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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: Million Dollar Outlines

Note:  Don't forget today's "book bomb" to help support Dave Wolverton's son, Ben, who is in a coma.

Amazon for Million Dollar Outlines
Amazon for Nightingale

Review note: Although Farland reuses some parts of his nonfiction writing in other book where applicable, I believe this is rewritten from Write That Novel!  At least, I recall similarities.  

Farland begins by pointing out who will not be helped by this book:  those who do not want to outline.  One might also add the other part of the title "Million Dollar" which alludes to popular interest.  That is where the book leads next:  What makes something popular?  Farland does broad analysis of fifty movies (and books) to conclude what viewers are looking for.

Farland convincingly pop-hypothesizes, using actual science research, what makes the kind of story that humans can benefit from--a kind of sympathetic damage-and-repair theory (this is probably the essay that concludes his story collection, 22 Tall Tales).  What story-shapes reinforce such benefits?  Packing an emotional punch and expanding your audience help solidify Farland's thoughts on what makes a bestselling story.

Next, Farland moves on to the importance of setting, characters, and plot.  He concludes with tips--jam-packed with juicy ideas for milking the most drama from your narrative--and exercises to increase your productivity.  This is a fascinating analysis of what makes a popular story and often quite a practical how-to writing manual (one item--the emotional Richter scale--was a little vague.  He leaves the research to the reader).  I've read a fair number of how-to writing manuals, and Farland's approach is novel and worth investigating if the title intrigues you--maybe even if it doesn't.

One of the best of its kind--so profound and persuasive, in fact, I'd half-worry that some writers would see this as the only way to dismantle and reassemble stories.  But Farland and his acolytes do prove his methods, time and again.

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