Presenting Volume 1 of the Durrell Brothers Trilogy, Waiting For You.
Part of launching a book includes thanking people who helped you write it. As part of that process, I’ve been thinking about the authors I love to learn from and whose teaching help me grow my own writing skills. So this is a book review of this week’s favorite, Stein on Writing by Sol Stein.
I read Stein on Writing, or maybe devoured it would be a more accurate, for the first time three years ago. I picked it off my shelf again recently and found it was exactly as acerbic as I had recalled.
Bracing. Fierce. And important.
Stein’s respect for what hard work can do is reassuring. Because listening to his criticism can be painful. Even though he isn’t looking at your writing, you can’t help thinking, “Ouch. I do that.”
Initially, I had to work at not being overwhelmed at the sheer quantity of things which needed improving in my work. I’ve grown more accustomed to it over time. I cringe less and do more philosophical sighing and make a list of fixes. And I’ve learned to choose one chapter, read it, and then close the book.
It’s dense teaching. I think it’s better to consider Stein on Writing as if it were several seminars and take one at a time.
He argues for and demonstrates how to build characters which breathe, charm and irritate. Characters can’t be stereotypes, archetypes, mannequins with lines to say. No reader will care about what happens to a vague image and if there is one thing we authors want it is for our readers to care deeply about what will happen next.
I think the goal in writing is to create a sense of inevitability. Events in the story shouldn’t all be inevitable obviously – surprises are important. But a character’s reaction to those events must be inevitable given his personal history, personality and character.
As readers we acknowledge life is full of unexpected turns, both good and bad. But we also know we can rely on humans to behave with a kind of internal logic, no matter how weird. And exploring the quirks of any individual’s internal logic is what draws us to stories. Particularly romances.
Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. Wednesday is generally book review day. Unless it isn’t. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Waiting For You, Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.