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sunandshadow

recommend a how-to-write book

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Why don't we all recommend a favorite one or few books which teach something having to do with writing? Maybe if I get some good recommendations I will redo the writing inspiration sticky to include them. Let's see, I'll start by recommending _Dramatica: A New Theory of Story_ It provides an interesting structural perspective on what a story is, and also it's available free online. [smile]

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Story: Substance, Structure, style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060391685/104-8196122-4914326?v=glance&n=283155

I've seen too many stories which just didn't grasp the basic dramatic fundamentals; this is an excellent starting point.

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J. M. Straczynski's book on screenwriting is a good read. He worked on a lot of US TV -- from "Murder, She Wrote" to animation, as well as "Babylon 5" -- so there's a lot of good stuff in there about the craft side.

He does have his flaws as a writer, but the book focuses mainly on scriptwriting and the craft skills you need to build up in order to do it.

Why a screenwriting book? Because a lot of writing for games involves writing scripts and dialogue. Straczyinski's experience with animation is particularly pertinent as, like animation, games often record vocal talent before the visuals and interactivity are fully implemented.

Linky. (Looks like he's revised it since I bought my copy back in 1999. I have the 1981 text in mine.)

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he has also some pretty famous comic books under his belt, like the "Rising Stars" and "Midnight Nation". But I have an awful feeling that Straczinsky is a White Wolf universe RolePlayer who suddendly found himself with quite a lot on his plate and re-used his old games and transformed them into comic books. You won't get it out of my head that Rising Stars (which I consider to be at the origin of "the 4400" TV series) doesn't come from White Wolf's super-hero game (I can't find the name, right now...) and that Midnight Nation isn't a rip off of Wraith...

But he is still quite good, and always willing to integrate some old myths or religious beliefs in his innovative writings. I just can't stop thinking of "ssellah", when I think of him. And of his 9/11 black book comic book. He is just SOOOO good at what he does...

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Original post by sunandshadow
Gaah, I hate that book. But lots of people swear by it, so I can't deny that it's important.


What exactly do you dislike about Elements of style?

I enjoyed, and found very helpful, Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game anyone?) as well as Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern.

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_Elements of style_ is a book which just lays down rules and says this is the right way, the only way. It's prescriptive rather than descriptive. I can't stand inflexible dogma of any kind, it disrespects my ability to use my own judgement and decide something different is better.

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Original post by sunandshadow
_Elements of style_ is a book which just lays down rules and says this is the right way, the only way. It's prescriptive rather than descriptive. I can't stand inflexible dogma of any kind, it disrespects my ability to use my own judgement and decide something different is better.
Let me quote Elements of style itself in retort:
It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules. After he has learned, by their guidance, to write plain English adequate for everyday uses, let him look, for the secrets of style, to the study of the masters of literature.

It makes no claim that its rules are final, merely asserting that it would be best for those who don't know what they're doing to follow them. While I don't entirely disagree with your opinion—I too dislike inflexible dogma—I don't believe that you should ignore what it says.

Most of what it says rings true with me.

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If somebody posted on gamedev like Strunk and White wrote that paragraph, with such a snide tone and the use of loaded words like "cost of the violation", they would probably get warned for borderline trolling. Consider all that the phrase "cost of the violation" implies: that not following the rules of rhetoric is equivalent to breaking a law, and always costs something. Absurd. What does it cost you to decide that a particular sentence needs to end with a ?! to convey the proper emotion? Does it cost anything if I decide to end a sentence with a preposition or begin one with a conjunction? Or, horrors, an incomplete sentence? The rules contained in S&W do not allow for the normal way people abuse language in dialogue, and which, when replaced with proper English, makes dialogue sound unnatural, stiff and stilted. And that doesn't even touch on the issue of postmodern or experimental fiction...

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The thing that you're not mentioning there, sas, is that it's pretty obvious what following Elements of style gets you as a starting writer: grammatical correctness. Having proofread half a dozen works prior to submission to publishers, I can honestly say that I believe that is an advantage beyond compare. Very few things will get you rejected from a professional market faster than having material that consistently fails to observe EoS's guidelines. There IS a cost associated with personal style - it is harder to read. EoS-compliant writing may be dull on some levels, but it is not difficult to read.

Writing book recommendation:
On Writing, Stephen King.

Not a proper how-to-write book, really, but you'll learn a lot about how to write by reading it all the same.

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I just want to add: Any book that begins with "How to..." is usually bullshit.

Anyway, my pick is Stephen King's On Writing. It doesn't so much tell you how to write a story, it's more like telling you what are the common mistakes bad writers make and how to tell a story that isn't boring or too unoriginal.

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Original post by sunandshadow
If somebody posted on gamedev like Strunk and White wrote that paragraph, with such a snide tone and the use of loaded words like "cost of the violation", they would probably get warned for borderline trolling. Consider all that the phrase "cost of the violation" implies: that not following the rules of rhetoric is equivalent to breaking a law, and always costs something. Absurd. What does it cost you to decide that a particular sentence needs to end with a ?! to convey the proper emotion? Does it cost anything if I decide to end a sentence with a preposition or begin one with a conjunction? Or, horrors, an incomplete sentence? The rules contained in S&W do not allow for the normal way people abuse language in dialogue, and which, when replaced with proper English, makes dialogue sound unnatural, stiff and stilted. And that doesn't even touch on the issue of postmodern or experimental fiction...


Dialogue is a completely different beast when it comes to grammar. Dialogue is normally contained by quotation marks, suggesting that a person is a speaking (or has spoken) the words within, which tells the reader that they should not expect a flawless formal style, rather they should expect an informal delivery that is often associated with dialogue. I have really never heard anyone make this complaint about grammar, I thought it was generally understood that spoken English, especially in an informal setting, is held to a different standard than written english, which has the potential to be revised and corrected multiple times before it is shared.

I think it's fairly obvious that EoS seeks to clearly define the rules of formal grammar and EoS does especially well explaining some of the curve balls.

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If any of you have read Neal Stephenson's books (and I strongly recommend you do if you haven't already) you may have noticed that most of what he writes is a sort of character's private thoughts put in the shape of homodiegetic narrator with a funny way of talking. It's kind of NOT canonic at all, and still, the guy is successful and pleasant to read. My ideal way of writing, along with Pratchett and Werber...

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Original post by Fournicolas
If any of you have read Neal Stephenson's books (and I strongly recommend you do if you haven't already) you may have noticed that most of what he writes is a sort of character's private thoughts put in the shape of homodiegetic narrator with a funny way of talking. It's kind of NOT canonic at all, and still, the guy is successful and pleasant to read.


Not all of his books are pleasant to read. The Diamond Age is, in particular, suffering coalesced into book format. Snow Crash, on the flip side, is usually cogent and buttery.

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