Creative writing I – Books

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There are many books about creative writing and my next choice will surely be The Mindful Writer by D. Moore. However, what is a book about creative writing? What does it deal with? And above all: why should you read a book about creative writing, considering that you have never thought about writing? Well, there are many reasons. And your love for essays or your interest for creative writing would be just reason number one.

Post index:

  1. Creative writing books by great writers: the adventure of writing and living
  2. Books about the craft of storytelling: why Harry Potter is your everyday life
  3. The Woman’s Journey

Creative writing books by great writers: the adventure of writing and living

I’ll try be very concise in this first post, but there are a lot of things to say. Let’s start saying that there are many kinds of books about writing and these typologies can be gathered together into a few groups. The first group surely is creative writing books written by great writers”. There are a number of wonderful titles in this category and I put just three of them here above: Aspects of the Novel by E.M.Forster (a series of wonderful lectures), On Writing by Stephen King (a memoir), and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (the link will take you to the free e-book!). But of course there are several other great titles. Just to mention a bunch of them: A Room of One’s Own and A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf, Prisons We choose to live Inside by Doris Lessing, and the more recent essays by Zadie Smith.

Ray-Bradbury-Zen-in-the-Art-of-WritingHowever, my heart beats to the same rhythm of Ray Bradbury and I will introduce you just to this book. The right word to describe this short essay about the art of writing (and living) is: inspiring. You should immediately buy this book if you lack motivation in writing and life. Moreover, it is through books like this that the relationship between literature and life becomes clear. Why do you read? Why do they write? Here, Bradbury explains the “zen” truth at the heart of a creative and – under a certain perspective successful – life. Whatever your passion, he manages to give you motivation and inspiration. And above all, he remembers to you that creation needs to be ethic.

What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?

Books about the craft of storytelling: why Harry Potter is your everyday life

There is another great group to mention: the books about the craft of storytelling. They are very different from the essays written by great writers. In some way, they are quite the opposite kind of books. The majority of them are linked to the movie industry and their major purpose is not to entertain you with a great, poetic lecture about the art of writing… but to investigate the structure of plots and stories and to teach you the craft of building plots. So, through this kind of books you will become familiar with concepts like inciting incident, midpoint, climax, and resolution. You will learn that the structure of stories is not so different today from Aristotle’s or Shakespeare’s times and no Hollywood movie will escape your attentive analysis. So why should you be interested in these books?

Apart from writers and scriptwriters (who surely have to read these texts but also risk a kind of Hollywood standardization), the main reason for reading a book about storytelling is the link with psychology and anthropology. From Vladimir Propp and controversial Bruno Bettelheim to Jungian great mythologist Joseph Campbell, a great job has been done to intepret the psychological meanings that lie under the surface of a fairy tale or a story. Above all, it was Joseph Campbell who introduced the idea of a monomyth and thus suggested that all stories can be connected with a sole model.

WritersJourney3rddropEvery book about storytelling comes from there but The Writer’s Journey surely is the most famous in this field. It is a popular screenwriting textbook that focuses on the theory that most stories can be boiled down to a series of narrative structures and character archetypes. Critopher Vogler based the research upon the writings of mythologist Joseph Campbell, particularly on his famous essay The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In my opinion, the most intersting aspects of these books and the reason why you should read them is the relationship with Jungian psychology and archetypes. Under a certain perspective, the hero’s journey – which is the monomyth at the base of every story, according to Vogler – is in some way the monomyth at the base of every human life as well.

Have you ever thought at your life under a narrative perspective? It could be very useful. Let me give you an example. Imagine that you want to change your job and are now almost ready to make the step. However, something still restrains your enthusiasm, tries to discourage you, and prevents you from making the choice. In terms of narrative structure, you are experiencing a Call to Adventure, something like Harry Potter receiving his first letter from Hogwarts. It is quite normal, for a hero, to be Reluctant (this is called Refusal to the Call), so don’t be surprised if you are not committed yet. However, you need to approach the Magic World because something of yourself is in great danger. Approaching the First Threshold you will be probably assailed by discouraging events, people, and thoughts: these are called the Guardians of the Threshold (a kind of elixir is hidden in the Magic World, so it obviously is protected). You will find Allies and Enemies on the road then, after a series of tests, you will reach the Inmost Cave and face your principal Antagonist, who surely is a hidden part of youself. You will experience a sort of metaphorical death: this is called the Final Battle, when you beat the Antagonist and gain the Elixir. At that point you will have to come back home in order to share your new Self with your community, and you will be ready for your next Ccall to Adventure. I am sure that you are starting to understand why Harry Potter is such a well-written and universal story: because it is your story!

There are many well-written books of this kind, but apart from Vogler I suggest you to read recent Into the Woods by John Yorke, which has the merit to sum up all the previous interpretations. Some say that The Anatomy of a Story by John Truby also deserves to be read, but I haven’t read it yet.

The Woman’s Journey:

Women_who_run_w-330Women need a chapter on their own. The most famous book about the woman’s journey through life and its relationship with the myths of fairy tales surely is Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. If you are a woman (or an illuminated man) and you have not read it yet, be aware of the fatct that you are depriving yourself of one of the most beautiful books ever. It is not a book about writing: it is about living and being women. Above all, it is about that inner, wild power that women possess and that many cultures have always tried to neutralise. It explains how fairy tales and stories convey the journey of women through life, and tell women how to use stories to speak of themselves.

However, a writer has written a book about the particular journey of women in terms of narrative structure. I haven’t read it yet, but I think it deserves to be added to our list: The Hero’s Journey by Maureen Murdock.

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