Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Write a Great Story: A Fiction Writer's Handbook by Othello Bach

Sopphey Says: How to Write a Great Story: A Fiction Writer's Handbook by Othello Bach

At first, I'm going to say for the first two chapters, I was really in love with this book. It was love at first read, the first sentences caught all of my attention. The author presented the material in a very straightforward manner. And I like that in a book.

The whole book is a great resource for every type of writer. But, my favorite chapters have to do with the storytelling aspect of writing. Things like the top postulate in writing: show don't tell. It's interesting, as an editor, I always tell my writers to show and not tell. But, I never use the phrase. I ask for examples of what the character is doing, for tension, for emotions, and sometimes I condemn the poor character and instruct the writer to “Make it Hurt.” To really, drive in the point of what is being conveyed in the most brutal, honest, and visible way.

But, Ms Bach on the other hand... she is nicer in her instruction. In the first chapter, titled Painting with Words we get an instruction that great stories are made by great writing. “Learning to write fiction stories,” she states, “begins with learning to write exciting sentences.” In turn, these sentences become great sentences. An example in the book deals with this sentence:

The sun was setting.

Revised as:

Long, golden fingers of light stretched across the evening sky and lingered there, as if pointing to tomorrow.

This example has to be the easiest, most poignant example of “show don't tell.” It's also a lot nicer than condemning characters to hurt. There are many more straightforward examples throughout the book. The author discusses writing to fit publishing standards, writing dialogue, creating memorable characters, and even touches up nicely on how to create plots.

The plot chapter has to be the most straightforward section in the book. It's good that it is, because I know that finding the right plot is difficult for me. Especially, if I'm writing something that doesn't follow a typical plot line. In this chapter, Othello Bach warns us of Coincidence Plots, Idiot Plots, and White Elephant Problems as well as others. Bottom line, though, if the goal in the plot is not worth achieving, then it's not a good story problem.

Great, great little book. There is absolutely no reason why you should skip this book. It's timeless, just like great writing books are.

***Note: This book seems to be free for Nook/Kindle readers. You can also find it at Smashwords.

Do you like reading books; watching movies? Have you ever come across a book or movie that inspired you to write about it? I'm looking for guest bloggers.


  1. I saw your post and was interested! I went to Barnes and Nobel on line and downloaded it to my nook for FREE! Wow a great recommendation and free!

    1. Ah yes! I forgot to mention it is a free ebook. Read it now! I mean, you're going to love it!

  2. You definitely raised my curiosity. Is it free for other devices except for the Nook readers?

  3. Great! Thanks for the recommendation. I can't wait to download it for FREE to my Nook! Yay!!!

  4. I just downloaded it. Thank you so much for the heads-up, Sopphey.

  5. Kiril Kundurazieff, here....

    Interesting book, downloaded to my Amazon Kindle for PC.

    As for a movie that inspired me to write...In 2008, I saw the film Alexander... Got support the ancestral peeps, ya know! Anyway, it inspired me to write a long, involving piece part review, part historica research, part humor and personal opinion.

    I posted it to my blog, but, to this day it has never got any feedback, and I have no idea if anyone has ever read it. :-D

    Looking back at it, mow, I realize I really should run it through the spell check on Word, at least, even if it never gets shared anywhere other than my own blog, it's that good a piece.

    1. Hi Kiril, thanks for the comment. I received your email, stay tuned!