Book Review: Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen S. Wiesner (and Giveaway!)

Saturday, October 21, 2017
There is no shortage of “how-to” books for aspiring authors. I should know. I’ve spent hours in Barnes and Noble scouring the shelves, looking for the one book which will not only inspire, but will also unlock the creativity lurking inside me. The one book to which will help me become a successful author. I’ve read my fair share, and while most provided a tidbit or two, none really lit a fire under my . . . derriere.

Therefore, when I picked up Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen Wiesner, I will admit I was a bit skeptical. After all, I’d been writing several years. I’m an English teacher. Surely she would not have some magic formula to fix my writing problems.

Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.

Let’s start with the basics. Her book focuses on aspects every novel needs: characters, plot, and setting. She breaks her book into chapters accordingly, but takes these three elements one step further. She asks her reader to consider the three-dimensional aspects of each category.

Let’s take characters, for instance. It’s not enough to create their likes and dislikes, their hair and eye color. An author needs to consider the present, past, and future self of their characters. These same elements transfer into the plot and the setting. When you look at your work as a living being – so to speak – you add layers. Just as our lives have a past, a present, and a future, so does the “life” of your book.

The result? With Wiesner’s instruction, you’ll have a multi-dimensional book with three-dimensional characters, a solid narrative structure, and rich settings which keep the reader engaged.

My favorite part of Wiesner’s book – besides the clear explanations and the logic behind using three-dimensionality in writing, are her templates. She models how to use the templates – both with published novels and with her own work – helping her reader understand both their function and the benefits of using them. There are four worksheets in Appendix A (for characters, scenes, back-cover blurbs, and development), along with cohesion checklists, scene-by-scene outlines, and goal worksheets. Later, in Appendix B, she provides exercises, where her readers can breakdown passages for practice. Not only is Wiesner explaining the process, but she offers practice to teach mastery. As a teacher, I appreciate the scaffolding.

She provides sound advice for those in the throes of writing. “Don’t neglect your future dimensions when you sketch physical descriptions,” she writes. She stresses the importance of giving each dimension equal time and attention. Later, she suggests using a publishing service to print a hard copy of your final draft, which serves as the “perfect advanced reading copy” to use as a “final read-through.” Throughout, she suggests distancing oneself from your manuscript at key moments, offering a timeline for those who hope to make writing their career.

Wiesner also offers advice for novice, intermediate, and master writers. One can tell that she understands the basic processes of authorship, and she strives to meet her readers at their level.

In the interest of full disclosure, I started writing a new novel just before I picked up Wiesner’s book. By the time I finished reading Bring Your Fiction to Life, I stopped writing and started planning, using the worksheets and charts I’d acquired from her book. She helped me see the importance – and the positive benefits – of creating three-dimensional writing. So much so, in fact, that I feel I cannot move forward without first creating a quality outline with multi-dimensional characters, plot, and setting.

“Everything that happens at the beginning of the book must be linked to something that happens later on,” she writes, and those words continue to resonate with me, as has much of her book.

This is a must-read for beginning and experienced writers.

Review by Bethany Masone Harar

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


Enter to win an autographed copy of Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen S. Wiesner! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below by 11:59 PM EST, October 27th. We will choose a winner the next day. Good luck!

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Beverley Baird said...

Sounds like an amazing book. Your review really highlighted the reasons I must get this book!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Excellent review, Beth! This book sounds like a winner. I love that Karen's book includes templates. And her quote that you highlighted about making everything in the beginning of the book linked to something that happens later on is the best advice ever.

Margo Dill said...

I love to hear book recommendations like this from writers I admire! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this book review.

Bakersdozen said...

It sounds like a good read and I am sure I could learn a few things from this book.

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