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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Writing - Resources - Master Lists for Writers


Bryn Donovan (2015)

Whether a writer is attempting to tackle her first novel or his twenty-fifth, they should be keen on making the work as readable as possible – and that means injecting variety, meeting intriguing characters, travelling to exotic worlds, revealing universal truths, creating visual descriptions that enter the reader’s mind’s eye, to name a few goals in the quest for enjoyment.

Striving to write elegant prose, captivating stories that entertain and perhaps educate a little is no easy feat, so it’s always helpful to obtain guidance whenever it’s available. There are a good number of books that guide writers – some specific about character emotions, plot or a particular genre (see my own Write a Western in 30 Days). There are several offering lists for the writer – and these have their place too, as tools.

This book falls into that last category.

Bryn Donovan has worked hard to provide a fascinating and useful compendium of words, phrases, and triggers to help the writer. It may not make the actual graft easier, but if used sensibly, this book can improve that work immensely. I don’t regard these lists as ‘cheat sheets’ because you still have to put in the effort, to create the plot, define the characters and to imagine their fictional world.

What’s on offer, then?

The section on descriptions of facial expressions is useful, because it’s so easy to fall back on ‘he smiled’ or ‘she grinned’. The human face is capable of manifold aspects, some quite subtle; choose the most apt for the scene or emotion.  Body language speaks to us with subtlety too, and yet as writers we tend not to employ the richness that is visible to the discerning eye – again, conveying a character’s mood. Naturally, we have the usual eye, complexion, face, body, mouth, hair and body descriptions – try to vary the characters in the story so they’re not all similar.

One section of particular interest is that concerning ‘evocative images’ – a single feather or a rainbow in an oil slick can provide a telling image in a scene, put the reader there in the character’s point of view. Other lists provide sounds and scents for settings – again, putting the reader in the story.

There are lists for plotting: romance, high-stakes, twists, humour, motives for murder etc. I’ve got more than enough plots going on for my various projects, I must admit, though it’s conceivable that some of the suggested plots could be opted for a short story or three.

Dialogue can be a trial for some writers. Make it real without being boring or slowing down the story. Here we have lists showing how people say ‘no’, ‘yes’ or ‘verbalize positive (or negative) feelings’ and so on.

There’s a good selection of character names and character traits, too.

The book ends with an important list: ‘10 reasons why you should write that story’. I endorse all ten and particularly commend #7: Because it doesn’t have to be perfect. Whatever your hang ups, get the story written. ‘It’s the final draft that counts.’ And this book will help you polish your novel to get there.


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