Some things I didn’t know: A Reading List

You soak up a lot when you read a lot – the way stories are shaped and told. But in the best writing, there’s a lot of craft working invisibly (if it’s done correctly) behind the words and between the lines. When I started writing, I joined an online group or two and it seemed that everybody was talking a different language (inciting incident, in media res and the single-issue wonk), and I was all of a sudden introduced to a bunch of ideas that I hadn’t known I didn’t know. Here are just a few – but perhaps the most fundamental – of those concepts.

Show Don’t Tell: Often cited, frequently misunderstood.

Point of View: 1st person, 2nd or 3rd? Close or distant? Limited or omniscient? So much to choose from.

Character vs characterisation: Who they are vs how this is demonstrated.

Exposition: Letting your readers know what they need to know without them noticing.

Dialogue and attribution: He said, she said, and when said goes without saying.

Some of these concepts you will know, others may be new and might help you sharpen your writing. But they are all worth investigating. Get on Google, maybe buy a book or two – I’ll post some links below. Just remember, these are tools not rules – all used by great writers. All broken by those same great writers.

Check out:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

Characters and Viewpoint – Orson Scott Card

How to Write a Damn Good Novel – James N. Frey

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

Story – Robert McKee

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes – Jack M. Bickham

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing – Elmore Leonard – for dozens of articles by Chuck Palahniuk

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller – by Italo Calvino. (Ostensibly a novel, but with many illuminating digressions on craft.)

And for 10 bonus points, a difficult one to get hold of for under £125.30 – but worth hunting down:

The Writer’s Chapbook – George Plimpton