Cover Image: Putting the Fact in Fantasy

Putting the Fact in Fantasy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
Putting the Fact in Fantasy is a collection of tips and traits to consider when creating fantasy worlds. Instead of just telling you what to research and look for (there's some of that), this title tells you how you can find and approach experts if you need help, and contains short sections with generalized knowledge about popular times in history that you can reference. Having a background in language and anthropology, I personally loved the Language and Culture sections the most!
Was this review helpful?
Fantastic anthology of essays, ranging from how to write woodworking accurately to the origin of magic. I absolutely loved learning about chocolate houses (THIS should be a fantasy story somewhere), Ptolemy’s idea of magic, an army’s secondary army of women/children, writing horses realistically, and how to survive in a wilderness. I learned so much, and have not shut up about all the random things in the last week. Would recommend to any and all fiction writers, not just fantasy! 

Abundant thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the arc! I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy I can mark up and highlights to my little heart’s content.

-A
Was this review helpful?
This book is very good for people who want to write but maybe don’t know where to start with world building so this gives a nice outline. Honestly for me being ADHD whenever I want to start writing this is definitely going to help me because I always liked making characters but then when I got to world building it kind of fell apart for. I also like how it’s a bunch of different authors so you aren’t just hearing from one person about how they think.
Was this review helpful?
There are a lot of applicable themes covered in this book which would be of use to someone writing a novel for the first time, but only if said aspiring writer is prone to doing zero research. I found this book informative in some parts (suggestions for different fighting styles) yet largely patronising in others (horse psychology, how to best injure a horse realistically, why it's not a great idea to use a draft horse in a desert, etc.). There really didn't need to be quite such a large section devoted to horses IMO, I would have preferred a thicker chapter on warfare and weapons. Phrases such as "Unless you're writing a story taking place in a laboratory-" were rife, adding to the passive-aggressive air of You Know Nothing, which ultimately had me frowning at the nebulous assumption the book gave off of just how dumb I would have had to have been to pick it up in the first place. It was very at odds with itself for the tone it wanted to lay down.

"You don't have to dive as deep as Suzanne Collins did in Hunger games-" ... Okay, but where is the example of what she did to overachieve that description of food and drink? What if the person reading this book has never heard of The Hunger Games? Namedropping all the books he has read (Priest of Bones? Okay???) are given for his own frame of reference and aren't especially helpful. "My political science professor taught us-" I felt like saying out loud, I DON'T CARE. You will pick up this book for helpful tips on how to write a fantasy book and be bombarded with elitist opinions formed from books the author deems interesting or what "works" as an example for his very particular, strict worldview.

I finished the book on principle but it feels very dated and aimed at a much older audience, the kind that can't use their phone to Google the simple difference between deciduous and evergreen trees or how horses can be "realistically" injured. I could summarise the entire book's content with shorter bullet-points after an hour of my own online research, as could anyone else. There's too much hot air and waffling between the facts which made me feel like I was supposed to be impressed instead of informed, and it grew annoyingly distracting.

It's very much a Boomers How-To-Write manual, sad to say.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not a writer or aspiring to be one, but I got this because I often like to "go behind the scenes" and this fit the bill on this topic. Lots of perspectives and advice here.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!
Was this review helpful?
“Putting the Fact in Fantasy” presents a collection of inspiring essays from various experts to help writers bring authenticity to their stories. The topics featured covered everything from getting your British hierarchy correct, to properly describing types of wood, to the importance of thinking through your world’s legal system, to selecting the right food and drinks for the time period. As an example, in Part 5 (You Don’t Know Horses, but We Do), I learned that almost everything I thought I knew about horses was wrong! I can now properly describe a horse’s height, coloring, and gaits without sounding like an amateur.

As a former fan fiction editor and proofreader, I was immediately drawn to this book, because I couldn’t emphasize enough to writers how important it was to make their stories believable. Fantasy or otherwise, if the reader doesn’t buy into your story, they’re not going to stick with your book. I have stopped reading books on occasion, because I found incorrect information too glaring to read any further.

I would highly recommend this book to all fiction writers as an essential guide to help them enhance their writing and world-building. While not all the topics featured will appeal to every writer, I found the variety to be compelling enough for any fiction writer to take some useful insight away from this book.
Was this review helpful?
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Penguin Random House Writer's Digest Books for an advanced copy of this new writing reference.

There is an old saying in that other world of fantasy were heroes vie with villains for belts and sometimes revenge, professional wrestling. Famed writer tag team wrestling manager and historian has always said about wrestling, "If you can make it real, or as close as real as possible, people will believe it. They want to believe, so give them something, anything they can go, ohhh that's true, and they will believe and follow along". I'm paraphrasing a tad, but it is true. Present readers with a believable world, run by wizards, with a currency based on magic, and make it real, people will dress up as your characters at conventions, and argue about minor character beard lengths. Putting the Fact: Expert Advice to Bring Authenticity to Your Fantasy Writing edited by Dan Koboldt is the book to make that fantasy, science fiction, historical, or whatever you are writing real to readers. 

This guide is a collection of essays from experts and other writers on a variety of subjects ranging from history to ecology, to animal husbandry and really everything writer might need. The essays are grouped in sections, language, world building, adventuring, and not only answers questions that might not have occurred, but might take that adventure into different areas. Something else I found interesting was the introduction by Scott Lynch who talks about mistakes, they are going to happen, and mistakes in his first book. Helpful and refreshing, because who wants to admit mistakes, but honest about what he did, and as he explains, you will to, but if you make what's around it believable, people will forgive. And as a writer you have to forgive yourself. 

The essays are all well written, and very interesting. The focus of the title is on the genre of fantasy, but I think this is pretty much a complete reference for most writers. A romance featuring two widows finding in love in a small town should be as believable as a floating city in the clouds populated by Gods. This writing reference has a very interesting approach and would like to see more guides like this. 

Definitely recommended for all writers, in all forms, books, comics, games webisodes, whatever the writer is creating for. There is a lot of good information, and maybe reading a section might jar something loose, or take the project into a whole new area. One of the better writing books I have read.
Was this review helpful?
This review is of an ARC provided by Netgalley and Penguin Random house in exchange for an honest review.

My rating for this book is a solid 4/5.

I am personally interested in reading more about the craft of writing and particularly about crafting fantasy worlds. I have long being a sincere fan of worldbuilding as well as being actively involved in the process of writing my own book series. So, as such, I requested an ARC of this book seeing what would be included in this book and if the advice in this book would add to my knowledge and allow me to improve on gap which previously existed.

'Putting the Fact in Fact' is a collection of essays tackling a variety of topics from politics to linguistics to the nitty gritty details about horses (an entire section dedicated to all sorts of Equestrian knowledge!) framed from the angle of how this would be helpful to know in the context of fantasy worldbuilding. 

Overall, I find the set up for many of the articles to be incredibly well-thought-out and organised in an intuitive manner. Many essays provide in-depth citations and recommended readings through which you are encouraged to read further on the subject matter. With each being something of a small primer on the subject. 

However, a lot of the details provided in each essay can build upon each other and inform a deeper understanding of how to intrigue readers and supplementing depth to common fantasy settings and tropes. In particular, I find the article on discussing historical religious structures such as the Spanish Inquisition and much of how to depict them to be helpful as often those concepts are built upon very real history that could serve as sources of inspiration to draw parallels and allusions to in a way that more deeply ground your story in a very real sense. 

Those in particular serves in equipping the aspiring and seasoned writers of fantasy alike in knowledge of varying levels of depths and complexity. It can have broader uses just outside of being purely for fantasy writers as well, though that is its primary target audience, I could easily think of several ways those articles could inform how you design and plot a session of Tabletop Role-playing Game such a D&D and developing a setting that your players would be intrigued by as a DM. 

I wish to see more books like this, and I would overall heartily recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
this is an amazing resource for fantasy story builders. these essays offer a wide variety of different fantasy stories from ones based in historical roots to beyond. i think these essays will provide as an interesting read for fantasy authors and readers alike.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book. Most of these snappy essays were excellent; well-written and with lots of humor. The authors’ enthusiasm comes through in all the essays. The book is divided into six parts. The best parts for me were Parts 1 (about history), 2 (about language and culture), 3 (about world-building), and 6 (about adventures). Part 4 (about weapons and warfare) did not have the same tone as the rest of the book and the subject matter did not appeal to me. I didn’t finish most of the essays here. Part 5 (about horses) was quite good. Overall, two essays stood out from all the others: “Archaeology in Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Graeme K. Talboys with just the right amount of information, humor and sarcasm; and “Writing Realistic Forests” by Terry Newman. I also enjoyed thinking about the reality of our world and how the essays still apply, especially the ones that involve science. Editor Dan Koboldt deserves credit for putting together such a great anthology. Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House, Writer's Digest Books for the advance reader copy.
Was this review helpful?
This review is of an ARC provided by Netgalley and Penguin Random house in exchange for an honest review. 

I requested this ARC on a whim, not sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. This book is a collection of essay about writing more realistic fantasy, covering a variety of topics from politics to linguistics to healthcare. Each essay tackles some different aspect of worldbuilding, not simply "what was it really like in medieval times" but prompting writers to think critically about how and why societies and cultures are the way they are. 

The advice in many of the essays will likely be a bit basic for someone with a strong academic background in the humanities. If you've already read Fanon, you probably are beyond what this book can teach you about political systems, for instance. However, for beginning writers, or writers less entrenched in academia, this book gives some very good food for thought. What I liked best was that it suggested further non-fiction reading to help the writer gain more insight into the structures and theories behind various aspects of societies. I am pretty well read when it comes to non fiction and I teach history, but there were still some essays on more specific topics that I found interesting and informative. There are essays on how diseases spread, about archaeology and artifacts, about cultural drift, about woodworking,  about designing a realistic magical academy, among many others. 

I would love to see a second edition of this book in the future that skips some of the more basic stuff and zeroes in on more of the specifics. As is, I can think of several people for whom this book would be an excellent resource and I will gladly recommend it.
Was this review helpful?