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Crafting the Character ARC Paperback – September 19, 2014
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Top customer reviews
As a obsessive reader, a lot of my writing is instinctual. I've never taken fiction or creative writing courses and definitely don't have any formal training to do what I do on a daily basis...at all. That's fine, until the book isn't working. The nice thing about those instincts is that I can usually tell when the book isn't working, too. What I can't do a lot of the time is figure out how to fix it. That's where writing craft books come in. But I'll be honest, books about writing beats or acts sound all well and good, but for me, when it comes down to my writing...I'm kind of baffled about how to apply those ideas to my books. Instinct vs. knowledge...not so easy in practical application.
Which is why when it comes to finding a book like this one, I'm thrilled. This book is so easy to understand. EVEN I can read it and apply it to my writing. Jennie Jarvis has done an amazing job breaking down the writing process (i.e. those beats/acts) into a dramatic curve that works and is easily understandable. She uses a wide range of examples...from movies, to TV shows, to video games to show how the curve works and how to apply it to your work in progress.
The dramatic curve that she employs (you can see the diagram of it on the cover up there) is made up of seven elements and she breaks down what needs to happen in each of those elements to get your book/story to where it needs to be. She illustrates the ideas so well through movies like Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and even the not-so-great classics like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. She even shows how to build that same plot structure within the book for sub-plots.
It's an incredibly readable book (I read it in a day and a half and am known for never finishing non-fiction books, so that's saying something for me.) She talks about how to develop characters and push them outside their boundaries. She has some great points about protagonists vs. antagonists and how to create conflict within relationships. And as a romance writer, I really liked the point that the antagonist can actually be either your hero or heroine...what a completely revolutionary idea...at least to me where I've always considered the antagonist to be the bad guy.
The book employs some great writing techniques and I spent the weekend running all my current works-in-progress through the plotting technique the book illustrates with very positive results.
I definitely recommend this book!
The writing style of the book itself is light and easy, but not dumbed down. It was a quick read, but I'm sure I'll refer back to this text in coming months and years as I allow the concepts to sink in.
I bought two books to see if one or both of them could help me figure out the story better. The other one helped too, but this one really solidified everything for me. The idea of a character arc being the driving force was perfect for me. I've written out some summaries for each of the main points on the curve and managed to find the opening, finally!!
Pros: you are walked through why everything is important. She even goes into helping you craft your characters. Honestly, her method for that was good without creating an entire novel on each major character like some have suggested. This book is short but sweet. No words are wasted.
Cons: the book needs an editor or a second pair of eyes to go through it at the very least. In one part the author talks about how in the Princess Bride the grandfather reads the book to the grandfather. What? The villain from National Treasure is Sean Bean not Sean Beam. Not major issues, but enough that it made me set the book down and wonder if the contents were really worth spending time on reading it or not. I'm glad I finished it because the method is sound, but still, it was frustrating to read in parts. These cons are enough for me to remove one of the five stars I would really like to give this book. That is how much it helped me.
In conclusion, if you are a pantser and can only get about 60% of your writing to come together coherently or you're finding an idea is hard to solidify, I highly recommend giving this book a try. I hate outlines thanks to my high school English teacher, so this book was refreshing in that not once did she recommend creating an outline, but showed the reader how to create a usable, divided summary to get your idea written.