Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scene and Structure
Jack M. Bickham

Jack Bickham’s book is part of the Writers’ Digest series, The Elements of Fiction Writing. It has been waiting on my bookshelf for quite some time. Recently, I remembered the book when I decided I needed to find information about scene and sequel.

Mr. Bickham begins with an explanation of modern fiction and how it is different from fiction of earlier years because readers do not want to wade through long passages. He gives detailed explanations of the characteristics of a scene and a sequel and provides examples in the Appendices with line-by-line explanations.

In the last section of the book, he shows how variations and other techniques can be used to create interesting scenes and sequels. However, he states it is important to understand the basic structures of scene and sequel before attempting these alternatives.

My copy is heavily highlighted, and I have outlined each chapter for a quick review. I plan to revisit the book and my notes until scene and sequel become second nature to me. I am also going to add it to my editing arsenal of writing tools.

I highly recommend a writer refer to this book throughout a writing career.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Breach of Trust

Authors tell me a new writer learns much from reading books in their chosen genre. I'm convinced that's true. DiAnn Mills has a new release this month called "Breach of Trust," which helps me in characterization with duel roles for the main character. She weaves heightened conflict throughout memorable characters' lives.

DiAnn teaches fiction mentoring workshops. If you ever have a chance to attend one, be sure to take advantage. For now, read her latest book.

An expert in characterization, DiAnn brings to life an ex-CIA operative who small town Oklahoma residents know as sweet librarian Paige Rogers. Read DiAnn's dialogue, study her sections of internal thought. Though a reader knows Paige's past, he still gets lost in the realism of her cover. Daniel Keary lives as a believable villian with a weak spot for kids. As a mother myself to a man who's a football/baseball coach, I can tell you DiAnn captures the world of a small-town football coach in Miles Laird and also that of a dreamy hero.

I highly recommend this book for fun, and for learning. It's available now in most book stores or on Amazon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Manners & Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wright, © 1953, Moody Institute of Chicago

The writer, like any other craftsman has a set of favorite tools. I have been featuring a few resources that I find to be invaluable in my writing and personal Bible study.

While I aspire to publish Christian fiction, I do quite a bit of script writing for a local drama ministry. You can peruse at few at, and I invite you to do so. You will see that most of my titles have a biblical theme. I’ve also written several biblical exegeses, also on this website, which require a thorough research of reliable sources.

One well worn and dog-eared text in my collection is Fred Wright’s Manners & Customs of Bible Lands. In this book, Wright covers such topics as dwellings, foods and dining, hospitality, daily activities, dress, marriage and family, illness and death, occupations, and other topics too numerous to mention.

One reason that I continually refer to this book is because Wright is concise and doesn’t waste my valuable time with long, windy dissertations. He covers the basic facets of each area, and the facts are very easy to find and extract.

Included in this study are the peoples surrounding Israel in the Middle East, which is helpful for comparison and drawing conclusions about the origins of some customs and traditions. I derive an appreciation of the historical landscape that the Master lived and taught in two thousand years ago.

Wright writes in simple, easy to understand terms and adds wonderful illustrations. Rendering this book even more functional are an extensive bibliography, index, and scriptural index.

Many books on Biblical customs have been written since Manners & Customs of Bible Lands, I still rely heavily on this text for my personal and professional research.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


“This book provides solid instruction for persons who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories; how to develop character, how to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product.” ~Back blurb of book.

The contents of the book include: Fiction and you; The words you write; Plain facts about feelings; Conflict and how to build it; Fiction strategy; Beginning, middle, end; The people in your story; Preparation, planning, production; Selling your stories; You and fiction.

This book teaches writers about motivation-reaction units, scene and sequel, building conflict, building character emotions, and plotting. Each lesson in the book delves the writer into a deeper understanding of the craft. Why are these devices important for a writer to learn and utilize correctly? Let’s hear from Swain himself, “This is because said devices have proved effective in making stories enjoyable and /or enticing to readers. The selling writer, as a commercially-oriented professional, can’t afford to write copy that isn’t enjoyable and /or enticing.”

I’m going to be totally honest with you. This is by far the hardest book I’ve ever read. I’m still not quite finished with it. Every paragraph reminds me of a college text book with academic narration. However, these techniques are essential learning tools.

I think I have finally mastered the motivation-reaction units in the point-of-view character in dialogue. I thought I’d never get it. I’m now stretching my legs in learning scene and sequel techniques.

Techniques of the Selling Writer is out of print. But don’t despair. If you can’t find it on E-bay or, there are some wonderful authors who have taken the information from the book and has written it in everyday English for easier understanding.

Check out these links:

Camy Tang has a series of Dwight V. Swain articles on her Story Sensei Blog:

Randy Ingermanson, Ph.D.

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