As I’m reading these DIY writing books, I find many of them are very similar to one another. They lay out the same steps for starting a writing process, what rules to follow, and how to get the most out of every word. Making Shapely Fiction is not one of those. It’s so far outside the box, I can’t begin to explain it.
Mr. Stern has a different approach to writing. He sees each of the writing parts as “shapes” and explains those shapes through examples and narrative forms. For example, The Onion “shape” discusses layers within layers, not just the story but the characters and how to build intrigue and interest by writing using that shape. For The Iceberg, we’re told to write a scene where the character’s real feelings aren’t expressed, thus the shape of an iceberg. It’s an interesting concept of using spatial definitions as they apply to writing. While I don’t know if I’d use these definitions, I was intrigued by the concepts.
The first third of the book is about shapes. The remainder is about defining writing terms and processes and is more of an encyclopedia. It’s not for casual reading, although they are short and illuminating, but would make a great reference book. I always have difficulty recalling what’s a metaphor and what’s a simile. There’s a concise explanation of a metaphor being “x is y” and a simile being “x is like y.” If you want to use a Southern dialect, look up DIALECT and don’t. I didn’t know what a Bathos was until I read the entry. It’s a sob story just for the sake of eliciting tears. Makes sense. I’ll be keeping this book handy in case I have a question about a specific writing term such as OBJECTIVE CORRELATIVE. I could read a term a day and maybe broaden my horizons.
There are some other books to read at the end, but since this book was written in 1991, some may be hard to find and may be outdated.
I enjoyed this book, not only because it was something different but because it was pretty helpful.