Writing a story is a craft that can be learned. Essential elements lie beneath the surface, often invisible. When they are absent they are missed by the reader; the story suffers. Writers should study and practice their craft. Read with a critical eye for what works and ask why it works. Take classes. Join critique groups–Meetup and local writers’ organizations are two places to find them. And study story structure, grammar, and the invisible elements integral to every story.
I have a number of books about writing that I go back to over and over. Here are a few of my favorites and why I like them.
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler – In The Writer’s Journey, Vogler builds on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Vogler lays out the Hero’s Journey story structure in an engaging manner using modern examples to demonstrate Campbell’s Monomyth. Vogler explores the archetypes that inhabit all of our characters and creates one of the most valuable guides for a writer on structuring a story that will speak to readers, editors, and filmmakers alike.
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder – Save the Cat is an alternative take on story structure, specifically laying bare the three act structure that dominates screenplays. STC is an invaluable book for any writer. Besides basic structure, the book looks at the ten basic types of story, and is full of tips of writing interesting and concise material. There is also Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, but the original remains the best regardless of what you write.
Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English by Maxwell Alexander Drake (or simply Drake) – Dynamic Story Creation is the best book I’ve read on theme or what the story is actually about. Drake separates the visible layer (plot) from the invisible (theme) and tells you in certain terms why your theme better be strong. Drake does not pull punches, gives no participation awards, but offers honest and very valuable insight into writing and story creation.