Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Books on writing

I mentioned “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogel in my last post so I thought I might mention a few books I have found useful for my writing.

The Writer’s Journey is the script writer’s version of Vogel’s The Heroes’ Journey. It details the structure many film scripts and novels follow. Most open in the ordinary world and then something happens to call the hero (main character) to adventure. The hero is usually reluctant and refuses the call, he’s quite happy with his unadventurous life, but he meets a mentor who helps persuade him to cross the threshold and accept the call to adventure. The hero has to complete a series of tests and is joined by allies and attacked by enemies. He then has to complete/confront the ordeal at the centre of the story. He receives a reward for overcoming the ordeal and returns to his ordinary world.

The first Star Wars movie is the classic example of the Heroes’ Journey. Of course not all stories have all the elements of the Heroes’ Journey, but most do. Interestingly, the novel I am currently writing should contain all the elements of the journey even though I did not write its outline with the Heroes’ Journey consciously in mind.

I found Stephen King’s “On Writing” inspirational and motivating. To think he nearly threw the manuscript for Carrie into the bin, his career might never have started. He mentioned how he creates “real people” who shop at Target and eat at McDonalds; characters his audience can identify with. I get sick and tired of the prevalence in books for style queens who listen to jazz music. Does anyone who is not drug affected really enjoy jazz? His editing advice is: second draft = first draft minus 10%. In my case it has been more like minus 50%.

Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers is a useful book for writers like myself who want to add a bit more colour to their writing. Through a series of writing exercises it goes through a whole range of writing techniques from Alliteration to Zeugma (a single word used both figuratively and literally at the same time, usually to create a double meaning).

The Writer’s Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe by George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier taught me to be careful when world building. For example, surfers won’t be travelling to a planet without any moons because it has no tide and therefore no waves. And the gravity tugs from too many moons could pull a planet apart. The plot of my current novel necessitated that the planet it is set on be very similar to Earth.

I am not a natural speller and my grammar is improving. At high school I used to leave a lot of lightly crossed out commas in sentences in the hope that the teacher thought at least one was in the right place. I found Lynne Truss’ Eats Shoots and Leaves a fun way to reinforce my post-high school punctuation adventures.

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