I got this e-mail recently:
For a week next spring (May 1-10, 2010), two stellar fantasy writers—Laura Ruby and Anne Ursu—will serve as faculty for a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop. We conducted a mini-interview to give a sneak preview to those who might be interested in attending and to others who would appreciate tips from these amazing fantasy pros!
Highlights Foundation: What do you think it takes to become a publishable fantasy writer today?
Laura: I think you have to have an enormous love for fantasy as a reader before you tackle it as a writer. (I’ve seen a number of writers take a stab at writing fantasy simply because they think it’s a hot genre, and that’s not a good enough reason to write anything. I think you can only write the kind of stories you love to read.) After that, you have to have the same skill set as any other type of novelist: the ability to create vivid characters, develop a strong POV, craft a memorable plot.Anne: I think two things. First, you have to make sure your elements of craft are all really solid: good character, good story, good world. And then I think you need some spark of something extra. Maybe it’s voice, maybe it’s ideas, maybe it’s a world we’ve never seen before; maybe it’s just the pure strength of your storytelling.
But then, you also have to have spectacular control. In fantasy, so many things are possible, so many things can happen, you have to keep a firm grip on your characters, your world, your magical elements so that the story doesn’t get away from you. And yet you have to be loose enough to allow your characters to live and breathe. It’s a delicate balance.
Highlights Foundation: When you pick up a fantasy novel, what makes you read past page one?
Laura: I think a great voice will always carry me to the next page, whether I’m reading a fantasy novel or any other type of novel.Anne: I always want the sense that I’m good hands. I like to feel some kind of strength and originality, whether it’s in character, voice, or world. If you give me that, I’m going to trust you to take me wherever you’re going.
Highlights Foundation: If you could give writers one tip about writing fantasy, what would you offer?
Laura: Make your fantasy as grounded in the physical as you possibly can. Every sight, sound, smell, touch, etc. makes your world more real and therefore more accessible to your readers.Anne: Fantasy is, at its heart, a character-driven genre. The world should never overwhelm your character.
Applications will be accepted January 15-February 15, 2010. You will be notified of acceptance status by March 8, 2010.
If you’d like to learn to more about the Whole Novel Workshop for fantasy writers, visit www.highlightsfoundation.org or contact Jo Lloyd at 570-253-1192 or e-mail email@example.com.
I shared this because I thought these were good tips for any genre. I like “that spark of something extra.” That’s a good way of putting it.