5 Books on Writing That Every Writer Should Read
To be a better writer, there are really only things that you need to do: Read, and write. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t read about being a writer, and that having a well-rounded understanding of how writing “works” isn’t beneficial.
These 5 books were all assigned to me as a creative writing undergrad, and all have pieces of wisdom in them that have etched themselves so thoroughly into my brain that I feel like they’re all floating over my head while I’m writing.
I specifically chose these because they aren’t all just saying “here’s how I write, you should do it too”—the topics of these books are very diverse!
1. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose: Like I said, the best thing you can do to be a better writer is read. But what does that mean? What should you read? Francine Prose (yes, that is her real last name, if you can even believe it!) helps you answer those questions, and shows how looking for certain things while you read and reread can strengthen your own writing. Check it!
2. On Writing by Stephen King: This is the one book on my list that is saying “here’s how I write, you should too”. But Stephen King is basically the most prolific writer ever, so I was happy to listen to his advice. Two points of his really stuck with me: 1. Adverbs are lazy and 2. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is put it down for a long time—like, 6 months or a year—and come back to it with eyes so fresh that it’s like you’re editing someone else’s story. I’d be interested to know what points of his sticks with you guys!
3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: I posted about this the other day, but this book is like my writing Bible. In fact, a friend of mine who doesn’t even write got to reading it, and he loved it, too. Basically if you’re a human with a goal, this book will help you. And Anne Lamott writes kinda like this wise, kind mother who isn’t afraid to also tell you what’s up. Whereas a lot of other books on writing are about the actual storytelling, I like this book because it’s more about the writer’s “lifestyle”. Go get it now so that we can gush together!
4. The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe: This is actually just an essay, but considering that Poe is often credited with being the inventor of the modern short story, I had to include it on this list. It’s in this essay that Poe famously defined a short story as one that can be told in one sitting. Whereas King’s On Writing is really “zoomed in” on topics like word choice, this essay is a high level, theoretical piece on what a story actually is. You can get it for 99 cents on Kindle, or, even better, read it as part of a collection of all of his stories… ugh, they’re SO good!!!
5. Elements of Style by Strunk & White: I cannot tell you how often I’ve received this little book as a gift—for high school graduation, for college graduation, and for many Christmases and birthdays. But it’s all good because it is kinda essential for a writer to have. Elements of Style is all about—gasp!—grammar. (I should probably give it a read-through again so that I can re-center and remember my grammatical skillz, actually!) Also, there are some cute versions out now that make it seem less snore-fest-y—I really want this illustrated copy!
If you read any of these books and post quotes from them on your Tumblr, tag them #yeahwritebooks and I’ll reblog you!
Character Motivation and Consistency:
So lets take a moment to talk about character consistency. This is something that I find a lot of people have a hard time with and a lot of it has to do with the actual development of the character in itself. When making a character, we pick out traits and experiences that define our character. All of these things including flaws and talents are important but something that people tend to forget with picking out a character is what their motivation is.
Author Orson Scott Card reminds us “We never fully understand other people’s motivations in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motivations with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.”
Why is Knowing Motivation Important in Writing?:
This essentially, explains to us why characters act the way they do. Choices are determined by the motivation of the character. They are a guide in the choices they make because where they want to go or what they want determines what choices they are going to make. Very very VERY seldom does anyone make a choice at random. By knowing your characters primary motivation, the choices that they make will remain consistent (Even if they are not the ‘right’ choices.
Basic External and Internal Motivations:
Bold-face is obverse aspect (stuff in parens = goals, effects, or other association)
- Survival/safety; Fear of the world (food, water, escape from danger)
- Physical comfort; gluttony (shelter, warmth, good food, health)
- Pleasure; hedonism (sex, great food, culture, games)
- Dominance; tyranny (power, social standing, competition, respect)
- Acquisitiveness; greed (wealth, materialism, collecting, excellence)
- Curiosity; voyeurism (learning, searching, investigating)
- Mastery; perfectionism (excellence, conquest, discipline, achievement)
- Reproduction; profligacy (children, creativity, family-building)
- Autonomy; isolation (self-sufficiency, freedom, non-confinement)
- Affiliation; conformity (security, cooperation, loyalty, clan)
- Love; lust/ownership (connection, passion, sex, mirroring, approval, giving)
- Revenge; justice (righting wrongs, recognition of grievance, vengeance)
- Guilt; denial of guilt (responsibility, shame, punishment, redemption, forgiveness)
- Identity; self-centeredness (self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-protection)
- Surcease; conflict avoidance (peace, escape from anxiety, death)
- Spirituality; fetishism (religion, transcendence, transformation)
- Growth; decay, aging (learning, maturation, wisdom)
- Ambition; insecurity/anxiety (fear of failure, inferiority, stress)
- Vindication; rationalization (success, proving self, apology)
The Difference in between a Goal and Motivation:
The goal is like the flower… the motivation is the roots.
The goal is the outward manifestation of the motivation. It is concrete, measurable, and specific.
You don’t know when you’ve fulfilled the motivation: “I want success” isn’t measurable– what’s success? But you know when you’ve achieved a goal: ”I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list–” That’s measurable. You’ll know when you reach it.
Just keep in mind that while the goal is the external manifestation of the motivation, the connection is not always a straight or clear one. You can have a goal that is destructive and against your true motivation– “looking for love in all the wrong places” is an example.
Or you can have a laudatory goal for a selfish or twisted motivation– “I want to be first in my class to show my father up!”
Motivation is the past; Goal is the future; Conflict is the present.
Distinguish between MOTIVATION and ACTION:
Remember that motivation exists to inspire the character to make choices and take actions. If you’ve been told your protagonist is “too passive”, it’s likely what’s lacking is motivation that leads to action.
Every action, however small, should be motivated. If the motivation is obvious, then you might not have to show it (we assume that she’s running from that tiger for survival).
Compare the external (obvious) motivation to the goal and/or actions. If they don’t match, an internal motivation is probably in force. What hidden desire or fear is influencing actions?
An alternative reason for motivation/action mismatch: You’re trying to make an original character act in stereotypical ways.
And keep this in mind:
Heroism and villainy are in the action, not the motivation. Heroes do heroic things, they don’t just intend to do them. And villains do bad things even if they have the best of intentions.
Taking all of these things into account, here are three exercises that I found a while back and use to help figure out character motivations:
1. Real People as a template:
Make a list of 5 people you know really well. Beside each, make notes about how they:
- react to stress
- experience happiness,
- treat other people.
After that, list what motivates each of these behaviors. Try to be as factual as possible, drawing from things you know; for things you’re unsure of, use common sense to hypothesize.
A person might make it their goal to treat others with respect because of religious beliefs, or maybe because they were disrespected in the past. Someone might react poorly to stressful situations because they have a deep-seated fear of failure, stemming from a past experience.
2. Characters from Literature:
List 5 characters from literature and what motivated their actions throughout their respective stories.
For example, Shakespeare’sHamlet. His thoughts are motivated by revenge (because his uncle secretly killed his father), along with anger, sadness and confusion (because his mother married his uncle so soon after his father’s death).
Add to this a host of other factors, and you have a well-developed character you can understand.
3. Self reflection:
Write paragraphs to describe
- your most frightening experience
- your happiest experience,
- your most stressful experience, and how you reacted to each situation.
After, list all the factors that motivated your behavior. How is your personality shaped by your motivations?
During the story (Or role play) it is important to remember these character motivations when your character makes choices. That is really what this is about; identifying the motivations that make your character act the way that they do.
During the plot, motivations may change, and should actually shift for the character to develop, but never all at once and never out of the blue. Still the back story that drives your characters motivations will always be part of them.
For instance; I write a character whose past has made her a survivalist but over the course of a year she shifts to protection of the family that she has developed. However this took a full year to happen and her motivation of survival was never put on the back burner. Instead it just expanded to protection of the group and not just herself. Her fear of lose over this new family is what really drives her.
And there you have it: Keeping your character consistent through their motivation.
Hello everyone! We are glad to announce we finally reached 10,000 followers and we want to celebrate it by sharing some resources with you. It’s been almost a year since we created the blog and we have received more than 1,400,000 hits. It is difficult to express how happy, surprised and overwhelmed we are. The maintenance of this blog requires a 24/7 dedication by answering messages and looking for /making new resources to share with you. We have got 1% hate and 99% love, thanks and support from the beginning and we want to give those back! We can’t really explain why we do this: helping people, making tutorials, organizing the blog, spending so much time here. We like it and we enjoy a lot and it doesn’t matter if we get tired sometimes because we know you guys will understand and be patient (some more than others? haha) So yeah, this resource pack symbolizes a big thank you! Our followers seem to love what we do, so we guess that means we are doing something right.
I’m not bothering you anymore (in case someone reads this?), let’s summarize what you will find here:
- Floral, header, corner and frame vectors
public use | useful for graphics and typography
- Light textures
made by us | can work as gradients
- Minimalist textures
made by us | as in the preview ^
- Other textures
made by us | patterns, sky, grunge, landscape, handwritten…
- Texture psds. Click here for the previews
made by us | .psd files contain more examples inside. Have been tried in American Horror Story, Arrow, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, How I Met Your Mother, My Mad Fat Diary, New Girl, Skins, Teen Wolf, Utopia - they can work wherever you apply them; feel free to edit or add more layers
Our first resource pack (x) got 890 notes and it has been downloaded 4042 times so far. We still can’t understand why people don’t press LIKE when they see the post, but we would like to thank the ones who do it. We hope the difference won’t be that big this time… at the end, notes are a way to know if people like your work or not.
PLEASE, DON’T REDISTRIBUTE OR CLAIM AS YOUR OWN. Credit is not needed if you use any of the resources we provide. Only respect is needed.
Enjoy and have a great summer :)
the software is similar to emote/emofuri, a little more complicated though, with modeling, texture maps and set up is different, but at least it’s in English! with an extensive how to manual and dozens of sample models to play around with
there’s free version you can download
I picked up this program almost instantly, after struggling with emofuri all day (T^T I’ll try again another time), I really just wanna jump into this style of animating