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Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to…

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Jeff VanderMeer, Jeremy Zerfoss (Illustrator)

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4321336,719 (4.29)19
Title:Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
Authors:Jeff VanderMeer
Other authors:Jeremy Zerfoss (Illustrator)
Info:Abrams Image (2013), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2013 challenge

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Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer (2013)


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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Wonderbook is a writing manual geared toward fantasy and science fiction writers. I picked it up because I wanted some insight into the creative process of a writer and also because it looked like a fun book to read.

That it is, for sure. It features beautiful illustrations, from concept diagrams to images serving as writing prompts and even games. Or just for the fun of it, really, as it is not necessarily always clear what purpose an illustration serves.

The book is divided into several chapters, each devoted to a specific writing topic. The least useful is the first chapter on imagination, probably because this is a hard topic to explain or even grasp, so VanderMeer struggles to convey how it is all supposed to work. Then you have chapters on beginnings and endings, characterization, scene composition, world-building... These are then further divided into topics such as point-of-view, dialogues, description, style and so forth.

Some concepts are meticulously broken down, such as beginnings. VanderMeer shows the possible beginnings for his noir fantasy novel Finch and then explains which ones are not that good and why he made the choice to include the one he did. Unfortunately, having read Finch, I have to say that the beginning is really the only interesting part of that novel.

Some other concepts are less closely examined and are talked about in more generic terms, without there being too many examples. This would be my main criticism of the book, as a more tangible approach with examples would probably be of some additional benefit to an aspiring writer. However, this may be by design as VanderMeer does not wish to impart his way too forcefully, but rather talks about different possible approaches and lists their strengths and weaknesses.

The manual has many outside contributions, mainly in the form of essays by other science fiction and fantasy writers, on some specific topic, such as point-of-view. Both the quality and usefulness of these vary from great to rather boring, but together they do offer a view into creative processes of their authors and the approaches they take, so it's all good.

The appendix features various writing exercises, which, not being a writer, I did not perform, but many of them looked very creative and some even seemed like they could be fun.

All in all, the Wonderbook is a good introductory text (and image!) to the world of writing, which can probably be used regardless of the type of fiction the reader intends to write, as there are not that many things that are specific to science fiction and fantasy. ( )
  matija2019 | Jan 8, 2019 |
This book is so gorgeous. Putting aside the information contained within it (which is worth reading) the richness of the imagery just draws you in. ( )
  Lee_Ann | Oct 24, 2017 |
This is one of those beautiful books that anyone might find it interesting to wander through, but of course, it's of most use to writers. I'd absolutely recommend it to any beginning writer, but I actually think it might be of interest for any writer to at least wander through. Vandermeer's focus on craft, and on discussing the practice of writing with a view toward speculative fiction and entertainment, allows for a lot of inspiration. Certainly, I've thought about certain aspects of writing in new ways while finding my way through the book, and I've also used some of the illustrations, interviews, and passages in my own creative writing classes. (It might be worth noting here that most of the exercises aren't at all suitable for young writers because they require more time than a class permits, or an advanced ability to focus in on revision and detailed elements of craft, but writing teachers will still find some elements worth sharing here, and find some exercises worth playing with and simplifying for younger writers or class-based experiments. A number of the interviews would be worth sharing with creative writing classes.)

All told, this may be the most beautiful book I own, from page to page--the art is incredible--and there's plenty of food for thought here if you're a writer or an artist of any sort. It's true that some of the subjects and discussions are simplistic enough or basic enough that they won't offer anything new (knowledge-wise, at least) to experienced writers, but Vandermeer's attention to depth and entertainment allows for even those passages to hold a surprising amount of interest, old material or not. So, for those who find themselves even somewhat interested or engaged in the craft of writing, I'd absolutely recommend it. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Dec 28, 2016 |
This is a beautiful book. Almost every page had an image on it. The colors are vibrant, and the images evocative of creativity and fantasy.

Have read part of it, and it's a very good book about writing and creating in fantasy world's. The exercises are fun, and go all with the imagery. Simply a well crafted book in every way. ( )
  CrissyMoss | Aug 14, 2016 |
Wonderful pictures and some nice essays but I only wish that there was more about applying inspiration to the actual act of putting words on paper. Still it is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it especially if you are just starting out as any type of artist. ( )
  BeckyzWorld | Feb 19, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeff VanderMeerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Zerfoss, JeremyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to Erin Kennedy and Jason Kennedy, with love.
For my mom, my aunt, my long-suffering friends and family, and for the free-texture community. I love you all. -- Jeremy Zerfoss
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Welcome to Wonderbook. Before you begin, check your supplies. Make sure you have plenty of water, food, and at least some mountaineering equipment.
Be fiercely protective of your imagination, and nurture it. (p. 40)
Being available to social media 24/7 does not count as receptivity; it's just fragmentation.
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"This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few"--… (more)

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