Today I am pleased to have a guest post by Jason M Waltz, the publisher of Writing Fantasy Heroes and many other fine works via his company Rogue Blades Entertainment. Jason and I have crossed paths in numerous sword and sorcery forums and and his knowledge of and his sincere love for the genre have always impressed me. I am really happy to have him here talking about his latest project, a book with a stellar lineup of contributors which is certainly worth the attention of the writers among you as well as anyone who is simply interested in how the fantasy genre is written. There will even be a chance to win a copy of the book itself. Anyway, without further ado I’ll hand you over to Jason…
Howdy all! I want to begin by expressing my thanks to Bill for inviting me to discuss my latest release, Writing Fantasy Heroes (Rogue Blades Entertainment, 2013). This 54,000 word how-to book has been a project of passion for me for almost four years—and I’m dang proud of it. Gathering this assortment of authors, convincing them to offer tidbits of knowledge, and finally holding a completed manuscript was an exciting process. Mostly.
There were challenges, authors that were unavailable, money and time that withered away, cover art that escaped, and authors that had to be replaced. There were a few low points when I feared the project may die…and a few high points as well, where I was delighted by a particular turn of events. Now that all is said and done, I am immensely satisfied. This collection achieved what I’d set out after late in 2009: delivering a unified group of essays on the creation of the heroic character.
It surpassed my desires actually, as I’d aimed for a dozen essays and scored the addition of Janet and Chris Morris at the last moment after striking up conversation with Janet in the Facebook Heroic Fantasy group. I consider their insights on the ancient Western trademarks of heroism and companionship a real plus that rounded out the contents admirably. And the cover art—this cover art heralds the charge and kicks the gates open and yet it almost wasn’t! I won’t belabor the tale, but landing cover art for this book required heroic feats of perseverance and daring-do and I almost wasn’t up to it. Then out of my valley of woe came Dleoblack and his portfolio of excellent heroic pieces—a match made in Valhalla!
So why did we need another book about writing? Writing characters even? And heroes? Doesn’t everyone know what makes a hero? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s that simple either. Writing Fantasy Heroes isn’t so much about the writing (though sound advice is present); it’s not even all that very particular to fantasy (though the authors are well-known contributors to the genre and the examples they use come mostly from it). And though it is about the creation and writing of characters who are more often than not protagonists of their tales and usually the heroes, this book is really a conversation about us.
I targeted known names in the SFF circuit for a reason—they either wrote beloved characters or were beloved characters themselves. Then I asked them to write as if they were sitting with fans and chatting of their own tales, their own characters, their own heroes. I invited them to spend a few moments sharing their points of view on the creation of ‘the hero’ and to bolster their opinions with examples from their own works. I sought to balance advice by tapping tenured professionals and first-contract signees, novelists to short story writers, bestsellers to consistent sellers. Gaming writers to script writers, science fiction to historical fiction, shared worlds to solitary; they’re all here and it’s all touched upon, and each of them agree. Writing a compelling and appealing character—let’s face it, if readers aren’t persuaded or pleased, we won’t grow addicted to your hero—boils down to one thing: the author’s honesty.
Your ability to be believable. This is what Writing Fantasy Heroes offers: thirteen, fourteen with Steven Erikson’s foreword, ways to prove sincerity. To authenticate those characters you writers want readers to believe in, and you readers want to discover. This isn’t a book only for writers; this examination of what makes the heroic heroic is for all of us. Shoot, even Orson Scott Card in his essay says it took writing this short piece to finally decipher what it required of him to transition the character of Ender from novel to screenplay. It isn’t about the rules of writing or the traditions of history or the experiences of publication; it’s about what’s believable and what is not.
The authors cover a lot of ground in their essays, contributing numerous ways of building and supporting believability from within and without a character. Their words are amazingly consistent and barely repetitious. Why is this amazing? None read any of the other contributions and rare were my content edits. Fourteen responses to my invitation to sit and tell us of the making of heroes, and each, through whatever mechanisms were valued by its respective author, delivers an unswerving message. I could not have planned it better. In fact, I’ve already fielded inquires regarding a sequel.
And now to the competition: What do you think makes a true fantasy hero? Just give your answer in the comments below. To encourage a deluge of suggestions, Bill and I have devised a little deal: after a week or so of comments, he shall randomly select from among the reasonable and sane submissions one lucky individual who shall receive an e-copy of the book sans an exchange of funds. In other words, one of you will win a free electronic copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes!
Writing Fantasy Heroes is available in print for US$14.99 from most online sellers and on the Kindle for US$7.99. Contributors consist of Alex Bledsoe, Jennifer Brozek, Orson Scott Card, Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont, Cecelia Holland, Howard Andrew Jones, Paul Kearney, Ari Marmell, Janet and Chris Morris, Cat Rambo, Brandon Sanderson, and C.L. Werner.