22 May 2014

Writing Book Review: Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver

Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
by Jerry Cleaver

  • Offers a complete, easy-to-follow methodology for writing a story that will probably sell – from first page to publication.
  • Offers a plan for fitting writing into your busy lifestyle (Ch 12)
  • Examines why writers get blocked and what to do about it (Ch 15)
  • Includes plenty of exercises to get you writing and thinking about how to write

  • Some will find the author’s style objectionable for whatever personal reason – too this, not enough of that, whatever
  • He may say your sacred writing ritual is bunk – though he regularly says something to the effect, but if it works for you, keep doing it
  • An over-emphasis on amping up the drama creates fiction I find uninteresting

Bottom Line:
  • Check this one out from your library and see if it/he speaks to you
  • Buy a used copy online if you don’t have access to a good used bookstore
  • I’d pay no more than $5.00 for a copy

Overall I thought this was a worthwhile read (from the library). Will see if I say, “Gosh, really need a copy to go through the chapter on overcoming writer’s block.” Or maybe something else. I did write down his basic formula (get the book if you want to know what it is) to keep what I’d call his Five Elements of a Successful Story (again, read the book, it applies to everything: short story, novella, novel, play, screenplay, graphic novel, etc) front and center and made some notes – other titles and a couple websites. So that was useful.

Okay, so one of the elements is conflict, but you already guessed that. Here’s my take, my words, of what he’s telling us to do: Don’t just have your character lose his job. Have his boss fire him. And while you’re at it, don’t just have the boss say, “Joe, we need to make some cutbacks. Sorry to see you go…” NO! We need to really pile it on. So not only does Joe’s boss get all nasty, “I’m firing your worthless butt and reporting you to the state regulator for gross misconduct so you’ll never work again.” THEN the mean old boss will conspire with another employee to file a sexual harassment suit against poor Joe AND, just in case that isn’t quite enough drama and conflict for Joe to overcome, let’s go ahead and fill his computer with child porn and call the cops.

Poor Joe!

UGH! Poor reader. When I see this sort of stuff – in print, online, on TV, at the movies – I lose interest and quick. It goes beyond realistic and believable. Maybe that’s enjoyable for others – it clearly sells – maybe you like a movie where A-list stars are dealing with this kind of stuff, but my eyes glaze over and I’m glad I got the DVD from library.

If nothing else, after reading Immediate Fiction I knew what I hate about modern entertainment and what I want to do different. Sure, we still need to connect with characters through showing and emotion. Stories still need conflict and the characters taking action to deal with the conflict – protagonists will fight to overcome; you know what antagonists will be doing. But I yearn for believable characters facing real-life situations. No, not the babysitter bailing at the last minute before the best friend’s wedding – wait, that’s not entirely a bad premise – but definitely not catching the spouse in bed with the babysitter, going medieval on everyone in the county, and then eating the bride for dinner. That’s a bit much.

Unless horror’s your genre.

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