Here’s a short list of writing books I’ve liked, or found helpful, or both.
1) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. This was my introduction to Joseph Campbell’s work and I think it was a good place to start. It’s based on a memo Vogler sent around the Disney Studios when he worked there in the 90′s summing up Campbell’s hero’s journey as a guide for writing. The book gives a nice overview and uses movies as examples. I liked it as a starting point because I found it easier to focus on the steps of the journey when most of the examples are already familiar.
2) Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell. This is the basis for the last book, and a lot of movies, Star Wars probably being the most well known. Campbell explains the idea of the monomyth- the idea that all great stories share the same basic structure and archetype characters to explain each person’s own quest. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and the goal is to find your bliss. It’s a fascinating theory. I suggested Vogler’s book first because I think it’s easier to have an idea of the steps and archetypes from his book before getting deeper into them with Campbell. Campbell also uses examples from mythology that weren’t as familiar to me as the movie references (way beyond the standard Greek and Roman we think of as mythology) so I thought it was easier to learn the idea of the journey with something familiar, then have clear signposts along the way while learning about the unfamiliar myths.
3)Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayers. And now for something completely different. The last two were theory books, this is a series of writing exercises. I’ve gotten story ideas from doing them, enough that I returned the library copy and bought my own.
4) The Songwriter’s Idea Book by Sheila Davis. I haven’t finished this book yet- I just bought it a couple of days ago- but it’s on the May 100 Kindle books under $3.99 so I thought I’d include it now while it’s on sale. Even though it’s for songwriters, so there’s quite a bit that doesn’t apply, it has an interesting section on creativity according to your personality type and another on coming up with titles to give a starting point for a project. The title advice is interesting and I think it might be a good way to come up with ideas for short stories (all of my ideas seem to be for longer pieces) I’ll see how it goes and let you know.