Matt Bird has been writing about the craft of storytelling for over 30 years. ‘Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers‘ is Bird’s first book.
As you’d expect this is a guide for writers who write fiction. There’s heavy focus on scriptwriting for TV and film here and almost all of the examples are drawn from these genres. I read the book (or at least listened via scribd) not through any burning desire to write fiction, but more through an interest in the mechanics of story— and the book does a thorough job at taking the reader through these in an engaging and humorous way.
The book then, is a comprehensive guide to writing, divided as follows:
• Concept: Is the one-sentence description of your story uniquely appealing?
• Character: Can your audience identify with your hero?
• Structure and Plot: Is your story ruled by human nature?
• Scene Work: Does each scene advance the plot and reveal character through emotional reactions?
• Dialogue: Is your characters’ dialogue infused with distinct personality traits and speech patterns based on their lives and backgrounds?
• Tone: Are you subtly setting, resetting, and upsetting expectations?
• Theme: Are you using multiple ironies throughout the story to create meaning?
If I were even thinking of writing anything related to fiction, I would buy a hard copy of this book without hesitation— for me this is an essential reference for writers.
As a final note, Bird bas been blogging for many years and on secretsofstory.com (formerly ‘Cockeyed Caravan’) you’ll find a staggering collection of writing tools and free study materials to help you with your craft. Again there’s a strong focus on scriptwriting but the principles of storytelling are universal. This ‘Ultimate Story Checklist v6’ for example would be a godsend for aspiring authors trying to evaluate their own work: