Scott Russell Sanders-“Wilderness Plots”

Wilderness Plots: Tales about the Settlement of the American LandWilderness Plots: Tales about the Settlement of the American Land by Scott Russell Sanders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a small book and a quick read. I would say it’s more flash fiction tales about the Ohio Wilderness than short stories–whatever you call them, they are a great read.

Because each story is so short, each word counts. SRS does well nailing the cadence and idioms of the time–the result is, each story sounds like it’s being told by a storyteller of the time.

Each tale has a twist or an ending that you really didn’t see coming, which speaks to the power of the writing in such short, short pieces.

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The Language of the Night by Ursula K. LeGuin

Language of the NightLanguage of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of talks and essays Ursula K. LeGuin. Even if you’re not a writer of fantasy or science fiction–which I’m not–this is a good how-to book for learning how to incorporate fantastical elements into a story in such a way the reader is willing to go along with the writer.

One of the best quotes from the book covers writing of all types: “You head for Perfection and you may very well get trash. But you head toward trash, and by gum, you always get it.” (page 225)

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The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell StoriesThe Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Seven Basic Plots Why We Tell Stories” by Christopher Booker is, at over 700 pages, overwhelming at times.

Overall, I see it more as a textbook. It goes into great detail about what he considers the seven basic plots: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth.

The book itself is divided into four parts with thirty-four chapters. There is a lot of information packed into the pages–analysis of stories, a lot of psychology, a lot of history. It’s not really a book to sit down with and read cover to cover, but a book that needs a lot of time to really think about what Booker puts down on the pages. Since the book is required for school, time isn’t a luxury I had while reading this book.

As a writer, I found the first twenty pages the most helpful (parts one and two). The types of plots Booker identifies are dissected in great detail, using well-known works as examples. I have a lot of highlighting and post-it flags in those two sections. There is a lot of helpful information in what Booker says; information that will be useful in my own writing. This is a book I will keep close at hand.

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