Writing Resources Round-up #1

I’ve been a bit on a reading bender recently, reading everything I can slap my eyes on that has anything to do about writing or the art of storytelling. So I thought I would share five resources that have really helped me. If the item is a book, I’ll include a link to Amazon on where you can get the book. If it’s a website, then, I pretty much mean read all of the website, or at least have a good hard look at it. I’m not a big fan of going to a site, reading one entry, then going on my merry way. I linger. And read.

Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald
If you haven’t read this book, and you care about story writing, stop reading this blog and get this book NOW. I found Brian’s works accidentally, when I was reading some resources on PaperWings. After listening to his episode on the podcast, I was hooked and shocked that I had never run across his name before. Not only could the man break down a story to the most basic principles, but he was such a great orator himself, I just wanted to listen to tell him more anecdotes! Searching for more interviews of him, then led me to the 20/20 Awards podcast, of which I am now an avid listener. Invisible Ink is a quick read, and disputes a lot of “popular” forms of thought on storytelling. It breaks it down to the very essence of storytelling. This is the guy Pixar goes to when they want someone to come help with storytelling. They go to him for a reason. Golden Theme is also excellent, albeit kind of short (and at the time of this writing, is free as a kindle book). Brian also has a blog. All are excellent resources for storytelling theory.

Bill Idleson’s Writing Class by Bill Idleson
I read this because of Brian McDonald’s multiple mentions both in his books and interviews. The book takes you straight into the environment of one of Idleson’s classes. Do the homework along with the students, and watch your writing vastly improve.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Okay, yes it has art in the title, but it’s not just fine art. It’s any kind of art that requires you to get over your hangups and beat procrastination into submission. This book puts into words the fears and doubts you always knew where there, but were too afraid to voice– and then gives you techniques on how to overcome them and keep them gone. Yes, it does evoke the believe of muses… but I can tell you, the longer you write, the stronger your sense grows of the muse– be it spiritual, or just being on a roll.

I haven’t had a chance to read the new screenwriting book by FILMCRITHULK, so I can’t recommend it just yet, but the original blog is chuck full of great articles. My favorites: completely debunking the three act structure, why All That Jazz is amazing, and the age of the convoluted blockbuster. FILMCRITHULK speaks my language.

PaperWings Podcast (and blog)
As mentioned above, I am a big fan of PaperWings. Yes, they do address more from a comic point of view, and focus a lot about getting projects up and running, but they also talk about story telling (pssssst the Brian McDonald interview). If anything, PaperWings is a constant source of inspiration and a cheerleader. They totally get that working on your own project is hard, and it sucks if you have to put in on the sideburner, but they inspire you to tell your story, cheering you to finish line!


Take Me Back to Wondaland


I spent my weekend reading a lot of books on theory of illustration and so on (and watching vlogs on YouTube, but shhhhh don’t tell!).

These books are pretty basic things, the Force book being something recommended (or condemned) time and time again while I was at SCAD. I’m already a 1/4 through it, and while the figure drawing is really interesting to look at, it really hasn’t done as promised and broken down the techniques Mattesi uses. But this might just be me not absorbing. I’m used to Loomis’ tutorial style, where he breaks down everything that he does in really simple terms.

Reading both Mattesi and Loomis at the same time has been an interesting comparison. They both are taking me back to basics, which is nice. While I enjoyed my classes at SCAD, some of my classes kind of glossed over what these books go into in depth– especially Loomis’ stuff. If you haven’t gone through a Andrew Loomis book, you really should–but don’t start with Creative Illustration (he even states this in the first lesson in the book). You need to start with Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, which will really open your eyes to the figure, even if you have spent years drawing the figure. Having already finished Figure Drawing…, and now reading Force is… well, interesting. Loomis has chats with the reader throughout the book, but something in the opening chat of Creative Illustration really grabbed me and I think it’s important to remind myself of this from time to time.  Loomis writes:

“Beyond the technical rendering comes the dramatic interpretation. In the final analysis the illustrator is holding a mirror to life, and expressing his feelings about it. He may paint a pot of flowers beautifully, but it can by no stretch of the imagination be called an illustration. Illustration must encompass emotion, the life we live, the things we do, and how we feel… If we are to illustrate, we must create ideas. Illustration delves into psychology for basic appeals, to create idea that must reach into the personality of the reader, compelling definite responses.”

And maybe this is what I have been missing from my illustrations. I need to focus on this more, as well as injecting energy. So it’s back to basics for me for a little while. I’m doing the exercises in both books as they come up. Right now, I have to draw at least a dozen real life “rectangles” I see, to practice capturing natural design. Loomis says I can’t move further in the book until I do. Sheesh, he’s so strict!