Recently I wrote an Amazon review of a new novel, Dream of Darkness by John Yeoman, book two in a mystery series set in the late 1500s. I’m a sucker for both mysteries and historical novels, so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed this book, especially since Yeoman is an outstanding writer.
But this book is a lot more than a mystery or even a novel. John Yeoman is not only an outstanding writer, he is an outstanding teacher. Dream of Darkness proves it.
Dream of Darkness is a fictorial. If like me you are not familiar with this term, here’s the description from its Amazon page: “an intriguing crime mystery – and also a step-by-step guide to writing your own novel. It’s one of the world’s first ‘fictorials’, an historical crime novel packed with clever but unobtrusive tips that show you precisely how it was written.”
Before I began to read, I admit I was dubious. Sounded confusing. As I shuffled through the pages of the first chapter, it also looked confusing. There were 27 sidebars in chapter 1 alone! But then I began to read, and it took about two paragraphs to hook me. My review tells why:
This book succeeds on many levels. Suspense, intriguing characters, gruesome murder, historical accuracy that makes the 17th century come alive – pretty much everything you’d want. And then! Yeoman gives the reader a course in just how he accomplished all these wonders. He has included sidebars (which you don’t have to read or even see if you don’t want to) which give the reader insights into why he chose to use specific techniques, particular words, sentence structures, and so on. When I began to read the book I was hesitant to believe he could pull this off, but he did. Both newbie and professional writers will love this book for the writing secrets he shares, and mystery aficionados will love it for the story. This is “show not tell” taken to a high level.
Those 27 sidebars in chapter 1 included insights, tips, advice, and explanations of techniques such as: ways to write an opening scene; how to introduce the protagonist; definition and use of character signatures; the use of body language in characterization; providing authenticity; animating dialogue with conflict; when head hopping works and when it doesn’t; linking moments of tension; and lots more. Each of these tips is illustrated perfectly by the story. And somehow Yeoman keeps the reader’s interest alive in both. Just Wow.