Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baby Got Back Story

Another gem from Stephen King's On Writing - this time on research, and not letting it take over your time/story. While writing a book that heavily referenced the Pennsylvania State Police, King first wrote the novel, and intends to put in legwork doing ride-alongs and shadowing officers when the opportunity arises. This might seem backwards, but his thinking was that the story should never be driven by the details he needs to flush it out - the main course is made up of much more:

"Research is back story, and the key word in back story is back. The tale I have to tell in Buick Eight has to do with monsters and secrets. It is not a story about police procedure in western Pennsylvania. What I'm looking for is nothing but a touch of verisimilitude, like the handful of spices you chuck into a good spaghetti sauce to really finish her off."

I can get lost for weeks in research, so this is a nice reminder in the form of a food metaphor. And there's no better way to my brain than through my stomach.

Now that I'm done with On Writing, I'm considering a new craft book. Maybe Cheryl Klein's Second Sight.   Here's a great list of recommendations from the Mixed Up Files crew on their favorite reads. What are your favorite books on craft?

Wednesday is a ROW80 update day, but there's not much to report here, other than that I'm still stirring the main ingredients into my good spaghetti sauce.  Hopefully I'll have more to say on Sunday. Maybe even a pie chart ;)


  1. Hello fellow ROWer!

    I love all books on craft by Donald Maass and James Scott Bell.
    Oh, and the MUST READ: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Seriously. It's about screenwriting, but he teaches you how to plot like a pro!

    See you around the ROW boat!

  2. Thanks Juliana! I've heard great things about Donald Maass's book, and can't wait to check it out. He did a long workshop at the Writer's Digest Conference in January that I found really craft-oriented.

    Cheers :) Gina

  3. I really like that Stephen King quote. I've wondered if I should have spent more time researching certain elements of my WIP. Now I'm glad I didn't spend too much time on it. I like the idea of sprinkling your manuscript with just the right number of details. :)