Rules of Writing Fantasy

Jeff Miracola, Holly Black, Silvia Acevedo     It had been a really long time since I’d seen Holly Black, so it was great to see her again at the SCBWI-WI fall retreat this weekend. You all know of her, through her Spiderwick and Faerie Tales series or her other works. She’s hilarious and very friendly and was a big hit at the event.

     Holly presented her ten rules of writing fantasy. I won’t give them all here (let her reveal them to the world as she wishes), but I will point out one rule which really spoke to me: Fantasy needs to be rooted in a sense of place. To further explain, she continues, your world has to be real enough so as to allow a person to “walk” into it. She recommends knowing your world so thoroughly that you can detail a great deal more of it than what you necessarily include in your story. For example, what is the primary form of communication, transportation, business, etc, in your imaginary world? Furthermore, she emphasizes that both the fantastical and the real must be described equally to distribute their weight throughout the book.

     Holly also gave some funny anecdotes about her childhood. Apparently, her mother was quite convinced of the supernatural. Her mother’s childhood stories of playing in the attic with ghosts naturally made Holly a wee bit tense, especially living in the “creepy” house that they inhabited. The dangling branches of a large tree regularly scraped against her bedroom window, so, whenever forced to pass said tree, Holly would flat-out sprint past them. She confessed to her mother her fear that the trees would reach down and snatch her. “Don’t worry,” her mother replied. “That probably won’t happen.” Nice.

     Pictured here are my husband Jeff, Holly, and me. It was a good time.

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