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TOC: ‘Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction’ by Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer’s new illustrated writing guide is called Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, and it’s jam-packed with useful writerly information and illustrations. I mean, for starters just check out that awesome cover. (If you want a closer look at this fantastic cover by Illustrator Jeremy Zerfoss, click the image to embiggen.)

Here’s the book’s description:

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.

Now hang on to your hats folks. Here’s the incredibly huge and mouth-watering — and did I mention HUGE? — table of contents…

  • Organization and Approach
  • Your Guides
  • The Journey
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • The History of Science Fiction
    • Novel Mountain: A Typology of Discovery (by John Crowley)
Chapter 1: Inspiration and the Creative Life
  • The Importance of Imaginative Play
  • The Fantastical and the Imagination
  • Imaginative Outputs
  • The Scar or the Splinter
  • Inputs for Inspiration
  • The Strangeness of the Imagination
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • Inspiration: Outputs
    • Inspiration: Inputs
  • Original Essays by Rikki Durcornet, Karen Lord, Matthew Cheney
  • Spotlight on: Scott Eagle
  • Writing Challenge: Using an Absurd Prompt
Chapter 2: The Ecosystem of Story
  • Narrative Life Forms
  • The Elements of Fiction
  • A Closer Look at Some of the Elements
    • Point of View
    • Dialogue
    • Description
    • Style
  • The Greater and Lesser Mysteries
  • The Complex Relationship Between Story Elements
  • The Roles of Types of Imagination
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • Dialogue in Action
    • Approaches to Style
    • Lifecycle of a Story
  • Essays by: Nick Mamatas, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Writing Challenge: Texture, Tone, and Style
Chapter 3: Beginnings and Endings
  • The Lure of the Hook
  • Elements of a Good Beginning
  • When Not to Commit
  • Bad Beginnings?
  • Novel Approaches: Finch
  • Other Approaches to Finch
  • Style, Tone, and Voice
  • Finch as Short Story
  • The End of Beginnings
  • The Beginning of Endings
  • Expectations and Elements for Endings
  • Falling Down at the End
  • The End of Finch
  • The End of Endings
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • The Widening Context
    • Myster Odd Presents: Beginnings
    • Story Fish
    • Myster Odd Presents: First Lines
    • Doors to Narrative
    • Letting Light into the Eye
    • Modulations of Tone and Style
    • The Middle Zones of Story
    • Arrows and Targets
    • Myster Odd Presents: Final Lines
  • Essays by: Neil Gaiman and Desirina Boskovich
  • Writing Challenge: “Kraken!”-Where to Begin?
Chapter 4: Narrative Design
  • Plot
  • Structure
  • Creating Scenes
  • Pacing: Beats and Progressions
  • The Beginnings and Endings of Scenes
  • Repetition and Invisibility
  • Cutting Scenes
  • Intercutting scenes
  • Translating Movie and Television Technique into Fiction
  • What Not to Dramatize
  • The Uses of Interruption and Contamination
  • The Role of Time
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • Natural and Dramatic Scenes: Story versus Situation
    • Plot Diagrams
    • Plot Lizards
    • Life Is Not a Plot
    • Plot Devices
    • The Structure of Iain M. Banks’ Use of Weapons
    • The Structure of Angela Carter’s Story “The Fall River Axe Murders”
    • The Structure of “The Leonardo” by Vladimir Nabokov
    • Myster Odd Presents: Structure
    • Beats Examined (Under the Microscope)
    • The Hand of Possibility, The Eye of Cause and Effect
    • Cutting Scenes: Airship Disaster
    • Intercutting Scenes: Conflict on the Island
    • Flay and Cook: Gormenghast and the Action Scene
    • The Science of Scenes
  • Spotlight on: Nnedi Okorafor
  • Writing Challenge: Beyond Standard Plots
Chapter 5: Characterization
  • Types of Characterization
  • The King and His Hippo: Full versus Flat
  • Whom Should You Write About?
  • Getting to Know Your Character
  • Mistakes to Avoid
  • Creating Further Depth and Nuance
  • Character Arcs
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • Protag/Antag
    • 186 Mystery Odd Presents: The Character Club
    • Transfer of Energy and Emotion
    • The Secret Life of Objects
    • Types of Character Arcs
    • Mexican Wrestler Monomyth
  • Essays by: Lauren Beukes and Michael Cisco
  • Spotlight on: Stant Litore
  • Writing Challenges: Animals as People, Secondary Characters
Chapter 6: Worldbuilding
  • Worldview versus Storyview
  • Characteristics of a Well-Realized Setting
  • Dangers and Opportunities
  • The Strangeness of the World
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • All Our Fictional Worlds (types)
    • Myster Odd Presents: Worldview versus Storyview
  • Essays by: Catherynne M. Valente, Joe Abercrombie, Charles Yu
  • Spotlight on: David Anthony Durham
  • Writing Challenge: Investigation of a Floating City
Chapter 7: Revision
  • What is Revision?
  • Drafting Strategies
  • Specific Questions for Writers of the Fantastical
  • Systematic Testing
    • Step 1: Reverse Outlining
    • Step 2: Interrogating Your Characters
    • Step 3: Paragraph-Level Edits
  • Your Process: To Keep in Mind
  • Choosing First Readers
  • Reconciling Feedback
  • Don’t Kill the Spark
  • Featured Instructional Art
    • Chart of Revision
    • Peter Straub Manuscript Pages
    • Grandville Character Circle
    • Bestiary of First Readers: To Avoid
    • Story Fish that May Require Revision
    • A Tale of Resurrection
  • Essays by: Lev Grossman, Karen Joy Fowler
  • Spotlight on: Peter Straub
  • Writing Challenge: Transformation by Increments
Workshop Appendix
  • LARP and Writing by Karin Tidbeck
  • George R. R. Martin on the Craft of Writing
  • Games and Storytelling by Will Hindmarch
  • Writing Exercises
    • Cannibalism & Constraint: Finding the Story Right in Front of You
    • Stealing the Skeleton: Goldilocks and the Three Nubs
    • Cause and Effect: The Case of the Wheelbarrow Deer, the Severed Finger, and Your Messed-Up Friends
    • The Secret Life of Objects
    • Speak, Don’t Speak: Are We There Yet?
    • Found History: Everything’s Personal
    • Tactile Experience: GO!
    • Last Drink Bird Head: Don’t Think, Write
    • The Forgotten Works of Cassandra N. Railsea
    • “The Quickening”: The Rabbit Must Speak!
    • “The Leonardo” Variations: Living Without Fantasy
    • The Development of a Writer

Whew! 🙂

Book info as per Amazon US:

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams Image (October 15, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1419704427
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419704420
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 10 inches
About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

4 Comments on TOC: ‘Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction’ by Jeff VanderMeer

  1. Great TOC. Really looking forward to this book.

  2. Jeff VanderMeer // September 2, 2013 at 8:19 am //

    Thanks! I should note there are over 30 artists represented, including the Dillons, Charles Vess, John Coulthart, etc–with the majority of the art by Jeremy Zerfoss, created for the book. It’s the world’s first fully illustrated creative writing book, with over 200 full color images and diagrams. There’re soooo many contributions that couldn’t be listed for space–the Revision Snakes pages, for example, include advice from Tobias Buckell, Jim Hines, Aliette de Bodard, Sofia Samatar, Patrick Rothfuss, and many others. Lots of exclusive interviews done to include quotes from in the main text, too.

  3. Can’t wait to snag a copy of this. I was excited when I read about it earlier and it had dropped off my radar since then. Thanks John for writing about it for the kick-in-the-pants reminder.

  4. I said this already on on Twiiter, but it’s worth repeating here. I’ve seen a copy. Don’t be fooled by the title…non-writer fans will love this, too.

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