Books that have helped me with my writing – Part One

I’ve been writing for a good while now but I’m still learning every single day. Whether it’s finding a better way to write, or a new way of researching, or how to market my books, or discovering a new writing app, I am open to learning new things. This is very important. I think a good writer needs to be adaptable.

This post is a shout out to the books that have helped me get to this point in my writing career and those that have inspired me along the way.

1. The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler

This book has never been far from my side. The book is a breakdown of the mythic structure way of writing a novel. Vogler himself describes The Writer’s Journey, as “down-to-earth writing manual…a useful writing guide.” And it certainly is that! The first part of the book breaks down the eight main types of characters you find in stories – the hero, the mentor, the threshold guardian, the herald, the shapeshifter, the shadow the ally, and the trickster  –  in great detail so that you use them effectively in your storytelling. The second part of the book breaks down the twelve parts of the hero’s journey in the mythic story structure. These are – The Ordinary World, The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the first threshold, Test, Allies and Enemies, Approach to the Innermost Cave, The Ordeal, The Reward, The Road Back, The Resurrection and The Return with the Elixir.

For example, there are several types of mentor that the hero might meet along the way, including a dark mentor or a fallen mentor and each has a different role to play. Or did you know that the part called The Approach to the Innermost Cave is where the hero’s fortunes literally hit rock bottom?

This book has proved useful to me. It has helped me to plot my novels and to use the various characters in my work whilst understanding their function. There are other ways to tell stories but this book is a great introduction to the world of mythic storytelling.

2. Reading People – Jo’Ellan Dimitrius and Mark Mazzarella

Reading this book coincided with me learning that there are ways of describing emotions without actually saying what that emotion is. I have found that using the body language of my characters is a great way to add another layer of depth to my work. For example, someone who is amused might throw their head back, or slap their thighs, or shake with laughter. Or they might do all three. Someone who is bored might yawn, or tap their feet or doodle or fidget.

Reading People is essentially a book that allows you to”understand people and predict their behaviour.” Although it’s not actually that simple, and I’ve learnt along the way that certain assumptions made in the book can be proven incorrect, this book is a great way to start delving into the subject of body language. It’s a good springboard into the psychology of people. Although my edition is quite old it’s written in a non-academic way so is a good solid starting point.

3. The Seven Basic Plots – Christopher Booker

The book is seriously mahoosive! As it says in the title, Christopher Booker believes that every story can be boiled down to one of seven plots. These are; Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth. Although it sounds nice and simple there is actually a lot of detail in Bookers analysis of these seven variations of plot. The book itself runs to 728 pages including the index.

This book has (along with Vogler’s book) helped me to focus on plot structure.

4. Wannabe a Writer? – Jane Wenham-Jones

I love this book! This is one of those books that I will never ever give away. It’s full of lots of useful advice from what happens in the beginning, when you decide you want to write, to what happens when you actually start to write, to how to keep on top of what’s happening to your characters and plot to the importance of writer’s groups and occupational hazards, such as something called “writer’s bum”. Jane Wenham-Jones goes through all of these points of advice with a sense of humour that makes reading about writing a lot of fun!

5. Crafting Stories for Children – Nancy Lamb

This is a more nuts and bolts type of book which takes you through all the elements needed to craft an amazing children’s book. It goes through building the foundations of your story, to the structure and all the other parts that are needed. There’s also a helpful section on using themes, how to use voice and tone and how to create depth in your writing with senses and setting.

I have found this book incredibly useful as it’s written in easy to understand format.

Further Reading:

The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler ( Published by Michael Wiese Productions, 2007)

Reading People – Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Mark Mazzarella (Published by Vermilion, 1999)

The Seven Basic Plots – Christopher Booker (published by Continuum, 2004)

Wannabe a Writer? – Jane Wenham-Jones (published by Accent Press, 2007)

Crafting Stories for Children – Nancy Lamb (published by Writer’s Digest, 2001)

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