I’ll admit to some prejudice to reviewing this. While I think Mr. Card is an exceptional writer, I find his homophobic comments hard to take. But this was on my list of books that beginning writers should consume, so I bought a used copy to learn something.
As with other books written over thirty years ago, the section on the writing business at the end is outdated and totally skippable. But the basics of world and story construction are helpful. I found his section on defining what is science fiction and fantasy to be thorough, probably too much so. I don’t know many people who are unfamiliar with the definitions of either. The book, from the Writer’s Digest Genre Writing Series, is thin enough without devoting an entire opening chapter to the obvious.
Much of the material seems to be taken from his lectures and covers some well-trod ground. He discusses point of view, exposition, and the MICE concept of Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event to determine the type of story being written and the writer’s focus. He gives examples and suggestions for writing each type of story.
There are examples to go with the topics and some input from other writers to use as examples. He doesn’t talk too much about plot, saying he discusses it in another book which we should also buy.
Again, I may be letting my knowledge of the writer color my appreciation of the material, but I thought at 100 pages (excluding the outdated marketing chapter), this book was too short to be helpful. I can honestly say I didn’t learn much from it. The MICE concept is interesting, but I’m not sure I need my stories defined in such a way. Mine are almost all event stories where the characters are trying to fix something. I do throw in some character development, but I’m mostly concerned about plot in my short stories and novels.
I wouldn’t recommend this to new writers unless it’s a very beginning writer who can’t focus on the type of story they’re writing.