Book Review – “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference”

The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference

When writing a fantasy novel, it is good to use reference material.  “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” provides the basic information that you need.  The introduction by Terry Brooks states, “Difficulty in writing fantasy is that even though it is “fantasy” it still has to be believable.”  So, when writing a fantasy novel the best way to describe a castle, someone’s clothing, or someone’s armor, it is good to have information to refer to.

“The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” is an “indispensable compendium of myth and magic” from the editors of Writer’s Digest books.  It gives basic information on types of magic as understood in ancient times, the layout of a castle, arms and armor, clothing, and so much more.  “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” doesn’t go into extreme detail but it gives you an idea of where to start in your fantasy world.

The first and second chapters of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” provide great information on the different cultures we could use as a basis in making up our own fantasy cultures.  Chapter one describes feudalism and manorialism, the structure of which ancient medieval societies lived.  It also describes the role of religion, knights, and political entities.  Chapter two describes some ancient world cultures such as the Egyptian culture, Mayan, Chinese, and more.

The third and fourth chapters of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” have to do magic.  Although magic isn’t real, people in ancient times believed it was.  They performed rituals, believed in spirits, or predicted the future by divining the heavenly bodies in the sky.  A review of what ancient societies believed can inspire new ideas for you when writing a fantasy novel.

Chapter five of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” gives information on how commerce, trade, and law worked in medieval times.  For example, what is a marshal, a fuller, a jarl, an adamist?

Chapters six and seven describe fantasy races and mythical creatures.  Fantasy races include elves, dwarves, giants, and more.  Mythical creatures include dragons, unicorns, harpies, and many many more.  When writing a fantasy novel with elves or dragons, you may want to stick with the most common characteristics, but feel free to expand on their natures to give them a unique twist.  Or make up your own fantasy creatures.

Chapter eight of “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” describes dress and costume of ancient times.  Chapter nine is an excellent source for information on the different types of arms and armor and it also describes ancient armies.  And chapter ten describes the anatomy of a castle.

If you are writing a fantasy novel and don’t know where to start in making up your own fantasy world, “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” is a great place to start.  You can’t very well give the reader a visual description of a castle if you don’t know the names of certain parts of the castle.  You can’t describe your hero as he rides fully armored on his mighty steed if you don’t know the names of particular pieces of armor.  Feel free to grab ideas from The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference and expand on them to make them your own.


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