Finding the Fantastical!

Fantasy Author Bruce Coville spoke at the 2011 Southern California Writer’s Day. Filled with enthusiasm and joy, he spoke with passion about the adventure of writing fantasy novels! The following notes were taken during his talk:

Fantasy is about Building Dreams:

  • Fantasy helps us to start to build dreams, which is what lives are built on.
  • He shared the poem “Ragged John” (about chasing the Unicorn) – this can be found on the internet, possibly under the name Beatrice Ferrington – which is a pen name for Coville.
  • Have the courage to pursue the Unicorn! Have courage to pursue your dreams!

Fantasy Books are About Truth:

  • Fantasy books are a way to talk about big dreams and big ideals.
  • Fantasy books are about hope.
  • C.S. Lewis said “Fairytale is the best way to tell the truth.”
  • C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein were in the same writers group.
  • We seek the untamed world where there is possibility.

Who Fears Escapist Literature?

  • Who is most concerned with escape? It is the Jailers. Those who are jailing the human spirit. They are afraid of what one could achieve.
  • Truth and liberation is a threat to keeping things as they are.

The History of Fantasy:

  • The first fantasy book/story is Gilgamesh.
  • Followed by the Greek and Roman Myths (Yay, our first boy book series!)
  • Then comes Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare.

Why Kids Love Fantasy:

  • It liberates kids. It sweeps them off to a new place.
  • The world has become too small for the heart of a ten-year-old. They want to discover their own new worlds. But now Google maps has mapped the world for them. They want a place that is theirs to discover.
  • They want to get away from the everyday mundane world.
  • Fantasy is the re-enchantment of the world. Meaning “we sing the world into a musical state.” If you break down the word re-enchantement:  Re = Renew, Chant = Sing, Enchantment = Magic.

Why are Many Fantasy Books Series’?

  • Fantasy books are often a series because there is a price for entry to every book. A price of time and commitment to go into another world. Once the child has paid that price (read the first book) they feel connected to it and are compelled to read the next book because they are already familiar with it and invested in the world.
  • Readers get very very passionate, and thus (as a writer) there is a lot to live up to.

What’s the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy?

  • Sci-fi is the Literature of the Future.
  • Fantasy is the Literature of the Past. We are obsessed with the mythic and futile, of the medieval mindset. We love kings and hierarchy.
  • Sci-fi is the literature of the head.
  • Fantasy is the literature of the heart. It asks questions like “What is a good life?” “What is the honorable thing to do?” Some Sci-fi asks this too, but a lot of Fantasy does.

What is the Difference Between High Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy?

  • High Fantasy is books like Lord of the Rings and Dark is Rising.
  • Contemporary books are about where the mundane world meets the magical world.
  • Harry Potter is both Contemporary and High Fantasy (Epic in quality).
  • The Lightening Thief has no hard lines; there is a lot of exploration. This is common in contemporary fantasy.
  • You can invent your own genre in contemporary fantasy.
  • Paranormal is contemporary fantasy.

Other Great Posts on Fantasy Writing:

Bruce Coville is the author of nearly 100 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller My Teacher is an Alien and the wildly popular Unicorn Chronicles. Bruce has been a teacher, toymaker, magazine editor, gravedigger, and a cookware salesman.  His books have won Children’s Choice Awards in over a dozen states, including Vermont, Connecticut, Nevada and California. His books have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Learn more about Bruce Coville and his books at his website:

2 thoughts on “Finding the Fantastical!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s