There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Creature Feature: Beasts in Fantasy May 29, 2013

Imagine this: A lush and exotic world full of strange cities and scorching deserts, darkened forests and magical waterfalls. A would be hero on a perilous quest, and the sage and wizened mentor who aids him. A corrupt empire ruled by a power hungry sorceress intent on destruction. A theme of love and courage, betrayal and redemption.

Sounds good, huh? But something’s missing

Now picture this: A Lord of The Rings in which no Balrog emerges in the Mines of Moria, no Orcs wage war, no Ents march to Isengard. No wargs, no goblins, no Eagles, no Shelob.

Oh, what a tragedy!

To me, fantasy is at its best when it features beasts of lore. Diana Peterfreund turned legend on its head when she created her Killer Unicorns Series; no divine animals these, but venomous man-eaters with fangs and razor-sharp horns. In Wizard’s First Rule, Terry Goodkind introduces us to the winged and fur-covered gars—aggressive predators that hunt using blood flies. In Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, we fall in love with her chimaera (a beautifully altered rendition of the Chimera from Greek mythology) which have both human and animal features.

These fantastical beings, whether they’re plucked from ancient myths or from the author’s own imaginings, add a richness and vitality to the genre. They transport us to a remembered state where the impossible exists. And how not, when they first blazed so vividly in our childhood dreams? Dreams in which winged steeds carried us over mountains and mermaids sang in underground cities. Where trolls hid under bridges and werewolves lurked in shadows. And the stories I love don’t always have to include the biggest and most lavish beasts, like fire-breathing dragons, monstrous kraken, or basilisks that kill with a single glance.

No, a caterpillar smoking a hookah will do just fine.


from my copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Happy reading!



What’s in an Apple? The Power of Symbolism in Fantasy: Part I April 17, 2013

Ever wonder at the symbolism behind the poisoned apple in Snow White? Or in Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule? Did the authors choose the apple on purpose, aware of its significance, or was it coincidence? Whatever their intention, their use of it left a lasting impression on me.


Because the apple has influenced the world for centuries. Knowledge, protection, love, temptation; these are but a few representations. Literature and myths from nearly every culture are full of stories about this simple yet powerful fruit.

But what of other symbolic examples?

The harp for instance. People in ancient times believed it to be an instrument of truth, wisdom, and to communicate between realms. In Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin, a harp is fashioned from the hair and bones of a slain man so he can “sing” the truth of his murder.

And let’s not forget names, animals, gemstones, trees—all of which represent different ideas. In Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels trilogy, the jewels denote the hierarchy of power. What about the White Tree of Gondor and the horses of Rohan in The Lord of The Rings? Or the ring itself? Epic symbolism there. Harry Potter is saturated with it.

Do our readers need to know the meanings behind our symbolic choices? No. The power is there regardless. It will weave itself into their hearts and minds, and stay with them long after they’ve read your book. And one day, if they happen to discover what a stone, a flower, or constellation symbolizes, they’ll remember it from your book. And mayhap they’ll want to read it again with this newfound knowledge.

And that’s a very good thing, yes?

Happy reading!