The Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf

Fiction Writer's Handbook Cover

Writing, like any profession, has its jargon. A writer’s vocabulary overlaps a bit with that of a literary critic. For example, words like deus ex machina and first-person narrative will be familiar to any English professor. But things like inner critic and withholding backstory and discovery draft are unique to writing. When we talk to other writers—or to ourselves—we need to know what those words mean.

THE FICTION WRITER’S HANDBOOK is an encyclopedia of sorts, giving definitions of over three hundred concepts. Think of it as a toolbox. Each technique is used a specific way, and the more tools you have, the easier the job. The better you understand things like plausibility, reversals, or payoffs, the better you can use them.

A writer could read THE FICTION WRITER’S HANDBOOK straight through as an alphabetical list of definitions, but that defeats the purpose. All the entries are hyperlinked and cross-referenced, making the ebook ideal for browsing. You can be led from entry to entry, letting your interest be your guide.

THE FICTION WRITER’S HANDBOOK is not exactly a how-to book, although there are some writing lessons in it. It’s more of a general reference book, so when your writing teacher says you need a narrative hook, or you read a blog about the villain’s agenda, you’ll know what those terms mean. With Lowenkopf at your side, you’ll also know exactly how to use them.




rating: 3 stars


This book is best for: beginning writers


I recommend this book or 101 Things I Learned in Film School by Neil Landau and Matthew Frederick or Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

2 thoughts on “The Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf

  1. Meh. I admire you for reading and reviewing these books– for us! I actually think that if you have the right teacher, a single class in creative writing or fiction writing is more valuable than any book. But it has to be the right teacher…

    • Thanks, Julia! I hope my reviews are useful.

      I had some amazing writing teachers. But I also learned a ton from Blake Snyder, Donald Maass, and Julia Cameron. They were my writing-teachers-from-afar.

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