1. ruaidhrim
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    ruaidhrim New Member

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    Theory books

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by ruaidhrim, Mar 2, 2010.

    Hi all,

    Just wondering if anyone can recommend any books on the theory of story writing that they found useful or particularly informative. Ta.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Other than standard references like Strunk and White's The Elements of Style or The Little, Brown Handbook, I recommend avoiding theory books. What you end up with is one writer's opinions and biases.

    If you want to learn to write, then read, read, read. The more you read, from as wide a variety of authors and genres as possible, the better sense you will have as to what is and is not good writing.
     
  3. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am in complete agreement with Cogito, in my opinion, you should avoid author biased books of theory. Reading is in itself is the best teacher. :)

    On a side note, Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" and "The Little, Brown Handbook" are an essential help to writers. I keep "The Elements of Style" in my bag so I can reference it no matter where I am.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Do you really mean theory or do you mean those how-to books that teach you to write? Cuz there's lots of amazing theory on writing and storytelling, but its definitely nothing like a how-to guide.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are a lot of theory books that are nothing but self-serving BS, too. The way you know the difference is by having done enough general reading to penetrate the proselytizing and doubletalk.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, definitely, but if its hard theory they're after I might be able to point them to a few of the works I feel are most valuable.
     
  7. Green Tea
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    Green Tea Banned

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    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing

    :)






    ... It is a book! No joke, even though I meant it as one.
     
  8. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. I have no idea what others think of it, by I liked it. Not only because it helped me focus and clear my head in terms of careful reading, but also because I understood that I was already doing some of the things she is suggesting. That was great encouragement to me. I also learned some english books (you probably know them already). Anyway, it was good to read ( more than once :) ).
     
  9. OPTiiMUM
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    OPTiiMUM Member

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    In my opinion, the best Theory Book is one you write yourself. No two writing styles are exactly the same, everybody has their own, subtle or big, differences.

    Reading, Analysing, and Writing are the three best ways to improve your creative writing.

    Read a book, ask yourself questions:

    Did you enjoy the story?
    What made it good?
    What made it bad?
    Were there any undeveloped characters? If so, what would have helped make them more developed?
    Did the ending justify reading the rest of the novel?
    Etc, Etc.

    Asking yourself questions and answering them in your head, or even jotting them down, can be much more beneficial than reading about what other people believe.

    When writing your own pieces, keep the same open mind. Ask yourself the same questions, this can improve your own pieces of writing.

    Other than a basic Dictionary/Thesaurus and the Elements of Style, there's not really much I can recommend other than read and write the areas of books your trying to improve.
     
  10. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    If you're talking craft books, I see nothing wrong with studying your craft. Even the most basic craft books can often bring small moments of enlightenment or clue me in to things I may be overlooking in my own writing.

    I echo the Francine Prose suggestion.
    James Gardner has some great books: "The Art of Fiction" / "Writers on Writing"
    Ray Bradbury has some great essays: "Zen and the Art of Writing" (though these are more idea-based and inspirational than nitty gritty craft-focused).

    Stephen King's "On Writing" is actually a great little book.

    Nancy Kress has a good book on POV/Perspective that I enjoyed.

    I think you do get a lot out of reading short stories and novels, but as someone who loves the art of writing itself, I'm always looking into craft books. You can also check out magazines like "Writer's Digest."

    I'm definitely someone who is always looking to hone in on specific craft elements. If you want to go it alone, then all the power to you. But, I also see nothing wrong with actually studying the craft itself from a focused perspective. It's given me a bigger vocabulary in terms of critiquing work (others' work as well as my own).

    Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway is a HUGE recent favorite.


    If you are talking about literary theory (i.e. New Criticism, formalism, structuralism, post-structuralism, Marxism, feminism, etc.) then you can probably just do a quick search on amazon for Critical or Literary theory and hit a few good choices.
     
  11. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    I agree completely. Reading is very important but it is not enough. It's like learning how to paint just by looking at paintings or learning how to compose music just by listening to music. You need the know the craft to be able to understand why, what and how others have done it, then you can do it your own unique way.
     

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