Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
I will try my best not to rave about this book too much but…I LOVED IT! Ok, so I haven’t read a zillion craft books so I don’t have many to compare to, however, this book was truly inspiring, helpful and very clear.
Larry Brooks is a novelist, script-writer, article-writer, pro baseball player, and he has been teaching writing workshops since the 80s. To read more of his facinating bio, check out his website: storyfix.com, you may recognize it from the NaNoWriMo tips series he posted throughout October.
Why did I like his books so much? He gives you the whole picture of novel writing and in addition to that, he does it in an entertaining way and he really knows how to teach.
You might remember teachers from high school or university who knew what they were talking about, but they didn’t know how to teach it. Either they dumped everything, all the theories and jargon on you and hoped you absorb everything and that would bring enlightenment. Or there’s the teacher who gives you so many examples and analogies that you end of having no idea what the concept was, but you do remember the analogy about cookies or whatever other non-related topic they chose.
Larry Brooks is a great teacher, which is why his book resonnated so well with me. Brooks gives writers a foundation – The Six Core Competencies:
- Scene execution
- Writing voice
Then throughout the book, he takes you through each one in detail. He describes what it is, why its an essential core competency and shows you through examples how it works. This is what makes things stick with me: an organized and solid structure of information to learn, a detailed presentation with great explanations about the why and the how.
Its hard just to choose a few things that I learned from the book because there were so many. But what I read in his book and then started thinking about when I read fiction novels, was the 4 stages of a book and how the character changes (character arc) throughout.
Stage 1: Before the first plot point (moment that changes the story), the character is disconnected from his/her ultimate goal/destiny (orphaned). Here you see the first dimension of the character.
Stage 2: Then the hero goes on their quest/mission and responds/reacts to it, but doesn’t yet attack (wanderer). Hero explores his/her options and what holds them back (inner demons), which is the second dimension of character.
Stage 3: The hero is empowered to attack the problem by applying what they learned in Stage 2 (warrior).
Stage 4: The hero has a “stand off” with the antagonist and this is where the third dimension of character shines through (martyr).
I can say that I definitely saw these four stages in the first fiction book I read after finishing Larry Brooks’ book.
Since I’m a plotter, I really like seeing the foundation of stories and how much of a story you can plot just by knowing the story milestones in advance. The rest, you just have to fill in with an average of 10-15 scenes. Even for the pantsers out there (those who don’t like to plot), I think if you can have an idea of what the major milestones are in your book, the writing will come much easier with less “writer’s blocks” along the way. Brooks shows pantsers a way to plot that still leaves room for discovering as you go.
I know that I will definitely be using Brooks’ Six Core Competencies to engineer/plot my next novel. I think it will also be useful to have my notes printed out and go through each stage of the book, the character arcs, and scenes to see if I have followed the basics of story structure.
This is a book that I highly recommend!
What book on writing craft have you read, where everything just clicked? Can you remember who your favorite teacher was in school, not because they were nice or fun, but because they were good at teaching? What was it that made them so good?