Feb 1, 2016
Writing Book: The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester
The Fantasy Fiction Formula is a great writing book by Jim Butcher's mentor. I love Butcher's Dresden Files series, and when I saw the book mentioned on his site, I had to get it, and I wasn't disappointed.
This book is geared towards genre writers, and you get what is says on the cover: well-written, practical advice. The examples have to do with wizards and werewolves, and Chester's style is fun and entertaining. If you've read a lot of writing books, most of the information is familiar, but Chester's approach is very useful, with examples that help illustrate the point she's trying to make. The great thing is, you get examples of both the wrong way and the right way, which makes it easier to spot your own mistakes.
I found the book useful and learned a few new tricks, but the best thing for me was that it describes the process of writing a story or novel from start to finish, and it helped me fuse all the information floating around my brain into one concise whole. If you've already written a book or two, you probably don't need this, but for beginners trying to write speculative fiction this is worth every penny.
The first thing I'm going to try is the SPOOC method for testing story premises. The acronym comes from Situation, Protagonist, Objective, Opponent, Climax. When you combine them, you'll get a two-sentence plot summary. So Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone might look something like this:
Situation: When he finds out that someone is after the Philosopher's stone hidden in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Protagonist: Harry Potter
Objective: vows to keep it safe.
But can he stop
Opponent: the evil Lord Voldemort
Climax: from stealing it and coming back?
The character-building and revision questions are also useful, and the story structure sections are easy to understand.
In conclusion: one of the best writing books I've read. Go ahead and get this if you're a genre writer. Into science fiction or horror? Don't let the fantasy bit scare you off; you'll still get plenty of use from this. Highly recommended.
(If you're a literary writer, you will probably hate this and feel like the book is trying to box you in. If the concept of plot makes you dry-heave, move along. This is not the writing book you're looking for.)