Writers write, but we also read. And periods between writing projects are great times to catch up with reading. The four books I chose are all outside my typical genres, and that’s why I wanted to read them. Here’s why I chose each of these books and what I got from them.
Bulletproof: What works for screenplays also works for novels
I’ve tried writing screenplays a few times, but they didn’t go anywhere. I’ve stuck with novels ever since. I still found David Diamond and David Weissman’s guide useful. Bulletproof: Writing Scripts that Don’t Get Shot Down covers the creation of a screenplay from forming a marketable idea through story development to pitching and securing a deal.
The same principles for creating a successful screenplay also apply to a novel. It starts with an idea that has a strong concept, characters, and context. Characters are the most important, and each of them should have story arcs that build the concept and fit into the context of the story. From there, you can build an outline and flesh out the story. But remember: Don’t lose the reader. While your goal is to find an agent who will advocate for you and a producer who will make the film, your primary target is the audience. Create a script an audience will want to see, and you will find the people who can bring your vision to that audience.
Whatever you’re writing, whether it is a novel or screenplay, you need to connect with your audience and keep them engaged with your story. That is how you create bulletproof writing.
Writing to Persuade and Talking Across the Divide: Connect at a personal level
If we’re in a post-fact world, how do you persuade people? You can’t do it by barraging them with facts that show them why they’re wrong. Trish Hall, former editor of the New York Times op-ed page offers a solution in Writing to Persuade: How to Bring People Over to Your Side. Part of persuading others is to understand them. What are their values? What are their hopes? What are their fears? Instead of confrontation and shaming, recognize their points and use them to introduce them to your ideas. Make your ideas clear, focused, and jargon-free. Facts still do matter, so make sure your details are accurate when you present them. Those who disagree with you will jump on any incorrect, biased, or incomplete information you present.
The most effective way to connect with people is through stories. By sharing personal experiences and describing how you came to your positions, it can make people more receptive. You can then appeal to shared values and experiences instead of attacking.
Hall’s book inspired me to pick up a related book, Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate with People You Disagree with and Maybe Even Change the World by Justin Lee. With the widening chasm in society and the growing risk of political violence in the upcoming elections, it’s more important than ever for us to connect with people we disagree with.
Crier’s War: Fantasy and reality
Rounding out my reading list is Crier’s War by Nina Varela. Here’s my five-star review of the book:
I received Crier’s War at our library’s giveaway day, and I’m so happy I got it. It’s a thrilling page-turner YA fantasy novel. Its world where humans are persecuted by the Automatae they invented is relatable and far too present in today’s world. The core of the story is the relationship between Lady Crier, the automata who is the daughter of her nation’s sovereign, and Ayla, the human servant girl bent on revenge. Their relationship starts from suspicion and distrust, builds to a tenuous trust and growing passion, and takes a shocking reversal. Their story kept me invested to the end.
Varela created a solid and lived-in fantasy world. The world-building flowed naturally into the story and revealed critical details at important times to build suspense and shocking twists. But the fantasy serves as the background of the conflict among the characters. Crier discovers those she thought she could trust may prove to be her enemies, and the human Ayla who wants to kill her is the one person she needs.
Crier’s War is a great story about people finding the truth about themselves and their world. It’s message, “Humanity is how you act…not how you were Made,” is valuable to all.
Why would I read a fantasy novel, especially one that features a same-sex romance? It’s important for readers to explore other genres and read about different communities. It broadens our outlook and introduces us to different ways of seeing the world. And by exploring different genres, we can find books we didn’t realize we would love.
If you’re an author, reading is a great way to educate yourself and support other authors—especially those of different communities. And by going outside of your familiar genres, you can discover new and exciting books to read.