You’ve got a plot, you’ve got characters, you want to dive right in. I get it! But the road to Le Yawn is paved with premature outpourings. Sometimes a good reference book makes all the difference. These are five of my all-time favourites:
1) Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang
Nothing conveys a better sense of time and location than the right idiom. Believe me, it matters if he’s a dude or a bro, a good egg or a gazob. If she’s a dame, a floozy, or a diamond! ‘He stole a bottle of liquor’ – dull. How about ‘He helped himself to a five-finger discount in the liquor store.’ Same meaning, a lot more fun.
2) The Guinness Book of Baby Names, Leslie Dunkling
I can’t write a character if the name is wrong. Can’t. backstory, character, attitude, all hinges on the name. Which is where this book comes in. Fashionable name in the 1950s? Check. Greek or Hawaiian, with deep cultural meanings? Check. I get first names and last names, their history, use, heck, I can check out street names, pub names, anything.
3) Roget’s Thesaurus
You can find synonyms and antonyms easily online, but leafing through this book makes me think harder about the right word, and I come across other gems that I might want to use. Plus, I can stay offline while writing, so I won’t be tempted by emails or social media.
4) Eats, Shoots, Leaves by Lynne Truss
Grammar matters. Punctuation matters. While we all adore the spelling and grammar check function, sometimes it’s not enough. Doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, screen or stage play, you don’t want to confuse or worse, irritate, the reader. A little learning goes a long way.
5) Travel books and magazines
I’m obsessed with them. Old and new. The more photos, the better. They give my writing a sense of place that Google maps can’t. I’m currently researching the Canadian Rockies as a backdrop for a possible sequel, and another three books take me back to prohibition era New York. Nothing beats the real thing for authenticity.
Happy reading … it leads to GREAT WRITING!
BIO: Carmen Radtke is a screenwriter and novelist. Her debut novel The Case of the Missing Bride (Bloodhound Books) is out TODAY, 5th September 2017! She also writes under the pen name Caron Albright. A Matter of Love and Death will be published by Bombshell Books. Follow Carmen on Twitter: @CarmenRadtke1 and visit her WEBSITE.