Saturday, December 14, 2013

Writing Weekend: Review of Cheryl St John's Writing with Emotion,Tension & Conflict

PHS Editor Michelle  Styles looks at Cheryl St John's recent writing craft book Writing with Emotion, Tension and Conflict.

A small confession -- earlier this year, I decided no more craft books. I felt like they were undermining my confidence and that I should just go back to the older craft books to refresh my memory rather than seeking some new insight. HOWEVER when Cheryl published her book, I knew I had to get it. I have loved Cheryl's writing for many years and I know that she does emotion very well. Plus she is a fellow Harlequin Historical writer.

I'm so glad that I downloaded the book and took the time to read. It is a book that I wish had been written years ago. Cheryl relies heavily on Dwight Swain as his earlier book The Techniques of the Selling Writer taught her about craft. I love Swain. I discovered him when I was in high school and rediscovered him when I became serious about my writing. BUT he is dated and some of his explanations don't exactly work.

Cheryl builds on his work and provides exercises for the author to use to enhance her own work. She also uses movies and tv series to illustrate her examples. Personally I find it easier to see technique in a film because if the author is doing her job correctly, I am utterly immersed in the Story World.

Cheryl's book is divided into several sections Conflict, Feelings, Setting, Tension, Dialogue and finally Drawing Emotions from Characters. Cheryl is a very character-driven author and so this book is aimed at other authors who are character, rather than plot driven. It is not a book about how to plot but rather how to create characters who leap from page and compel the reader to keep turning the pages. Reading is all about the emotional tensions that the reader feels.

The book is destined to be a classic. I personally preferred her take on Goal, Motivation and Conflict to Debra Dixon's. It is interesting that Dixon owes a great deal to Swain as well. The exercises are clear and helpful.

I can whole heartily recommend the book. Capturing the hearts of your readers is so vital and this book gives a detailed explanation of how to go about it. How to really ratchet up the tension and keep your reader involved. It is definately worthy of inclusion on any romance writer's  craft bookshelf.

It is availabe in both print and ebook and is published by Writer's Digest. You can learn more about Cheryl on her website She also has a blog 

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