Friday, May 04, 2012
Books For Writers
In my study, I have a bunch of books on writing. Each is well-read, often yellow-highlighted and dog-eared, and I have gleaned information from each of them. I've often mentioned the craft books of James Scott Bell, for instance, but I thought it might be fun to tell you about a few of the lesser-known volumes on that shelf.
I was told by an editor that I should read Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. I did, and was struck by the point Vogler makes: almost all fiction, from the time of Beowulf, involves standard elements. This is often referred to as The Hero's Journey. To simplify Vogler's material, the story begins in the hero's normal world, something happens to challenge him, he sometimes turns down that challenge but later accepts it. In the middle, there's a problem or trial which Vogler calls "the ordeal," Eventually the hero starts on "the road back," and returns with whatever prize was sought in the first place. Apply that to any movie you've seen or book you've read, and see how closely it fits.
Randy Ingermanson recommended Dwight V. Swain's book, Techniques of the Selling Writer, in which Swain espouses the concept of motivation-reaction units (MRU's). In every scene, something is said or done that motivates a character to react. This reaction in turn is motivation for another character, and so forth. Swain's background in film writing shows in this book, and it provides excellent instruction for the writer who wants to make his fiction move.
That's just two of a couple of dozen books on the shelf, two unfamiliar to most readers and many writers. Was this interesting to you? Would you like to know more about other books of this sort? Let me know.