Friday, December 12, 2014

Back with a Review of a Marvelous Book on Writing

My writing corner when it's tidy.
         
Although this is what is usually looks like.





Hello, again, at last, after the long silence. I have keenly missed blogging and connecting with blog friends, but I had to put writing first these last few weeks, and it's paid off. I finished my mystery, and now I'm doing the re-thinking, re-conceiving, additional research, etc. that is so much of the re-writing process. And I have been reading a wonderful book that I just have to share. The Art of Character, by David Corbett.



I first came across Corbett's insights in an article titled, "Characters, Scene by Scene", in the January, 2015 issue of Writer's Digest. (Yes, I know it's not January yet, but that's how magazines do things.)

In his article, Corbett emphasizes that "dimensional characters are born from drama—not description." Yes, you should know descriptive and biographical details: eye color, hair color, height, weight, hobbies, work history, biographical information, etc., but that doesn't create characters who live and breathe. What brings them alive on the page is interaction with others in scenes that serve a purpose in the story.

To paraphrase just one of his examples: How your character looks isn't as important as, say, how her appearance makes her feel, how it makes others feel, and how this translates into behavior. The same is true of age: How does her age affect her interactions? I have to say that just reading this article inspired several insights into my main character and a couple of others, and I immediately sent off for his book, The Art of Character.   Here's the book at Amazon, although several sites sell it.                                                      
And I bought the paperback, not the kindle. (When I read something this pithy, I do a lot of underlining.)

The Art of Character does not disappoint. It's like a course in creative writing, with exercises that are challenging but oh-so useful if you want rounded out characters that truly drive your story. It's also like a course in psychology, probing your characters' fears, desires, hates, loves, spirituality or lack of it. Or a course in sociology. Or philosophy. Or literature. (Corbett gives solid examples of stories, plays, novels, that illustrate the concepts he covers.)

You can tap into this book as deeply as you feel your work calls for, but the advice and insights gleaned from it are useful for any genre: light fiction, cosy mystery, MG or YA novel, literary adult fiction. It's the best book on writing I've come across in a long time. And it's the kind of book you can return to again and again.

You can visit his website to learn more about this book and the best-selling mysteries he writes. Meanwhile, I have to get back to the last chapter, the one on "voice". Happy reading.

And happy writing.

30 comments:

Richard Hughes said...

I have two or three books on character development. This one does seem to have a different slant. I'll have to read it.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Richard. I think you'll like this book. I have a few other books on character, too, and I get a lot from all of them, but Corbett's book is quite unique. Things started falling in place for me just reading some of the questions he thinks you should ask about your characters. Really a fine approach.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

Oh my! I can't wait to read this!

Rosi said...

Thanks for telling me about this. I will check it out. It sounds intriguing.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Rosi and Tanya, it's an excellent book. I expect to read it more than once. And to do some of the exercises! He has a really great suggestion for developing voice, both your authorial voice and the voices of your characters.

Jeff Hargett said...

Been a while since I read a book on the craft. Looks like this one may well be worth the read. Kudos on completing your draft!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Jeff, Thanks for stopping by. If you are needing a nudge re: writing, this book will jump start the process.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Elizabeth, its been a long time since I have read a writing craft book. Will add this one to my list of craft books to read.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Rachna, I think you'll like this book. It's such a worthwhile book. I've gotten so much from it.

Julia Hones said...

Hello Elizabeth.
What a cozy place you have!
It's good to know you are so engrossed in your writing! I like the insights on character... I tend to learn a lot from reading other authors.
Thanks for this interesting post. Enjoy your writing.
I'm also glad to know you are well. I was about to e-mail you last Friday, when I heard about the floods in California. Then I found your post.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Julia, I'm glad you stopped by. You'll really like his approach, then, because he recommends learning from other authors and gives several examples of what he means by that.

Thanks for your concern about the floods. We lucked out, although I did cancel my art club the worst evening to avoid driving through deep waters. Hope your writing is going well.

Carol Riggs said...

This looks like an excellent book on character, as you say! Thanks for the recommendation. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Carol. Excellent, yes. I think of it as the kind of book that should be on every writer's bookshelf. Hope you and your husband enjoy your new location.

Sandra Cox said...

Thanks for sharing that information, Elizabeth. I'll have to order it. And a big congrats on finishing your book. That's wonderful!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Sandra, thanks for stopping by. I think you will find the book very helpful.

Sandra Cox said...

I'm looking forward to it. Hope you've had a pleasant, productive evening.

Denise Covey said...

I must buy this. I like print craft books too. Glad your writing is going well. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

HI, Denise, I think you'll find it a great addition in your library. You have a great Christmas, too.

Sandra, thanks for stopping by. Have good holidays, and enjoy the book.

Kimberly said...

Yay for getting your mystery written! I'm going to have to check out this book. Thanks for the tip!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Kimberly. I'm happy to have finished this draft, but still have a lot of work ahead ofme. Meanwhile, do check out the book. You won't be sorry. Have a great day.

Wendy said...

Most interesting, indeed.

Many thanks, Elizabeth, and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks, Wendy, and you have happy holidays, too.

Victoria Lindstrom said...

Thanks for the tip on the book, Elizabeth. I'll definitely pick a copy up. Happy Holidays!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Victoria, I read one of his novels, too. I always do that to see if authors of "how to" books can do what they say. He's a master. His characters stick with you long after you close the book.

Best wishes to you and Michael for great holidays.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to you and Rajan.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks, Rachna, and our best wishes to you, too!

Editors At Work said...

Thanks for the tip on the writing craft book. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy prosperous New Year!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Dear Editors, thanks for stopping by. It's a great book, and I hope you get it and like it. Best wishes to you, too, for happy holidays.

Mayra Calvani said...

Congrats on completing your mystery, Elizabeth. What a wonderful way to finish the year. :-)

Happy New Year!

Mayra (Mayra's Secret Bookcase)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks, Myra! I'm starting to work on the rewrite today. You have a happy new year too.