My Favorite Fantasy Books

"My Favorite Fantasy Books" marissabaker.wordpress.comI’m writing a fantasy novel for NaNoWriMo this year, and since I have that genre on my mind, I thought I’d share a list of my favorite fantasy books. Maybe someday the novel I’m writing will be on another blogger’s favorite books list.

Books In No Particular Order

Concerning Hobbits

Though it is often considered childish compared to The Lord of the Rings, and I’ve heard that Tolkein wished he’d had time to re-write it, The Hobbit is my favorite book by J.R.R. Tolkein. I love all the books of Middle Earth for what Tolkein can teach me about writing fantasy, but just to sit down and enjoy reading a book I pick up The Hobbit.

“It’s all in the wardrobe just like I told you!”

childrens_storyThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are a few more “children’s books” that I didn’t read until I was in my late teens, and not all at once. I think I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was 16, then The Magician’s Nephew, and finished the series a few years after that. I suppose it is fitting that I didn’t appreciate Narnia until I was older, since it was C.S. Lewis who said, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

I’m Okay With Corlath Kidnapping Me

I mentioned The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley on my previous book list, but it belongs on here as well. I like the way McKinley handles magic in this world, the lore she weaves through the story, and the strong characters she creates. Some of the most interesting characters are not even human — the heroine’s incredible war horse and a hunting cat named Narknon.

How To Melt Wizards

I don’t hesitate to laugh-out-loud when I’m reading books, and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede kept me giggling most of the time I was reading. I received some pretty puzzled looks from my family, until my sister read the four books and laughed almost as much as I did. The first book, Dealing With Dragons, is the best, and features a princess who asks a dragon to take her captive so she can avoid marriage, then proceeds to chase off all the princes who try to rescue her.

Dancing Bears

The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman is the first in a series of modern fairy tale retelling. It’s based on “Snow White and Rose Red.” Bear (aka Arthur Denniston) is one of those fictional men I fell in love with as a teenager the moment I read the scene where he dances with Blanche. I also really like the cover art for the first edition.

“True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.”

If you like the film The Princess Bride, you’ll love the book by William Goldman. I recommend the 30th Anniversary Edition, so you can read Goldman’s introductions. He talks about being on-set for filming (which was, of course, done on location in Florin). It can be fun trying to figure out what actually happened and what didn’t (and whether or not it really matters).

McKinley Fairy Tales

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is my favorite “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, and is also the only novel of hers that I’ve thought had a thoroughly satisfying ending. Her retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” Spindle’s End, also deserves an honorable mention just for the fact that magic in that world is so thick and tangible they have to dust if off the kitchenware before cooking.

Visionary Fiction

A Sword For The Immerland King, by F.W. Faller, is the book that introduced me to “visionary fiction.” His website defines it this way:

a fiction, stated as fact to allow the reader to explore the greater life issues in the safety of a good armchair, to wonder at their own shortcomings and marvel at the confidence of others who inspire them to vision and purpose in their own lives. It is allegory and truth rolled together in a plausibility that transcends time and space and gives us pause to ponder who we are and where we are going.

What Faller does with his world of Tessalindria reminds me of Tolkein’s work with Middle Earth, and what I’m hoping to do with Ves’endlera.

An Oracular Pig

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, follow the adventures of an assistant pig-keeper named Taran. It spans five books and is, I suppose, technically another series of children’s books. One of the most interesting things about these novels is that they are based in part on Welsh legends. The author uses some names from the original legends and hints of Welsh geography (which he warns is “not to be used as a guide for tourists”), then inserts main characters born out of his own imaginings.

Worlds of Ink

Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath are the three books in the Inkworld series by Cornellia Funke. Setting aside the great fantasy content for a moment, these are beautiful books. Each chapter begins with a quotation and ends with a sketch. They are books about books, with main characters being read into the real world and back into books and blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

Writing Heroines

Last week, I wrote a post about the eight hero archetypes listed in The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master ArchetypesI’ve used this book extensively since I discovered it in the library, and I’ve found it a great help in crafting dynamic characters. Characters I wrote before reading it even fit in the archetypes, which I’m taking as a sign that I was on the right track with character development. For these characters, the descriptions have helped me edit them to be stronger and more consistent.

If you’re a writer and you can find a copy of the book, I highly recommend using it. If not, here’s a brief overview of each description for the eight female archetypes. All the quotes below are from the descriptions in the book.

Heroine Archetypes

Heroine ArchetypesThe Boss

This is a strong, tough character who wants to win at all costs. Typically, such a character always got her own way growing up and wants that to continue. “She will shade the truth in order to gain her objective and she is not above manipulating circumstances to make things go her way.”

The Seductress

Assertive, strong, and clever, this type of character learned at a young age she could charm people into doing what she wanted. She is cynical, driven, manipulative. “Her true desires and motives are carefully concealed behind a sensual smile. Knowledge is power, so she makes sure no one knows her” and instinctively distrusts people.

The Spunky Kid

This is the “heroine underdog.” She has a sense of humor and is reliable, supportive, unassuming, and skeptical. Sometimes, she “hides behind her sarcastic wit, and her lack of confidence may make her play down her best attributes, but she is spirited, cheerful and the most loyal of friends.”

The Free Spirit

Sincere, upbeat, and imaginative, this type of character can also be impulsive, meddling, and undisciplined. They have a strong sense of individuality and never plan anything, but always seem to land on their feet.  She is a natural entertainer, and “may be a handful for anyone who has to deal with her, but she makes the experience worthwhile in her zany, high-spirited way.”

The Waif

This character is trusting, easily influenced, kind, and insecure. She inspires others to want to save her, and is generally content to let herself be rescued. “Her delicate fragility makes her an easy target … [and] she adapts to any situation she falls into without complaint.” You’re far less likely to see her in fiction of today than the other archetypes, but that does not mean she should be avoided.

There is something refreshing about a heroine who does not talk back or fight every battle, but rather, allows a man to be a man and believes that if left well enough alone, situations will resolve themselves.

The Librarian

This type of character likes to organize everything. She is efficient, serious, dependable, rigid, repressed, and a perfectionist. She assumes she has all the answers and, “more often than not, she is right, but she can be a bit stubborn about considering other opinions.” She is also portrayed as having a passionate side when she “lets her hair down.”

The Crusader

“This is a heroine in the truest sense — deeds of valor are right up her alley.” She is courageous, resolute, and persuasive. Her flaws include obstinacy, rashness, and being outspokenly opinionated. She wants to set the word straight and “has no faith in the intrinsic merit of human nature; no belief that all will end well if left alone.”

The Nurturer

A character of this type needs to be needed. She is optimistic, capable, idealistic, self-sacrificing, and willing to compromise so she won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Before thinking of herself, “she makes sure that all her loved ones are happy and content … Her serene, capable and patient manner invariably soothes troubled souls or hurting hearts.”

Writing Characters

There are three approaches to using these archetypes to create characters. A character could be a “core archetype,” fitting into a singe archetype and remaining consistent through the course of the story. Characters can also evolve, changing from one archetype to another because of the events of the story. Layered characters have elements of two archetypes, which may take turns being dominant but will not change over the course of the story.

An example of evolving archetypes is the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, who changes from a Lost Soul into a Chief as a result of Belle’s nurturing character. Layered characters include MacGyver (Warrior and Professor), Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Waif and Spunky Kid), and Princess Leia (Boss and Crusader).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these character types, and that it sparks an idea for your own writing (or at least provided some interesting reading while procrastinating from writing 😉 ).

Still No Oven / Hero Archetypes

Since I am still without an oven, I’m going to depart from my schedule and post something other than a recipe today. The repairman is supposed to come this afternoon so, in lieu of writing about food, I’m going to write about writing.

Over on, I’ve been working on a series of blog posts about character archetypes. I’ve spent too much time on the accompanying images not to try and broaden the audience, so this post will be devoted to heroes and I’ll dedicate Monday’s post to heroines. While collecting the examples of each type, I noticed sci-fi/fantasy may be overrepresented, but that’s what I’m most familiar with and I’ve decided not to apologize for it.

This theory of character development is contained in a book titled The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. The ideas are based on Jung’s theory of collective unconscious. He identified major archetypes that arise from memories of shared human experience and serve as models for personalities.  For this book, the authors suppose that

 At the very core of a character, every hero can be traced back to one of eight major archetypes, as can every heroine. The core archetype tells the writer the most basic instincts of heroes or heroines — how they think and feel, what drives them and how they reach their goals.

Hero Archetypes

Eight hero archetypesThe Chief His major virtues are that he is goal-oriented, decisive, and responsible. He can also be stubborn, unsympathetic, and dominating. “He is a man who seizes control whenever possible. Active, dynamic, and strong-willed, he urgently needs to fix problems and produce results.” This type of character is not discouraged by challenge, and is typically a born leader or a conqueror type of character.

The Bad Boy This type is succinctly described as “every schoolgirl’s fantasy and every father’s nightmare.” He is typically charismatic, street smart, and intuitive, but is also pessimistic, bitter, and volatile. This character “struts into every room, daring one and all to knock the chip from his shoulder. … All his life, he has been pointed out as a bad example, so he does his best to maintain that reputation.”

The Best Friend “Decent, kind and responsible … He fits in everywhere and is universally liked. Whether he operates out of a sense of duty or genuinely enjoys giving of himself, he is always there.” His main virtues are stability, a supportive nature, and tolerance. His flaws are that he can be complacent, myopic, and unassertive.

The Charmer This is the likable rogue type who can “make you believe in fairy tales” but “is not always there in the ever-after”. He is creative, witty, and smooth, but also manipulative, irresponsible, and elusive.  “Exuding enormous charisma, he showers the people in his life with gifts of laughter and happiness. He is always fun, often irresistible, and frequently unreliable.”

The Lost Soul This character is devoted, vulnerable, discerning, brooding, unforgiving, and fatalistic. He is defined by an isolating event from his past. He “drifts through life with a heavy heart and a wounded spirit. He is dramatic, intriguing, and secretive. … This man has a poet’s voice, an artist’s creative genius, and a writer’s grasp on emotions.”

The Professor Some of my favorite characters — Daniel Jackson, Spock, Sherlock Holmes — share this type. They are “used to being the smartest man in the room,” are experts in their field, and can be absent minded or highly organized. They are analytical and genuine, but also insular, inhibited, and inflexible.

The Swashbuckler This character is an explorer or a daredevil,  fearless and foolhardy. He is exciting but unreliable, capable of finding a solution to any problem, but selfish in pursing his goals. “He loves to leave his mark on every exploit, so he chooses the most rash and flamboyant method of achieving his aim. Impulsive and creative, this man lives for the next adventure.”

The Warrior Tenacious, principled, and noble, this character type is compelled to see justice done. They can be self righteous, relentless, and merciless with their enemies. A character of this type “believes evil cannot go unpunished. He cannot allow the bad guys to walk away, so trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes.” He defends the weak and is the perfect protector.

Writing With Archetypes

I’ve found this book helpful in coming up with ideas for strong characters. For one character, who was disappearing into the background of my finished novel, it’s helped me flesh him out so much that the sequel will be his story. He is a Warrior, and I’m going to layer on some Lost Soul characteristics to make him even more unique.

There is a wide variety within each type, so even if you don’t combine them there is plenty of room for character development. As the writers of this book said, Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady is a chief, like Captain Kirk, but you wouldn’t want him commanding a Starship. If you’re a writer and you can find a copy (the book is out of print, so I use one from the library), I highly recommend this resource.

A Love Story

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,Matthew 22:2Once upon a time there was a family of two mighty Beings. Their relationship of love was so close that They were often known by a single name. One day, They decided that They wanted to share Their love with others. But instead of creating little robots, They made people who, like themselves, had freedom of choice. They made a beautiful home for these people and created marriage to give Their creation a taste of the relationship they were intended to have with their Creators. The new people were also given one simple rule to follow.

But these people would not follow their Creators’ rule. This made the mighty Beings sad, because They knew that the penalty for not obeying this rule was an eternal, final death which would exclude Their creation from being part of Their family. In Their infinite love, one of these Beings promised to come to the world one day and die in their place.

As the years passed and the people increased in multitude, He chose a special people to whom He spoke and whom He loved more fully and purely than the best of husbands loves his wife. He rescued them from flood, fought against their enemies, and freed them from slavery, but they turned away from Him like an unfaithful wife. He was jealous and angry, but He never stopped loving them. And true to His promise, He did come to their world and took on himself the penalty justice demanded for His people’s wrongs. In doing so, He gained the name of Son and the Being who sent Him became known as the Father.

The first marriage the Son had made with His people, the marriage to which they had been unfaithful, ended with His death. But the love that these Beings had for their creation did not end. His Father brought Him back to life and gave back the power He had before coming to the world They had created. They offered Their creation a new marriage agreement which was faultless and eternal. They offered redemption and an opportunity to live forever with Them as the Son’s beloved bride.

Some people did not believe anyone would dare to die for them. Some did not believe that anyone needed to die for them. But there were others who realized what the Son had done and were so in awe of Him that they devoted their lives to making themselves ready for this marriage. They knew that the One who loved them enough to die for them would return to bring them into His Father’s house as His bride.

It felt as if they waited a long time. But just as He had delivered His people from perils in the past, so did He powerfully aid His bride for the time that she had to be away from Him. And finally, in a triumphal victory over evil and death, He returned to claim the bride who had made herself ready for him.

The wedding feast was grander than anything ever imagined. The family, finally grown according to the plan these Beings envisioned when They first made creation, overflowed with love.

And They lived happily ever after.

This is the short creative piece that I use to introduce my longer study paper/short e-book “God’s Love Story.” I’ll be posting the full text of this paper next weekend.