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The Little, Brown Compact Handbook, 3rd Edition

Jane Aaron, Longman Press 1998.

The Little, Brown Compact Handbook is exactly what it says it is: a comprehensive handbook of writing, grammar, style, conventions and citation guidelines from the MLA, APA and the Chicago Manual of Style.

It is a useful reference for any author with special interests to grad students who have to write dissertations or research papers.

This book is divided into 8 major sections:

I. The Writing Process

II. Clarity and Style

III. Sentence Parts and Patterns

IV. Punctuation

V. Conventions of Form and Appearance

VI. Research & Documentation

VII.Special Types of Writing

Glossary of Usage and Index

The only problem that I have with this book is its price: $50 at Amazon or more at you local store. I got my copy at a second hand book store but my copy is the older 3rd edition.


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The Oxford Essential Writer's Reference

Berkley Press, 2005.

This is an excellent writer's reference that is current and more relevant to the task of creative writing than the Little, Brown Handbook. Its focus is more on langauge usage form.

The text is divided into 19 sections:

I. Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling and Usagr Guides

II. A List of the Most commonly Used Foreign Words and Phrases

III. 100 Tricky Usage Problems

IV. 100 Rare 50 Cent Words and their Meaning

V. 125 Synonym Studies

VI. Proofreaders Marks and their Meaning

VII. Common Citation Styles

VIII. A List of Cliches to Avoid

IX. A List of Common Rhetorical Devices, Poetic Meters, and Form

X. A Quick Guide to all the plays of Shakespeare

XI. A Timeline of Great Work of English Literature

XII. Biblical Quotes, Characters and Books of the Bible

XIII. Major Mythological Characters

XIV. A List of Great Print Resources that can be Found at Most Libraries

XV. A List of Writer's Advocacy Orginazations

XVI. How to Copyright Your Work

XVII. A Commonsense Guide to Manuscript Formats

XVIII. great Websites for Writers

XIX. Forms of Address for Letter Writing

This paperback retails for 6.99.


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I'll second the Little Brown Handbook. I've got the 5th edition. Currently the only reference book with a seat of honor next to my PC, and the only required text that I didn't sell back to the school. I pull this sucker out for every paper I write, and it hasn't failed me yet.

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Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress

Writer's Digest Books, 1998.

100 years ago, Henry James stated that Character is plot. Well, this is hard to dispute. Indeed some characters have become household words.

How do you write characters that are appealing, capture the imagination or that readers just simply like? Nancy Kress attempts to anwer this question with her book and does a reasonably good job of it.

She divides her book into three major divisions and addresses the details of characterization.

A. Creating Strong and Believable Characters: the Externals

1. Choosing Descriptive Details

2. What's In a Name?

3. The Role of Setting in Character Creation

4. Using the World of Work to Enhance Characterization

5. Characterization Through Dialogue

6. Making Dialogue Read naturally

7. Pruning Character Descriptions to a Managable Number

8. Basing Characters on Real People

B. Creating Believable Characters: the Internals

9. Using personal thought to characterize

10. Making Clear What, When and How your character is thinking

11. How to avoid letting your assumptions torpedo characterization

12. How to use dreams and newscasts to enhance characterization

13. How to make your villians as readable os your heroes

14. How to create an unsympathetic protagonist without driving your readers away

15. A system for filing in your character details

C. Character and Plot

16. How to start anywhere and arrive at plot

17. When conflict leads to violence

18. How point of view begins with character and leads to plot

19. Secondary characters and plot construction

20. How to make characters change

21. An example of how character, change and plot intertwine

22. Basing plots on real events

23. Using old plots in new ways

24. The connections between characters: plot and theme

25. Characters and the writer

Is this book useful? Yes. It got me thinking about how I was doing things and how I was already doing some of the things she was discussing. Some of the concepts are intutive and if you are decent writer, you are already doing them. Kress shows you what you are doing and adds a trick or two to your toolbox.


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  • 4 weeks later...

45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters

by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

I'm not sure that I buy Ms. Schmidt's theory of archetypes. It sounds a lot more like standard character stereotypes 101. Is this book useful? Maybe, however I don't give it high marks.

Good characters don't really fill any one of MS. Schmidt's 45 something profiles. They are a composite of several. If this book is useful for anything, it makes you think about the complexities of various personalities.

I did NOT buy MS. Schmidt's Theories about "the feminine and masculine journey's". I would call them the formulas for mediocrity.

I. Getting Started

1. What are Archetypes and Why should Writers use Them?

2. How to Use the Archetypes

II. Creating Female heroes and Villains

3. Aphrodite: the Seductive Muse and the Femme Fatale

4. Artemis: the Amazon and the Gorgon

5. Athena: the Father's Daughter and the Backstabber

6. Demeter: the Nurturer and the Over-controlling Mother

7. Hera: The Matriarch and the Scorned Woman

8. Hestia: the Mystic and the Betrayer

9. Isis: The Female Messiah and the Destroyer

10. Persephone: The Maiden and the Troubled Teen

III.Creating Male Hero's and Villains

11. Apollo: the Businessman and the Traitor

12. Ares: the Protector and the Gladiator

13. Hades: the Recluse and the Warlock

14. Hermes: the Fool and the Derelict

15. Dionysus: the Women's man and the Seducer

16. Osiris: the Male Messiah and the Punisher

17. Poseidon: the Artist and the Abuser

18. Zeus: the King and the Dictator

IV. Creating Supporting Characters

19. Introduction to Supporting Characters

20. Friends

21. Rivals

22. Symbols

V. The Feminine and Masculine Journey

23. Introduction to the Archetypal Journey

24. Plotting the Feminine Journey

25. Plotting the Masculine Journey

My Rating: ** 1/2

:geek: :lol:

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Story Structure Architect

Victoria Lynn Schmidt

Within these pages you will find 5 dramatic thought-lines, 6 conflict types, 21 genres, 11 master plot structures, 55 master dramatic situations, and several research guidelines.

-from p. 4

What is it with Ms. Schmidt? Like a Teutonic master librarian cataloger, she is hell bound to organize, categorize, bend, fold, staple and mutilate the entirety of dramatic fiction.

How useful is this book? Frankly, as useful as you want to make it. There is good stuff in this book. It is not going to blueprint your plot for you but it does give you tools to build your own.

One thing that I resist is the formula. Sure- there are formulas that work. Clancy has one. So does Spielberg and they are fantastically successful. However, if you read enough of these books by formula, you can see the x, y and z of it all. Thankfully, while this book could be used to construct a literary formula, it is more useful as a reference.

Part 1: Drafting a Plan

How to Use This Book

The 5 Dramatic Thoughtlines

The 6 Conflicts

The 21 Genres

Part 2: Building the Structure

How to use the 11 Master Structures

The Roller Coaster

The Replay


The Parallel

The Episodic

The Melodrama


The Journey



The Slice of Life

Part 3: Adding Stories

Introducing the 55 Dramatic Situations

Supplication & Benefaction

Deliverance & Sojourn

Vengeance for a crime & Rehabilitation

Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred and Appearance of a new kinsman

Flight & Pursuit

Di aster & Miracle

Falling Prey to cruelty & Becoming Fortunate

Revolt & Support

Daring Enterprise & the Healing Journey

Abduction & Reunion

Enigma & Invention

Obtaining & Letting go

Enmity of kinsmen & Hero of kinsmen

Competition and Concession

Adultery & Fidelity

Madness & Genius

Imprudence & Caution

Crimes of love and Sacrifice for Love

Slaying of a Loved One & Conviction

Self-sacrifice & Self-preservation

Discovery of dishonor & discovery of honor

Obstacles to Love & Unconditional Love

Conflict with a God & Supernatural Occurrence

Mistaken Judgment & Intuitive Judgment

Remorse & Empathy

Loss of a loved one & Rescue of a loved one

Odd Couple & Fish out of Water

Part 4: Research

My Rating: ***

:geek: :lol:

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  • 2 months later...

The Craft of Research 2nd edition

Booth, Colomb & Williams

Univ of Chicago, 2003.

Students are often asked to write a research paper in senior English. That exercise is usually not very enlightening. Form is emphasized, footnotes, the right number of reference cards, footnotes and other rubbish. The Form is taught but the point is missed.

How is research really done? How do you pose a research question? How do you design a research project? How do you decide is a topic is worth your time and effort? Is your research pure or applied? How has the advent of the Internet affected research, is that contribution positive or does it just muddy the waters? What is a reliable source? What do you do when reliable sources contradict each other?

Any student or professional researcher can benefit from the content of this book. Of course form is important but this book focuses on something the others miss: the function of research.

If you are looking for a manual of form and style, this ain't it. If you want to learn how to do research that is more than gather data in a large pile, then this is the book for you.

Table of Contents:

Part I Research, researchers and Readers

Chap. 1. Thinking in print: The uses of research, public and private

Chap. 2. Connecting with your Reader

Part II Asking Questions, Finding Answers

Chap. 3 From topics to questions

Chap. 4 From questions to problems

Chap. 5 From problems to sources

Chap. 6 Using Sources

Part III Making a claim and supporting it

Chap. 7 making good arguments

Chap. 8 Claims

Chap. 9 Reasons and Evidence

Chap. 10 Acknowledgments and responses

Chap. 11 Warrants

Part IV Preparing to draft, drafting and revising

Chap. 12 Planning and drafting

Chap. 13 Revising your organization and argument

Chap. 14 Introductions and conclusions

Chap. 15 Communicating evidence visually

Chap. 16 Revising style: telling your story clearly

Part V Some Last Considerations

Link to Amazon

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  • 4 months later...
  • 5 months later...

I'd like to add a couple of reference books that I've read and found useful.

First, I keep three standard books at hand when I'm writing:

Roget's Thesaurus

Websters Collegiate Dictionary

Macmillans Dictionary of Quotations

I need, badly, to add a copy of the OED as well. It just never rises to the top of my budgeting priorities.

Since most of what I write is Fantasy or Sci Fi, I'd like to include the following. They were short, informative, useful, and entertaining. One of them had me laughing out loud on a flight to New York...

How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card (yes, that one)

Characters and Viewpoint, also by the hugo and nebula award winner, Orson Scott Card

Finally, a friend recommended:

The Writer's Journey (2nd edition) by Christopher Vogler. This one references movies and their characters to make its points, and is more intended for people writing screenplays, but is an interesting read.


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I need, badly, to add a copy of the OED as well. It just never rises to the top of my budgeting priorities.

Amazon $204. Deluxe edition w/free shipping. http://www.amazon.com/Compact-Oxford-Engli...TF8&s=books

Used copies of the first edition on ebay around $50 :)

How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card (yes, that one)

An awesome book. I second it.

Also, my perennial favourite, "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" by Lynne Truss.

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A book that has helped me in more ways than one, is Jerry Cleaver's Immediate Fiction. Jerry Cleaver is

the creator of the quite legendary Writer's Loft in Chicago and has been both a successful writer and teacher for over thirty years.

This book covers story craft, the creative process, self-editing techniques, self coaching, how to manage your time, and helps with getting published. Great book

Jason R.

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I need, badly, to add a copy of the OED as well. It just never rises to the top of my budgeting priorities.

I have the two-volume edition from the 1980s, which came complete in a slipcase with a big magnifying glass, which you have to use in order to read the "2-point" (or whatever it is) type. Boy, what a pain in the ass that is. Isn't the OED out as a CD-ROM somewhere? If they did that, it shouldn't cost more than $50, tops.

Characters and Viewpoint, also by the hugo and nebula award winner, Orson Scott Card

One of my favorite books on writing, ever. I cited it several years ago in my Gay Writing Tips piece. I love Orson's book so much, I've read it two or three times.

I can't say enough good things about Noah Lukeman's book The First Five Pages, which has been used as a writing textbook in many college classes. It's fast-paced and easy to read, and I think Lukeman's list of what not to do is very helpful, particularly to neophytes.

At the same time, I think you can make a good list of bestsellers that ignored some of Lukeman's rules, yet were still successful. But I still think his ideas work very well, at least as general rules.

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I have the two-volume edition from the 1980s, which came complete in a slipcase with a big magnifying glass, which you have to use in order to read the "2-point" (or whatever it is) type. Boy, what a pain in the ass that is. Isn't the OED out as a CD-ROM somewhere? If they did that, it shouldn't cost more than $50, tops.

The CD is US$1000. Which is why I owned the edition you had until I got the 2nd edition and gave my 1st edition to my friend (he was a writer too).

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