Category : Writing Books – My Reviews

Hello wonderful friends!

It’s time for another Spotlight Week, where I feature a book review, a matching author interview to go with it—and of course, a book giveaway!

This week I train the spotlight on another wonderful book I’ve discovered:

Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by the fabulous Deborah Halverson.

I had been writing and re-writing my Middle Grade Fantasy book for almost two years when I decided that it was time to set it aside and start working on another book.

This time I wanted to write a Young Adult Fantasy novel. I had a great story idea but I had no clue how to start writing a YA book.

I knew I needed help and I knew just where to find it. I began searching online for books about writing YA, and after comparing tables of content and reviews on several books I found, I decided to that Deborah Halverson’s Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies was the only book I’d ever need to help me write my first ever YA book.

And I was so right!

Product Details

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (July 5, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0470949546

ISBN-13: 978-0470949542

Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches

Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

About the Author

Author Deborah Halverson

Deborah Halverson certainly has the skills and experience to talk about how to write YA books. (You’ll learn more about her in Wednesday’s author interview). She spent 10 years as an editor for Harcourt Children’s Books until she decided to try a hand at writing. She wrote the award-winning teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth. She also founded, a very helpful website for writers.

About the Book  (From the Back Cover)

The book’s back cover reads:

Your hands-on, friendly guide to writing young adult fiction

Are you interested in writing a young adult novel, but aren’t sure how to develop a style that appeals to young readers? Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies gives you tricks of the trade and proven tips on all the steps to write a marketable YA book, from developing an idea to publishing your manuscript.

Get ready to write — get the scoop on everything you need to know before you begin writing, like pinpointing your audience, finding an angle that’ll make your story stand out, and making use of outlines

What a novel concept — find out how to shape your plot, create teen-friendly characters, develop a convincingly youthful voice, write natural dialogue, and find techniques for connecting with your audience

Put on your editor’s cap — discover how to rewrite and polish your story to transform it from a first draft to a seamless, fluid final draft

Get published — find the right agent and/or editor, craft a one-of-a-kind submission package, and promote your novel once it’s published

Open the book and find:

  • Helpful sidebars from notable YA authors
  • Ideas for timeless themes
  • Four easy steps to writing a killer hook
  • Tips on writing believable characters, settings, and dialogue
  • How to edit and revise with confidence
  • Answers to the most common publishing contract questions
  • Common pitfalls to avoid
  • Advice on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing

Learn to:

  • Develop a writing style that appeals to young readers
  • Turn your ideas into a compelling manuscript through writing exercises
  • Submit your novel to young adult publishers

How the Book Helps Writers (Or My Review)

Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies is a gem of a find. I usually buy at least two books when I want to learn about a particular topic, but Deborah Halverson’s book was so comprehensive and detailed that I didn’t need any other book!

Like most of the For Dummies books, Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies is written in a style that’s simple and easy to understand. Deborah Halverson’s casual way of explaining concepts in the book isn’t only informative, but actually very engaging. It’s like having a one on one session with your favorite English teacher.

The book is divided into five parts:

Part I: Getting Ready to Write Young Adult Fiction, gives us the lowdown on on YA fiction. Here, Deborah helps us understand what YA Fiction is, and how and why it’s different from other genres. She also talks about how to face the challenges of writing YA, and how to exploit the unique opportunities that writing a YA book presents.

More importantly, Deborah discusses things we must know before we even begin to write a YA story. She gives great insight into the minds of the teens we wish to write for. She also lists popular themes that teenagers can relate to, no matter what generation they may belong to.

In Part II: Writing Riveting Young Adult Fiction, Deborah gives various techniques and exercises to turn our ideas into a solid first draft. She explains how to shape a plot, sculpt believable and memorable characters, develop a youthful narrative voice and natural teen dialogue, and manipulate setting to enhance all these elements.

Part III: Editing, Revising and Formatting Your Manuscript shows us how to assess the story we’ve written so far, identify problem areas and perform a plan to fix these storytelling/grammatical problems.  Part III also offers great tips and techniques for revising and editing our manuscript so that the story flows into a perfectly executed final draft.

Part IV: Getting Published tells us how to get our manuscripts out there. She discusses how to find the right agent and/or editor, craft a great query letter and synopsis, and create an enticing submission package. She also talks about self-publishing and other marketing tips and strategies.

And finally, in Part V: The Part of Tens, Deborah discusses other helpful topics such as common pitfalls in writing YA fiction, facts about book contracts, and ways to make the most of writing conferences.

Other important tidbits are sprinkled throughout the book such as important things we should keep in mind as we read onward, trouble spots we should watch out for, extra in depth technical information about writing, and exercises we could do to help us get out of writer’s block.

The book is incredibly well organized and can be read from cover to cover, or by part.

I found her chapters on Creating Teen Friendly Characters and on Building the Perfect Plot the most effective when I began writing my own YA novel. I actually shared some of the book’s exercises with my writing group members when I did a session on plotting and they all found it incredibly helpful.

I wish this book had been around when I first started writing.  Deborah’s tips, techniques and exercises apply not only to writing YA fiction, but also to writing any other kind of book.

Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies is the only book you’ll ever need if you wish to learn how to write great middle grade or young adult fiction.

Deborah Halverson is debuting her Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies book trailer this week. Go to to watch the book trailer.

To celebrate the release of her book trailer, Deborah is also giving away a FREE CRITIQUE of the FIRST 20 PAGES OF YOUR FICTION MANUSCRIPT. You can check out the rules of the giveaway HERE.


Stay tuned for the next post in the Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies Week: An Author Interview with Deborah Halverson on Wednesday, October 19, 2011.

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Wonderful things happen when we take time to give thanks for the simplest things.

A few weeks ago, I took the time to write to some of my favorite writing book authors.  I just wanted them to know how much their books had helped me improve my writing. I thought they’d be happy to know that all the hard work they put into writing their books had affected the life of at least one person.

I didn’t expect them to reply. After all, they are very busy people and I know for a fact how busy writers can get. But to my amazement, they all responded with words of gratitude, and expressed their joy that their books have helped me in my own writing.

One of my favorite authors in particular, stood out in her kindness. Pamela Jaye Smith, author of The Power of the Dark Side (which is the best book out there if you want to write the best villain, or create the greatest conflicts) and Inner Drives (which is great for fleshing out your characters and making them so real they jump off the page), not only thanked me for my kind compliments, but also offered to send me a copy of her latest work for my review!

Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I sent her my address, and a week later, I received a signed copy of her newest book; Symbols * Images * Codes: The Secret Language of Meaning in Film, TV, Games, and Visual Media.

I was ecstatic that one of my favorite writing book authors took the time out to send me a copy of her latest book, knowing it would help me further in my writing. I was so happy I had tears in my eyes.  I promised her I would read the book from cover to cover and review it for others to know just how helpful the book has been to me.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions (August 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932907742
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907742
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 7.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces

About the Author (From the author’s own website)

PAMELA JAYE SMITH is an Author, Consultant, Speaker, and award-winning Producer/Director with over twenty-five years experience in features, TV, music videos, commercials, documentaries, corporate, and military films.

She is also a Senior Producer at RGO Media Associates and a Consulting Producer for High Tech Media.

MYTHWORKS is Pamela’s consultation and information company featuring “Applied Mythology for more Powerful Reality”. She teaches and consults on story, communication, leadership, and creativity. MYTHWORKS also consults with organizations and individuals redesigning themselves and their images.

Clients and credits include Microsoft, Disney, Paramount, Columbia-Sony, Universal, RAI-TV Rome, UCLA, USC Film School, American Film Institute, Thot Fiction Marseille France, Master Writers Conference Lido-Venice Italy, Natl. Film Institute of Denmark, Creative Screenwriting EXPO, Pepperdine University, Natl. Assoc. of Broadcasters, and various film festivals and story conferences.

Pamela is an avid reader, drives a ‘77 Bronco, and enjoys opera. A dilettante approach to sports has included surfing, skiing, snorkeling, flying, go-cart & auto racing, and driving an off-shore oil rig and an Army tank — both under close supervision.

How the Book Helps Writers (Or My Review)

Despite the length of its title, Symbols * Images * Codes: The Secret Language of Meaning in Film, TV, Games, and Visual Media is actually an easy read.  I read it in one sitting, though I turn to its pages again and again, whenever I find myself in need of inspiration or ideas.

The book’s introduction explains why symbols, images and codes are exceptionally effective in media.  Symbols and images convey emotions, and states of mind –and since they are visuals—they use a universal language that engages our intuition and imagination. The book illustrates ways these visual symbols and images have been used to create effective and powerful movies and books.

The book is divided in chapters like Astrology & Astronomy, Numbers, Codes, Elements (Earth, Water, Air & Fire), Color, Architecture, Clothes, Weapons and even Human Anatomy. Each chapter shows how these things can be used consciously in books and movies to express and imply emotions, situations and concepts.

There are seven sections in each chapter:

1.      What It Means

o        Knowing the meaning of a symbol is important in using it effectively. This section explains the meaning of a symbol from antiquity to modern times, and across different cultures.

2.      In History, Myth & Contemporary Times

o        Lists examples of these images and symbols from history, myth and current events.

o        This section can give writers an idea of how to use the symbol in their own work.

3.      In Media

o        Illustrates how the symbol has been used in media, particularly in movies.

o        These examples can be used as both illustration and inspiration. Knowing how these symbols have been used before can help screenwriters (and writers) put a fresh spin on these symbols, and use them in other ways to bring out emotional response from the audience.

4.      Use

o        Explains when to use a particular symbol.  For example, if a writer wishes to convey joy or warmth, he can use the color yellow. Or if a writer wises to convey the concept of freedom, he can use the element of air as a symbol.

5.      Written Descriptions

o        Lists tips on what words writers can use to describe the given symbol.

o        This section also talks about how to choose potent, visceral words to create vivid images and more powerful prose.

6.      Cinematic Techniques

o        Presents suggestions on cinematic elements such as framing, position, lighting, sound, music, etc to create a certain effect or use a particular symbol, image or code.

7.      Other Examples

o        Lists movies and books for further research as examples of the symbol’s effective use.

Of course, learning to recognize and interpret symbols is admirable. But the book’s main goal is to teach writers and media folk how to consciously create and use these symbols, images and codes. Hence, the book’s final chapter lists  various exercises that can make writers more adept at the selection and use of symbols.

This book is definitely something all writers and screenwriters must have on their shelves.  I, for one, keep it right by my desk as I revise my novel.  I use this book in so many ways, but Pamela Jaye Smith, explains best how to use the book in her own words:

Keep this book beside your computer as you write your screenplay, novel or ad copy, and turn to it when you’re thinking, “Right, ‘Show don’t tell,’ but how do I show this emotion?” or “I want something spectacularly visual right here, but what would be the most effective?” or “Everyone in the audience should simply weep now; hmmm…what cue can I give them?” Designed to offer you a panoply of visuals to express and imply emotions, situations, and concepts this book can help you find a specific if you have the general idea. It can also help if you’re already seeing generic visuals in your head, but aren’t sure how to use them effectively.

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When I decided to create and organize the Torrance Children’s Book Writing Group, I had only a vague notion of how the writing group was going to be. I needed a lot of information about how to get it started.

I surfed the net for articles on starting a writing group. The articles gave me ideas, but they didn’t give me the kind of information I really wanted.

It was a good thing I found Becky Levine’s book: The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books (January 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582976066
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582976068
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces

About the Author

Becky Levine was a freelance manuscript editor for many years. She has participated in critique groups for almost twenty years as she worked on various fiction and nonfiction projects. She writes feature articles and book reviews for local publications, and speaks in depth about critique groups at writing workshops and conferences. She is a member of  the Society of Children’s Books and Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SINC), and the California Writers Club (CWC).

Becky also has a delightful blog and website that writers can learn a lot fromblog

About the Book ( Review)

“The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide” presents the best way to create a respectful, productive writing or critique group, discussing all the important details of finding a group, running a critique meeting, and building a group that will evolve with its members. Each chapter, whether discussing plot or character or voice, teaches the writer how to read for a critique, learn from criticism, organize and prioritize feedback, revise based on the specific feedback they receive, and more. This title is perfect for writers and creative-writing students.

How the Book Helps Writers (Or My Review)

Writing is a lonely task, and most times, a difficult one. Starting a  novel, revising a manuscript,  and polishing magazine articles is hard work. Often, we writers get so close to our own work that we fail to see glaring errors, inconsistencies and little details that could either make or break our book.

Writing groups and critique groups help writers spot these errors and improve not only a particular manuscript, but their writing skills as well.

When I couldn’t find a writing group for children’s books writers in our area, I decided to create one. Becky’s book helped me immensely in structuring our group meetings.

The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide is divided into six sections, which can help writers and writing groups at different stages of their writing. Each section also ends with helpful worksheets.

Section 1 is an introduction on the basics of a critique group. It helped me figure out how to choose the kind of group that was right for me, and gave me tips and instructions on how to set up and run a group.

Section 2 delves gives useful instructions on how to critique fiction—whether its for adult, young-adult or middle grade readers. It gives specific tips on how to critique for plot, character, point of view and voice, dialogue, description and scene structure. This was extremely helpful in our most recent critique session, as most of the words submitted for critique were fiction works.

Section 3 gives important instructions on how to critique non-fiction works like magazine articles, non-fiction book proposals, how to or self-help books, memoirs and travel writing.

I found Section 4 very helpful for our writing group.  It talks  about how to critique books for younger children  such as picture books, beginning-reader books and chapter books. I’ve made handouts based on the tips, instructions, and lessons Becky has listed in these chapters.

Section 5 dives into what to do after all the critiques. It shows writers how to revise and self-edit based on the critiques they have received from their group members.  Critique comments can be overwhelming and knowing how to make easy changes and even tackle the bigger revisions is a lifesaver for writers.

Section 6 talks about how to maintain an evolving group. The chapters include brainstorming topics, critiquing for submission, networking and promotion and even troubleshooting group dynamics.  It provides valuable information for writing group organizers and leaders.

The best thing about The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide is that each section comes with worksheets, sample critiques and examples.  PDF downloads of the worksheets are even available for download here.

I would recommend this book for writers who wish to hone their editing skills and deepen their understanding of revision and editing. It is a most helpful resource, especially for writers who wish to either join or set-up their own writing group.

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I never realized just how important beginnings are, until I attended the Big Sur Writing Workshop last March. All the agents and editors I met emphasized one very important thing: the key to a rejection or acceptance often hinges on the first line of a manuscript.

Literary agents have the difficult task of finding a diamond in the rough. They wade through a sea of submissions (also known as the slushpile) and try to find manuscripts that they can sell.  In order to accomplish this enormous task (and also in order to keep their sanity), they have devised systems for finding these “diamonds” in the least amount of time.

I asked one of the editors present how she gets interested in a manuscript. She answered: “I read the first line. If that interests me, then I read the first paragraph. If the first paragraph is good, I read on until I get to the end of the first page. If the first page has kept my interest, I read the first chapter. If the first chapter works, then maybe I ask for the full manuscript.”

My stomach knitted itself into a sweater when I heard those words. My dreams of getting a book published, which awhile ago seemed so near, was now a galaxy away. I realized with horror just how much work I had to do, and I almost fainted.

Luckily, alcoholic beverages were within reach, and I took a sip (okay, maybe several sips) to calm my nerves.

I had already churned thousands of words into a story. Unwilling to let them go to waste, I immediately got to work finding a writing book that would help me create a strong beginning.

I found the help I was looking for—and more when I discovered Les Edgerton’s HOOKED: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go.

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books (April 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582974578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582974576
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces

About the Book ( Review)

*The first pages are the #1 key to acceptance or rejection of manuscripts–most agents and editors claim to make their decision on a manuscript after the very first page, which means that no writer can afford to have a weak story beginning

*The first and only fiction-writing book that focuses exclusively on beginnings–no other book on the market addresses story beginnings in a comprehensive manner

Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It’s just that simple. Hooked provides readers with a detailed understanding of what a beginning must include (setup, backstory, the inciting incident, etc.); instruction on how to successfully develop the story problem; tips on how to correct common beginning mistakes; exclusive insider advice from agents, acquiring book editors, and literary journal editors; and much more.

I read the entire book in one sitting, and re-read it again just to make notes. I have also recommended this book to several of my writing friends, as well as writing group members.

Les Edgerton has written numerous short stories, articles, essays, and screenplays. He has also written several books including Monday’s Meal, Managing Your Business, The Death of Tarpons, Finding Your Voice, and of course, Hooked.

In Hooked, Les Edgerton defines beginnings in terms of a novel, and explains why beginnings are very important.  he  also defines and expounds on story structure, scenes, as well as story elements which need to be included in the beginning of a novel such as the inciting incident, initial surface-problem and the story-worthy problem.  He gives us helpful instructions and tips on how to develop these story elements, and warns us of red flag opening lines we need to avoid writing.

Mr. Edgerton also analyzes twenty great opening lines from various novels and short stories, and explains to the reader what makes these lines work.  As an added bonus, he has collected insider advice from agents and editors on what they look for in a strong opening.

I’ve found that Mr. Edgerton’s tips not only apply to the very beginning of the book, but also to the beginning of every chapter.  I consult it every now and then, when I find my chapter’s opening lines less of a hook and more of a drag.

This book is a valuable source of information in creating strong beginnings in works of fiction. It is a book every writer must have on his shelf.

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* NOTE: This article is actually from one of my webpages under Novel writing but I thought I’d post it anyway.

There’s a debate raging on about whether plot-driven stories or character-driven stories make better books. What’s the difference between the two anyway, you ask?

Character-driven stories are propelled forward by the characters of the book. The character’s actions, feelings, thoughts and choices cause the events to happen.  The famed Alice, for instance, fell down a rabbit hole – but she wouldn’t have been there if she hadn’t chosen to follow a certain white rabbit.

Plot-driven stories, on the other hand, are stories where things happen to the character. The characters react to the events happening around them and do not actively create the events or situations by themselves.

I, myself, am more partial to character-driven stories. I love a book that can make me relate to the character on its pages, and I love characters I can find similarities with. But that’s just me.  Whatever our preferences are, one thing is important to keep in mind: character and plot are inevitably intertwined. Without these two elements working hand in hand, a book will not stand the test of time.

The following books have been helpful to me with regard to creating my characters and developing my plot. They are invaluable references and are written by people who know what they’re talking about. I reread them constantly whenever I’m stuck on a character or story idea and I find their sage advice consistently helpful.

1. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers (3rd Edition) By Christopher Vogler

Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions; 3rd edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193290736X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907360
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.5 inches

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER VOGLER is Hollywood development executive who has worked for Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers.  If you’ve watched The Spiderwick Chronicles, Beowulf, 10,000 BC, I Am Legend, Hancock, Then She Found Me or The Wrestler, then you’ve seen the result of his consulting work.

About the Book ( Review)

At the beginning of The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler asserts that “all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies.” Some may be hard-pressed to accept this idea (and will wonder how storytellers from Homer to Shakespeare to Robert Altman might respond to the proposition). Others may imagine that since Vogler uses movies like the Star Wars trilogy and The Lion King to defend his mythological philosophy, he is, unwittingly, listing the reasons why Hollywood films of the last 20 years have been so unimaginative. But there’s no doubt that Vogler’s notion, based on psychological writings by Carl Jung and the mythmaking philosophy of Joseph Campbell, has been profoundly influential. Many screenwriters have used Vogler’s volume to understand why certain scenarios sell, and to discover a blueprint for creating mythic stories of their own.

Now in its second edition, The Writer’s Journey sets forth archetypes common in what Vogler calls “the hero’s journey,” the mythic structure that he claims all stories follow. In the book’s first section, he lists the different kinds of typological characters who appear in stories. In the second, he discusses the stages of the journey through which the hero generally passes. The final, supplementary portion of the book explains in detail how films like Titanic and The Full Monty follow the patterns he has outlined. –Raphael Shargel —

How the Book Helps Writers (Or My Review)

By combining Carl Jung’s psychological writings on Archetypes with Joseph Campbell’s myth-making lessons, Vogler has created a valuable tool for writers who’d like to create characters who stand out in our imagination. In this book, Vogler discusses eight archetypes and their role in the Hero’s Journey. More importantly, he talks about the twelve stages of the hero’s journey.

I had a story idea and several unconnected scenes in my head. Using the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey, I was able to create a sensible story arc with the scattered scenes. The chapter on archetypes also helped me flesh out my character with regard to the role they’re supposed to play in my story.

The book also has appendices which I found useful. The appendix on Polarity, in particular, helped me shape my hero and villain’s relationship with each other to create more conflict.

2. Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation by Pamela Jaye Smith

Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions; illustrated edition edition (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932907033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907032
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces

About the Author

PAMELA JAYE SMITH is a Writer, Mythologist, Consultant, Speaker, and award-winning Producer/Director with international clients and credits in features, TV, commercials, music videos, documentaries, and corporate films.

About the Book (From the Author’s Website )

Inspiring and practical, INNER DRIVES goes to the very source of character motivation and action. Exploring the fascinating world of archetypes, mythology, and the chakra system, writers will learn to apply timeless principals of successful story-telling through fascinating examples and valuable exercises.

From patterns of speech to styles of walking, writers can use Pamela Jaye Smith’s guide to structure character arcs, devise backstories, up the conflict, pair up couples, and form ensembles — all with unique, believable characters.

Informative and entertaining, this book helps writers, directors, designers, development executives, and actors expand their artistry and influence on the audience to gain a creative advantage in a highly competitive industry.

How the Book Helps Writers (Or My Review)

Pamela Jaye Smith approaches character archetypes from the eight centers of motivation. According to her book, Centers of Motivation are bundles of actual physical nerves and their associated endocrine glands which affect us physically and emotionally through the particular hormones secreted by those glands. They are called Chakras in Sanskrit and are said to have etheric counterparts which influence us as well.

The book is divided into three sections. Section 1 is a background and explanation of the inner drives through the centers of motivation. Section 2 explains the eight individual centers.

The centers description is useful in showing how a character focused in a specific center of motivation should look, sound, fell, act and react according to their inner drive. For instance, a character whose center of motivation is in the Root center has only sheer survival as his inner drive and will stop at nothing to save his neck.

Using the insights in each part of section two, you can make your major characters more complex, create in depth backstories, and create other characters who will challenge their moods, thoughts, ideals, actions, etc. and make them more authentic characters.

Section 3 is about how to use the inner drives within and between characters in various combinations. This section is particularly helpful for creating internal conflict ( “a character torn between their own centers makes for very good drama”) and conflict between and among characters.

Once you’ve read the book, you’ll know not only when to plot certain actions but also what to do, why to do it and how to back it up with appropriate character motivation.

3. The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains by Pamela Jaye Smith

Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932907432
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907438
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces

About the Author

PAMELA JAYE SMITH is a Writer, Mythologist, Consultant, Speaker, and award-winning Producer/Director with international clients and credits in features, TV, commercials, music videos, documentaries, and corporate films.

About the Book (From the Author’s Website)

Who doesn’t love the Dark Side? Darth Vader, Cruella De Vil, Tony Soprano – everybody loves a great villain. And every story needs dramatic conflict – internal and external – to really resonate. This comprehensive, accessible book gives you tools to write the most despicable villains.

Conflict is the very heart and soul of drama, and Smith’s latest work explores character conflict and the various ways to portray it both in scripts and on the stage.

Defining the Dark Side helps you select and clarify the worldview that influences your character’s actions.

How the Book Helps Writers (Or My Review)

All great books have great villains or antagonists.  If our stories were all rainbows and roses, it wouldn’t be much of a story. At the heart of a story is conflict – that baptism of fire that tests our characters and makes him or her come out better than before. Conflict, in this book, is otherwise known as the Dark Side.

The book is divided into six parts. In Part 1, Pamela Jaye Smith defines the Dark side and asks, and answers questions like:  What Is Evil? Who Is Evil? Why Is There Evil? What Does Evil Want? Why Is Evil Sometimes So Alluring? What’s The Difference Between Evil And Bad? What Can We Learn From Evil? How Do We Defeat/Defuse Evil?

In Part 2, Pamela Jaye Smith talks about the three levels of the dark side: The Dweller on the Threshold or our Personal demons; The Dark Forces or impersonal forces like the laws of physics, the elements, time, and nature itself; and The Dark Brotherhood or the Supra-Personal entities who control the cosmos and manipulate the evil in the world.

In Part 3 Pamela Jaye Smith describes in detail the many archetypes of villains and the many faces of evil. I found this particularly useful in my own book because I had no idea how to make my villain more evil so I could bring out the best in my hero. Part 3 discusses the anti-hero, the bad boys and girls like the tricksters, evil twins, pirates, bad cops, mad scientists, psycho killers; the evil empires, child warriors, big brothers, organized crime and religion, culture clashes and racism which are all brought about by groupthink; and paranormal evils such as witches, wizards, warlocks, ghosts, ghouls and gods.

Part 4 discusses the lure of the dark side and the many reasons evil-doers do what they do. It also discusses the devices the dark side employs to get their way such as: sleeping with the enemy, violence, dealing with the devil, power corruption, etc.

Part 5 is about confronting the dark side. It discusses the various defenses our good characters can use against them such as charms, chants, therapy, laughter, education, etc,

Part 6 is about working with the dark side—not literally, of course, but literarily. It gives us story tools which we can use to create the best evil we can for our stories.

Pamela Jaye Smith has kept her word and more when she promised the following things at the beginning of her book:

  • Your character will be richer if you know and include their worldview of evil, its origins, its goals and its methods, since these beliefs will color how they approach every aspect of the emotions and actions in the story.
  • Dramatic conflict can be enhanced by bringing different characters’ belief systems against each other, as well as taking a character through an arc from one belief to another, or to/from, from/to lack of belief

In conclusion, this book is the best out there if you want to create the best (or worst?) conflict you can for your own story. It’s the only book I’ll ever need to create a villain worthy of my hero and a dark side capable of bringing out the light in my characters.

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