By Kelly Bridgewater
Like last month, when I discussed why I enjoy reading Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham, this month I will be discussing Dwight V. Swain’s book Techniques of the Selling Writer. This book is in the same format. Pretty dense to sit down and read in one sitting. It is not conversationalist like Stephen Kings’ and Steven James’, but I still find it really important to improve my writing.
One of my favorite sections in the book is entitled “Plain Facts about Feeling”. I really enjoyed reading this chapter. There is a lot to study. He explains motivations and reactions, then shows examples. Then jumps into a different way to look at it. Then he jumps into Sequence and Sequel. Shows examples. It is inspiring. My favorite quote in this section is “For a story is really never about something. Always it concerns, instead, someone’s reactions to what happens: his feelings, his emotions, his impulses, his dreams, his ambitions, his clashing drives, and inner conflicts. The external serves only to bring them into focus” (42). I don’t know about you but I never thought of looking at a story like that. I always thought the plot and what was happening externally is important, but it is more important to watch the character’s interaction with the tension.
Swain also talks about a number of different areas that writers need help on. There is the “Beginning, Middle, and End”, “The People in Your Story”, and “Preparation, Planning, and Production.” Luckily, you don’t have to read Swain’s book straight from front to back. You can pick and choose what you want to read. If you don’t really want to sit down in a comfy chair and read for hours, you can pick up the book and read a chapter once a week or whatever makes you comfortable. It took me about a month to finish the book. Not that it wasn’t interesting, but I needed to read and digest what I had read to see how I could use it in my next book.
Share something from this book if you have read it. What is your favorite part of a writing book? Let’s share some tips together.
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