This is the third blog of the Rolling Mystery Writer’s Blog Tours roll for Wednesday. The two blogs on this roll before mine were Nancy Lauzon’s and Katherine Wagner’s. If you haven’t yet visited their blogs, the addresses are below, along with the other blogs featured today on the subject of Reference Books.
And now, on to my article:
I have a lot of reference books, and I plan to list most of them at the bottom of this article. But I do have a few that I depend on for every novel I write.
First, I have an unabridged dictionary, a thesaurus, Allen’s Synonyms and Antonyms, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and Body Language by Fast. I don’t use these every day, but I know I have them, and they are vital on those days when my brain doesn’t function well. I think every writer needs these basic reference books.
Then there are my absolute must have favorites:
1. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. I’m not a good plotter. But this book helps me to create a very nebulous skeleton of a plot. Others take more from it, and learn to plot according to mythic structure. In addition, it has some great descriptions of mythic character types that help me shape my characters into believeable people. It has great examples, including the break down of several classic films/books to show exactly how the mythic journey works.
2. 45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. To really round out those characters of mine, I use this book as well. It explains the mythic models, and adds supporting character types, gives examples of what those characters look like by use of book, TV and movie characters, and shows how characters change, according to their type.
3. The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook by Kenyon, with Blythe and Sweet. A character’s name is important. Both the given name and the family name. They speak to the character’s history and age, and sometimes personality. This book is indespensible.
4.Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This books helps me take all the information I’ve gathered from the previous three, and create a strong plot and believeable, three dimensional characters. It discusses areas where the writing profession has grown and changed, allowing writers a freer hand in the creation of novels that used to be considered too complicated or out of the acceptable norm for publishers. It teaches advanced plot structures. Can’t do without this one.
5. The Power of Point of View, Make Your Story Come to Life by Alicia Rasley. This book helps me decide who’s pov to write in and what type of pov to use. It’s great for those who want to deepen the experience of the reader, to help the reader really get into the mind of your characters.
6. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Once I have that first draft done, this book helps me edit thoroughly. It reminds me of all those things that are so important to the polish and preparation of a manuscript.
These six books sit in a basket beside my desk, within arms length along with a few specialty books on language and mystery writing, which I will list below. The basket also holds a few gold nuggets, primarily in the form of notes from classes I’ve taken from some of the best writers and teachers I’ve ever known.
Here is an additional list of books that help me on occasion, especially if I’m having issues I can’t solve:
- The Plot Thickens, 8 Ways To bring Fiction To Life by Noah Lukeman
- Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld
- Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
- The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide, 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder by Martin Roth
- Cajun Vernacular English: Informal English in French Louisiana by Louisiana English Journal Special Issue 1992
- Writing Mysteries, A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
There are writers out there with MFA’s and others with perfect memories, and some that just seem to have so much talent they don’t need guidence. I don’t fit into any of those catagories. I’m, for the most part, self taught when it comes to writing. The simple art of putting sentences together has always come easy to me. Storytelling is one of my natural abilities. But novel writing is a whole other animal that requires a lot more than what I have naturally, or as a result of education. I’ve found that I need a lot of help, and I’ve found that help in the books listed here.
Below is a list of the participants in today’s blog roll, which ends with John Hines. His blog not only has a great article on this subject, but also a plethera of articles, ideas and opinions. Please stop by and check it out. For information on previous blog rolls, see the other articles on this site dated July, 2011 and newer.