Creative Arts Book of the Week 15/02/16

Wonderbook: an illustrated guide to creating imaginative fictionWonderbook : the illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction by Jeff Vandermeer

This week’s book review is all about a writing manual.  Not as boring as it sounds though.  Jeff Vandermeer is a three-times winner of the World Fantasy Award and his fiction has been translated into twenty languages.  Wonderbook is a book packed with over 200 colourful images and picture exercises to stimulate your imagination and expand your creativity. Full of examples it also provides practical information, so you can improve your skills, including plotting, structure, characterisation, dialogue, narrative and worldbuilding.

Wonderbook also includes helpful interviews and essays from some of the biggest names in literature.  Catherynne M. Valente has written several fantasy pieces including The girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making and The girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there (which I am currently reading).  Another author,  Portchester born, Neil Gaiman tells us how he came to write American Gods.  “It began in May 1997, with an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’d find myself thinking about it at night in bed before I’d go to sleep, as if I were watching a movie clip in my head.  Each night I’d see another couple of minutes of the story”. After several false starts when character names and plotting didn’t feel right he eventually wrote Chapter One in December 1998 after finally deciding on the name of the protagonist. “There’s a magic to names. I knew his name was descriptive”.  Without this name he could not begin his book.  Anyone who has read Carlos Ruiz Zafon will understand the comment about names.
There is a useful section entitled: Myster Odd presents: memorable first lines.  So what might a good opening line offer the reader? A sense of mystery or atmosphere, an interesting initial situation or perhaps immediate tension and excitement? Anyone who has studied creative writing or journalism will know they need to draw the reader in like a fish within the first few lines.  Hook them up and wind them in!  So how about this one? “When you’re dead”, Samantha says, “you don’t have to brush your teeth…” Kelly Link (The Specialist’s Hat 1998). Does it make you want to read more?  Let’s hope it makes you want to read and enjoy more of this lovely book.  Find Wonderbook in the library catalogue here.  For more books on creative writing click here.

For those of you interested in Victorian fantasy and science fiction Jeff Vandermeer is also the author of The Steampunk Bible which is the first compendium about this movement, tracing its roots in the  works of Jules Verne and the time travelling H. G. Wells through to its most recent expression in TV films such as Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Sherlock Holmes. Here are some Discovery results I found about this fascinating subject area. We also have a few books in the library about Steampunk.

Definition of Steampunk—a grafting of Victorian aesthetic and punk rock attitude onto various forms of science-fiction culture—is a phenomenon that has come to influence film, literature, art, music and fashion.

Don’t forget the My Subject pages if you would like to explore more about creative writing.

Both H. G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, spent several years living in Southsea.  Both of them living just around the corner from the University Library.  And not forgetting that Neil Gaiman hails from Portchester (to mention but a few famous local wordsmiths)…

I would have to ask if there is ‘something in the water’…??


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