Monday, March 16, 2015

The Fictorial


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.


Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 12 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit KimPearson.me.

13 comments :

  1. I've been subscribed to John Yeoman's weekly blog, The Writer's Village, for something over a year now and was among the first to sample fictorials. I also highly recommend them. There is one collection of short stories, The Cunning Man, and another full-length novel, Fear of Evil, both of which have as their protagonist one Hypolitus Yeoman, a simple apothecary in Elizabethan England.

    Truthfully, I hadn't heard of, let alone read, Dream of Darkness. I'll have to remedy that right away.

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  2. Clever idea, but I probably wouldn't read the sidebars ... at least until after I'd finished the story. I like a story to flow without distractions and I think I prefer Oz to stay behind the curtain. I'd like to know more about the premise.

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    1. I wonder how the sidebars appear on the Kindle.

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    2. You just touch one of the Footnote markers, Dani, and a panel magically opens up! (Isn't technology wonderful?)

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    3. I read it on my iPad and it worked fine. If the analogy to the Wizard of Oz is accurate, then John must be Toto, right? (chuckle)

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    4. That's good enough for me to download a copy. Thanks, John. I do love the idea of this fiction example how-to melding.

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  3. "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." How can I not hate a guy this good?

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  4. As an editor who cannot seem to shake that persona, I want to read those sidebar comments. I'll definitely be buying this one.

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  5. I've never heard of fictorials before this, but I'm intrigued.

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    1. I love this term and think it's original. I've seen the format before, but not this term. I like them both!

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  6. I have a book called The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen (2002) in a similar format and was always intrigued by how well it got the message across. I like the idea a lot!

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  7. Diana took the words right out of my mouth. But I am intrigued.

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  8. Sounds like a book that was done right!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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