Book Review: Crafting Great Stories

Crafting Great Stories -Gerald Gallagher – Book Cover

Book: Crafting Great Stories

Author: Gerald Gallagher

Genre: Non-fiction, writing

Review copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

A concise guide to starting with the art of crafting impactful stories – ideal for students, beginners, leaders, and writers of all genres.

Storytelling is a buzzword not just amongst creatives and academicians but also in corporate boardrooms. Off late, there is an emphasis even on delivering impressive stories around bland data charts. Effective storytelling requires skills in story writing and narration. While there are several books on the subject, Gerald Gallagher’s Crafting Great Stories is a succinct and handy guidebook. It gets straight to the basics and carves an easy-to-grasp set of rules and practices based on research.

Gallagher summarizes all the key elements of story writing and supports them with ideas that can act as writing prompts for a beginner. He builds his book on the affirmation – “The author is mighty, indeed, having the ability to create worlds unlike our own.” His book is then a simple toolset to get a writer started on this unique journey. Crafting Great Stories has valuable information for those who are exploring the art of storytelling and a ready-reckoner for those wanting to hone their craft. My copy of the book has several highlighted takeaways for reference.

Apart from the rules related to good writing, such as outlining, plotting, characterization, setting, and tying it all up neatly together, Gallagher talks about an important subject – writer’s block. He offers advice on how to tackle writer’s block and acknowledges, “…writing burnout is a real and sometimes terrifying thing.” He talks about first deciding on the narrative type you want to build. On this canvas, one can add brush strokes and colors that give a complete picture of an outline. Sometimes, where to start from is the toughest question and Gallagher gives sound advice.

He has given numbered lists and cheat-sheets while providing ample material to create your own. There is information on story arcs and subplots, secondary characters, subvert expectations, and how the story’s theme differs from the moral. I found it interesting that the moral should be woven “into your writing mostly during the middle section of your writing.

I appreciate the author has dedicated an entire chapter to the art of editing and publishing, which I always believe breathes life into any piece of writing. I also enjoyed the chapter on creating settings and backdrops, and even treating them as characters. This is an important book and a must-have for all writers who want to learn the dynamics of creating impactful stories.

Book Review: The Fabric Over The Moon

Book: The Fabric Over The Moon

Author: Ferran Plana

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Review Copy: Reedsy Discovery

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Must Read

Does a mysterious place with strange customs lift the weight of life and its worries off your shoulders? Do questions of the past become heavier with time? Do dreams spill over into the waking world? Are imaginary creatures more than real? Read a delightful collection by writer Ferran Plana that covers mystical and magical happenings in the lives of common people and uncommon creatures. 

Simple stories, written with flair, offer some fodder for thought. The stories are brief. Not all of them are open-ended, but carry messages that will make you ponder. Stories like Lone or Hero will pull you back as you try to derive the background. Winter will keep you guessing and give you the shivers. The eclectic, the elusive, the unexplained, and even the apocalyptic fill pages of an exciting book. Suspense, humor, fear, sadness, loneliness – a gamut of emotions rush through the pages.

Plana has developed the characters with care and finesse. The stories play out in varied locations, from fantasy lands to a Brazilian parade. On this brilliant canvas, the writer’s imagination sketches wondrous tales. A couple of stories are a spin-off on popular fairytales. I liked the one about flying pigs, but the one with hunters did not appease me much.

The writing is rhythmic and even lyrical at places, akin to poetry. Sample this: “How deep do the teeth of human lust and greed bite that they can lose everything they have in the blink of an eye?” This book is a perfect collection for a quick weekend read or to have scary stories in your quiver to entertain around a bonfire. I always recommend quaint and quirky books like The Fabric Over the Moon. This one is a delight.

Book Review: Midnight Tales

Book: Midnight Tales

Author: Raven Kamali

Genre: Mythology, Horror, Fiction, Short Stories

Available at: Amazon.in

Recommended: Loved It!

As a writer and reader, I often wonder if all the stories in the world have already been told. Then, I come across books like Midnight Tales by Raven Kamali and realize it is a storyteller that breathes life in a story. A story can be retold a million times if the storyteller offers it with elan and flair, and with a unique take. In one story, the character says, “ There are things in life that neither philosophy nor science can explain.” This is what Kamali attempts to bring to us in the Midnight Tales.

Raven has done a fantastic job of bringing to life ten stories, each with different flavors. She has used some old and new themes and opened portals to mythological worlds and spun unique tales around them. My favorite is The Butterfly Lane, but I also loved what she has done in the last story by telling a tale in verse. Don’t Scream has a neat little ending, and it almost seems like you are watching a movie or the beginning of a web series. Not all stories are scary; some are fantasy and mythology-based. Stories built around Atlantis and the Amazon women are lengthier than the others and build on her imagination.

This slim book is an enjoyable weekend read, especially on cold winter evenings when you want to be scared, a teeny-weeny bit. Written fluently, the stories spark interest and linger with you long after you have read them. I found some noteworthy lines, like, ” We never walk towards death, death walks towards us.” The book cover is interesting as it displays a raven and an open book. I think it references the author and her book of creepy stories. I would have liked all stories to be of similar length. However, I found Midnight Tales to be a satisfying reading with good writing and creativity.

Storytellers

I befriended them –
Yesterday’s ghosts
I roamed around with
Ghouls of the past
I faced them and asked
Stories, trials, anecdotes
Until I conquered my fears
For venom cures venom
They don’t petrify me
That threatened me once
For we all are now storytellers

Book Review: The Nonchalant Man Between Worlds

Quite a few stories are narrative in style, imageries piling up, increasingly reflecting the complexity of perceptions. Chan clearly questions, “Has the world always been like this, both insane and chaotic, only he has not seen it as it actually is until now?” This is the theme of the book. Anguished ponderings on the chaos in our minds, purpose, and meaning of our lives, as we try to find a place as friends, lovers, and social beings.

Nonchalant Man

Book: The Nonchalant Man Between Worlds: And Other Stories

Author: William W. Chan

Genre: Fiction, Self-Discovery, Short Stories, Magical Realism

Review Copy: Reedsy

Available on: Amazon.in

The first story in this collection by William W. Chan, reminded me of Oliver Sack’s work – The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Deeper into the book, a Kafkaesque feeling emerged. It is the nature of man to always seek. Some seek answers in science, trying to decipher the mysterious functioning of the brain. Many lean towards metaphysical pondering on the functioning of the heart, soul, and mind.

The Nonchalant Man Between Worlds: And Other Stories are based on this quest, chasing the pertinent question of what’s real in our world and what may lie beyond in other realms. Dreams can be derived from realities and perturb us as much as illusions in waking hours.

The human and anti-human, creatures, demons, evil, fear, all emerge in our thought-scape based on the state of our mind. What happens when something snaps within us and cracks appear in our vision; when the mind is philosophical, the heart is lonely, and the soul disillusioned? Hallucination-based stories like those told by Chan are born.

Nightmares and illusions predominate the stories. Shifting perceptions harass the characters. My personal favorite is, The Fallen, where I sensed a mystery and indulged in a guessing game of who Harold was and his fate. Many of the open-ended stories leave us wondering.

Quite a few stories are narrative in styI can derive dreamsle, imageries piling up, increasingly reflecting the complexity of perceptions. Chan clearly questions, “Has the world always been like this, both insane and chaotic, only he has not seen it as it actually is until now?” This is the theme of the book. Anguished ponderings on the chaos in our minds, purpose, and meaning of our lives, as we try to find a place as friends, lovers, and social beings.

The well-articulated stories are for anyone who has an interest in metaphysical, spiritual, and philosophical notions, motifs, and themes. Interpretation and understanding of Magic Realism shifts from one reader to the next, in fact, one day to another. Such works are not for light readers.

This is a book for rumination and not just about people going about their daily lives. It is for readers who question the happenings and perceptions of their regular existence. It demands attention and offers deep contemplation dressed up as Magical Realism. Keep a highlighter handy for some musings that are worth marking for a later read, as you relate with them.

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