The Fiction Writer’s Handbook

Rather than espousing theories on writing or prescribing dicta regarding the craft, The Fiction Writer’s Handbook by Shelly Lowenkopf offers aspiring and established writers a comprehensive glossary of terms on the subject. A longtime writing instructor whose former students include Christopher Moore, who provides a foreword for this handy volume, Lowenkopf advises readers to choose one of the terms of art included in the book’s list of entries — “Mickey Mouse Ending,” for example — then to dive in head-first and see where the entries take you.

A quick glance at the entry for “Mickey Mouse Ending” reveals that the term refers to “The ending to a SHORT STORY or NOVEL in which justice triumphs with the loud tap of the gavel.” The entry goes on to further explicate the term in useful detail, but the real value of the definition that Lowenkopf offers is that all of the related terms are highlighted — SHORT STORY and NOVEL, for instance. As a result, the reader can go on to further investigate the highlighted terms and begin to form a fairly comprehensive understanding of the vocabulary associated with writing.

In many ways, then, The Fiction Writer’s Handbook has the feel of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, as each entry offers a plethora of potential terms to investigate. The effect is also similar to falling down a rabbit hole, like clicking through a long series of Wikipedia hyperlinks and then looking up to find that three hours have passed. To put it plainly, it’s a tool that anyone who loves to learn more about the craft of writing won’t be able to put down, an indispensable addition to any writer’s library.

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