Every writer’s life and career is shaped by the wisdom and work of other writers. Here are some of the books that have had a profound influence on me:
by Lajos Egri
Egri’s approach to building a story on three basic pillars – premise (a.k.a. theme), character and conflict are as clear and as sound a lesson as you could ever hope to be given as a writer. The first section alone, in which the author explains the deceptive simplicity of what makes a great premise for a dramatic story, is worth the price of admission. It’s not a quick read by any stretch, but it’s one that you will forever cherish if you love the art of dramatic writing as much as I do.
The Hero With A Thousand Faces
by Joseph Campbell
This classic work on comparative mythology strips completely bare the great mystery of where our intense need to tell stories comes from. Dense and highly academic, it’s a book that needs to be read slowly and digested over many years, not mere weeks or months. However, once Campbell’s brilliant analysis of the human mind gets under your skin, you will never be the same person or the same writer again.
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
by Christopher Vogler
What began as a seven-page memo to Vogler’s fellow executives at Walt Disney Pictures in the 1980s eventually evolved into this now indispensible book for writers. Vogler’s initial inspiration was to “translate” many of the complex ideas in Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces into a more palatable form. The resulting work is not only a wonderful companion to Campbell’s, but a very practical handbook on story structure, and an enlightening experience in its own right.
Adventures In The Screen Trade
by William Goldman
Obviously Hollywood and the entertainment business as a whole have changed dramatically in the past thirty years, but so much of what Goldman writes about in this book is still relevant to screenwriters today, particularly with respect to the writer’s role in the filmmaking process. The expanded edition also comes with the complete screenplay to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, which is a treat in and of itself.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King
As one of the most prolific authors of our time, Stephen King is a household name, but he’s also a writer who has overcome great struggles in his life, both personally and professionally. When you read this book you can’t help but admire the man, not just for his talent and his incredible work ethic, but most of all for the unconditional love that he has for writing and the generosity with which he shares so much of what he has learned over the course of his career.
Writing From The Inside Out
by Dennis Palumbo
Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in creative issues. He’s also a veteran film and television writer who co-wrote the screenplay for the award-winning film, My Favorite Year. His book is a deep exploration into the writer’s psyche, but at the same time his breezy style makes it a thoroughly effortless page turner. Most intriguing are the unique insights that he offers from numerous therapy sessions with his writer clients, all of which powerfully reinforce the idea that we, as writers, are definitely not in it alone.
The Hutchinson Shakespeare Dictionary
Edited by Sandra Clark
While I have studied my fair share of the bard over the years, I have to admit that I am far from an expert, which is why I find this comprehensive, alphabetical listing of the characters, settings, and plots of every single one of Shakespeare’s plays, an invaluable reference. It’s especially helpful when brainstorming story ideas because there is essentially no significant moral human dilemma that Shakespeare didn’t somehow touch upon in his many works.
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book
by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
This is not a book about creative writing. What it is a bible of self-publishing, which I believe to be very timely right now, as the digital revolution has made it possible for all writers to market their words and ideas directly to the people who buy them. The authors provide a very practical, step-by-step guide to “cutting out the middle man,” loaded with clear concise information. Best of all, as passionate advocates for the individual writer, they deliver a very optimistic, progressive message.