The Successful Novelist — Book Review

David Morrell is the author of First Blood, the novel in which Rambo was created, and in his book The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing, he lays down the rules of writing as he understands them. Overwhelmingly, it is a helpful array both for the new writer and the experienced ones.

The book cover for the Successful Novelist by David Morrell.

Though there are a number of tips and insights contained within the book, my favorite is encapsulated in this quote:

"There are no inferior types of fiction, only inferior practitioners of them." ~ David Morrell

Morrell, described as a “mild-mannered professor with the bloody-minded visions,” writes genre fiction, which he is proud of, addressing the idea of “low-brow” and “high-brow” fiction throughout this book. He explains that it absolutely does not matter what kind of fiction you write, if you write it well, and you write a lot.

“Writers write. It’s that basic. If you just got off an assemble line in Detroit and you’re certain you have the great American novel inside you, you don’t grab a beer and sit in front of the TV. You write. If you’re a mother of three toddlers and at the end of the day you feel like you’ve been spinning in a hamster cage and yet you’re convinced you have a a story to tell, you find a way late at night or early in the morning to sit down and write.”

This advice is not new, number one rule is to be prolific (though realizing everyone’s idea of prolific if slightly different), and Morrell joins the bandwagon; however, his approach is a cheerful one. Get down, get dirty, and just do it. The straight forward and simple advice is refreshing, especially as he takes several chapters to describe how to get it done.


The bulk of The Successful Novelist is made up of how-to chapters. From how to outline a plot, to how to create good dialogue, much of the advice is something that many a student would find in a creative-writing class. A unique idea that I pulled from these chapters is a self-conversation exercise that Morrell does when he is between projects.

Explaining that he is inspired by dreams (both waking and sleeping ones), he will sit down at his computer with a glimmer of an idea, and then have a conversation with himself about the idea. There are a lot of why questions; for example, this is an excerpt from Morrell’s actual conversation:

“I read an article in Architectural Digest, and some thing about it really intrigued me…”

To, which the computer asks, “why?”

… And they are off. The idea is to have a back and forth conversation with the computer (or typewriter, or pen on paper) personifying a wider audience, or maybe a specific reader. This allows a back and forth that not only helps to clarify the idea, but also keeps the writer writing even during a down time.


Other how-to advice he gives includes plot, characters, the importance of research, the good and bad of different view points, and what not to do in dialogue. All of the advice is pretty well worn, though he does present it in context of his own writing, which can be interesting. For example, he strongly encourages people to live their character’s experiences as much as is possible. For one of his books, Morrell went to a wilderness survival camp to learn how to survive in terrible conditions in the wild. Living his character’s experiences is how he researches his novels.

Another suggestion is to go to a bookstore and randomly pick books in all genres and read the first paragraphs. As the first paragraph is the hook, this exercise will give you a feel for what works and does not work.

Littered throughout are both encouraging and interesting tidbits that are unique to Morrell; even the advice that most writer’s have heard over and over again, is portrayed from a unique perspective.

Still Useful

At times, the book can feel dated. Though published in 2002, so much has changed about the industry that his advice for publishing and for marketing is lacking important information. This is truly just a side note, however, as only a couple of chapters talk about the business of writing, which is still relevant if not entirely accurate.

Truly, Morrell is at his best when he is writing about his own experience. When recalling personal experiences, where his ideas come from, and his experience, the advice feels authentic and fresh. The book is a very good read for someone just starting out as it encourages and teaches; and for those with a few more miles under their belts, the book is interesting and unique, offering bits of advice that you might not have heard elsewhere.

Disclaimer: this book was received courtesy of Sourcebooks Press Publishing for review purposes.

Topic Links
* The Successful Novelist is available from
* The Successful Novelist is available from

About Heidi Hood

Heidi Hood, former journalist, is now a full time mom and part time novelist. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more from her contributor page.

The Sense of Style — Book Review

Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style is not a typical style guide. Pinker explains in the first chapter that he does not intend to replace classic guides such as Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Rather, his book acts as a commentary both on the changes that have taken place since that classic guide was published early last century, and on some of the unchanging principles of style. (Did you notice the comma preceding the “and” in that last sentence? Pinker provides a complex but enlightening explanation on the controversy surrounding the use of commas).

The book cover from The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker.

I laughed out loud several times while reading The Sense of Style, both at the delightful cartoons which pepper the pages and at Pinker’s dry witty attacks on the logical failings of pedants and linguistic purists. Pinker debunks the myth that the Internet is destroying style. He points out that generations of traditionalists have decried declining standards, usually with very little foundation. Indeed, one of the cartoons features a stuffy Egyptian mocking a fellow scribe for ending his sentence with the hieroglyphic equivalent of a preposition!

Pinker argues for a modern set of guidelines which should reflect changes in popular usage, without abandoning the linguistic frameworks that make for clear communication. For example, he spends considerable time explaining the unchanging “tree principles” that govern sentence construction. These principles justify such apparent pedantry as retaining the distinction between “who” and “whom”. However, Pinker acknowledges that in some contexts (mainly spoken ones), “whom” might come across as stuffy and archaic.

Refreshingly, Pinker is less dogmatic than many style guide authors, and more willing to acknowledge that “correctness” may be less valuable than consideration of one’s audience. The Sense of Style sets out his principles with the assistance of sample texts culled from a wide range of sources. My favourite example of clear prose is an article about the breeding habits of herons.

All in all, The Sense of Style is a readable, informative and entertaining book, of value to any reader with an interest in the use and theory of the English language, although not everyone will have the patience to sit through some of the more didactic sections. In particular, the section on “Telling Right from Wrong” seems to be designed more for reference than reading. I wonder whether, as a result, the book would be more useful in the form of a traditional hardcover to sit on the reference shelf than in the form of a kindle download. However, the choice between soft and hard copy, like so many of the grammatical choices discussed in The Sense of Style, may ultimately be a matter of personal preference.

Disclaimer: this book was received courtesy of Viking / Penguin Publishing for review purposes.

Topic Links
* The Sense of Style is available from
* The Sense of Style is available from

About Stephanie Cage

Stephanie Cage is a British romance writer with books published by The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance. She loves dance and musical theatre, and her first full-length novel, Perfect Partners, has a dancing theme. Learn more from her contributor page.

Why We Write — Book Review

Why We Write is a collection of essays from 20 authors*, edited by Meredith Maran. The essays are written by authors who “have written books that sell in the kinds of numbers that make publishers send them flowers and leather-bound first editions, and most important, new book contracts.” Maran calls them the successful ones, the ones that have “beaten the odds,” and her intent is to examine their success. The authors range from Ann Patchett to Gish Jen to Terry McMillan and many others.

Heidi Hood's review of Why We Write.

Maran explains in the introduction that she wanted to find out why these writers do what they do, and how they do it. The essays all include a “why I write” statement, that then leads into other avenues of reflection. Also included for every auther is a bibliographical list of the their work, and a blurb at the end of the section containing advice that the author gives to the reader.

In addition to the longer introduction at the beginning of Why We Write, Maran introduces each of the authors and her tone is both gushing and over the top. In the formal introduction, she emphasizes several times how well these authors have done, how they are the dream children of agents and publishers, and she does it again with the individual author introductions. She clearly places the authors on a pedestal above all other writers, which I found alienating.

As the authors represented are very familiar, and as Maran writes so much about their success in the introduction, the individual accolades are too much and I found myself skipping over them… only to go back and read them as to not miss anything for this review. Sadly, the only introduction that steered from this method of operation is the one for James Frey, whose infamous name made for a more interesting read.

The Positive Aspects

Within the chapters, the author’s responses were occasionally interesting, especially if you are familiar or a fan of that particular writer. For me, I enjoyed Isabel Allende’s entry; and I also found David Baldacci’s entry intriguing. I was inspired by their work ethic. For instance, before becoming a full time writer, Baldacci wrote from ten p.m. to two a.m. six days a week. Exhausting, absolutely, and a bit inspiring.

There were also good ideas here and there. For instance, Sue Grafton keeps a novel journal for every novel she writes, where she can put down bad and good ideas, whine when it is not going as she would like it to, and record everything else that does not go into the actual novel. I thought that a good idea.

The book was a constant reminder that even these amazingly successful writers have demons and moments of blockage, and they too have dealt with rejection, information that I did not find particularly helpful (of course they do!); however, perhaps other readers might find this knowledge comforting. The brief moments of personality here and there were refreshing.

The Not-So-Good Aspects

I was disappointed at the almost formulaic feeling of the responses to the question “why I write.” I have read so many books on writing by writers that to read the response “I write because I have to” is boring and cliche. It might be true, absolutely, and I am not putting that on the authors who responded, but rather on the question itself. The lack of originality in these sections had me itching to skim over the entries. Of course, if a favorite writer of yours is represented, you might find these sections enlightening and interesting, but I felt the responses only scratched the surface of reality.

Additionally, the author advice at the end of the essays was a bit frustrating as it is the same thing over and over again: don’t write for money; don’t give up; work hard; and read. This is great advice for someone who has never picked up a writing book, taken a writing class, or otherwise engaged in the world of writing… for those of us who have, this is old hat advice, presented in a very unoriginal away.

This brings me to my last point.

The Last Point

This book is a good starter manual. If you are just getting into writing, the essays could help you to realize the reality of writing. Writing is hard work. It is rejection. There can be success if you stick with it. You need a bigger motivator than money. Publishing does not equal money. Etc. Etc.

But, note, if you are a first time writer, do not pay any attention to the introduction as Maran’s gushing of the author’s brilliance transposed with the reality of publishing will leave you wondering why you are embarking on this journey (she cites that only one percent of a million transcripts out there circulating will ever find a publisher).

In the end, there are better writing books out there. Perhaps this one started out as a sincere attempt to provide inspiration for writers, but for me it fell flat. It might be interesting to those who like the authors represented, but I would still suggest borrowing it from a library rather than giving it a permanent spot on your bookshelf.

Disclaimer: this book was received courtesy of Plume / Penguin Publishing for review purposes.

*The authors represented in the book are: Isabel Allende, David Baldacci, Jennifer Egan, James Frey, Sue Grafton, Sara Gruen, Kathryn Harrison, Gish Jen, Sebastian Junger, Mary Karr, Michael Lewis, Armistead Maupin, Terry McMillan, Rick Moody, Walter Mosley, Susan Orlean, Ann Pratchett, Jodi Picoult, Jane Smiley, Meg Wolitzer.

Topic Links
* Why We Write is available from
* Why We Write is available from

About Heidi Hood

Heidi Hood, former journalist, is now a full time mom and part time novelist. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more from her contributor page.

Writing Great Books for Young Adults — Book Review

Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks has the rather ambitious subtitle “Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published”. For the most part, the book lives up to its promise. Regina Brooks covers all the essentials of writing great books for young adults, such as plot, character, setting and dialogue. I found the explanation of the differences between plot (“a chain of events where each event has a cause”) and story (“the sequence of events as the reader imagines them to have taken place”) particularly helpful, as this is an area which is not always well explained.

Stephanie Cage's review of Writing Great Books for Young Adults.

Writing Great Books for Young Adults is the perfect primer for an inexperienced writer looking to write their first young adult (YA) book. Its breadth means that there is also plenty for the more experienced writer. For example, there is an intriguing precis of the 36 dramatic situations, and some thought-provoking exercises on getting into the mindset of a teenager. The time spent on basic writing techniques common to all fiction writing (use of all the senses in descriptions, choice of a point of view, etc.) means that sometimes the specifics of writing for young adults are not covered in as much depth as might be useful for the experienced writer moving into the YA market. Although these topics were included, I would have liked to see more depth to the sections about balancing realism and fantasy, tackling difficult subjects, and how to keep up to date with YA trends.

I enjoyed the quotes from YA writers and publishers, giving an insight into the current “state of the market”, and the stories from the author’s experience. I came away from the book with a long wish list of YA fiction to study. As a top US agent for YA fiction, Brooks has a wealth of knowledge of YA writing and publishing, but also a perspective which occasionally results in some surprising omissions when it comes to the section on breaking into the industry. In general, the book focuses on a particular path: submitting to an agent who in turn sells the book to a traditional publisher. Brooks largely ignores the many other options offered by developments such as small presses, e-book publishing and self-publishing. Writing Great Books for Young Adults is also highly US-centric, and while the techniques of writing a great book do not vary according to nationality, the specifics of the market covered in the final chapters often do.

If this book were titled Writing The Great American YA Novel, it would have entirely fulfilled its promise. Despite its limitations from my point of view as a UK-based author, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is a worthwhile reference for the YA author anywhere in the world.

Disclosure: This book was received courtesy of SourceBooks for review purposes.

Topic Links
* Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks is available from
* Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks is available from

About Stephanie Cage

Stephanie Cage is a British romance writer with books published by The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance. She loves dance and musical theatre, and her first full-length novel, Perfect Partners, has a dancing theme. Learn more from her contributor page.

Still Writing — Book Review

Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life is a gentle companion, filled with a myriad of antidotes that helps the writer on their own personal journey. The book is not a how-to guide in the least. It does not go over grammar, writing a sentence, or the like. It does, however, offer a how-to on surviving the sometimes lonely, frustrating, and doubting life that every writer knows intimately.

“To be still. To be grounded. To claim one’s place in the world.”

Dani Shapiro's Still Writing has a lovely watercolor cover.
According to Shapiro the beginning is about finding space. Still Writing is broken into three loosely themed sections: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.


The advice of beginning a novel coexists with a glimpse into the beginning of Shapiro’s writing life. In frank and honest prose, Shapiro talks of her childhood in terms of how it informed her writing. She goes into the usual complaints of writers facing a blank page: the censor, the ideas, the inability to move forward. Then taking those fears most writers face, she interweaves them with her own life and the wisdom she has gained through living those moments. The result is poignant at times, though bordering on cliché on occasion.


The Middles is about what came after her childhood, starting in on a life of writing, and finding her place. She speaks again of the fears that come along once you start to find your toehold in publishing. The writer’s routine enters here and the need to keep on keeping on when faced with life.


The Ends is as you would think it would be: “If you show up, if you spend many hours alone, if you wage a daily battle with your inner censor, if you endure, if you put one word in front of the next until a long line of words is formed, a line that could stretch halfway across your home, if you take two steps forward, three steps back, if you grapple with bouts of despair and hopelessness — there will come a time when you can sense that the end is not too far away.”

The Spark Note Version

Shapiro has written a writing companion that offers gems of comfort. It is the kind of book that you could pick up and flip through the pages, finding that line or paragraph that you need in order to keep focused, keep believing. That being said, however, there is quite a bit of Eastern philosophy and belief weaved through the pages with Yoga, Buddhism etc., which is not a deterrent for me but which might strike others as uncomfortable or just annoying.

Much of the advice contained is similar to what one would find in Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott or Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, but though the feeling is very similar (a sort of waving back and forth between advice and experience), Shapiro’s voice is uniquely her own. Like a particularly aware friend, one that has walked the path, knows the journey, Shapiro’s book on writing creates comfort for those treading in her footsteps. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a bit of a gentle companion along their own journey.

The Author

Shapiro has written two memoirs and five novels, along with contributing to a myriad of different venues. She taught at Columbia, NYU, The New School, and Wesleyan University, and is the co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Italy.

Disclosure: This book was received courtesy of Grove/Atlantic for review purposes.

Topic Links
* Still Writing by Dani Shapiro is available from
* Still Writing by Dani Shapiro is available from

About Heidi Hood

Heidi Hood, former journalist, is now a full time mom and part time novelist. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more from her contributor page.

No Plot No Problem

Book Review

As National Novel Writing Month approaches, you only have to browse on Amazon to see that the annual challenge has resulted in a host of guides for getting the most out of the month-long novel writing marathon. Many of them are valuable and interesting, but for me none will ever replace the original NaNoWriMo handbook, No Plot No Problem, by the founder of National Novel Writing Month, Chris Baty.

No Plot No Problem NaNoWriMo book review.The book is written with the same light-hearted exuberance which led the aspiring author to create the month-long challenge, involving just 21 would-be writers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Written in 2004, it remains one of the definitive guides to fast writing, and benefits from the author’s experience in mentoring groups of writers through several years of NaNoWriMo challenges on an increasing scale.

Advice on keeping on track with the 50,000 word challenge includes “secret weapons” such as agreeing to donate a large sum to a charity whose aims you wholly oppose, in the event of your failing to complete the dare. Plotting suggestions include introducing ninjas to spice things up when the plot runs out. In addition to general advice, No Plot No Problem contains a specific chapter on each week of the month-long event. The first week helps you get down to business, the second helps deal with the inevitable slump, the third looks at keeping the momentum going, and the fourth contains ideas for getting to the finish line and celebrating your arrival.

While it is all geared towards the particular 30-day schedule of NaNoWriMo, No Plot No Problem is actually an excellent guide to creating a “dirty draft” at any time of year. I am not sure that writing a novel in 30 days will ever be as “ow-stress, high-velocity” as the subtitle claims, but the magic pens and writing totems of No Plot No Problem certainly help the process along.

All in all, the book is both as silly and as inspiring as the challenge it accompanies.  If you want a sane, rational guide to how to write a novel, this is not for you. But if you were wholly sane and rational, you probably would not be contemplating participating in NaNoWriMo in the first place!

Topic Links
* Enter the November writing challenge at official NaNoWriMo website

About Stephanie Cage

Stephanie Cage is a British romance writer with books published by The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance. She loves dance and musical theatre, and her first full-length novel, Perfect Partners, has a dancing theme. Learn more from her contributor page.

The Playwright’s Guidebook Review

An Insightful Primer on the Art of Dramatic Writing

Book Review by Laura Roberts

Although taking advice aimed at playwrights may seem like a strange idea to a novelist or writer of short fiction, one of my go-to writing advice books is Stuart Spencer’s The Playwright’s Guidebook. With the subtitle An Insightful Primer on the Art of Dramatic Writing, you might think this book is only for those looking to write a stage play, but no! Indeed, it is Spencer’s belief that all good writing is dramatic writing that can help make all the difference between stories that fall flat and those that shimmer with life.

The Playwright's Guidebook Divided into five parts, the book explores how we tell stories by looking under the hood at structure, getting up close and personal with the creative process, detailing how to deal with problems, and offering both general and practical advice—along with a breathtaking reading list plus plenty of writing exercises that are sure to test your skills.

Spencer’s advice is cross-genre in its application, urging writers to take a close and careful look at each character’s “action”, or motivation. By breaking down stories into scenes, and figuring out what each character is trying to accomplish by the scene’s end, writers can get a better grip on where each piece of their story needs to go. Meanwhile, probing each character’s motivation for being in the room will help pave the path from one scene to the next, up to the story’s logical conclusion.

Spencer recommends writing from an image, and provides numerous prompts that can help writers envision their characters in different scenarios that will stimulate the senses. Whether you are writing for the page or the stage, his commandment to bring all five senses to life helps writers to focus on much more than mere description, developing setting as well as character when viewed through a protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) eyes.

About Laura Roberts

Laura Roberts is the author of a variety of humorous erotic tales, including The Montreal Guide to Sex and The Vixen Files. She has also written a satirical ninja novel entitled Rebels of the 512, and is currently working on her erotic novel Naked Montreal. Visit her website to find out more about her latest work.

The Grammar Girl’s Quick and Easy Tips for Better Writing

Book Review by Charlotte West

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips Book CoverThe Grammar Girl’s Quick and Easy Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty is a must-have for your reference library. Ms. Fogarty brings a breath of fresh air to the stale, dry world of grammar. Her style is comfortable and humorous, and always clear. She includes plenty of real-world examples to help you understand the rules. In other words, she is just what you wanted in a teacher when you were in school. As a matter of fact, it would be a great book to add to your children’s libraries, too.

The book is laid out well. The appendices, table of contents, and index all make it easy to find what you need. The pages are broken up easily with headings, subheads, bullets and a splattering of bold type, making it comfortably readable. It covers the most common grammar problems, including word usage, common mistakes, punctuation, and style. It even includes sections on writing, bad habits, and the internet.

This book is a gem! It’s no wonder that her podcast is ranked #1 and Amazon reviews rate her at 4.8 stars out of 5. The information in the book and podcasts are valuable to writers of all kinds. Even Oprah was impressed enough to have Ms. Fogarty on the show.

Check it out. You will be glad you did.

About Charlotte West

Charlotte West, B.S., has always loved to read and write. She never goes anywhere without a book, pen and paper. Currently she is developing a program using hypnosis to help writers and she has an alter ego, writing as Charli Brightwell.

On Writing

A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

Reviewed by Grace M. Cho

One of the first adult books I remember reading when I was a kid was Stephen King’s Night Shift. It captivated my ten-year-old imagination so much that I was inspired to try my hand at writing a horror story about a grave-robbing ghoul. I entered it in a sixth-grade literary contest, and to my disappointment, it did not earn me any accolades at all. It took me a while to bounce back from the rejection and start writing again, but by the time I graduated from high school, I had nurtured aspirations to become a writer. During my first year of college, however, I was rejected from every creative writing class I tried to enroll in. Convinced that I lacked talent, I hung up my creative desires at the age of 19 and focused my energies on more pragmatic pursuits, like teaching.

Stephen King On Writing CoverTwelve years passed before I made any effort to write creatively again. By that time, I had become part of the academy, whose writing style favored polysyllabic jargon over language that was either clear or evocative. My attempts at creativity were often punished.

Fast forward another nine years. With the weight of tenure off my shoulders, I started writing a memoir. Twenty years after I failed to get accepted into a college writing class, I began my career in creative writing. I joined BIW, and during my first month, won Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It was a good omen.

Among the many things I appreciated about reading this book was the book’s fundamental premise that successful writing is based on practice rather than merely talent. Yes, there are some people with a real gift for writing, but most writers out there fall into the category of “competent”. King writes: “while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one”.

King does not offer a single recipe for success, but he does emphasize some crucial ingredients. A writer must have his or her toolbox stocked with a good, though not necessarily flashy, command of vocabulary and grammar. King warns against trying to show off with vocabulary words that feel unnatural and suggests using the first word that comes to mind. Likewise, he shuns the conventional wisdom that complex sentences make for better writing. He says that the basic unit of writing is the paragraph, not the sentence.

He then goes into more advanced writing techniques, the “bells and whistles”, but again reminds us that these are not necessary because “the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations”.

Once you have got the basics down, you have to do it every day (or at least, regularly). Not everyone has the luxury that Stephen King has to read and write for 4 to 6 hours a day and finish a draft of a book in three months, but much of his advice applies to you no matter your day job. Here are a few tips I will leave you with:

  • “If you want to be a good writer, you must… read a lot and write a lot”.
  • Once you finish a draft, put it away for six weeks before revising. Sometimes we are too in love with what we have just written to be able to look at it with a critical eye.
  • Designate a place where you will write, preferably a room with a door. I love this advice, but choose to interpret it loosely. King discourages writing in coffee shops, but I find that as long as the other people in the room are strangers, I can imagine a virtual door.
  • Write with the door closed. This sends the message that you are serious about your work and invite neither distraction nor premature feedback. When you are ready to revise, write with it open.
  • Finally, when you are ready to send out submissions, remember that it takes patience and persistence to get published. Like King, you might get a big stack of rejection letters before you get a hit.

On Writing is a delightful and inspiring read. Though King writes with a healthy dose of humor, he is serious about writing and urges his readers to be serious, too.

About Grace M. Cho

Grace M. Cho is author of Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War. She is currently working on a food memoir, a piece of which has been published in the summer 2012 issue of Gastronomica.

Character and Viewpoint

Review by Louise E. Sawyer

Are your fictional characters vivid and memorable? When I read John Grisham’s novels I am amazed at how well I get to know his major characters. I either love them or hate them and I find myself smiling or anxious.

The three sections of Character & Viewpoint cover Inventing Characters, Constructing Characters, and Performing Characters.

Orson Scott Card explains how to distinguish major, minor, and walk-on people you create. You learn how to develop each one appropriately and have fun interrogating them! Then raise their emotional stakes and see how they respond. You will empathize with your heroes and engage with their goals, challenges, and opportunities for transformation.

As you use the tools offered in this book, you will develop your characters more deeply, so that you really believe in them and either love them or hate them–just like your future readers.

You will learn how to balance romance and realism. And explore the makings of comic people and serious ones.

Did you know you have many voices? You will learn about them as well as how your narrator voice relates to your audience just like in a performance. There are many details for first and third voice choices too. And you discover whether you are writing in a representational or presentational way. Dramatic or Narrative?

As one of the Writer’s Digest’s Elements of Fiction series, this is a readable and very useful book to refer to when you are in the midst of developing those vivid and memorable characters you hope to become famous for!

Louise Sawyer writes mostly non-fiction but enjoys reading and writing novels as well as watching movies and writing screenplays. She is a Creativity and Lifestyle Coach for women with challenges, including chronic illnesses. Her passion is teaching Tortoise Step workshops on stress reduction, play, and creativity. Louise is a senior and lives on beautiful Vancouver Island with her guinea pig Neuron, who squeals at the top of her lungs for lettuce whenever she hears the fridge door open.

About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.