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Putting the Fact in Fantasy

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Member Reviews

This book is a glorious wealth of information on a variety of topics that an sci-fi and/or fantasy author/writer can and should read up on. I cannot express how much I enjoyed reading all of the essays and just learning. There's so much to learn. So much to be inspired by.
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A quick read. Not what I thought it would be, and very basic. If I want a history lesson or medical references, I can find other books though. 

Thank you for sending me this e-ARC.
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A bunch of essays about doing research for your fantasy book, and various takes on the fact that nobody does it perfect. I didn't read every essay, because some didn't catch my interest, but a lot of them were really good. Loved Lynch's foreword a lot, as well as the essays about language and culture, and the parts on weapons and warfare. Highly recommended for fantasy writers, or even fantasy readers.
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I enjoy writing, so I decided to give this book a try. This book is wonderful,  and I enjoyed reading it. The authors do a great job of bringing tips and advice in writing fantasy. Any writers who would like to learn more about writing fantasy, or writers who could use a refresher, give this book a try.

My thanks to Penguin Random House, Writer's Digest, and NetGallery for a digital copy of this book for my review!
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While most essays were super useful and taught me so much (and such interesting things), others went into too much detail to the point of tearful boredom.
Nonetheless, I'm already using some of the things I learned here in my writing.
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This was a very interesting read. I have been picking up more books about writing and this one offers an unique perspective I have not encountered before. It offers you small essays by different writters about specific themes you might need to research and include in your story and then gives you some advice on the matter.
Of course you might not need these specific examples but the way the person writing the essay makes you think about the subject can and should be easily applied to other themes that might suit you best.
It's good to read things like this, even if only to have the right questions in your mind. I would recommend this if you are interested in writing as a subject or planning to write something.
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I don't write fantasy but picked this up on a whim and am so glad I did! A large percentage of the essays were relevant for all world building (which is so important for many genres). Tons were simply interesting as essays on history or horses or martial arts, and I was interested in reading them simply for enjoyment. I highly recommend this book for authors and for people who enjoy going on random reads through Wikipedia!
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I could rate this book as a must-read for writers and lovers of fantasy literature, but I don't think it's just limited to that niche.

Through multiple essays, topics that rarely receive such importance are addressed here. There is talk of cultural, social, and even natural aspects, perfect for giving nuances of realism and credibility to fantasy narratives, role-playing games, or audiovisual works.

Even if you are not a writer, the richness of the texts presented here, their perfect construction, and great humor, make this a fascinating read that you will surely enjoy from beginning to end.
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An interesting how-to for developing the plot of your next fantasy novel.  Some of it was really interesting, but other points seemed completely unnecessary and really in the weeds.  For example - the differences between wood and what wood is used where.  That seems far less necessary than thinking about political systems or food sources. Even though I have zero plans to write a fantasy novel, ever, I did find some of the chapters interesting and I'm sure it will change how I look at novels moving forward. 

I found the chapters submitted by writers who shared examples as well as the historic background to be the most helpful and interesting.
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Making the Fantastical Believable. 

Boy, howdy!

As an aspiring fantasy author I have run into this road block time and time again, (I have the bruises and battered journals to show for it.) When you are creating a world from scratch, how do you make it REAL?

The answer in short is to make your unique world come to life. Nevertheless, not knowing what you need to know can make the research incredibly intimidating. And can lead you down endless rabbit holes that only end in research fatigue. On the flip side, if you don't know what you're talking about your reader will never buy into your narrative. 

So what are we fantasy (and sci-fi) writers supposed to do?

'Putting the Fact in Fantasy' is a collaborative and comprehensive guide to approaching your novel's research strategically. At the end of the day it will be impossible to get every detail right. However, if you can prove that you've done your best to move the story forward- your readers will tend to be a lot more forgiving. 

The trick at the core of this guide is not to know more than you need, rather, to understand the information that you need so that you can convey it believably to others. 

Easy enough, right?
If you think so, you are five steps ahead of me.

My creative flow starts and stops frequently because of my inherent perfectionism. However, being given permission not to be perfect, and the tools to ask smarter questions- this book will help me make leaps and bound this upcoming NaNoWriMo!

[Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Random House for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]
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*Received a copy for review.*
This book has such great advice from writer. I may never write a fantasy novel but this book  makes me want to.
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This is a collection of fascinating and informative articles about subjects that can make a fantasy writer's work more realistic and believable.  History?  Yes.  Details?  Yes.  Even better?  How and why to use them to improve a story--whether it is background, a side issue, or your focus!

I admit to expecting details that would correct faux pas like descriptions of soldiers on horseback traveling "in silence," or other unnatural happenings.  However, this book assumes writers can watch a YouTube clip for such common details.  

These are advanced subjects by experts in their field; such as "What did it mean to be a viking, and where did they travel?"  This map is not the one my teachers had (long ago)!  Political intrigue, feudal nobility, religion in the Near East, Archaeology in science fiction and fantasy, languages, realistic fantasy cultures, world building, and so much more!  There is literally something here for everyone.

Amongst the dull stacks of books about writing (I have read many), this book is a bonfire-bright beacon of useful and exciting tools to help any writer craft great fiction and fantasy.  It's almost foolproof.  It's the closest thing to a guarantee you can buy.

A book like this gives you insights that will not lose value over time; making it a wonderful investment--and fun to read--for anyone interested in these subjects.  (Me, waving my hand.)  For writers, hobbyists (gamers, LARPers, etc.), and readers.

5/5  Stars  

Thanks to Writers Digest Books and NetGalley for the preview of this galley in pdf; the review is voluntary.

#PuttingtheFactinFantasy #NetGalley
#PenguinRanfomHouse  #Nonfiction
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Three years ago published an essay of mine in which I argued that the classic fantasy map style was not something that would be used by characters in a fantasy world. Provocatively titled “Fantasy Maps Don’t Belong in the Hands of Fantasy Characters,” it proved to be the most controversial thing I’ve ever written. The main complaint was that it was wrong for me to think that fantasy should follow the rules of the real world; fantasy was fantasy, and as such it was okay if its maps didn’t follow the rules. In fairness, my critics were the wrong audience for what I was trying to say.

They would also be the wrong audience for the book under consideration here: Putting the Fact into Fantasy, a collection of 50 short essays by various writers, edited by Dan Koboldt and published earlier this month by Writer’s Digest Books. The publisher is a hint as to the audience: these pieces are aimed at writers of fantasy and science fiction who want to up their game in terms of adding a touch of realism to their work. Because fantasy is built from recognizable real-world raw materials—horses and castles, archers and peasants, trade routes and languages, weapons and wounds—getting the real-world details right can in fact matter. They can save you from resorting to clichés, and knowledgeable readers from being thrown out of the story by what to them is an obvious error.

The essays in this book are divided into six parts: history, languages and culture, world-building, weapons and warfare, horses, and adventure (travel). There are enough subjects not covered to fill a second volume: literacy and paper, navigation and seafaring come to mind. An entire section on horses? It’s fantasy, and horses are kind of fundamental. There’s a tremendous amount to get wrong if you’re not a Horse Person. My own resident Horse Person is, for example, exasperated by the overwhelming presence of stallions in fantasy—they’re not what you want your fantasy characters to be riding, especially if they’re inexperienced—and several essays cover that very point, so: check mark there.

The essays are not remotely comprehensive enough to save a writer from every possible mistake in the subjects they cover: 50 essays in 350 pages can only cover so much material. They are necessarily, sometimes frustratingly brief: you’ll usually find more material on Wikipedia. (In the pieces where I knew something about the subject matter—usually in the first part, “History as Inspiration”—I knew they were just scratching the surface. Sometimes barely.) For the most part they’re written by working writers rather than subject experts: if they’re short on depth of expertise they make up for it by knowing what’s relevant to writers. Though a few essays don’t apply themselves to the problems of fantasy authors specifically (e.g. Rebecca Mowry’s piece on wilderness survival or Michelle Hazen’s on rock climbing). Also their coverage can be a bit eccentric: Amber Royer’s “Plants in World-Building” is mainly about chocolate.

But what these essays do do is try to shake the writer out of any assumptions they may have had about the subject at hand, to offer them a starting point and some next steps. To say, “here are some things about this subject that you probably haven’t been thinking about but you really should think about.” Or, “You also need to think about this, and this, and don’t forget this”—where this might be some aspect of politics or religion or trade or food or agriculture. Not too many aspects, but enough to serve as a Dunning-Kruger inoculant.
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In Putting Fact in Fantasy, the structure was really the key to its success. I loved how the various authors all wrote their own little section about what they are well-versed in, and gave their advice succinctly. This novel is full of tips and tricks for ways to write more realistic and relatable fantasy settings, and it was very helpful to have all of the different viewpoints. This is a very good reference book for all those struggling with creating fantasy or historic stories that feel believable, and I will definitely be coming back to reference it in the future!
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I appreciate this collection so much! I'm a certified horse girl who loves to read fantasy and there is nothing that will pull me away from a well-plotted story like someone "flicking the 'reigns'" on their stallion to gallop all the way to the next destination. I focused on the chapters on horses for this review and love the clean instruction and ready-to-use ideas for authors adding equine characters to their tales.  This book is a must-read and a handy reference for fantasy writers to keep close while writing and editing.
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Hello, all. This will be a different review than normal because I contributed three essays to this anthology. I want to be clear that I benefit from any purchase of this book. Granted it’s a very, very tiny benefit. I believe in transparency; so, I’m placing this disclaimer up front. Even though I’m part of this project, I admire each one of the other essays that I’ve read. If I weren’t a part of this project, I’d still review it. There’s a lot of useful information in the essays. But – to be absolutely clear – I am apart of this project.

Putting the Fact in Fantasy contains 52 essays meant to help fantasy authors build believable worlds. This is an excellent resource that I’ll use in my own writing.

Disclaimer: Any and all opinions that follow are mine alone.

Review: Putting the Fact in Fantasy

Fantasy fiction requires that the author earn the reader’s trust. In order for a reader to suspend disbelief, the author has to get the basics of world-building correct. Don’t believe me? Then read Scott Lynch’s introduction to Putting the Fact in Fantasy edited by Dan Koboldt. Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora, explains it much, much better than I have. But don’t stop there. Dan Koboldt has collected an invaluable resource for fantasy authors. Thirty-five authors (including Lynch, Koboldt, and me) have essays for how to make fantasy stories richer and more believable. Because if the author earns the reader’s trust on mundane things, the reader will stick with the story for the fantastic things.

It’s good.

No, Seriously

It’s real good.

Book Topic Sections

Okay, now that we’ve got opinion out of the way, here’s a breakdown of the book. Lynch’s Introduction and my essay on Asking the Expert start the book. The rest of the essays are organized around central topics in six sections. Each section has a generic topic, like history, language, or world-building. The sections are:

    It Already Happened: History as Inspiration
    Speak, Friend, and Enter: Languages & Culture
    How to Make It Up: World-building
    Weapons and Warfare: When In Doubt, Add These
    You Don’t Know Horses, But We Do
    So You’re Going On An Adventure

I haven’t read all the essays from each section, but I’ve read at least one per section. For most, I’ve read several. Each essay is excellently constructed full of helpful information.

Prior to the book, I hadn’t read any of the horse essays in Dan Koboldt’s Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy series. But once the book was put together, I read the book’s version of Rachel Annelise Chaney’s How to Write Horses Wrong. The myth busting was fantastic, and I used some of the lessons in my current work-in-progress. Horses have never interested me despite my mother’s father and my wife having owned horses in the past. But reading through these essays, I realized how much I didn’t know. The essays were informative while keeping my attention.

All the essays that I’ve read so far had the same level of quality. The more that I read, the more honored I am to be included with this group of experts.


Dan Koboldt has curated a collection of essays to help fantasy authors make the mundane aspects of their story believable. These 52 articles contain a lot of information delivered in entertaining essays. While I’m biased, I will also use this as a resource for my own writing.
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An excellent collection of writing advice from genre greats, I appreciated the formatting that was done to make the topics approachable and flowing.
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Putting the Fact in Fantasy is a collection of essays on various topics, aimed at the fantasy worldbuilder - and as a writer just wrapping up a novel that required me to create, not one, but two alternate worlds, I'm delighted to see this book.

It's a real treasure trove of knowledge. While it uses fantasy writing as a lens thought which to view topics, it reminded me of a children's encyclopaedia - it's the kind of book to lose yourself in on a rainy Sunday afternoon when nobody will come out to play.

It's also extremely diverse in topic, with subjects covered both broadly and deeply. For the writer, it is perhaps best approached as a cornucopia of jumping off points. Find a topic that interests you and use it to inform an aspect of your story - or follow the suggested references and go deeper. As a language geek by nature and profession, I loved the essays on linguistics, but the nuggets of information about horses and various forms of fighting also appealed. I love finding just the right terminology for something, and this book is an excellent resource in that regard!
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Putting the Fact in Fantasy is a great resource for aspiring and current authors wanting to learn more about the creation of a fantasy world. I, not an author and not a fantasy reader, was intrigued to see if there were any secrets I could uncover that left me with a greater appreciation of the genre. I think this book did its job!

There are large overarching themes of a fantasy novel (world-building, language, history of your work's time period) that are broken down into hyperspecific short sections. You could in theory read the one or two chapters that concern you and your writing if you wanted. Most of these sections left me with more questions I'd be interested in researching. The best part of it all is each author provides their sources or additional. reading suggestions if you wanted to delve deeper into a topic.

I believe this is a must-read for anyone writing fantasy, not just high fantasy. Good luck out there to all the future authors of fantasy novels. Take Scott Lynch's advice from the forward: read this so you can learn how to screw up better.
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This nonfiction resource for writers will be released on May 3, 2022. The publisher Penguin Random House provided me an early galley in exchange for an honest review.

The foreword by Scott Lynch could easily have come from my own background. As a kid, I was always writing stories (or at least starting them) after being inspired by something I watched or read. What was glaringly obvious in my earliest attempts, which I still have buried in a filing cabinet here in my man-cave, is the fact that I was not researching anything to give the work any sort of grounded authenticity in facts.

Yes, worlds of fantasy and science-fiction are wonderous and beyond the rules of the everyday one in which we live, but there is still a lot of everyday stuff in them that needs to be portrayed accurately. As Eric Primm points out in the introduction, it is critical that when a writer is world-building that it is in fact believable and functional. And for that, we need to turn to expert sources. This is where this collection of over forty essays from Dan Koboldt and many others comes into play.

From the American old west to medieval Europe, this book has you covered. Aspects of life like religion, ruling structures, and common causes of death, among other things, are also discussed. There is even a whole section devoted to horses. What I liked too is that many of the essays provide additional references for more details on that topic. All in all, this definitely is a resource that I could find myself going back to time and time again as my writing needs dictate.
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