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Monday, June 18, 2012

David Morrell's Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft

If the author's name in the title didn't resonate with you, how about "Rambo"?

I thought it would.  Morrell wrote the initial Rambo book--his debut, BTW--that became movies that later became a book (read Lessons to understand that loop!).

In fact, because of his imagination immortalized on paper, " . . . Rambo went on to become so great a part of global popular culture that the character's name was listed as a new word in the Oxford English Dictionary" (p.214).

That's one of my aspirations.  To have my characters live on, born in fiction yet alive, become viral, known worldwide.  Like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.  Like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.  Like Eve Dallas and Roarke.  Like Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli.

Anyway, back to the book which is the subject of this post:  David Morrell's  Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing:  A Novelist Looks at His Craft.

I reread this one from my at-home library--just finished it yesterday.  It is definitely a keeper.  I first read it 07.15.08 (I mark same on the inside), underlining the great points.  There is a lot of underlining going on.  This time, I'm gonna type up my notes (all those underlined parts) for a great overview for my personal use, from which I will create another version wherein I distill it down to the top ten (or one hundred) salient points.  That then gets printed and added to my Writing Gems/Cheatsheets notebook I'm compiling.

Since you can preview the TOC online, I will list the chapters here.

First Day of Class
Lesson One:  Why Do You Want to Be a Writer?
Lesson Two:  Getting Focused
Lesson Three:  Plot
Lesson Four:  Character
Lesson Five:  The Importance of Research
Lesson Six:  The Tactics of Structure
Lesson Seven:  A Matter of Viewpoint
Lesson Eight:  The First Person
Lesson Nine:  The First Page
Lesson Ten:  The Psychology of Description
Lesson Eleven:  What Not to Do in Dialogue
Lesson Twelve:  Dealing With Writer's Block
Lesson Thirteen:  Getting Published and the Business of Writing
Lesson Fourteen:  Rambo and the Movies
Lesson Fifteen:  Questions I'm Often Asked
Last Day of Class

As you can see, Morrell structured the book as if teaching a class, which he is.  I was struck by his bald honesty and his humor and his self-deprecating admissions, usually prefaced with "Just to show you how humble I am, . . .".  He's very amusing in print.

While all his material is worthy of a full read or three, I especially liked those dealing with the behind-the-scenes writing life, "secret" details in book publishing and movie production, but above all the more psychological topics:  "Why Do You Want to Be a Writer?" followed by "Getting Focused" and "The Psychology of Description."

Without giving away his copyrighted material, he does confirm what we authors should already know:  hooks, concrete nouns, active verbs, fresh writing, fact-checking via valid research or experts.

We may be writing fiction, but the components still have to be true.

I'm not sure if he knew it when he wrote and published this book in 2002, but he makes good arguments for going Indie without ever directly discussing it.  Maybe I'm just finding it with my all-Indie mentality.  But it is there, nonetheless.

So, if you want another great book on writing, I'm recommending this one.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor + blogger
Good Ole Boys, a love story at http://amzn.to/GoodOleBoys

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