Category Archives: The Writer’s Bookshelf

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 40: Discussing “Writing Voice” by Writer’s Digest)

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What is voice? No, I don’t mean that thing that comes out of your mouth when you talk (no, the other thing). I’m referring to that enigmatic “writer’s voice,” which is something that most people, writers included, can’t ever seem to define when asked.

The writer’s voice is a mysterious thing that every writer needs, but no instructor can teach.

The writer’s voice is a valuable thing that can make the difference between building a readership and building a revolving door of sampler readers.

What is voice?

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we cover Writing Voice, the Writer’s Digest compilation of articles and chapter excerpts that attempt to identify, demonstrate, and “teach” the writer’s voice. If this concept gets you in the throat, then be sure to watch my commentator video on everything the book offers that you may want.

Writing Voice: The Complete Guide to Creating a Presence on the Page and Engaging Readers

From the Editors of Writer’s Digest

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback : 304 pages

·  ISBN-10 : 1440349126

·  ISBN-13 : 978-1440349126

·  Publisher : Writer’s Digest Books; Illustrated edition (March 1, 2017)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 39: Discussing “Writing Deep Scenes” by Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld)

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So, you’re ready to write your magnum opus, but all of your ideas are rooted in stock images and cardboard cutouts. What are you to do? Well, it’s time to put some meat on those three-dimensional bones and dash in the mood music. It’s time to write “deep” scenes.

But what does that even mean? Thankfully, veteran authors Martha Alderson (The Plot Whisperer, not yet featured on The Writer’s Bookshelf) and Jordan Rosenfeld (Making a Scene, also not yet featured on The Writer’s Bookshelf) have teamed up in the excellent book Writing Deep Scenes (now featured on The Writer’s Bookshelf) to answer that question and a lot more (not literally that question, but the question that lives in that same camp). If you want to pump up your writing game and learn the techniques to develop your scenes into substantial works of art and functional conflicts (not settings, to be clear, but complete five-point dramatic scenes), then this book may be right for you. Learn more by watching this video.

Oh, and welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf, in case you’re not sure where you are at the moment.

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme

by Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld

Website (Martha Alderson)

Website (Jordan Rosenfeld)

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback : 248 pages

·  ISBN-10 : 1599638835

·  ISBN-13 : 978-1599638836

·  Publisher : Writer’s Digest Books (October 2, 2015)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 38: Discussing “Mastering Plot Twists” by Jane K. Cleland)

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Once upon a time, a plot twist involved writing a scene that surprised the audience. Maybe the twist made sense. Maybe it came out of left field. But either way, it was unexpected, and the audience cheered. Unless the plot twist sucked. Then they booed.

Nowadays, audiences are more discerning in how they appreciate a plot twist. The fact that a plot twist can suck means that not all plot twists work. If they don’t align with the established rules of the story, they’ll suck. If they shock for shock’s sake, they’ll suck. If being told the story has a twist means the audience can now figure out the ending, it’ll suck.

You don’t want your story to suck.

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week we focus on Mastering Plot Twists by Jane K. Cleland. This short but dense book will show you how to craft plot twists that are both natural to the story and surprising yet inevitable, just as a plot twist should be. Find out more in this week’s video.

Mastering Plot Twists: How to Use Suspense, Targeted Storytelling Strategies, and Structure to Captivate Your Readers

by Jane K. Cleland

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback : 240 pages

·  ISBN-10 : 144035233X

·  ISBN-13 : 978-1440352331

·  Publisher : Writer’s Digest Books (June 26, 2018)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 37: Discussing “Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict” by Cheryl St.John)

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Imagine walking up to the front door of a two-story house. You’re dressed in your fanciest clothes, holding a corsage in hand, rehearsing the speech you’ve had in your head for weeks. You know tonight’s the night that everything will change. You just need everything to go according to plan. That’s the only thing you need. You take a breath, fold your fingers into your palm, rap your knuckles against the door.

And you wait. And you wait some more.

Time passes. Do you knock again? Or do you keep waiting?

You hear someone yelling from inside the house. Someone else yells back. The words are inaudible. You check your corsage. You rewind the day in your mind. It’s Friday, right? Tonight’s still the night. Right?

Maybe no one heard you. You reach for the doorbell. But even before your finger makes contact, you hear something crash. Maybe a vase. Maybe a plate. Do you press it?

Do you want to know what happens next?

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we cover the most important elements in all of storytelling: emotion, tension, and conflict. Without these ingredients, the story has no soul. Without these ingredients, the story has no readers. Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict by Cheryl St.John is that one essential book that investigates these three elements with care, and it’s one I highly recommend you put on your shelf (and read) as soon as possible

You can check out my video about it while you’re here.

Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel

by Cheryl St.John

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 256 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1599637588

·  ISBN-13: 978-1599637587

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; 11/27/13 edition (November 28, 2013)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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P.S. Rather than knock or ring the doorbell, you simply call your date and tell her you’re here. She asks where. You tell her the front porch. She says she doesn’t see you. You realize you went to the wrong house. She lives next door.

Notes: I picked this book for its representation of conflict, but it covers a little of everything, including emotion and tension, as references in the title, as well as characterization, naming characters, pacing, and so on. I want to make sure I mention the fact that this book references other books as a source of education (extending the life of The Writer’s Bookshelf) and presents one of the most useful story and character development sheets I’ve seen in recent times (simple but relevant) at the end of the book. I also want to reiterate that conflict is important, and I’d hoped to spend more time talking about it. Maybe in Season 3.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 36: Discussing “Crafting Dynamic Dialogue” by Writer’s Digest)

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Everyone knows that verbal communication is just as important as nonverbal communication when getting a message across. Telling someone to “Stop it!” carries the same emotional weight as shoving them away whenever they stick their finger in your ear. But is that response powerful enough to convince them to stop? Or do we need to escalate the tension with more character-affirming phrasing? “Do that again, and I’ll stick this up your nose!”

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. Now that we’ve wrapped our sessions on location, location, location (which included a video on mapmaking software in case you missed my YouTube episode on “Mapmaking for Authors” last week), it’s time to move on to the all-important character and story development tool called dialogue.

This week, we cover another text compilation from the archives of Writer’s Digest Books, in a fun collection of chapters and essays called Crafting Dynamic Dialogue. If you struggle with putting words in your characters’ mouths, then this book will help you grab that clamp and shovel and drive those dialogues right where they belong.

Don’t forget to check out the video.

Crafting Dynamic Dialogue: The Complete Guide to Speaking, Conversing, Arguing, and Thinking in Fiction

From the Editors of Writer’s Digest

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 304 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1440345546

·  ISBN-13: 978-1440345548

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (June 23, 2016)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

Notes: This is the cherry on top for character creation and development. Like Creating Characters, much of the content is curated from other sources, including books and magazine articles by Writer’s Digest.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 35: Discussing “The 99% Invisible City” by Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt)

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When was the last time you walked down the street, saw a manhole cover, and thought to yourself, “Hmm, that’s interesting”? My guess is never, but that’s not the case for the writers of this week’s book of focus.

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf.

The cities around us are full of history, not just through events, but also by the unusual decisions that have marked them as sources of influence. For example, did you know that once upon a time, a city planner had to figure out how to hide an unsightly water pump from the unfortunate people who walked past it daily? His solution: build the empty shell of a fancy building around it. The people will never know! What about the history of The Can Opener Bridge? Did you know it can’t be fixed in any meaningful way? If you’ve ever wanted to know the true story of this hilarious urban monster (if trucks and buses are the victims), then you’ve got a place to find it.

And these are just two examples of the neat tidbits we learn in this week’s book of focus, The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt, based on their blog and podcast, 99% Invisible.

Why are we even talking about this book in a series devoted to writing craft? Well, for two reasons. First, we’re discussing how to craft settings, and I think this book is a great reminder for how settings have histories and that your settings have histories. But we’re also using it as an excuse to talk about researching your story elements and making sure that what you write is accurate and necessary. So, we’re pulling double-duty on this one.

Plus, it’s just a great book, and I’m all about discussing great books. It’s why I’m planning to launch a sister series about books worth reading sometime quite soon. But I digress.

You can get the book at the link below, and be sure to watch my discussion about it in this week’s video. And if you have the time, check out the 99% Invisible blog and podcast. There’s so much interesting stuff to read and hear about that even the book doesn’t have enough room to cover.

The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

By Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Hardcover: 400 pages

·  ISBN-10: 0358126606

·  ISBN-13: 978-0358126607

·  Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Illustrated edition (October 6, 2020)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

Series Note: We’re taking another short break next week to talk about mapmaking and setting orientation for your stories. The Writer’s Bookshelf will return on August 13th.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 34: Discussing “The Rural and Urban Setting Thesauruses” by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi)

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Writing about a bar in the back of an industrial plant? How about a restaurant sitting on a pier over the Atlantic Ocean (around here, we call that Benny’s on the Beach)? What about that barn you think you slept in the night you passed out in Missouri (we don’t need to know why you passed out)? You know what they look like? Can you recall the smells?

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf.

Continuing our theme about settings, this week we focus on yet another thesaurus pairing by the stellar authorial team of Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi, this time about rural and urban settings. Combined, the thesauruses, The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Urban Setting Thesaurus, cover over 200 locations that you can study and adapt for authenticity in your writing. Pair them with other thesauruses we’ve covered in this series, and you can have a believable situation where your rabbi and priest protagonists walk into a bar and, well, the rest is up to you. But now you can tell a version of the story that we can believe because you’ll have the right tools to tell it.

Get the books at the links below, and don’t forget to check out our full discussion in this week’s video.

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces

by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 259 pages

·  ISBN-10: 0989772551

·  ISBN-13: 978-0989772556

·  Publisher: JADD Publishing (May 22, 2016)

The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces

by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 304 pages

·  ISBN-10: 098977256X

·  ISBN-13: 978-0989772563

·  Publisher: JADD Publishing (May 22, 2016)

Note: These books and other thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi contain entries that can also be checked online via their database of definitions at One Stop for Writers. This service not only contains the same entries that you can find within these books, but they have additional categories exclusive to the service (like weather and color thesauruses), as well as a character creator that allows you to integrate traits, emotional wounds, etc. directly into character creation. If you’re an industrious writer who likes to know his or her character before writing about him, then check it out.

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 33: Discussing “A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting” by Mary Buckham )

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Developing characters for your stories is an important part of the storytelling process. And most authors will devote plenty of time to this task. After all, the character is the one who makes the plot unique. Die Hard, for example, already comes prepackaged with an interesting concept (based on the thriller series that begins with The Detective by Roderick Thorp). But it’s made more interesting by its hero, John McClane, a flawed and sarcastic police officer who’s caught stopping a terrorist-driven tower heist in a district he doesn’t even work for!

Sounds good on the surface. But here’s the twist! The novel it’s based on, Nothing Lasts Forever, doesn’t feature John McClane. It features a character named Joe Leland, who’s introduced in The Detective. When he (and The Detective) was adapted to film, Leland was originally played by Frank Sinatra! And when Hollywood bought the rights for Die Hard, their idea was to bring Frank Sinatra back to reprise his role. But, as the Hollywood story goes, Sinatra turned it down, and so, to salvage what they had, Die Hard’s producers rebranded the story with a new character and series.

Think about that for a moment. How different would Die Hard have been if it had remained within its original series and original star?

Now, while you’re thinking about that, and thinking about how that likely would’ve eliminated the horror story that is A Good Day to Die Hard, consider how the story might change if the events didn’t take place in a tower. After all, even if the character changed from book to screen, the tower didn’t. The book, as does the movie, focuses on terrorists in a tower. But, what if it didn’t? What if it took place on a boat? Die Hard on a Boat (or Under Siege)! How about a bus? Die Hard on a Bus (or Speed)! What about at an airport? Well, that’s just Die Hard 2: Die Harder. But the point is, the setting can affect the story just as much as a character can. If you let it.

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we’re done with characters. Instead, we’re discussing settings and how to make them part of the story in a way that doesn’t throw them away as nonessential. Our book, A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting by Mary Buckham, helps you navigate the murky waters of relevant scene-setting by walking you through a process of developing places that matter to your story. It’s a must-read!

Get the book at the link below, and check out my discussion video to find out more about it and why I recommend it.

And if you haven’t seen Die Hard for some reason, go get it now!

A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings

by Mary Buckham

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 256 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1599639300

·  ISBN-13: 978-1599639307

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; Revised edition (January 1, 2016)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 32: Discussing “The Occupation Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi )

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Do you like your job? Does your character like his job? Does your character know his job well? Do you know your character’s job well?

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we’re all about talking jobs and careers for your characters. After all, they have to work somewhere, right? And where they work may affect how they act, or think, or respond to crises. Likewise, if you’ve paid attention to our last two weeks of episodes, then you’ll figure out that knowing their traits and emotional wounds may also move them closer or further away from a particular career. Have you given him or her a career consistent with his emotional state? Is he right for the job?

And what job does he have? Is he a police officer or a firefighter? What about an architect or chef? A landscape designer or treasure hunter?

Well, these jobs and so many others are all featured in this week’s book of focus, The Occupation Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi, and if you’d like to know more, then you should watch me talk about it in my latest video.

And don’t forget to check out the book at the link below, and be sure to explore Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi’s other thesauruses for a complete suite of character development tools. They’re all useful.

The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers

by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 318 pages

·  ISBN-10: 099929637X

·  ISBN-13: 978-0999296370

·  Publisher: JADD Publishing (July 13, 2020)

Note: This book and other thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi contain entries that can also be checked online via their database of definitions at One Stop for Writers. This service not only contains the same entries that you can find within this and other books in the series, but they have additional categories exclusive to the service (like weather and color thesauruses), as well as a character creator that allows you to integrate traits, emotional wounds, etc. directly into character creation. If you’re an industrious writer who likes to know his or her character before writing about him, then check it out.

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

Series Note: We’re taking a break next week to discuss paperback creation with software tools like Affinity Publisher. But never fear! The Writer’s Bookshelf will return July 16th.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 31: Discussing “The Emotional Wound Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi )

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 31

Remember that one time a clown snuck into your room in the middle of the night and tossed a baby crocodile in your bed because he thought it was funny? Do you still have the teeth marks to prove it happened? Sorry to bring up an old memory that’s better left forgotten, but let me ask you, has that one night affected your future to the point that you can’t even go to a circus in the middle of the zoo without breaking down?

If this story sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. (Well, I’m not saying that’s my experience, just that it’s probably someone’s experience.) Everyone has a past that affects the way they think and act today, and your character (as do you) has such a past.

Now, maybe you don’t yet know that past. That’s what backstory is for. But at some point you’ll want to know, and what better time than in the pre-planning phase? This means figuring out a lot of details, like his or her traits (as we discussed last week) and his career (as we will discuss next week), but it also means figuring out what scars him, and that’s what we discuss this week.

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we’re covering The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi, or what you might consider their most requested thesaurus. If you wanted to know why your character can’t go into a public restroom alone, then this book might help you figure out the reason.

Get it at the link below, and be sure to check out my companion video where I discuss it in more detail.

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma

by Angela Ackerman & Bella Puglisi

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 325 pages

·  ISBN-10: 0989772594

·  ISBN-13: 978-0989772594

·  Publisher: JADD Publishing (October 13, 2017)

Note: This book and other thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Bella Puglisi contain entries that can also be checked online via their database of definitions at One Stop for Writers. This service not only contains the same entries that you can find within this and other books in the series, but they have additional categories exclusive to the service (like weather and color thesauruses), as well as a character creator that allows you to integrate traits, emotional wounds, etc. directly into character creation. If you’re an industrious writer who likes to know his or her character before writing about him, then check it out.

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.