3 Dynamic Tools for Writers — By Zsuzsi Balazs
ZSUZSI’S TOP 3 RECOMMENDATIONS
ONE: THE ANATOMY OF STORY BY JOHN TRUBY
This book came out in October 2008 and has changed many writers’ approach to the craft. Including mine.
Technically, he doesn’t talk about anything new– there are still Characters, Plot, and Theme to think about when it comes to telling your story, but what’s truly revolutionary about his “system” is that its not a system at all. The reason why this is not a paint-by-number system is that even though you go through “steps”, (there are 7 which then expanded to 22 later) the order and even the inclusion of any of the steps are truly up to you, the writer. Truby took the example of how humans approach solving problems – that’s the 7 Steps – and then added more to create a story developing system that is deeper, more natural than any others currently available.
Truby has a great style and it resonated deeply. I never felt overwhelmed (due to restrictions) or underwhelmed (due to lack of real craft).
His system is not only great for developing an idea from scratch – or even generating new ideas – but extremely helpful when finding gaps during the revision process (that in itself can feel like a dark and endless labyrinth at times). This is a great addition to any writers’ bookshelf.
It’s currently $5.99 on kindle – not a bad price!
(No, I am not getting paid for advertising his book… I wish…)
TWO: BLOCKBUSTER 6:
What is it?
This is Truby’s software based on his system – the 22 Steps. It’s a perfect match, and also a fast way to get familiar and gain a better understanding of the 22 Steps.
How does it work?
This software has folders on the left like Premise, Character, 22 Steps, Genres, etc. that allows you to work on the left window as you:
- Develop your story from the idea (this is where Brainstorm, Wish List, Premise List, and Common Elements come in handy),
- Or use it to find weak points for revision and correct it (Character, Plot/Genre, Scene list, and the others, are extremely helpful).
It is basically a ‘blueprint’ tailored specifically to your story (as you fill out the fields). Once you fill them out, these fields automatically show up where you need them the most, making tracking your characters’ goal, plan, etc. a breeze.
The other wonderful aspect of this treasure trove of software is the built in HELP. It comes in the form of Story Doctor, Story Coach, and Show Me on the top menu bar.
With just a click you receive a complete text form (broken up into parts to the matching areas) of Truby’s 22 Step Great Screenwriting Class; 6 major help areas to further explain the craft; where writers most likely make mistakes, and how to fix them; 8 story shapes explained for building plot; 103 Greatest Characters in fiction and hundreds of examples that automatically populate as examples.
(Just to name a few movies that are in the program: Godfather, Star Wars, Batman Begins, ET, Jaws, Pretty Woman, Big, Tootsie, Ghost Busters, Vertigo, LA Confidential, Terminator, Crocodile Dundee, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, 30 Rock, ER, Little Miss Sunshine, Die Hard, etc. – and they are grouped by Genre!) This program is the equivalent of having John Truby by your side, script doctoring your work!
This won’t replace your existing writing program, but creating notes/outlines/plans – or whatever you want to call the pre-writing stuff – will not only be “easy” with all the inspirations and built-in help, but organizing them (and keeping them in one place) will be much more comprehensive. I’ll go as far as saying that this might just potentially replace the index-card system due to its organic and natural line-up.
The Genres come separately as add-ons, (Currently $49 each, or there are 3-6-14 bundles at a discounted price). Once you buy the genres – they have all the help in text form built-in that you would receive from the genre classes, making them highly worth the price. (I recommend you buy at least 3 genres, as the program compares 3 to get the best out of all the genre beats and special elements that can create a very deep story no matter if you write a screenplay, a novel or even nonfiction like a memoir)
There is so much more! You truly have to see it for yourself!
Currently there is a discount: $149 (originally $249) for the program (PC or MAC version) until the beginning of January. There is more information on the website about the various aspects of the software to check out.
THREE: ONE STOP FOR WRITERS
What it is?
“One Stop For Writers is a powerhouse online library like no other, supplying writers inspiration, education and unique description resources.”
How does it work?
It is a free website, but you do have to register to get access to the interface.
Information desk offers you an explanation for how all the elements work on the website. It is a great place to start.
The Thesaurus grouped into 11 specific topics ranging from emotions to body parts to colors – just to name a few. Check out Color and Pattern Thesaurus.
Selecting any of the subgroups in the Color and Pattern Thesaurus will lead you to more information and a built-in tutorial should you need help.
The Stacks contain three categories. The first one is the Idea generator.
Each of the “shelves” – and there are more than 3 – randomly generates “ideas” in its category.
Not only are they great for inspiration but they are also dangerous (as you may lose hours here.)
The Stacks also contains Templates and Worksheets where you fill out an interactive sheet from categories like Character’s Fear and Emotional Progression just to name two out of the seven categories, which then can be generated into a PDF or Word document that you can download and/or save on the website (save I believe is offered to the paying members, and is applicable to the first three categories only).
The last category in The Stacks Folder is Thesaurus Tutorials.
Membership options run from free that offer samplings to paid members who get full access.
What this website has to offer is a quick reference when the writer just can’t find that elusive word or when there just isn’t enough time to look up synonyms for hair colors so suddenly everyone has black or brown hair (not to mention no hairdo or style other than short…).
This website is great for creating extra notes on character fears, character descriptions (has two different version!) that furthers any writing process!
Highly recommend these 3 for December.