I just finished reading through The Complete Circle Series (Black, Red, White, and Green) by Ted Dekker. Known for his faith-based fiction, Dekker has a large following for his fantasy/fiction approach to retelling spiritual battles. I picked up the Nook version of it and immediately dove in to the Circle (little inside joke, there!)
About the Book: I hadn't read any of Dekker's other works, so I was anxious to get started. I'd heard several good reviews of his writing, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. For those who haven't heard of this series, the four books are cyclical, which means you can start on any book and still get the whole story. In this collection, Dekker includes an alternate original ending to Green in case you wanted to start with that book. This set starts with Black, and we begin with the main character, Thomas Hunter, running from mafia thugs and eventually getting clipped by a bullet that knocks him unconscious. When he awakes, he realizes he is either dreaming, or he has been transported to an entirely different reality. From there, he struggles to piece together remnants of his memory, but every time he sleeps in one world, he awakes in the other. Before long, events in one begin to affect the other, and Thomas discovers the worlds are more connected than he could ever have imagined.
I picked up a copy of the e-book Stalking The Story the other day after reading through "Everything You Need To Write Great Essays You Can Learn From Watching Movies" (we were looking at it as curriculum for our homeschooled high-schooler!) . I was impressed with the author's style, and after reading a bit about him, I understood why... needless to say, it's catchy, and I like catchy.
Anyway, since I've been having a bit of trouble hammering out the actual story for a few of my ongoing projects, I decided I needed some help with the plot. Stalking The Story looked like it would be just the ticket. (Plus, I'm a big fan of the detective show Monk and the foreword is by one of the show's producers!)
The book basically gives you step-by-step guides to outline the major points of a story, under the assumption that finding the story is a mystery, and you're the detective. Every good detective looks for clues, interviews people of interest, documents anything relevant, etc. and hopefully by the end, you can solve the mystery and find your missing story.
The Breakdown: I really like Jay Douglas' style. It's informal, slightly tongue-in-cheek, and very easy to read. There's plenty of references to fictional detectives and their methods, and even worksheets for hammering out the details of your characters and how they fit into the plot. It's a virtual "Plot EMT" and just going through the chapters can very quickly make you realize that your plot is dead, and needs reviving.
Does it work? Well, yes. If you have a corkboard full of scene snippets, colorful characters, cool ideas, but no story, then this book is exactly what you need. It will guide you through pulling the pieces together and drawing out an actual story from nothing more than your characters' idiosyncrasies.
The Lowdown: If you're looking for a miracle, well, this book won't write your story for you. However, I used it, and it opened up a lot of possibilities for story sources (right there in my own character's head!) that I hadn't thought of. Brainstorming, writing it down, thinking it through, and then putting the pieces back together is what happens.
I recommend this book for people with writer's block. It helps you think outside the box, and look for clues to a story where you couldn't see one before.
Check it out!