July 28, 2019

5 Great Books On Writing

I've received a number of questions over the years from other writers and storytellers, asking me questions on...writing. And although I'm very touched to receive such questions, I still feel like I have so many things I need to learn myself still, so I thought I'd post instead on some books I find really good on the subject.

But first, a warning: I've written stories both in novel and screenwriting formats, so the books here are geared toward either of these. However, I find that, at the core, they're all about great storytelling, so I'm keeping them mixed up.

1.The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass

 Donald Maass has been a literary agent for quite a number of years now, and used his experience to write a number of books on the art of writing great fiction. What I really like about his books is that he always uses excerpts from a wide variety of books to illustrate his meanings.
Seriously, I love all of his books, and read them before I start any new novel.

2. Story by Robert McKee

 I discovered this great book when I first started delving in the screenwriting world. I love this book for the same reason I love Donald Maass's books: McKee filled this book with lots of examples from amazing movies to illustrate his points on what makes great storytelling for the big screen.

3. Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

 This one I recommend you get (if you get it at all) in print format--because it's chock-full of gorgeous illustrations. It's another great book (particularly if you're highly visual) to help you come up with lots of new ideas for your stories, and includes short contributions from quite a number of great fantasy authors such as George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman Ursula K. Le Guin, and Joe Abercrombie, to name a few.

4. Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder

 This book has become a classic for screenwriters since it was first published in 2005. The premise of this screenwriting book is explained in its intro: "I call it the "Save the Cat" scene. They don't put it into movies anymore*. And it's basic. It's the scene where we meet the hero and the hero does something -- like saving a cat -- that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him." And then he shows ways to accomplish that...and more.

5. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass

 And so yes, I'm finishing up with another book by the Donald Maass. But seriously, I own them all, and love them all. And this one's great becomes it comes from a point that I struggle with quite a bit--allowing yourself to be emotional through your characters (yeah, I think it comes from my being partly an introverted easily shamed robot).

VoilĂ ! Here are my top 5 favorite books on the craft of writing great stories.

What about you? Any other books you think should be added to this list?

Let me know!


*Except perhaps in The Incredibles

June 10, 2019

On Those Who Quell The Storm And Ride The Thunder ... And Their Trolls

"The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. 

(...) A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities—all these are marks, not, as the possessor would fain think, of superiority, but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part manfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affectation of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance. 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. 

(...)There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of the great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. "
~Theodore Roosevelt, 
Citizenship in a Republic, the Man in the Arena
April 23, 1910

May 21, 2019

Impostor Syndrome

The Forces of Creation by Louis Dyer

Anyone who puts him/herself out there by creating something new, is bound to feel at one point or another that they're not good enough. That they can't truly compare to [insert their hero(ine)'s name here].

But what they (myself included) need to understand, is that they're different from said hero(in)es, and that doesn't make them bad. Especially if they always try to get better, to improve their craft.

I admit I've been rather pithy with the subject, but if that doesn't inspire you, here's a story from Neil Gaiman, author of a number of fabulous books (some  of which have been turned into movies and/or TV shows, like Good Omens, Stardust, Coraline, American Gods, etc.), that might inspire you better:

"Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn't qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, "I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They've made amazing things. I just went where I was sent."

And I said, "Yes, but you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something."

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an impostor, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren't any grownups, only people who had worked hard and also gotten lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for."

Welcome to the end times...

PS: Proof of two Neils together here for those of you who want it :)