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The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

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The Secrets of Story is a revolutionary and comprehensive writing guide for the 21st century, focused on clever ways to get an audience to fully identify with an all-too-human hero. Authors will learn to how to cut through pop culture noise and win over a jaded modern audience by rediscovering the heart of writing: shaping stories that ring true to our shared understanding The Secrets of Story is a revolutionary and comprehensive writing guide for the 21st century, focused on clever ways to get an audience to fully identify with an all-too-human hero. Authors will learn to how to cut through pop culture noise and win over a jaded modern audience by rediscovering the heart of writing: shaping stories that ring true to our shared understanding of human nature. Providing conversational advice that spans multiple disciplines - from fiction to film to creative nonfiction - Matt Bird's insightful techniques allow characters to come alive and stories to reach a new level of appeal.


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The Secrets of Story is a revolutionary and comprehensive writing guide for the 21st century, focused on clever ways to get an audience to fully identify with an all-too-human hero. Authors will learn to how to cut through pop culture noise and win over a jaded modern audience by rediscovering the heart of writing: shaping stories that ring true to our shared understanding The Secrets of Story is a revolutionary and comprehensive writing guide for the 21st century, focused on clever ways to get an audience to fully identify with an all-too-human hero. Authors will learn to how to cut through pop culture noise and win over a jaded modern audience by rediscovering the heart of writing: shaping stories that ring true to our shared understanding of human nature. Providing conversational advice that spans multiple disciplines - from fiction to film to creative nonfiction - Matt Bird's insightful techniques allow characters to come alive and stories to reach a new level of appeal.

30 review for The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    I think this might be my new favorite writing guide. Deeply practical, slightly anti-authoritarian, and ruthlessly insightful, it's a very real look at what goes into creating a solid and entertaining story. No vague truisms here. The author gets down under the hood with clear thinking and solid technique. It gave me quite a few new gems to think about it. I think this might be my new favorite writing guide. Deeply practical, slightly anti-authoritarian, and ruthlessly insightful, it's a very real look at what goes into creating a solid and entertaining story. No vague truisms here. The author gets down under the hood with clear thinking and solid technique. It gave me quite a few new gems to think about it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lou Anders

    I have read dozens, if not hundreds, of books on writing (though not, ironically Stephen King's ON WRITING yet). I can count the ones I think have been truly worth the investment of time it takes to read them on the fingers of one hand. But I found Matt Bird's The Secrets of Story to be densely-packed with practical, useful, helpful, implementable advice. Recommended! I have read dozens, if not hundreds, of books on writing (though not, ironically Stephen King's ON WRITING yet). I can count the ones I think have been truly worth the investment of time it takes to read them on the fingers of one hand. But I found Matt Bird's The Secrets of Story to be densely-packed with practical, useful, helpful, implementable advice. Recommended!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jon Ureña

    The best book on writing I've read in a couple of years. It's oriented towards those that have read about narrative structure and the remaining aspects of writing stories, and have learned many rules about what works and doesn't. The author, someone with plenty of experience in the field by the looks of it, dismantles many misconceptions and contributes many new techniques based on careful observation. I'm great at working with details but generally terrible with the big picture stuff; knowing th The best book on writing I've read in a couple of years. It's oriented towards those that have read about narrative structure and the remaining aspects of writing stories, and have learned many rules about what works and doesn't. The author, someone with plenty of experience in the field by the looks of it, dismantles many misconceptions and contributes many new techniques based on careful observation. I'm great at working with details but generally terrible with the big picture stuff; knowing this, I wrote for myself a manual that turns every phase of writing a story something that I can work on with a detail oriented mindset: first you concentrate on your reasons for writing that story to see if they are sound, then you move on to developing the concept, then the premise, then the characters, the setting, the individual plot points, the general structure, etc. That way I can make sure that everything works, at least for my standards. This book gave me around 270 new notes mostly about testing the concept, the premise and the characters. Many of those points were very enlightening. But there's also plenty of interesting stuff on revising the manuscript and dealing with readers, for example. If you have read other books on writing and think you understand the basics well, you should read this one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joey

    122 piece nugget meal, please This book made me fat with knowledge. I just couldn't stop devouring its nuggets of story-craft-know-how. There is so much to sort through. This book will require you to keep coming back for more useful bites of truth that will make you and your stories stronger. There is a lot of spice and very little rice, and even the rice has a memorable flavor. Ok, in all seriousness, if you want to write better stories--read this book. If you want to raise your awareness about 122 piece nugget meal, please This book made me fat with knowledge. I just couldn't stop devouring its nuggets of story-craft-know-how. There is so much to sort through. This book will require you to keep coming back for more useful bites of truth that will make you and your stories stronger. There is a lot of spice and very little rice, and even the rice has a memorable flavor. Ok, in all seriousness, if you want to write better stories--read this book. If you want to raise your awareness about why you love Game of Thrones, or why you hate Game of Thrones--read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This book has fantastic advice for writers. The author is a screenwriter, and some of the advice works better for scripts than for novels, but most of it applies to both. I went back and forth between the audiobook and the Kindle book and enjoyed both. I may end up rereading this book; it's so much to take in, so I know a lot of it didn't "stick." But here's some of the best advice I remember from it: *The four-quarter story structure is so helpful. (It's basically the same as the three-act struct This book has fantastic advice for writers. The author is a screenwriter, and some of the advice works better for scripts than for novels, but most of it applies to both. I went back and forth between the audiobook and the Kindle book and enjoyed both. I may end up rereading this book; it's so much to take in, so I know a lot of it didn't "stick." But here's some of the best advice I remember from it: *The four-quarter story structure is so helpful. (It's basically the same as the three-act structure you often see in other places; the second act is broken up into two parts for the four-quarter structure.) I have gone back to this section over and over and will continue to as I outline. *This is a small piece of advice, but it stuck with me: Take out the "Yesses" and "No's" in dialogue. I went back and searched for "Yes" and "No" in my manuscript, and sure enough, in most cases I could take them out, and my dialogue was tighter. Example: "Do you like my shoes?" "Yes, I love the bows on top." Take out the "Yes," and you have dialogue that goes at a faster pace with less redundancy. I docked it a star because it's long, pedantic, and tries to set itself above other books on writing. Does it belong alongside other great books on writing? Probably; I haven't read that many, but it really is good. I don't think, however, that it's as revolutionary as it makes itself out to be. And even if a book is revolutionary, I'd prefer to come to that conclusion myself! I'm sticking with four stars, because a book doesn't have to be revolutionary to contain excellent advice. This book's advice is fantastic for writers--and hopefully if you read it, you'll enjoy the tone more than I did.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Some great, practical advice in here, but I am knocking off a couple of stars because the irony of a poorly written writing book is so distracting. The phrase “au contraire!” is used approximately 54 million times in this book, give or take a few. Au contraire! I may be exaggerating, but it is hard to focus on the good info when the phrasing and language is so awkward.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Xina Uhl

    I stopped reading after one of the many ridiculous claims by the author. Just because he went to some fancy school does not mean he has anything particularly interesting to say. I found him to be smug as well. Did not finish.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carina Pereira

    I got this an audiobook. I thought this was directed for novel writing. Instead, it was a guideline on writing movies/series. It was still a worthy read, with many useful tips and interesting movie references.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynley

    I'm sure I'll come back to this. It's one of those books you'd need to read more than once. The checklist at the end is print-out-stick-on-wall worthy. I've already read (and studied) quite a few books on storytelling. Voice comes naturally to me, but plotting definitely doesn't. The book that resonates most with me is John Truby's The Anatomy of Story. That book really opened my eyes. Secrets of Story builds on that. Matt Bird comes in from an original angle, and in places this book reads like a I'm sure I'll come back to this. It's one of those books you'd need to read more than once. The checklist at the end is print-out-stick-on-wall worthy. I've already read (and studied) quite a few books on storytelling. Voice comes naturally to me, but plotting definitely doesn't. The book that resonates most with me is John Truby's The Anatomy of Story. That book really opened my eyes. Secrets of Story builds on that. Matt Bird comes in from an original angle, and in places this book reads like a list of his pet peeves ('pet peeves' is one of my pet peeves but there you go). But they're very funny peeves, and he doesn't hold back from criticising some popular, big-name narratives, which I appreciate. Negative examples are really useful. Because this is a fairly new book, the examples are more up-to-date than in earlier storytelling guides, which is why these books will continually need to be published, even if 'human storytelling' evolves slowly. It's a small thing, but I appreciate that Matt Bird makes an effort to mix up his pronouns. He throws a few 'shes' in here and there. Screenwriting and storytelling experts are overwhelmingly White and male, and most of them only use as examples male-centric stories, using 'he' as universal pronoun. (The exception is Thelma and Louise. Even male writers are happy to add that as their token female example.) Matt Bird is a bit more progressive on that front. I've actually seen a bunch of the things he talks about, and enjoyed them. I came to this book via Matt Bird's blog The Cockeyed Caravan, and podcast The Narrative Breakdown. But it's still worth buying his book even if you've pored all over that, if only for a more synthesised view of his theory of story. But I actually bought it so I could annotate it with my own examples. Which is why it took me ages to get through. This is no skim read. There are a lot of story teachers out there, and after a while you'll find they're all saying the same thing, which is reassuring, actually. We need to internalise these things in order for them to be useful. A big idea Matt Bird adds to the conversation is his emphasis on irony. Irony is in everything, he argues, and he's right. It's in everything good. If that doesn't make sense on first read, I recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Inmon

    As a writer, I have read dozens of craft books. Most are well-intended and have a few helpful nuggets scattered throughout. Then there's "The Secrets of Story." It is the best book on writing I have ever read. Here's a confession. I read this book a number of years ago, when I was an early-stage writer. I got a few things out of it, but much of it whizzed right by me without leaving a mark. Skip ahead four years and a dozen novels later, and when I picked it back up again, I was stunned. Matt Bir As a writer, I have read dozens of craft books. Most are well-intended and have a few helpful nuggets scattered throughout. Then there's "The Secrets of Story." It is the best book on writing I have ever read. Here's a confession. I read this book a number of years ago, when I was an early-stage writer. I got a few things out of it, but much of it whizzed right by me without leaving a mark. Skip ahead four years and a dozen novels later, and when I picked it back up again, I was stunned. Matt Bird uses real-life examples to make his points, which, this time around, allowed me to hold my own work up to the same light. If you are considering becoming a writer, there are better books to get you started. Maybe "Bird by Bird" by Ann Lamott or "On Writing" by Stephen King. If you are already a writer, with some grasp of the basic concepts of motivation, conflict, structure, etc., then I think this is the best book you could buy. I like it enough that I have bought it in both audio and paperback.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meagan

    A super applicable, nuts-and-bolts sort of writing craft book. It even comes with a checklist. It's definitely more on the "craft" than "art" side, but in my opinion, there's room for both. The author is primarily a writer for film and television, and that shows a lot in his examples although he does (successfully) point out how his ideas apply to other kinds of writing too. Many of his points are not common-sense things you could figure out on your own but more like interesting tricks of the tr A super applicable, nuts-and-bolts sort of writing craft book. It even comes with a checklist. It's definitely more on the "craft" than "art" side, but in my opinion, there's room for both. The author is primarily a writer for film and television, and that shows a lot in his examples although he does (successfully) point out how his ideas apply to other kinds of writing too. Many of his points are not common-sense things you could figure out on your own but more like interesting tricks of the trade that are kind of the opposite of common sense. A worthwhile read for any serious fiction writer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Camille Dent

    *4.5* I listened to this on audiobook during my work commute, and it was captivating! I looked forward to turning it on each morning and evening in the car, and I learned something from it every day. I even replayed some chapters and learned something new the second time too! It is technically "intended" for screenwriting, but the concepts are applicable to all writing, especially in an era where all fiction is heavily influenced by film! I loved his approach of evaluating story through a very hu *4.5* I listened to this on audiobook during my work commute, and it was captivating! I looked forward to turning it on each morning and evening in the car, and I learned something from it every day. I even replayed some chapters and learned something new the second time too! It is technically "intended" for screenwriting, but the concepts are applicable to all writing, especially in an era where all fiction is heavily influenced by film! I loved his approach of evaluating story through a very human and character-driven perspective and letting that build your story's structure rather than the other way around, and I'll definitely be returning to this resource as I continue to write.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Syd Markle

    I guess you could say I’m a wannabe. But I’m tired of just wanting to be something and ready to take action. I was a few weeks into a shiny new creative writing habit when I started to wonder why my writing was so flat. I was struggling to muster any interest in my own ideas. That’s the moment I came across Matt Bird. His book not only gave me a map of the world but a compass to find my way through it. With super clear structure, and examples to illustrate his points, The Secrets of Story, unloc I guess you could say I’m a wannabe. But I’m tired of just wanting to be something and ready to take action. I was a few weeks into a shiny new creative writing habit when I started to wonder why my writing was so flat. I was struggling to muster any interest in my own ideas. That’s the moment I came across Matt Bird. His book not only gave me a map of the world but a compass to find my way through it. With super clear structure, and examples to illustrate his points, The Secrets of Story, unlocked my writing. It’s as if introducing a few containing rules (or secrets) allowed me to be more creative than I could be with no rules at all. Now, when I sit down to write I think it terms of problems I want my heroes to solve and the journey they will take to get there. Their voices are stronger, and my writing is crisper. I’m thinking about the concept, the theme, and the hook of my story. What is the big question my story is answering? And most of all, I no longer dread sitting down to my blank page, because Matt Bird told me the secrets that make writing fun again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Brune

    Recommend this more for the screenwriter than the novelist, but had some interesting thoughts. Definitely jarred some ideas out of my head!

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    Great tips & inspiration

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nefeli

    My only problem with this book is that it has so many information that you need to read it at least thrice , before you learn at least half its secrets !

  17. 5 out of 5

    tappkalina

    Unreasonably long, but has a few nice thoughts.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Young

    Fantastic. Many points I’d not thought of before or points rephrased for a new meaning. And they have a podcast! This is going to go on my — listen again with new writing project— list.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lucia M

    Insightful

  20. 4 out of 5

    Willian Molinari

    I'm migrating all my reviews to my blog. I'm keeping the old version here (because it makes sense to do it) but you can read the latest one on my blog: https://pothix.com/secretsofstory/ A great book on how to write books. 4.5 stars. The book goes through many problems and misconceptions behind writing a fiction book. In the book blog, you can find a big checklist with many questions your book has to answer: http://www.secretsofstory.com/2014/09... There are many examples around each of these topics I'm migrating all my reviews to my blog. I'm keeping the old version here (because it makes sense to do it) but you can read the latest one on my blog: https://pothix.com/secretsofstory/ A great book on how to write books. 4.5 stars. The book goes through many problems and misconceptions behind writing a fiction book. In the book blog, you can find a big checklist with many questions your book has to answer: http://www.secretsofstory.com/2014/09... There are many examples around each of these topics throughout the book. Here are some notes: * When you're telling a story, you are that guy in the airplane that tries to talk to you before you plug your earbuds. Nobody wants to hear you, you have to prove your value. * The reader will choose just one character of your story to be his/her hero * The audience will put their emotions into your "hero" and with that comes a lot of expectation. Don't disappoint your readers. You feel betrayed when you trust someone and he doesn't meet your expectations. * The audience doesn't have to sympathize with your hero, but they have to emphasize. * Make your hero misunderstood to create identification with your readers. * Your story is not about your hero's life it's about your hero's problem. Everything you're describing must be related to the problem, not just the character. So, don't start with the protagonist waking up in the morning. Start with his problem. * People don't like to break expectation, they like to be right on their hypothesis * Break expectation too much makes people to not connect with the characters * Create a backstory for your character but do not use it to show who your character is, you have to build his story throughout the front story * People prefer stories about transformation. Your hero has to transform itself and evolve * You can't say that your hero is doing what he's doing for self-realization, you have to show it. (yes, that old rule: show, don't tell) * When an important conversation will take place put objects in the hands of your character. Cafés are bad places for conversation, you don't have many objects to interact with and it's difficult to show emotions * If an action will affect different things, you have to connect these things to your audience. A nuclear bomb will kill a lot of people, but your audience doesn't know these people, you have to connect them. If one character has a child out there, the audience will connect to it. * Don't force your characters to follow the plot by doing stupid things. Trap your characters into dramatic situations and then let they fight the way out of it. * Remove what is behind the coma: Did your know that? Yes, I'm so sorry. To: Did you know that? I'm so sorry. * Answer the dramatic question at the end of your story. Which is your dramatic question? * A good way to end a story without killing the villain is to make the village turns to a greater evil. (Darth Vader and the Emperor) * If one people complain about something in a review, it may be just a personal opinion. If two people comment on the same thing, it may be a general opinion and you must consider changing it. * Don't just revise, rewrite. It's part of the job. The second and third drafts must be an almost complete rewrite of the first one, and then you can start tweaking it * Be ok with teleportation. Your character doesn't need to follow the space-time rules, just the concept. Move them easily through places, just let the reader know what is happening That's it. I recommend you to look to the checklist, if you know how to answer most of those questions the book may not be good for you. But if you don't know how to answer them, I highly recommend you to read the books to see the examples the author mention for each of those topics.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michele Cacano

    I will be referring to this for ages. Very useful information and ideas. A lot to digest, but so much really changed the way I look at story building.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Calvin D.

    I have been writing short stories and unpublished novels for ten years and I have read and purchased dozens of writing books. Some sit on the shelf next to my desk for easy reference. Many more sit in the basement or were sold. Only a few are so extraordinary, I recommend it to every writer I know or buy copies to give away as gifts. This is one of those books. My copy is tabbed and highlighted and dog-eared after only a month. I have both the Kindle version and Audible version so I will never be I have been writing short stories and unpublished novels for ten years and I have read and purchased dozens of writing books. Some sit on the shelf next to my desk for easy reference. Many more sit in the basement or were sold. Only a few are so extraordinary, I recommend it to every writer I know or buy copies to give away as gifts. This is one of those books. My copy is tabbed and highlighted and dog-eared after only a month. I have both the Kindle version and Audible version so I will never be without a copy to read or listen to. At this point, I have read or heard this book six times (and the book was only published two months ago as of this review). This book transformed my writing and my understanding of the process. It is trite to say that my mind was blown. And it all started with the Thirteen Essential Laws. With each chapter, Matt Bird goes through a thorough checklist of writing tips that cover the usual subjects: Character, Plot, Scenes, Dialogue, Tone, and Theme. What makes his treatment different than every other writing book out there is that he discusses each of these subjects in terms of audience identification - will your audience embrace or reject what you’ve put on the page and why. He deftly breaks down common misconceptions of writing and turns many of them on their heads using examples from movies, television and literature. Alas, this book is not for everybody. If I were a beginning writer, I would not start here. Sure, there is a lot a beginner can glean from it, but many of the tools Matt Bird generously dishes out, in my opinion, can only be completely understood by someone who has spent some time in the writing salt mines. I’d still recommend this book even to an emerging writer, just don’t expect to get the full impact of the gems this book offers for a while. It is a treasure you will return to again and again, and it is one you will continue to discover nuggets in long after it is purchased. Highly, highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve Alcorn

    Simply put, this is the best book I have ever encountered about writing--and I have been teaching fiction writing for nearly twenty years. I have to admit, it is even better than my own book, How to Fix Your Novel! Reading this book was in many ways like listening to my own lectures about story structure, but Matt Bird has injected some original ideas of his own, and has filled this book with hundreds of very specific examples, taken mostly from modern movies and television series. These examples Simply put, this is the best book I have ever encountered about writing--and I have been teaching fiction writing for nearly twenty years. I have to admit, it is even better than my own book, How to Fix Your Novel! Reading this book was in many ways like listening to my own lectures about story structure, but Matt Bird has injected some original ideas of his own, and has filled this book with hundreds of very specific examples, taken mostly from modern movies and television series. These examples really bring a rare clarity and specificity to his points. The audiobook version is brilliantly read by Michael Summerer, who brings so much feeling to it that it reads like a great novel. This is one book about writing that I will reread time and again, for its wonderful insights and very specific structuring advice.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This book is a comprehensive examination of what writers need to know to tell a good story. It reminds me of those survey classes in college where we tried to cover a wide range of topics in a single term. As a result, it's hard to know who the best reader is for this book. On the one hand, if you're just learning to write a good story, you'll find a ton of useful info and advice here. But, depending on where you are in your journey, it might or might not have enough detail to get you where you w This book is a comprehensive examination of what writers need to know to tell a good story. It reminds me of those survey classes in college where we tried to cover a wide range of topics in a single term. As a result, it's hard to know who the best reader is for this book. On the one hand, if you're just learning to write a good story, you'll find a ton of useful info and advice here. But, depending on where you are in your journey, it might or might not have enough detail to get you where you want to be. On the other hand, if you're already experienced and have read a lot if craft books, you'll likely find some good tips and refreshes, but you might not find anything new that will take you to the next level. My favorite section is at the end, where the author deals with writing. I wish every new writer would read that part. If you've been around a while, you've no doubt worked with writers (or maybe you are that writer) who believe that a typical messy first draft can be fixed with small tweaks. Maybe you've even helped writers by commenting on one draft, then looking again at their "heavily revised" later draft where all of the same problems are still there. I'm sure there are agents out there who would love to send this section to every writer who believes their NaNo book is ready to query in January after being revised in December. It took me much longer than it should have to read this book. It seemed much heavier than its 340 pages. I kept getting kind of bored. Maybe I've read too many craft books of this type. Maybe it's because the author is a screenwriter and nearly every example is taken from movies, most of which I haven't seen. It's not the author's fault I don't see many movies, but it's not what I expected. Still, although I don't love this book, I'm giving it four stars. The information is good, the tips are good, and the author gets extra credit for putting supplementary info online. Most writers, regardless of experience, will find something useful here. I like the author's approach of asking a series of questions about the elements of our stories. That the book never quite grabbed me like I'd hoped it would isn't the fault of the author or the info he presents. If you're looking for a comprehensive examination of what makes a story work, this book might be exactly what you want. If you're looking for a detailed examination of specific story elements, you might be better served by a more focused book. Kind of like the difference between a survey class and a detailed class focused on a specific subject.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Matt Bird has an MFA from Columbia and has been working as a screenplay writer since then. In this book he tries to capsulize what he learned after Columbia as well as some of the things from Columbia he had to reject once he began his career. This book is filled with interesting advice using real world examples, both from Bird's own experiences along with some notable and expensive Hollywood failures from a variety of writers. The focus of the book rarely crosses out of film into novels and stor Matt Bird has an MFA from Columbia and has been working as a screenplay writer since then. In this book he tries to capsulize what he learned after Columbia as well as some of the things from Columbia he had to reject once he began his career. This book is filled with interesting advice using real world examples, both from Bird's own experiences along with some notable and expensive Hollywood failures from a variety of writers. The focus of the book rarely crosses out of film into novels and stories, but there's a lot to be said for using the condensed limits of a film script as a guide for working in longer and non-visual forms. Bird presents ideas on getting attention at the start, setting mood, creating realistic dialogue, taking feedback or notes from other writers (or directors/producers if that's your focus), rewriting, building tension, and, most importantly for Bird, creating characters the reader/viewer will care about and why that's different from having a character who's likeable. With his focus on film he uses examples from film, most of them familiar, as examples for his ideas. If you are a fan of film this makes the book easy to relate to, there were hardly any movies used with which I wasn't familiar. If you're not a great moviegoer you might have more trouble seeing things as Bird does. I can see this book as being a worthwhile guide and inspiration for someone just starting as a writer. I can also see it helping a writer lost in the deep woods with a story, novel, or screenplay to help them sort out why something didn't click or why a piece isn't selling. There are plenty of new angles provided for looking at a work, even a 120 item checklist at the end, to review characters, plot, pacing, dialogue, story arc, and writing a satisfying ending. As of this writing the book is #25 at Amazon in the Kindle writing skills category and in the top 100 for printed books in that category. As a reader and only sometimes writer I can only hope that this means better writing is on the way from those reading the book. I doubt it, but I can remain hopeful. My feeling is that most writers improve by reading more and better writing from others, but even then a book like this can add a lot of clarity on what makes some writing better than others.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Isaac Butterworth

    All the Secrets Revealed “The Secrets of Story” by Matt Bird reveals to the reader-who-would-be-writer the secrets of telling a story that others will want to read. It is no easy task, but it is worth the effort. “Writing doesn’t spring from your genius, fully formed,” Bird says—“you cobble it into shape with a lot of sweat and elbow grease.” And his book shows you how. It is in many ways a “ work order” for writers. And the first task is to make sure you’re writing for your readers. They must al All the Secrets Revealed “The Secrets of Story” by Matt Bird reveals to the reader-who-would-be-writer the secrets of telling a story that others will want to read. It is no easy task, but it is worth the effort. “Writing doesn’t spring from your genius, fully formed,” Bird says—“you cobble it into shape with a lot of sweat and elbow grease.” And his book shows you how. It is in many ways a “ work order” for writers. And the first task is to make sure you’re writing for your readers. They must always be uppermost in your mind. Bird spends a good third of the book driving home this point and showing you why it’s important. The next third of the book lays out the skills that are necessary to write well. “Great writing,” Bird says, “requires an almost ludicrous range of skills. And no matter how good you are at some of them, nobody is naturally good at all of them.” He covers seven skill sets, devoting a chapter to each of them: concept, character, structure, scene work, dialogue, tone, and theme. The last third of the book sets out the necessary work of rewriting. Bird stresses the importance of a thorough rewrite (NOT simply a revision). At the end of the book, Bird gives you what he calls “The Ultimate Story Checklist,” which consists of no less than 122 questions to ask yourself concerning what you have written. Bird makes it clear that his book will do no one any good if they see it as simply a “bunch of rules” they have to follow. It’s only when the practices he suggests are internalized that they will be of value. In his conclusion (“Tell Great Stories or Die”) Bird makes a strong case for the importance of a well-told story. He claims that a compelling story could save your life. It did his! You will want to read the book to find out how. “The Secrets of Story” is as close as you can come to a complete class in writing without actually attending a series of seminars. If you are interested in writing memorable, life-changing stories, this book is going to be a good investment for you. Bird also has a website with a number of resources worth checking out, including an analysis of a number of movies and TV pilots. The URL is SecretsofStory.com.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Greymalkin

    I don't like marking this read when I didn't finish it but there's no "bailed 75% of the way through it" button. I really loved the start of this. It had a great, dynamic, engaging voice and said many things that resonated. But then... it just went downhill from there. It's like this book was a screenwriter's instruction book that was re-branded to sell it to all writers. The fit was a disservice to both goals. The best passages were the ones that pretty much talked about blocking scenes and cam I don't like marking this read when I didn't finish it but there's no "bailed 75% of the way through it" button. I really loved the start of this. It had a great, dynamic, engaging voice and said many things that resonated. But then... it just went downhill from there. It's like this book was a screenwriter's instruction book that was re-branded to sell it to all writers. The fit was a disservice to both goals. The best passages were the ones that pretty much talked about blocking scenes and camera focus and screen writing stuff. And then the author appeared to remember that they were supposed to talk about writers in general and there would be some very awkward and unconvincing bridging paragraphs. I think he had a lot of valid points but they became drowned in chapters of undifferentiated "do these 10 things and not these 10 other things" rules. For someone with a screenwriting background, this book had a very weak through-line without much impetus to push from chapter to chapter. I'm also not sure how well some of his tips would really work. His notes about paring down dialog were great if you are going to have the visuals of the faces and hearing the tone, but how well does that work in writing? It's not so useful to write spare lean dialog that must then be drowned by paragraphs of descriptive text of every microexpression and twitch of a finger for the character to give context for their single "Yep". But I could get over that because there was still advice worth thinking about. But I had to stop reading the book because of the other huge problem. The spoilers. SO MANY SPOILERS. I've probably had over a dozen movies and tv shows spoiled for me and that number is only so low because I'm a huge movie/tv junkie so I already knew several of the scenes he mentioned. It would be one thing if he just mentioned a few scenes here and there, but the book is packed cheek-to-jowl with them. I understand that the examples are useful but I wish he'd at least done some attempts at anonymizing the scenes so that I could just appreciate the set up without being spoiled.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Absolutely brilliant and a boon to aspiring writers. With a structured list of direct and specific rules, beliefs, and guidelines about story craft, I'll be returning to this time and again if I see myself straying off-course in my own work. This book covers character construction, story beginnings, middles, and ends, and the elements of fiction that your work needs to possess if you want it to resonate with strangers. Moreover, it uses contemporary and classic examples from film, television, an Absolutely brilliant and a boon to aspiring writers. With a structured list of direct and specific rules, beliefs, and guidelines about story craft, I'll be returning to this time and again if I see myself straying off-course in my own work. This book covers character construction, story beginnings, middles, and ends, and the elements of fiction that your work needs to possess if you want it to resonate with strangers. Moreover, it uses contemporary and classic examples from film, television, and books to support its arguments. It's genius and trustworthy, as you can tell that Bird has been through the ringer enough times to feel confident about the imperatives he gives in this book. Whether you're a screen writer, novelist, short story writer, speech writer, or any other type of writer, this book is indispensable and is worthy of being one of the top resources you have on your bookshelf. I'll definitely be checking out www.secretsofstory.com to continue this journey while keeping the audiobook a regular go-to when I need to remind myself that hero's need to be resourceful and active, that people DON'T want dialogue that mirrors reality, or any of the other useful rules given. Not just recommended but totally essential.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kassidy

    4.5 stars, actually. This was a super helpful book for improving my writing! I've rewritten the same book 4 times in the past 3 years and have never felt like I've gotten it right. I've watched all the writing tip youtube videos and read article after article and until this book I couldn't pinpoint exactly where I was going wrong. This book helped me create a strong outline that I could stick to. My one complaint is more of a nitpick. The author uses examples from movies, books, and shows to illus 4.5 stars, actually. This was a super helpful book for improving my writing! I've rewritten the same book 4 times in the past 3 years and have never felt like I've gotten it right. I've watched all the writing tip youtube videos and read article after article and until this book I couldn't pinpoint exactly where I was going wrong. This book helped me create a strong outline that I could stick to. My one complaint is more of a nitpick. The author uses examples from movies, books, and shows to illustrate his points, but most of the media referenced is pretty obscure. It did give me a great list of stuff I should watch/read but I'd bet most readers won't be familiar with these properties and would benefit from more well-known examples. Not saying to only reference blockbusters, but spicing it up with more media examples from a variety of popularity levels would be great.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Hlavaty (readingwithkelsey)

    This was one of the best books on writing that I have read so far. I think what really pulled me in is how ~relatable~ Bird's examples and advice were. Most of the writing nonfiction I have read in the past read very obtuse and have no real correlation or examples for writers of today. Most of the examples used in this book were from movies/tv shows/general pop culture references that I have either seen or heard of, so understanding and following along to Bird's advice was easy. I also really en This was one of the best books on writing that I have read so far. I think what really pulled me in is how ~relatable~ Bird's examples and advice were. Most of the writing nonfiction I have read in the past read very obtuse and have no real correlation or examples for writers of today. Most of the examples used in this book were from movies/tv shows/general pop culture references that I have either seen or heard of, so understanding and following along to Bird's advice was easy. I also really enjoyed his writing style; it was not sluggish or boring. It felt vibrant and as though Bird was excited to inform me on the ways of writing. It was packed with information, but I never felt like any of it was useless. If you've read other books on writing before and felt as though they were missing something, I would highly recommend this one.

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