It’s no secret. I started my writing journey blissfully unaware of storytelling structure and techniques. But after getting critical feedback, I sought solutions to problems.
I love to read, so I leveraged Scrivener with many how-to books. Within those pages, I found solutions to my writing challenges. I also discovered different ways to achieve desired results.
Reading books helped me learn essential skills, and storing those ebooks in my electronic library at Amazon provides quick reference to highlights and notes.
Since this website is reader supported, I hope you will use one of these authorized links. But regardless of where you buy books, before making a purchase, please review a sample and read the reviews to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
If you have questions about a book below, use the Contact form and I’ll gladly share.
Disclosure (click here to learn more): I recommend the books on this page because I found them useful in my writing and self-publishing. If you buy one of the listed books, at no additional cost to you, I might earn a small commission.
Click a title to see the book cover and description.
- The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
- How to Outline a Cozy Mystery by Sara Rosett
- How to Write a Cozy Mystery by Nina Harrington
- How to Write a Series by Sara Rosett
- Mastering Your Mystery by Cheryl Bradshaw
- Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen
- Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald
- Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
- Plotman to the Rescue by James Scott Bell
- Save The Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody
- Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder
- Save The Cat! Goes to the Movies by Blake Snyder
- Save The Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder
- Save The Cat! Blake’s Blog by Blake Snyder
- Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland
- Super Structure by James Scott Bell
- Voice by James Scott Bell
- The Rural Setting Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- The Urban Setting Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- The 12 Pillars of Novel Construction
- The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
- Captivate Your Readers by Jodie Renner
- Story by Robert McKee
- The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
CREATING CHARACTER ARCS BY K.M. WEILAND
Have you written a story with an exciting concept and interesting characters — but it just isn’t grabbing the attention of readers or agents? It’s time to look deeper into the story beats that create realistic and compelling character arcs. Internationally published, award-winning novelist K.M. Weiland shares her acclaimed method for achieving memorable and moving character arcs in every book you write.
At the time I read this book, I struggled with balancing character and plot. Weiland offered a refreshing view that it takes both, and one is no more important than the other. She also produced a workbook designed to help you choose which arc is right for your story.
Writing Unforgettable Characters by James Scott Bell
In his award-winning style, James Scott Bell explains what it takes to develop characters who jump off the page. He acknowledges that plot, conflict, scenes, and everything else do matter. But without unforgettable characters, your books will be less than what they could be.
Up front I admit to buying and reading nearly every book Bell has written on writing. Why? Because he clearly states what it takes to overcome writing challenges. Bell is generous with examples, and by his easy writing style, you might be tempted to discount this book as a primer. If you get this book, you’ll discover Bell provides sage advice without all the technical jargon.
Character Emotions and Behaviors
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much. If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help.
Ackerman and Puglisi provide so much detail. You can spend hours reading through the possibilities. If you seek to refine your characters, consider getting a copy of the second edition. This is the book I turn to when I’m looking for just the right detail to get a character to jump off the page.
The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Readers connect to characters with depth, ones who have experienced life’s ups and downs. To deliver key players that are both realistic and compelling, writers must know them intimately—not only who they are in the present story, but also what made them that way. Of all the formative experiences in a character’s past, none are more destructive than emotional wounds. The aftershocks of trauma can change who they are, alter what they believe, and sabotage their ability to achieve meaningful goals, all of which will affect the trajectory of your story. Identifying the backstory wound is crucial to understanding how it will shape your character’s behavior, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus can help.
This is an essential book to have in your reference library. You’ll find crucial details of emotional wounds, the kind that make a backstory come alive with realistic character dialogue and actions.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
The ancient symbol of the Enneagram has become one of today’s most popular systems for self-understanding, based on nine distinct personality types. Now, two of the world’s foremost Enneagram authorities introduce a powerful new way to use the Enneagram as a tool for personal transformation and development.
Your chief protagonist and antagonist have combinations of positive and negative emotions and behaviors. The Emotional Wound Thesaurus helps you develop character backstories that drive reactions to plot events.
But how do you create realistic progressions of emotions and behaviors? For me, The Wisdom of the Enneagram not only answered that question but gave me a time-proven way to show character reactions, including how inner emotional states influence external behaviors. This is not a simple cut-and-paste process. Instead, the nine types and their levels of development will provide you with ideas to add realism to your characters. To learn how I put The Wisdom of the Enneagram to work, see this article.
Plot and Structure
PLOT & STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell
How does plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course?
With Plot & Structure, you’ll discover the answers to these questions and more. Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot, including:
- Techniques for crafting strong beginnings, middles, and ends
- Easy-to-understand plotting diagrams and charts
- Brainstorming techniques for original plot ideas
- Thought-provoking exercises at the end of each chapter
- Story structure models and methods for all genres
- Tips and tools for correcting common plot problems
Filled with plot examples from popular novels, comprehensive checklists, and practical hands-on guidance, Plot & Structure gives you the skills you need to approach plot and structure like an experienced pro.
PLOTMAN TO THE RESCUE by James Scott Bell
Solving your plot problems is why the superhero of story came to Earth. His mission? To give practical, easy-to-apply answers to the most vexing plot questions writers face, such as:
• How do I plan a plot if I’m not a plot planner?
• Does my plot need a prologue?
• What if I hit a plot wall?
• What if my plot is getting away from me?
• Why ins’t my plot more gripping at the start?
• Why is my overall plot dull?
• What should I do if my plot is implausible?
• Do I really need to think about plot structure?
• How do I deepen the emotional impact of my plot?
• What’s the best way to plug a plot hole?
• How do I keep my plot from ending with a thud?
Whether used as a reference guide or refresher course, this book will strengthen your storytelling muscles and help you elevate every novel you write. Because Plotman, along with his faithful sidekick Subplot Boy, has sworn to uphold plot, story, and the bestselling way.
Super Structure by James Scott Bell
Super Structure represents over two decades of research on what makes a novel or screenplay entertaining, commercial, original, and irresistible. Contrary to what some may think, structure is not a nasty inhibitor of creativity. Quite the opposite. Properly understood and utilized, structure is what translates story into a form readers are wired to receive it. And it is only when readers truly connect with your story that they turn from casual readers into fans.
I had the problem of how to structure my novel. James Scott Bell offered both encouragement and a proven solution — one you can use to produce full-length fiction.
VOICE by James Scott Bell
What is the single greatest secret to a breakout writing career?
It’s VOICE. Everyone talks about it, yet no one seems able to define it. Voice has therefore been the most elusive aspect of the entire writing craft to teach. Until now.
In this book, #1 bestselling writing teacher James Scott Bell reveals the true source of voice, and what any writer in any genre can do to capture it for their own work. In VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing you’ll learn:
- An actual working definition of voice that is simple yet powerful
- Bell’s original method for turning that definition into book-length voice power
- How to vary voice from genre to genre, book to book
- How to enhance voice with emotion, flow, and attitude
- How to create vivid word pictures
- Exercises to expand your voice and style
- Example after example of voice in action
Don’t settle for good writing. Go for the unforgettable. The secret of voice will help you get there.
Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland
Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this award-winning guide from the author of the acclaimed Outlining Your Novel, you will learn the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will show you how to perfectly time your story’s major events and will provide you with an unerring standard against which to evaluate your novel’s pacing and progression.
K.M. Weiland explained structure in ways that made sense, also teaching me the terms needed to better understand how to achieve the desired result. She openly shared her process of improving over the years. If you sign up for her newsletter, you’ll get posts breaking down complex topics into practical advice.
Save The Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody
Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story — from the opening image to the finale — this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (e.g., Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate — and a novel that will sell.
Brody’s book further clarified what I learned from Bell and Weiland, offering detailed examples that generated even more ideas for current and future writing projects. The Save The Cat structure is recognizable in popular films and books, providing many examples of how you can put the method to work in your stories. Scrivener’s Corkboard and Outliner can display scenes based on the 15 “beats.”
Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder
Here’s what started the phenomenon: the best seller, for over 15 years, that’s been used by screenwriters around the world! Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. “Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including:
- The four elements of every winning logline
- The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics
- The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by ― and why they’re important to your script
- Why your Hero must serve your Idea
- Mastering the 15 Beats
- Creating the “Perfect Beast” by using The Board to map 40 scenes with conflict and emotional change
- How to get back on track with proven rules for script repair
This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a showbiz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat. And these secrets work for writing novels, too!
Save The Cat! GOES TO THE MOVIES by BLAKE SYNDER
In the long-awaited sequel to his surprise bestseller, Save the Cat!, author and screenwriter Blake Snyder returns to form in a fast-paced follow-up that proves why his is the most talked-about approach to screenwriting in years.
In the perfect companion piece to his first book, Snyder delivers even more insider’s information gleaned from a 20-year track record as one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters, giving you the clues to write your movie.
Designed for screenwriters, novelists, and movie fans, this book gives readers the key breakdowns of the 50 most instructional movies from the past 30 years.
Save The Cat! STRIKES BACK BY BLAKE SNYDER
Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat!® and Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies, is back with the book countless readers and students have clamored for. Inspired by questions from his workshops, lectures, and emails, Blake listened and provides new tips, tactics, and techniques to solve your writing problems and create stories that resonate:
- The 7 warning signs you might have a great idea or not
- 2 sure-fire templates for can t-miss loglines
- The difference between structure and formula
- The Transformation Machine that allows you to track your hero s growth step-by-step
- The 5 questions to keep your story s spine straight
- The 5-Point Finale to finish any story
- The Save the Cat!® Greenlight Checklist that gets to the heart of every development issue
- The right way to hear notes, deal with problematic producers, and dive into the rewrite with the right attitude
- Why and when an agent will appear
- How to discover the potential for greatness in any story
- How to avoid panic, doubt, and self-recrimination… and what it takes to succeed and dare to achieve your dreams
Get ready to face trouble like a pro… and strike back!
Save The Cat! BLAKE’S BLOG by BLAKE SNYDER
From 2005 until his death in 2009, Blake Snyder wrote his 3 best-selling Save the Cat!® books along with 209 blogs on the Save the Cat!® website. The 112 blog posts in this book have been carefully curated and edited from Blake’s originals. We have selected posts that we believe are timeless, resonating as powerfully today as on the day Blake wrote them. In addition, we’ve created 10 chapters in which we’ve bundled posts according to categories, to simplify your search for the information, encouragement and enthusiasm that were Blake’s hallmarks:
- Ideas and Concepts
- Titles and Loglines
- The Pitch
- Going Pro
Enjoy these meaningful and helpful lessons in screenwriting… and life.
Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling by award-winning writer/director/producer Brian McDonald. Readers learn techniques for building a compelling story around a theme, engaging audiences with writing, creating appealing characters, and much more.
McDonald devotes a generous portion of the book explaining how Story Spine helps writers identify the essentials, nailing down the theme.
The remainder of the book digs into the nuances that can make or break a novel or screenplay.
Writing Your Story’s theme by K.M. Weiland
Theme—the mysterious cousin of plot and character. Too often viewed as abstract rather than actionable, theme is frequently misunderstood and left to chance. Some writers even insist theme should not be purposefully implemented. This is unfortunate, because in many ways theme is story. Theme is the heart, the meaning, the point. Nothing that important should be overlooked. Powerful themes emerge from the conjunction of strong plots and resonant character arcs. Writing Your Story’s Theme will teach you:
- How to create theme from plot and character.
- Why every supporting character and subplot should enhance the theme.
- How to prevent theme from seeming preachy or “on the nose.”
- What to consider in identifying the best theme for any given story.
- And much more!
Within the pages of a book exists a world drawn from a writer’s deepest imaginings, one that has the ability to pull readers in on a visceral level. But the audience’s fascination will only last if the writer can describe this vibrant realm and its inhabitants well. The setting achieves this by offering readers a unique sensory experience. So much more than stage dressing, the setting can build mood, convey meaning through symbolism, drive the plot by creating challenges that force the hero to fight for what he wants, and trigger his emotions to reveal his most intimate feelings, fears, and desires. Inside The Rural Setting Thesaurus you’ll find:
- A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 120 urban settings
- Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters •A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 100 settings revolving around school, home, and nature
- Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
- Advice on the many effective ways to build mood, helping you steer both the character’s and readers’ emotions in every scene
- Information on how the setting directly influences the plot by acting as a tuning fork for what a character needs most and by testing his dedication to his goals
- A tutorial on figurative language and how different descriptive techniques can bring settings alive for readers while conveying a symbolic message or deeper meaning
- A review of the challenges that arise when writing description, as well as special considerations that apply specifically to rural and personal settings
Making readers care and feel like they’re part of the story should be the number one goal for all writers. Ironically, many storytellers fail to maximize one of fiction’s most powerful elements to achieve this: the setting. Not only can the right location become a conduit for emotion, it can also provide conflict, characterize the story’s cast, reveal significant backstory, and trigger the reader’s own emotional memories through sensory details and deep point of view. Inside The Urban Setting Thesaurus, you’ll find:
- A list of the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds for over 120 urban settings
- Possible sources of conflict for each location to help you brainstorm ways to naturally complicate matters for your characters
- Advice on how to make every piece of description count so you can maintain the right pace and keep readers engaged
- Tips on utilizing the five senses to encourage readers to more fully experience each moment by triggering their own emotional memories
- Information on how to use the setting to characterize a story’s cast through personalization and emotional values while using emotional triggers to steer their decisions
- A review of specific challenges that arise when writing urban locations, along with common descriptive pitfalls that should be avoided
- Downloadable tools to help you plan each setting so you can choose the right one for a scene, providing the biggest storytelling punch
STORY STAKES BY H.R. D’COSTA
At first, you might use your writing skills to create a likeable hero or craft a high-concept premise. Sure, these things are important. They entice readers to give your story a chance. But they only go so far. They don’t keep readers engaged till the very end.
To accomplish this, you need something more. You need stakes.
Because of stakes, your hero can’t walk away from his problem. As a result, readers won’t be able to walk away from your story.
See, when stakes are in play, readers will be wondering if your hero will succeed or fail at his goal. Then, they worry about him. Then, they’re under tension.
To relieve this tension, they MUST stay up all night and finish your story—and when they have, they’ll rave about the amazing page-turner they couldn’t put down.
Story Editing and Principles
THE 12 KEY PILLARS OF NOVEL CONSTRUCTION BY C. S. LAKIN
There are 12 key pillars of novel construction, and if any of these pillars is weak, made of faulty materials, it will compromise the integrity of your novel.
Build a novel that will stand up to scrutiny and thrill readers!
Inside, you’ll learn:
- what the four primary support pillars are, and why and how you need to build those first, before tackling any other components in your novel.
- how to determine if an idea has the potential to become a riveting concept with a kicker, and how to transform that idea into a stunning concept.
- what high stakes is really all about and how to ensure your novel is exploding with them.
- the secret to creating a riveting protagonist, and the two goals he needs to be pursuing.
- what tension really is and how to ramp it up in your novel.
- the key to portraying evocative settings and how to come up with them.
- 7 important tips to creating believable dialog.
- what voice is, and how it differs from writing style.
- ways to brainstorm ideas for plot, themes, motifs, setting, and rich characters through asking a series of questions that will take you deep below the surface of your story.
- what the difference is between theme and motif, and why both are essential.
- Ideas and instructions on how to mind map your characters, plot, settings, themes—all the important elements of your story—and integrate them into your 12 pillars.
THE ANATOMY OF STORY BY JOHN TRUBY
John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek.
The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all of his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach for how to build an effective, multifaceted narrative.
Truby’s method for constructing a story is at once insightful and practical, focusing on the hero’s moral and emotional growth. As a result, writers will dig deep within and explore their own values and worldviews in order to create an effective story.
Writers will come away with an extremely precise set of tools to work with—specific, useful techniques to make the audience care about their characters, and that make their characters grow in meaningful ways. They will construct a surprising plot that is unique to their particular concept, and they will learn how to express a moral vision that can genuinely move an audience.
CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS by JODIE RENNER
Today’s readers want to put aside their cares and chores and lose themselves in an absorbing story. This book shows you how to provide the emotional involvement and immediacy readers crave in fiction.
You’ll find techniques for making sure your characters come to life and your readers feel directly connected to them, without the author’s hand appearing as an intermediary.
And like Jodie Renner’s other writing guides, which are designed for busy writers, the format of this one is reader-friendly, with text broken up by subheadings, examples, and lists.
The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
The Story Grid is a tool developed by editor Shawn Coyne to analyze stories and provide helpful editorial comments. It’s like a CT Scan that takes a photo of the global story and tells the editor or writer what is working, what is not, and what must be done to make what works better and fix what’s not. The Story Grid breaks down the component parts of stories to identify the problems. And finding the problems in a story is almost as difficult as the writing of the story itself (maybe even more difficult).
If you want to understand the principles of structure, plot, and genres as taught from the view of an experienced editor, The Story Grid is an excellent choice.
Although at times technical, The Story Grid provides detailed examples you can use to analyze your work in progress.
Story by ROBERT MCKEE
Often referenced by other writing teachers, Robert McKee’s Story offers principles that have stood the test of time.
As McKee wrote in his introduction:
“A rule says, ‘You must do it this way.’ A principle says, ‘This works … and has through all remembered time.’ The difference is crucial. Your work needn’t be modeled after the “well-made” play; rather, it must be well made within the principles that shape our art. Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.”
This book serves as a reference you can return to when learning the craft comes off rules-driven instead of best-story principles.
McKee urges you to create works that will excite audiences on the six continents and live in revival for decades. That’s the heart of Story—focus on principles.
HOW TO WRITE A COZY BY NINA HARRINGTON
This Ultimate Guide to Writing a Cozy Mystery has been designed to provide you with all the information you need to write your own cozy mystery and develop a cozy mystery series. There are no hidden extras, fluff or padding, just straight practical advice on what to write and how to write it.
Save time, money, and energy by working through each step of this focused Guide to create your own cozy mystery novel. This Guide is recommended for cozy mystery writers at every level, fiction writing classes and screenwriters.
Nina Harrington is the author of 48 fiction and non-fiction books, with 1.7 million copies sold worldwide in 28 countries and 23 languages.
HOW TO OUTLINE A COZY MYSTERY BY SARA ROSETT
Do you want to know the basic building blocks of a cozy mystery? Do you wonder why cozy readers devour these mysteries voraciously? Are you fuzzy on how the structure of a cozy mystery fits into the classic plot structure? Do you wonder what the “rules” are for a cozy mystery? Use this workbook to learn how to create a framework so that you can begin writing your cozy.
In How to Outline a Cozy Mystery Workbook you’ll discover:
- The many different outlining methods you can use to build your story framework
- The conventions (or tropes) cozy readers want and expect
- The psychology behind why readers choose cozies
- How a cozy mystery fits into classic plot structure
- Tips on how to hide clues and red herrings
- And much, much more!
HOW TO WRITE A SERIES BY SARA ROSETT
Struggling to structure your book series? Learn how to make a series work for you: increase reader engagement and take advantage of the built-in marketing potential a series gives you.
Get the knowledge you need to make smart decisions about your series with How to Write a Series. You’ll learn:
- The three basic types of series
- The benefits and drawbacks of writing each type of series
- Tips for extending your series beyond your original plan
- Ideas for creating spinoffs and expanding your literary universe
- How to know when it’s time to end a series
- How to save time writing your series and how to keep track of details
- How to deal with the problems that result from being locked into a story world
- How to refresh your interest in a series if you’ve grown bored
- Creative ways to market your series
WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY BY NANCY J. COHEN
Do you want to write a cozy mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or maybe you’ve begun a story but are stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on keeping your material fresh? Writing the Cozy Mystery will help you develop your characters, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues and sustain your series.
This Second Edition contains more examples; additional writing exercises; expanded sections; and seven new chapters including The Muddle in the Middle, Romance and Murder, Special Considerations for Cozy Writers, Keeping a Series Fresh, Writing the Smart Synopsis, Mystery Movies, and Marketing Tips.
You’ll find everything you need to know in an easy-to-read, clear manner to write your own mystery and maintain a long-running series.
MASTERING YOUR MYSTERY BY CHERYL BRADSHAW
Do you write in the genres of mystery, thriller, horror, noir, or suspense or a subgenere such as supernatural suspense, romantic suspense, or historical fiction mysteries? Are you interested in learning how to write better, more compelling books and becoming successful in your marketing endeavors?
In Mastering Your Mystery, you’ll learn:
- How to write the perfect murder scene
- How to breathe life into your main character
- How to create the perfect villain
- How the right location adds to your story
- Strategies for eBook pricing
- Creating a street team/fan club
- Where to advertise
- How to create a winning ad
- Connecting with your readers
- Hitting a best-seller list
- And much, much more!!