to the religious sections several times as I work on finalizing the details of my world. I wouldn't recommend it for the fantasy-obsessed. The information would most likely be too generic. To read my entire review, click the link beolow http://nrgalloway24.wordpress.com/201...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    I can understand why so many people disliked this book, but personally I've actually found it really helpful. It's not hugely detailed, and there probably is a lot missing, but it's useful for things like language and terminology, especially for things like clothing and buildings. It's also got decent lists of various fantastical creatures. It's main focus does seem to be high fantasy, but there's a lot of useful stuff in here for most forms of fantasy-based fiction. Yes, it's basic, but it's a I can understand why so many people disliked this book, but personally I've actually found it really helpful. It's not hugely detailed, and there probably is a lot missing, but it's useful for things like language and terminology, especially for things like clothing and buildings. It's also got decent lists of various fantastical creatures. It's main focus does seem to be high fantasy, but there's a lot of useful stuff in here for most forms of fantasy-based fiction. Yes, it's basic, but it's a decent springboard and best used as an overview more than anything else, especially as anything further can probably be researched online, but this book gives a good starting point for anyone looking to write fantasy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    B. Eagles

    I keep seeing the same complaint in many of the other reviews for this book; its too narrow (or broad, depending on your perspective), the information is too basic and/or unoriginal, etcetera. But this is a reference book, and, in my opinion, a pretty good one. You don't have to write cookie-cutter fantasy to utilize this material, but you do have to have your own creative foundation for your actual story. If you are looking for someone else to give you original ideas to create a plot from, I ag I keep seeing the same complaint in many of the other reviews for this book; its too narrow (or broad, depending on your perspective), the information is too basic and/or unoriginal, etcetera. But this is a reference book, and, in my opinion, a pretty good one. You don't have to write cookie-cutter fantasy to utilize this material, but you do have to have your own creative foundation for your actual story. If you are looking for someone else to give you original ideas to create a plot from, I agree that this is not the book for you, but if you have your own unique tale already and are looking for the basic fiber information that may be lacking, then it is quite useful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A decent source of information on both historical medieval societies and popular fantasy tropes. The most useful parts, in my opinion, are the diagrams labeling the different pieces or armor and parts of a castle, as well as extensive vocabulary of siege weapons and society classes of those times. The cover of this book highlights an introduction by Terry Brooks, which, while this is true, is incredibly disappointing. The entire introduction is three pages long, and can be summed up in the follow A decent source of information on both historical medieval societies and popular fantasy tropes. The most useful parts, in my opinion, are the diagrams labeling the different pieces or armor and parts of a castle, as well as extensive vocabulary of siege weapons and society classes of those times. The cover of this book highlights an introduction by Terry Brooks, which, while this is true, is incredibly disappointing. The entire introduction is three pages long, and can be summed up in the following sentence: "Make sure you keep your fantasy writing grounded in reality."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deb White

    Did not care for this book at all, please, do REAL research if you want to write about these subjects, or just 'some' research. Any art history book of ancient art is more informative and inspirational - and WAY more accurate on almost all these subjects. This made me feel I was reading a crib sheet put together from what looks like other skimpy crib sheets. I really felt the author[s] did not know the subjects at all.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tara Bateman

    This is a book for those who wish to start writing a fantasy (set in a medieval type world) and don't know where to start. This book gives you the basics and where to start. It is very broad but I believe it's meant to be. As I said before, it's a starting point. From there you decide what you should research further, depending on your story. It also gives you lists to uses as a reference; from medieval terms, to monsters, different fantasy races etc. Over all it was a good read

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    I didn't find this as helpful as I expected. I've found other Writers' Digest guides much more helpful for writing, and other non-Writers' guides (eg, nonfiction magic and mythology books) much more helpful for finding fantastic inspiration. This one felt like there were some interesting essays, but overall it didn't get me charged up to go write fantasy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    The book is very useful if you're writing something set in the pseudo-medieval world that's prevalent in the fantasy genre. Beyond that, though, the book is extremely limited as it touches only briefly on a few other world cultures a writer can draw on for inspiration.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Singer

    Again, writers should stick to their genre instead of reading "craft books" but this is a good generic refernce for the fantasy writer that gives general outlines on society breakdowns, jobs, clothing, etc.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    A decent starting place for those who need help with basic stuff in fantasy writing. The book is, as its title states, a reference book, and so it goes over the fundamentals of various mythologies, medieval economic systems, armor, and medieval terminology.

  29. 4 out of 5

    D. Logan

    This had a good overview of not just patterns of how to construct a fantasy world, but also a basic overview of several cultures and many of the common fantasy trappings (such as jobs, clothing, etc) that you might find yourself inclined to using.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John Hennessy

    There are some good descriptions and outlines of fantasy. It's a great starter, you can see what has been traditionally done, and decide how you want your book to be different. If you are a fantasy writer and find it at a used bookstore, I would pick it up.

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