While maybe not entirely my how-to-write-bible, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is one of my favourite books on the subject of fiction writing, and I learned a lot from it.
Story Engineering is a plotters dream. In six topics Brooks takes the writer past the most important parts of how to set up a story. He calls them the Six Core Competencies.
- Story Structure
- Scene Execution
- Writing Voice
While not every writer is a plotter, I firmly believe that more writers could benefit from a bit more knowledge about story structure and character building. If not just for the benefit of the story (it will have a better flow), but also for the speed of creating and writing it.
Being a rather structured and organised person myself, I found the in-depth chapter on Story Structure in Brooks’ book the most helpful. I now live by the 4-Act structure and try to write the precise amount of words to end up with equal quarters in my books, interspersing plot and pinch points at the right places.
I must confess I even check other people’s books when I read them, to see if they have their plot points in the right places…
Another very helpful chapter was Brooks’ explanation of Character, where I learned that to create interesting heroes and bad guys, you simply need to give them three dimensions; what they look like, how they think and what made them what they are today, also known as backstory.
I had a very enjoyable time setting up the main characters for my Jacob Hick Murder Mysteries, thinking up things that could have happened to them in the past. Things that likely never make it on to the page, but that hopefully have created three-dimensional characters.
While Brooks’ chapters are very in-depth and full of information, he does have a bit of a tendency to waffle on about baseball in his examples. But it’s easy to read past that and take out whatever you find the most helpful.
I recommend Story Engineering to anyone who wants to or has written fiction, whether they are plotters or pantsers. I know that the confirmed pantser will scream at the thought of having to structure their thoughts and writing, but if you only think you’re leaning that way, it might well be worth it to test Brooks’ methods. You might even come to the conclusion that you’re actually <gasp> a plotter.
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