Searchlight: Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Wonderbook cover

Jeff Vandermeer has been capturing our imagination ever since he hit the scene, and continues to reach new levels of ‘Wow’ with every book he releases. A consummate writer and instructor, Vandermeer preaches the power of imagination and unleashing your creativity. Look no further than his Southern Reach Trilogy, or his latest release Borne, to see just how deep his imagination can go. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, is Vandermeer’s nonfiction book about writing speculative fiction that takes a completely different, yet original, approach to craft. Instead of chapters about story and character development in the traditional sense, Wonderbook is designed to release and unleash the constraints of your mind by forcing you to think outside the box. Using the beautiful illustrations of Jeremy Zerfoss and including essays from some of the best writers in speculative fiction such as Stephen Graham Jones, Peter Straub, George RR Martin and Neil Gaiman, Wonderbook is designed to invigorate your imagination and creativity in ways most reference books on writing can never fulfill.


Reading Wonderbook is an experience. As Vandermeer says at the beginning of the book, you can open to any section you want, but the book is designed to be read from beginning to end for the most immersive experience. You won’t find much of the jargon you’d expect from other books here, as Vandermeer’s approach is more organic in nature. He believes creativity is interactive with writing, and to get the most of your own creativity, you must be receptive and willing to take on a challenge or two.

Using beautiful drawings and illustrations to break down some of writing’s more tedious subjects, we see things in a different perspective, which in turns makes us more receptive to things in our lives that inspire and motivate us. The key here, in practice, is that by being more in tune with your creativity, you will be able to find inspiration where ever you look. There’s a whole world out there, waiting for you to explore it, and all you have to do is just open your eyes, and your mind. Wonderbook dives deep into creativity by taking a long hard look at inspiration and where it comes from. Inspiration is a continuous process, not just the launch pad of your ideas. By knowing where your inspirations come from, you become hyperaware of them, and can use them to remain inspired throughout your writing. Another cool aspect of Wonderbook is, a web-based interactive experience that takes things just a little further. With writing exercises from Peter Straub, Cat Rambo, and others, as well as Description samples from Ursula K. Le Guin, Lucius Shepard and others, the website allows readers to go a little deeper with their writing exercises in ways you’ve never seen before.

I’ve read many, many reference manuals about writing, and found most of them good, but none of them are quite like Wonderbook. Though the focus is on writing, it’s more about creativity and how to harness it. The exercises here make you think and expand your mind, opening channels organically, making you more in tune with your own imagination and able to make the most of it. If you’re serious about your writing, then you must get a copy of Wonderbook in your hands as soon as possible, as it can and will change what you think about creativity and writing in ways you’ve never dreamed possible.




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