Why I Write About Elves

In 2005, Terry wrote an Amazon Short titled Why I Write About Elves.

It was a short piece of non-fiction, where Terry talks about why he writes fantasy and why it’s important to do so. It is kind of an autobiography of sorts where he talks about how people view him once he has told them his professional—and what subject matter he writes.

When the Amazon Shorts program was discontinued, the rights for Why I Write About Elves returned to Terry. He decided to post it for free on this website, so fans can get his opinion on the fantasy genre and why it is important to keep such wondrous stories alive for everyone.

Here is the opening of Why I Write About Elves:

While traveling on airplanes I frequently pass the time working on notes for a manuscript or the manuscript itself. Frequently, a fellow passenger will notice and ask what I am doing. At this point, the conversation can go off in any number of directions, but the destination never changes. The exchange, though the words and their order will vary, always goes something
like this:

“What are you working on?” the other passenger will ask.

“I am a writer,” I answer.

“Oh. What do you write?”

“I write books, novels.”

“What sort of novels?” Or, my personal favorite, “Would you have written anything I might have read?”

Now at this point I have tried giving any number of responses, all of them intended to accomplish one thing—to describe in succinct fashion what I write. But whatever variation of the following I employ, it is never as successful as I would wish.

“I write fantasy,” I might say.

Or, “I write fantasy/adventure stories.”

Or, “I write stories about elves and magic.”

Sometimes I throw in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, even though only the books of the Shannara series are really Tolkienesque in form. Sometimes I mention Harry Potter, even though nothing I write is like J.K. Rowling’s work. I always hope that mention of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter will be enough of an explanation, even though I ought to know by now that it rarely is and frequently just confuses people.

In any case, what happens next is that almost without fail I get one of the following three responses.

To read the entirety of Why I Write About Elves, click HERE!

Shawn Speakman

I am the long-time friend and webmaster for Terry Brooks as well as the author of The Dark Thorn, an urban/epic fantasy hybrid novel Terry calls "a fine tale by a talented writer." Join me on Facebook and Twitter (@shawnspeakman)!

  1. Naeem

    Just to say I am not a writer but more of admirer of good writers. I have read and enjoyed most of the books published by Mr. Terry Brooks and have been fascinated by reading the Shannara series. I have been a reader of fantasy fiction and enjoy most science fiction books and authors like Alfred Hitchcock, Aldous Huxley, Issac Asimov, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Bernard Shaw, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and others. A comparison would not be fair to any author as they all have their own creative imaginative genius and techniques and writing skills.

    I love and appreciate reading the Shannara series and Landover books and just have some magnetic appeal that draws me to them. I think most people need to experience the story by authors rather then ask about them.
    Mr Terry Brooks stories have a different appeal as they walk one through magic and fascinating landscape the stories develop and one gets to know the characters. I find one experiences feeling of characters at a pace grabbing attention on actions as what may happen next. I often just forget the real world while reading and find myself in a different place and time and feeling as if I actually was there and am not usually satisfied or let go of the book till I am almost finished.
    The stories very imaginative and creative and adventurous and realistic feeling. I hope there maybe a movie on the Shannara series similar to Lord of the Rings.That would sum up my 2 cents worth. It must be the elves getting to me.
    Thanks!

  2. LUKE DUKE

    Very interesting article. I feel your pain! For me, as a kid, all I would read was sci-fi/ fantasy novels. As I got older I ventured into non-fiction works, mainly of the history or political variety. Now I read so many books on world history or political issues that when I DO grab a fantasy novel to read it’s even more of an escape, almost a vacation from the bombardment of information. I truly appreciate what you do, and how well you do it. There is definitely enough James Pattersons and Dean Koontzs in the world already. You’re one of a kind, Terry. The next time someone seems to not understand what you write just tell them they don’t know what they’re missing!!

  3. Jenn

    I must say that after meeting Terry yesterday, I am an even bigger fan. He is funny, charismatic and genuine. It was good to see you there as well, Shawn, though I didn’t talk to you. Thank you for a wonderful experience!

  4. Dana

    The first book I ever read by Mr. Brooks was ‘Magic Kingdom’. I read it rather quickly and was transported on the adventure with Ben Holiday. I loved the way in which what is our reality wove together with what is not. And how Ben tried very hard to understand what was around him. I read to escape the every day, as do most people, but that book left me with the feeling that maybe, just maybe, if I found that spot and walked through the mist I too could find Landover.

    Since then I have read all of Terry’s books and they have an honored place in my library. I have also given ‘Magic Kingdom’ as a gift and as a result created a few more fans. Terry is, hands down, my favorite author. I know he talks a lot about the Tolkien series and says many authors owe a lot to it. While that is true I must say when I read a Tolkien book I finish and say “What a fantastic writer he is.” When I finish one of Terry’s I say “Wow maybe there is something to this mist.” I love that feeling. If I could speak to Terry I would tell him how grateful I am for years of enjoyment and wonderful storytelling. 🙂

  5. Debbie Pullman

    Yes. Yes. Yes! That’s EXACTLY why I like fantasy fiction. I get far more challenged to expand my views, examine my beliefs, and generally take into view the “other side of a thing” — when engrossed in the pages of an imaginary existence, than in day to day real life. But I do have to laugh at the opening scenario: explaining Terry’s chosen career path to strangers. (I’m so glad this happens to someone else. Sorry. I really am.)

    As a Graphic Artist/Graphic Designer – I run into the exact same thing. Every day people come face to face with something “like” what I do — and almost none of them have a clue what a “Graphic Designer” is. Blank deer in the headlights stare. No amount of explanation means anything. I think, from now on I’ll just say, “I’m in Advertising/Marketing. I produce visual advertising (in print or online media), for products and services that various companies want to promote to consumers.”

    (And if one more person responds, “Oh, does that mean you could add a butterfly to the ad if you really wanted to?” …. arg. Please.)

    Thank you Terry for doing what you do. It is my creative escape at the end of a long day.

  6. Diana

    Terry’s books are magical. I loved to escape in them. When I get wrapped up in one of his books, I feel like I just stepped out of the everyday humdrum stresses that pull you down and stepped into a world that lifts you out of that with magic, adventure, thrills, and excitement. The heroes, in the books make you believe that you also can stand up to things in your life that come against you, by just believing that you have what it takes to conquer, to be a over comer. The characters are the best. Terry your books are needed and a treasure of great value. I have read them all and loved everyone of them. I don’t care what type of book they are called they are magical. Just keep writing these wonderful books so we can step into those pages that take us to a land filled of magic,mystery,wonder and page turning excitement. We need your books.

  7. Edy Kizaki

    What a valuable article/short!! Thank you so much for making it available, it has instantly become pivotal in my understanding of what I do when I write fantasy. I have always gone at it (when attempting to explain why I’m drawn to this area of writing) from an explanation of Jung and archetype, how we are able to create, using “fantasy” myth and legend, something of intrinsic importance to the human experience and the human soul…and the soul’s longing for growth beyond the daily whirl and grind… the aspect of avoiding preconception, misconception, and the predetermination of our mind’s survival system, keeping us locked into our world view… that is a new insight, THANK YOU.

  8. raistlin soth

    ..been a fan eversince i grabbed “bought from a garage sale” ..lol.. elfstone of shannara..got me hooked on all things shannara-and been re-readin’ them again and again..mostly as an escape nowadays.. my thanks sir! just couldnt figure out where to put allanon as a tatoo..again lol..

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