It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Larry Brooks’s books. I’ve mentioned them several times on my blog as well as in the comment sections of others. Aside from Stephen King’s book On Writing, Brooks’s books remain my favorite on the craft, and I’m relieved I discovered them early in my writing journey.
Though the author leans heavily toward plotting—which is why the books appeal to my left-brained thinking—pantsers will benefit as well, because regardless of our writing style, a good novel requires strong structure and execution. And that is what these books help us accomplish.
1. In Story Engineering, Brooks outlines six core competencies critical for strong story architecture: concept, character, theme, story structure (plot), scene construction, and writing voice. Within the competency of story structure, he presents what I find to be the most helpful tool in my writing arsenal: the four parts of story and the nine milestones that optimize story structure. This section of the book is my most dog-eared, highlighted, noted, and tagged.
2. In Story Physics, Brooks dresses up this underlying architecture with six storytelling forces: a compelling premise, dramatic tension, pacing, hero empathy, vicarious reading experience, and narrative strategy.
3. In Story Fix, his newest book, he helps us dissect our story for weaknesses, whether those weaknesses lie in concept and premise or in the execution itself (or both). This book is particularly helpful for those who’ve had a novel repeatedly rejected, because Story Fix allows a manuscript assessment in real time. Of course, it’s equally helpful to those in the throes of manuscript creation as well as those who are just getting started.
While you wouldn’t necessarily have to read Story Engineering and Story Physics before Story Fix, I’d recommend it. The first two give you a solid understanding of the craft, while the third allows you to assess what you’ve created.
As a thriller writer, Brooks’s books make strategic sense to me, but his techniques apply to all genres. After all, our goal is to keep readers turning the pages. The tools he offers will help us do that.
What’s your favorite writing book?
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