Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fiona Harper on Writing: My top writing craft books



Everyone likes a great summer reading list, don’t they? So this month Fiona Harper is giving us her top five writing craft books. Maybe not the perfect beach read, but definitely great for getting the mind whizzing and helping us hone our writing skills when it’s time to get off the beach and go back to work!

Here are my favourite go-to books when it comes to writing craft. Not to say there aren’t loads of other amazing books out there, but these are the ones I find myself grabbing from the shelf again and again, the ones that resonate with me:

Here’s the blurb:
Inside Story offers the most important advancement in screenwriting theory to come along in years. This innovative method for structuring a screenplay is designed to keep writers focused on the heart and soul of their story so that plot, character and theme create a unified whole. Marks' method offers an easy to follow template for story construction, helping the writer to identify what the story is actually about: the thematic intention. It then uses the internal character development of the protagonist as a vehicle to drive the thematic intention and the line of action within the story.

I love this book. It took threads of lots of other things I’d been reading/listening to/thinking about and wove them all together. It’s probably not a great book for a beginner, but if you’ve been writing for a while and like stuff on story, structure, arcs and characters, give this one a go.


2. The Moral Premise by Stanley William
Blurb:
This book explains how the Moral Premise a statement of truth about the protagonists psychological predicament is a fundamental part of every successful movies structure. It is also a book about how you, the filmmaker, can appropriate the Moral Premise to create great motion pictures that resonate with large audiences.

That sounds a little bit money-orientated, but the book is far from that. The Moral Premise is similar to the Inside Story in that it proposes that the journey of the main character carries the theme or message of the story. Not only that, but it gives great practical tips on how to make sure you ‘show’ and don’t tell that in your story.


3. Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins
Blurb:
Want to bring characters to life on the page as vividly as fine actors do on the stage or screen? Getting into Character will give you a whole new way of thinking about your writing. Drawing on the Method acting theory that theater professionals have used for decades, this in-depth guide explains seven characterization techniques and adapts them for the novelist’s use.
In this unique and practical book, you’ll discover concepts that will help you understand and communicate the behavior, motivation, and psychology of every fictional character you create.

This is one of the best books on character I’ve ever read. She talks about building characters from the inside out and how, when you do that, you don’t have to worry about your characters seeming inconsistent and poorly motivated. A great resource for helping you to make the people on the page come to life.


4. On Writing by Stephen King
Blurb:
Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired Carrie. For the first time, here's an intimate autobiographical portrait of his home life, his family and his traumatic recent accident. Citing examples of his work and those of his contemporaries, King gives an excellent masterclass on writing - how to use the tools of the trade from building characters to pace and plotting as well as practical advice on presentation. And King tells readers how he got to be a No. 1 bestseller for a quarter of a century with fascinating descriptions of his own process, the origins and development of, e.g. Carrie and Misery.

Not just a ‘how to…’ book but a memoir with great wisdom and sage advice on both being a writer and the craft of writing. Truly inspiring.


Blurb:
Goal, motivation, and conflict are the foundation of everything that happens in the story world. Using charts, examples, and movies, the author breaks these key elements down into understandable components and walks the reader through the process of laying this foundation in his or her own work.
Learn what causes sagging middles and how to fix them, which goals are important, which aren’t and why, how to get your characters to do what they need for your plot in a believable manner, and how to use conflict to create a good story. GMC can be used not only in plotting, but in character development, sharpening scenes, pitching ideas to an editor, and evaluating whether an idea will work.

Great, straightforward, logical advice on how to use GMC to build and exciting plot and keep characters consistent and believable. I think every writer should read this.
 

What are your favourite books on craft? Are there any I missed that I should be reading? (Not that I'm a craft book junkie or anything, you understand...)

Fiona's latest book The Rebound Guy is out soon in Harlequin KISS - a linked story to The Guy To Be Seen With. If you liked Daniel's feisty sister in that book, she's back! And now she's got a guy of her own to give her trouble - hunky ex-swimmer and businessman Jason Knight.

New York, new guy, new Kelly!
After Kelly Bradford's past few years, all she wants is a steady life. She certainly doesn't need the hassle of men or dating after everything she's been through. So she absolutely, categorically should not be fantasizing about Jason Knight, her boss and a man whose very smile screams trouble!

But a business trip to New York pushes her resolutions to the max—the adrenaline of the Big Apple has nothing on the excitement Kelly feels around Jason! Maybe a rebound fling is just what she needs to make her feel alive again…

Find it on Amazon, eHarlequin or Barnes & Noble.

15 comments:

  1. Thank you for a really interesting and useful post, Fiona. One of the books I very often go back to is quite old and I believe out of print. It's 'To Writers with Love' by Mary Wibberley. I really love this book, full of great advice and even a useful list of verbs to avoid the dreaded 'he said / she said'!

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    1. Ooh, I haven't heard of that one, Marie. Another one to add to my list!

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  2. Great post...I can't live without the Donal Maass books! And my most recent favourite is Monkey's With Typewriters Scarlett Thomas
    lx

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    1. I've got Donald Maass's books as well. Maybe I should have done a top 10?!

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  3. Thanks for reminding me of Mary Wibberley's title, Marie - that was the book that got me out of the slush pile many years ago! I had two rejections before it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to find out how to write a romantic novel ...

    Fiona, v interesting list, and all new to me except Stephen King. My own 'go to' book whenever I need reminding about how stories work is Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! I love that book: funny and interesting and inspiring.

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    1. Also love Save The Cat, but I left it off because I thought my list was a bit heavy on screenwriting books. I do seem to love them. :-)

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  4. I am very fond of Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (the purple book) as I believed you called it.

    Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon is v useful as well.

    I have just re-read Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. There was a ton of things to remember. I know it really helped me when I was first starting out. Donna Alward used to sigh with my RUE -- Resist the Urge to Explain but it works.

    I do really like the Maass books, Liz. I haven't read the Wibberley title. It is funny -- Self Editing and EL Leonard go with said almost all the time.

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    1. I still have to tell myself not to RUE. :-) And it's something I've said again and again when critiquing manuscripts for unpublished authors.

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  5. Oooh, and there was me thinking I own every book on writing there is and you go and mention four I've never heard of (I've got the Stephen King one). Must check them out. My own personal favourites are 'Plot and Structure' (James Scott Bell), 'The Story Book' (David Baboulene) and 'Monkeys with Typewriters' Scarlett Thomas.

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    1. Okay, Monkeys with Typewriters definitely has to go on my list now, just because of the title. Another one I want to read that everyone keeps raving about is Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott.

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  7. I love 'On Writing' too. I've yet to meet anyone who's read it and doesn't rate it highly. I also love Christopher Vogler's 'The Writer's Journey', Liz Fielding's 'Little Book of Writing Romance' and Kate Walker's '12-point Guide to Writing Romance.' OK, so I'm biased. But outside the romance arena, I also love Orson Scott Card's book on writing science fiction and fantasy.

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    1. Love The Writer's Journey too! And I have Liz and Kate's books on my shelf (or on my ereader)!

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  8. This is a fab post! I love Blake Snyder's Save The Cat, but I've also used Michael Hauge's Writing Screenplays That Sell (which I bought after reading your blog lol). Both have helped me loads.

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    1. I love Michael's book. (Can I get all fan-girly and tell you I have a signed copy - and that I was right there when he signed it?). Even better is his DVD with Christopher Vogler called The Hero's Two Journeys. That's where he really goes in to the heart of his ideas about story and character arc.

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