Nancy Kress is a well-known writing instructor. I was in a lecture just like week where the instructor quoted Ms. Kress. She’s an easy educator to read. Her style is smooth and conversational. In this book, subtitled “Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints” she deals with the more common aspects of writing: developing characters, showing them emoting, and the different points of view you can use as a writer when telling your character’s story.
Her format is easy to read and understand. She defines each writing technique, gives some short examples (not of her own writing which I appreciated), and offers some exercises to help understand what she feels is important to the writer.
The character portion of the book is pretty standard; however, I did find her advice on writing about the most interesting character in your book. My protagonist begins as a pretty bland character, but Ms. Kress says that’s okay. Give your character a motivation even if it’s not the goal at the end. Switching goals is allowed.
Flexibility is the author’s stand on most everything in the book. She’s not one to say you “should” or “must” do one thing or another. There are rules, but she’s quick to point out there are always exceptions to them. I prefer this type of approach, as it’s less authoritarian and probably a lot more realistic. I thought many of her concepts reinforced what I’ve discovered in my own writing.
Emotion is something I have difficulty with my writing, and readers and reviewers are quick to point it out. I blame it on my upbringing which consisted of reading the greats such as Asimov and Heinlein. They didn’t connect with the reader emotionally; they had a hard story to tell and didn’t deal with feelings. I agree that it’s important, and I used the exercises to attempt to instill more emotion in my writing. The most important emotion, Ms. Kress says, is frustration. It’s important to keep the character just out of reach of victory. What if Ahab had killed Moby Dick in the first chapter? It wouldn’t even been a short story.
The viewpoint chapters, while affirming what I already knew, were a lot of information about a simple lesson. She split each POV type into a chapter of its own. I’m not sure that was really necessary, but a beginning writer might find it useful. I write primarily in limited third person, but it’s helpful to have the pros and cons of each POV style.
This was a very informative book written in a conversational style. I will look for other books by Ms. Kress.