Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yet Another Writing Book

Ecclesiastes 12:12 says it very well: "Of the making of many books, there is no end." It sounds as though the writer of this Old Testament book might have just returned from a writers' conference, laden with books purchased at the book store and a long list of others to be ordered, all of them guaranteed to improve his writing. There are lots of them, aren't there? Well, here's one more. This one was recommended to me by the managing editor at one of the Christian publishing houses, and since he was also reviewing the manuscript of one of my novels, I sort of thought it might be prudent for me to read the book, maybe even try to glean something from it that would make him look more favorably on future submissions.

The book is The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers. The author, Christopher Vogler, builds upon the study of mythic structure in which Joseph Campbell pioneered, adding a smattering of the psychology of Carl Jung. If this sounds too deep for you, don't get your adrenaline level too high over it. What Vogler does is to take a premise--all novels and plays can, in some form, be said to conform to the structure of classical myths and fairy tales--and expound on it, with both instruction and examples. His examples, by the way, come from a wide variety of novels, movies, and plays.

I must admit that I was a doubter until I looked at the first few steps of Vogler's "Hero's Journey" and discovered that a number of books, including my own novels, do indeed show these characteristics. Vogler says that a hero starts in the ordinary world, is called to adventure, often initially refuses, is encouraged by a mentor, crosses the first threshold, encounters tests, finds allies and enemies, approaches the innermost cave.... I won't give you the rest of the journey, but perhaps you're beginning to see that maybe this does all sound familiar.

This isn't the absolute best book on plot and structure I've ever read, but it certainly taught me some things and reminded me of others. I would encourage you to check it out.

In the next couple of posts, I'll give you some other suggestions for writing books that I've found helpful. Stay tuned.

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