Editor Jason Waltz has assembled the thoughts and musings of seasoned fantasy writers who examine the art and science of heroic character creation. The book sets out to identify those ingredients that make heroes, monsters, battles — and the universes that contain them — come alive to the reader.
Targeting aspiring writers and general fans of fantasy, the book seeks to engage both groups through a blend of philosophical insights and practical writing advice. General themes and topics covered include an existential overview of the heroic character (i.e., a look inside the hero’s soul, will, emotions, motivations, and maturation), insights into the creation of a heroic character, and general advice for the beginning fantasy writer. (e.g., writing cinematic fight scenes, creating realistic battles, crafting descriptive universes, and others). The book concludes with short biographies for each contributing author and a select listing of their works.
Waltz assembles a terrific group of established and successful writers for this book. The contributing authors know, from experience, the level of excellence required for publication. Their essays reflect this experience and provide valuable coaching for those who choose to willingly read, absorb, and apply.
That the authors took the time to write these instructive works speaks highly of them and of their desire to help novice writers. If a reader knew nothing of the genre beforehand, upon finishing this book, they would possess the basic knowledge, tools, and insights necessary for writing a fantasy story.
To the general fan not interested in writing a story, these essays hold value in the way they reveal the inner workings of each author’s unique approach to the writing process. Through their essays, each author displays an amazing diversity in worldview and philosophy that colors how they approach their craft.
Cook’s fatalistic “shit happens” approach contrasts sharply with Card’s pursuit of the reluctant hero, chosen by providence. Yet both approaches work because they authentically reflect the authors themselves. Fans of the genre will enjoy the way Writing Fantasy Heroes offers a glimpse into the minds of some of the genre’s favorite authors.
The weaknesses of the work lie mostly with the reader himself, for any time I read a compilation I naturally like certain essays more than others. As Erickson instructed in the Foreword, I found myself at times reading between the lines, for the lines themselves said little to me at all. Fortunately, these moments of disengagement were very few, and my overall experience with the book was overwhelmingly positive.
Writing Fantasy Heroes provides an opportunity to sit at the feet of competent, successful fantasy writers and learn. What is learned depends upon the reader. An aspiring writer will learn that “finishing what you start” requires a level of engagement few attain, while the general fan of fantasy will discover an open and welcome window into each writer’s soul.
May those who read be encouraged, motivated, and inspired to discover the heroes trapped within themselves, and choose to set them free.