At the start of the week, I was deciding how to spend my latest Audible credit. I knew I wanted to get another book that had to do with writing, and there was one that kept showing up on my recommendations feed. After reading some reviews on Audible and Goodreads, I finally snatched up The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird.
Holy shit. This is the good stuff. This is precisely the type of book I've been looking for to provide me with some concrete steps and advice on how to craft a story, develop characters people will care about, create interesting relationships, and so much more. It's basically a "how to" guide to great fiction writing. What I appreciate most is that it doesn't talk around issues and ideas, but instead gives direct examples - many of them - from films, TV shows, and books, to bolster each chapter's core message.
The other books I've read up to this point have all been useful to varying degrees, but this is the first one that really starts from step one and walks you through a series of questions that you should be asking if you want to craft a memorable story. Of course, the execution of the story is still up to me, so the writing itself will still be a difficult process, but at least I now have a solid framework and a range of questions to keep in mind as I push forward.
It's not going to be easy, but I'll keep trying to load up my stories with irony, active and resourceful heroes, and concise dialogue with personality. That's not all that's required, but they are just a few of the obvious-but-difficult-to-master aspects of storytelling.
There's even a fantastic blog/website attached to the book, and I've already bookmarked it and am scouring it for material like a starving student of letters. There are mounds of pages on how to generate story ideas, how to evaluate the quality of your ideas, how to create a character, and so much more. While some of this stuff has been covered in other books I've read, such as On Writing by Stephen King, it's never been done to this level of detail and practical application.
Thanks, Matt Bird. You've created a resource that so many of us bumbling amateurs will use as an essential text for years to come. Also, thanks for solidifying why the Superman in Superman Returns is a bad character. James Marsden's character clearly was the better choice for Lois Lane.