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  • Karina Sokulski

Writing Reference Books I Use


In the spirit of the holidays, the need to buy a meaningful gift for the writer in your family is a must. I posted an accompanying blog post that offers a gift guide for writers (posted here [X]) that covered more unique tools. A list of books on writing deserves its own post, and I'm going to include the best of the best that I've added to my shelf.

Writing Monsters: How to Craft Believably Terrifying Creatures

by Philip Athans

Athan's reference on writing monsters earns it's place as first on my list for various reasons. From crafting a creature's appearance to establishing the mechanics of its abilities, this book covers it all. This guide also provides worksheets to fill in every chapter. In doing this, not only will your writer have a knowledgeable guide on writing monsters but will also be able to apply what they learn as they go. The other bonus of this book involves how its guide doesn't focus on any particular genre. Whether your writer is writing horror, fantasy, or sci-fi, this book will cover it all.

Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories

by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athens and Jay Lake

Card, Athans, and Lake's guide offers writers a complete fantasy reference. Whether your writer needs to review the anatomy of a castle of study up on Pagan witchcraft, this guide will provide the answers. This book also references real-world folklore and explores the mechanics of ancient storytelling that a writer can learn from. Of all the books on this list, this is the one that provides less instruction and more examples to, well, reference. It's a worthy contender for a tool any writer should have to choose from.

Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises For Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story

by Steven Harper

Harper's book was one of the first references I purchased. This book also touches on monsters but covers a wide range of topics. This is the guide to own if your writer is working on hauntings, superpowers, or magic systems. Included throughout the guide are worksheets and checklists to make adding the supernatural to any story all the easier. My favorite element of this book is the range of topics it covers and how this book also applies to any genre.

Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Fiction, Fantasy and other Genres

by Dan Koboldt

Koboldt's guide is another of my personal favorites that uniquely works to add science to the magic in every story. The book starts off covering the realism behind what any writer wants to fictionalize. Better to understand how internal bleeding works before your main character finds out they can reverse such symptoms with a twitch of their nose. There are plenty of references Koboldt makes in this book to apply his practice of explaining the mechanics of science we see in popular media. From exploring the realism of disease to fictionalizing the calamity behind a planet-shattering earthquake, your writer will be able to craft any fictional tension that makes believable sense.

The Writer's Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction

by Benjamin Sobieck

Here's a practical guide on weaponry that ranges from guns (small or large) and knives used in combat. This book hones in on the realism behind weaponry usage and debunks myths perpetuated by Hollywood. This guide also provides an in-depth comparison of accurate and inaccurate depictions of weaponry in fiction. There's nothing worse than having a character pump a shotgun prematurely, only to somehow fire a round anyway. It's notably worse when your readers spot such inaccuracy.

Reference books are must-have writing tools and are great holiday gifts for every writer gearing up for the new year. The reference section in any book store will not only have writing reference books that cover genre fiction but books that include grammar and publishing guidance. The reference section in a book store is every writer's instructional haven. It's also an excellent place for holiday gifts for the writer in your family if you're looking for a more thoughtful gift.

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