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I’m currently working with a writing book called “Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction” by William Bernhardt.

Bernhardt is the prolific and successful author of the Ben Kincaid series and over a dozen other books, including five on novel writing. He is precise, literate and highly insightful.

What interests me most about Bernhardt, however, is this - he understands how to communicate what he knows about writing!

Bernhardt is the prolific and successful author of the Ben Kincaid series and over a dozen other books, including five on novel writing.  

Bernhardt’s books and workshops teach the students and readers he calls the Red Sneaker Writers how to plot, outline, create conflict, maintain suspense, and develop motivated and memorable characters.  Based on my experience so far, his methods are both illuminating and practical.

“Story Structure” is the first book in Bernhardt’s concise but highly focused five volume writing series and the only one I have read so far (though I do have the next two – in audio and ebook – stored on my computer and phone). 

In the intro to “Story Structure” he says:

“Here in the Red Sneaker universe, we strip away the pretense and abstractions that do more to complicate writing than to illuminate it. In the Red Sneaker School, we provide down-to-earth advice designed to improve the quality of your work.”

This could not be more accurate!  

Leaving out the lengthy cut and paste quotations employed in most writing books, “Story and Structure” clearly explains the elements of fiction in terms of structure, act, scene, inciting incident, and classical storytelling.  When examples are needed, Bernhardt references his own and other works without reproducing them.

This means that the examples provided are helpful without being tedious – or largely unnecessary.  If you’re a serious novelist, you’ll probably already be familiar with many of these books (even if you never quite understood just why they are so incredibly brilliant).  If you’re not familiar, Bernhardt gives just enough info to make the examples work – and offers some great ideas for your ongoing reading list.

Most significantly, however, Bernhardt tell us how to apply the structural elements of fiction he presents to our own work in an understandable and very effective way.

 While “Story Structure” is geared toward helping the writer begin a new writing project, I’m finding it hugely applicable to my own mostly completed manuscript.  This novel (one of several I wrote but never attempted to publish) has great characters, snappy dialogue, an original premise and what I consider to be a reasonable amount potential.  

Several years ago, a fellow (published) author offered me several thousand dollars for a stake in this particular manuscript with the promise that he would see it through to publication.  But I turned the offer down.  Why?  The work contained serious structural flaws and I knew that without fixing them, it would have no real chance at success.

My intuitive awareness of what was wrong with my novel wasn’t enough however.   I needed to know why my protagonist felt so underdeveloped.  I needed to know why so many things seemed to be happening too early on in the story.  I needed to understand why I sensed such a troublesome disconnect between character and story.  And I needed to know how I could fix it. Now, thanks to Bernhardt I feel that I do.

I am currently rewriting the entire manuscript which is not (thanks to cutting and pasting) quite as hard as it sounds but still a bit of project.  When I’m finished, however, I believe that it will have a real shot at publication.

It’s good to finally be writing fantasy fiction again and before I dive into my next New Age Review series (on Debra Katz’s Clairvoyance II psychic development course) I’m going to share a bit about the dream / vision that got me back on track with my creativity.  In the meantime, I’ll be working on my manuscript utilizing “Story Structure” as well as Bernhardt’s other very promising books!

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