Book Review: Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros

The epic tales of legendary heroes have been around for thousands of years. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the first hero story and perhaps the oldest story on Earth, was believed to be written around 2500 BC or earlier. The story of Beowulf was told around 1000 AD. The Greeks wrote about heroes such as HeraclesPerseus, and Achilles in their ancient mythology and the heroic efforts of King Arthur were told in medieval times.

These ancient tales of heroic feats accomplished by gallant men, both mortal and godlike, are still read and enjoyed today. New heroes have even been created in the last century for this day and age by Marvel and DC and have been dubbed superheroes. And these are but a handful of the many hero stories out in the world today.

Why do these stories of chivalrous knights, unstoppable demigods, and brave men stand out to readers? What makes a great hero? How can one write a hero people will remember for years and years to come? A great stepping stone in finding one’s inner hero and bringing him or her to life through words is in Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros. This collection of essays, edited by Jason M. Waltz, captures the essence of what it means to be a hero. Twelve essays written by thirteen well-known writers share twelve different insights as to the steps a writer can take to create a hero.

Like most writing books, these essays are only pieces of advice and tips given by published authors. These writers are not telling other writers what to do, but merely giving suggestions to help them reach their goals. Some essays may be exactly what some writers are looking for while other essays may not help at all. Whether or not a reader and/ or writer finds this information useful, the words of advice are very insightful.

Brandon Sanderson dedicates an entire essay on how to write fight scenes. As many writers know, fight scenes are easier to accomplish on camera than on a page and Sanderson takes writers step by step through a process of how to write a battle between the hero and villain(s) that keeps the readers interested.

Jennifer Brozek suggests to writers to focus not just on main characters, but also on NPCs (Non-Player Characters). The minor characters in a book are an important part of the story and aid the hero in his or her quest. What do the NPCs do while the hero is on his or her quest? Do they have families or are they alone? Are they wealthy or poor? Are they in the story to help the hero or are they actually aiding the villain?

Monsters in a fantasy story are a vital part to bringing one’s fantasy world alive and C.L. Werner writes about how to create a memorable monster, whether that monster is a part of a species or becomes the main villain the hero must face. Werner recommends getting inside of the monster’s head and to allow readers to know what the monster is thinking. Is the monster fighting out of fear or rage? Is it fighting because it desires something? Is it acting on orders or does it really not know what its purpose in life is?

Other essays by the other wonderful writers include writing the will of one’s hero and what makes that hero fight (Cecelia Holland), knowing when to make one’s hero an adult or child (Alex Bledsoe), how big to make an army that follows the hero (Paul Kearney), and many more insightful tips.

As aforementioned, these essays may not be for everyone, but a writer is sure to find some useful information in one of them. Each essay is fun to read and readers can tell the writers had fun writing each one. Not only does Writing Fantasy Heroes offer advice, but also multiple fantasy books to add to one’s reading list. Writing Fantasy Heroes is a short and insightful read to add to one’s collection for those who believe in heroes and have one of his or her own who wishes to be released into the world to save the day.

Originally published at on November 21, 2014.

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