Writers must read and conduct research to build their stories. No matter the genre, writers need to build plot and characters to create something that will appeal to readers, and there are many books offering tips and insights into these elements. I will discuss those titles I have listed for my own recommended resources and why I think they’re helpful.
Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces is one of the most well-known and influential books in the world. It draws upon many myths, identifying common characteristics and story elements to form what we know as the hero’s journey. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of Campbell’s influence is with George Lucas when he created Star Wars. There’s a reason why this book is helpful to writers: the hero’s journey appeals to people. It’s been depicted in many different ways, and stories do deviate at certain points (Frodo Baggins does not overcome the final temptation at Mt. Doom; it’s Gollum’s greed that leads to a happy ending), but people return to it.
However, writers shouldn’t seek for every story they write to have the same plot. It’s good to do different stuff, experiment, and grow as a writer. Ronald Tobias’s 20 Master Plots And How to Build Them offers tips and insights for different plot archetypes in literature and drama, including quests, adventures, revenge, rescue, love, as well as forbidden love and what it calls wretched excess (a character’s psychological decline). This book is beneficial for when seeking to not fall into the trap of reusing the same plotline—intentionally or unintentionally.
When it comes to character development and world-building, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have written an entire series of excellent thesauruses with tips and insights. Character development is one of the most essential components of storytelling, and their books are excellent for developing believable characters. The Emotion Thesaurus is an excellent resource to turn to for a specific moment in the story when seeking to convey a specific emotion, listing different options to use, and those for Positive and Negative traits are likewise excellent when building characters’ personalities, their virtues and flaws.
And finally, for anyone interested in pursuing screenwriting, I highly recommend Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge, and Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great by William M. Akers. Both of these books offer excellent insight into crafting screenplays, which isn’t as easy as it might seem!
Check these titles out! You won’t regret it!
Andrew McDowell has been writing since he was a child. He has written and published poetry and creative nonfiction, and is the author of the novel Mystical Greenwood, which was a finalist in the 2019 American Fiction Awards for Fantasy: Epic/High Fantasy. Andrew studied at St. Mary’s College and the University of Maryland. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor for the literary magazine JMWW. Visit his website and blog at andrewmcdowellauthor.com to learn more about him and his writing.