Wonderbook: the illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction

Have you ever searched for something in a bookstore that wasn’t there, then stumbled across something amazing? That’s how I found Jeff VanderMeer’s “one of a kind” writing manual. What makes this one stand out above all the rest? It has exquisite, engaging, educational illustrations by Jeremy Zerfoss.

While the book is sure to delight any writer, I suspect those who find learning easier because of the “intelligence” Howard Gardner calls visual/spacial ability in his theory of multiple intelligences will rejoice. But though it is highly illustrated, don’t expect the highly illustrated Wonderbook to be as fast a read as a child’s book. The book is as packed with information as it is with illustrations. And it doesn’t matter, at least not to me, that VanderMeer uses fiction examples. The book gives solid insight into the creative – VenderMeer calls it imaginative fiction – and story. Both weigh heavily in life narrative, I realized a couple of weeks later when I heard VanderMeer speak. Unbeknownst to me when I bought the book, Jeff VanderMeer was on the 2014 Arkansas Literary Festival schedule.

As VenderMeer spoke I viewed the magnificent illustrations from the book, and a few others used with permission like those associated with a fight scene from the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I realized much of the content is applicable to my stories, stories from real life. While memorists, true-tale-tellers, and writers of creative nonfiction can’t alter facts, there are things we can change without losing credibility. We can alter the order in which events occur. We can choose where to cut away (page 163) which combined with “Intercutting scenes” (page164-5) can help life writers explore options we might not have considered.

Is a trip to a writer’s conference not in your 2014 budget? For $25 or less you can create a home writer’s event through Wonderbook and join me this summer in learning to draw (with words) the world of our lives better. And, yes, if it will help you feel more like you’re in the location of one of those writing events, spring for the cost of a new local dish or order a drink with an umbrella in it!

Ha! : the science of when we laugh and why?

The brick and mortar bookstore will always be a necessity for one simple reason – the golden opportunity of stumbling on what might be a gem while looking for something else. Recently I visited my local Barnes and Noble bookstore where I was greeted by a table of books announcing an author signing. How could I resist Ha! : the science of when we laugh and why? I bought a copy, read most of it, and returned for the signing event on Saturday.

While I didn’t get the sense from reading the book or talking to the author that this is by any means a “how to be funnier” book – Weems says his comedy experience is purely observational – the book does explain why some things are funnier than others. Can some of the things Weems’ mentions be incorporated into personal comedy? What good is it to me as one seeking to be funnier if it can’t be? At least I’ll give it a try!

How to Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps)

If you know artist and writer Jessica Hagy, it is probably through her online blog cartoon, Indexed. Hagy bills herself as “visual storytelling with a twist, a shout & sometimes a snort.” I stumbled across Hagy unexpectedly at my local Barnes & Noble (surprise, surprise). Step 7 seems just the thing for the person seeking to live a new story. “Give it a shot” Hagy suggests recommending the “new idea,” “the strange,” and leaving “your comfort zone.” But that’s just one solid suggestion in learning, as the back cover says, “how to live at the intersection of wonder, awe, and curiosity.”

Not sold yet? Experience the book in a nutshell and you’ll want to join me!

A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling: How to Captivate and Engage Audiences Across Multiple Platforms

In an 2008 Narrative Media online class, my professor assigned the class to individually create a synopsis for an Internet video game. The game was to be based on a synopsis for a movie script about a true World War I story. It was my first hands-on step into the trendy world of transmedia.

Transmedia, the technique of telling a story across multiple platforms/media, has been a buzzword for a while now. Seen primarily in association with commercial fiction, transmedia means stand-alone projects that are connected. While the projects are complete in and of themselves, when they are experienced together the sum will always be greater than the individual parts.

Transmedia was brought to wider attention by Dr. Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture. As a life narrator considering applying transmedia to a particular story from my life, I turned to Andrea Phillips book and found three beginning criteria: “multiple media, a single unified story or experience, and avoidance of redundancy between media.”

Life story often begins like instant coffee; a one-word prompt is tossed into your brain and boils into a story from your life on the spot. To be transmedia, this story would have to be accompanied by at least one other stand-alone element that could be consumed alone. If we continue with our coffee illuatration that might be millk. Both coffee and milk are complete alone. But they can be a richer experience when consumed together.

Transmedia isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you are considering transmedia, Phillips’ book is worth the investment.