I’m on vacation and I’m going to start a new vacation tradition. Instead of coming up with an insightful blog post, or a cheap nothing post, I’ll post book recommendations. I’ll start with books on being a better writer, at least until they run out.
Possibly the best book on writing characters and point of view, Orson Scott Card’s Characters and Viewpoint is a master class that takes you from the basics (what’s the difference between first person and third), to the intermediary (what’s the difference between full and limited omniscience), to advanced (what’s the difference between light POV penetration and deep penetration. This book is a must for new and experienced writer alike. Also, if my editors read it, they might stop italicizing all my characters thoughts without my permission.
Techniques of a Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain, is hands down the best general book on writing I’ve ever read. It walks you though many aspects of the craft, but of the many spectacular pieces of advice, the two that stick out the most are motivation-reaction units and what I call the Swain ending. Motivation-reaction units explain how to order character reactions to create a believable experience of the reader. Often writers present the reaction of a character in an improper order, and it leaves the character’s responses seeming unmotivated or wooden. In the Swain ending, Dwight outlines the perfect character dilmma for the end of any story. While he might overstate how often you should use it (I believe he says it’s required for every story), you’ll be amazed at how many stories you see with the Swain ending, once you’re aware of it. Tangled, for instance, has the most interesting take on the Swain ending, I’ve ever seen. Read the book, then rewatch that movie.
Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, is consider by many to be the definitive book on screenwriting. It takes you from inception to building a plot board, to hammering out story beats, all the way through the end. It is an insightful look into the structure of movies and screenplays. While it might seem that it’s only useful for creenwriters, with a few alterations, it is useful for certain novels. I’ve used it to plot every Death by Cliché after the first.
The next installment awaits...Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem