Most helpful positive review
64 of 64 people found the following review helpful
A different approach
on 24 July 2002
I own 20+ books on writing fiction. Some are generic How to Write books (there are several good ones) some focus on revision and editing (I recommend Self Editing for Fiction Writers) some focus on how a drama is built up to a story worth telling (Story by Robert McKee is the best). There are books about plot, dialogue, scenes etc.
This is a book that focuses on what makes a novel stand out, and possibly, break out. You won't find the generic advice on fiction writing here (like don't write 'a dog', but 'a poodle', be specific) so this is not the first book on fiction writing you should get. But if you have a few books already and think that you know the basics and that every new book seems to confirm what you already know, this one could be what you are looking for.
The author tells you how to get past the mundane and bring your story to a new level. In screenwriting it's called high concept, but you might as well call it a method for choosing characters an plots that are fresh and original. He tells you why it's a common mistake to put a everyman into the middle of something BIG or try to create two unreleted plots that merge or have the character mulling over things while driving or drinking coffee. He tells you how to use exposition to deepen dilemma and increase tension, how to build a subplot with all the elements of a real plot (surprises, endings) and not only have character change but big time transformation.
The book is not geared specifically to genre fiction. He doesn't claim to know how to create a bestseller. Instead, he uses the term breakout, wich includes of course bestsellers, but also comprises any fiction that rises over the competition in inventing new genres, or just pushing the limit of the genre instead of conforming to the current trend.
He analyzes what makes novels break out and offers his insights in a manner that is accessible for anyone who knows the basics of novel writing and, most probably, already has tried writing one. I really think that you should have had some experience before you really can grasp all the advice you get here.