6 Essential Books for Fiction Authors

In November 2012, I started the transition from writing non-fiction exclusively to learning to write fiction stories.  This was a scary transition for me as the process is very different for each.  However, in my extensive research, I have found 6 essential books for fiction authors that I recommend.  I have read all of these books and several will be used as reference books for years to come.

6 Essential Books for Fiction Authors


#1:  The Emotion Thesaurus

by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

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When I first started writing fiction, one of my author friends recommended this book to me.  And I am so glad she did!  It is an essential reference book that I would recommend all fiction authors have on their shelf.

What it includes:

1) Common writing problems (introductory text)
2) Writing tips through out the book (usually after each emotion)
2) List of 75 different emotions
3) For each emotion they give you: the definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term use of the emotion, other emotions it may escalate to, cues of suppressing that emotion

How you can use this resource:

1) Read over several entries each day to simply familiarize yourself with them for your writing.
2) When stuck in your writing, look up the emotion you are trying to describe for inspiration.
3) When editing, use the emotion thesarus to bring added depth to your scenes.

I highly recommend that you get your own copy.  You won’t regret it!

  • [easyazon-link asin=”1475004958″ locale=”us”]The Emotion Thesaurus: (PRINT)[/easyazon-link]
  • [easyazon-link asin=”B00822WM2M” locale=”us”]The Emotion Thesaurus (KINDLE)[/easyazon-link]


#2:  The Negative Trait Thesaurus

by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

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I am a big fan of “The Emotion Thesaurus” and was excited to see that the authors released two new resources for authors…”The Negative Trait Thesaurus” and the “Positive Trait Thesaurus.” I highly recommend both volumes.

In “The Negative Trait Thesaurus,” the authors provide a treasure chest of ideas for fiction authors to use to bring depth to their characters. These character flaws will help add additional conflict to your story as well as help bring your characters to life for your readers.

The meat of the book (that I will use the most often) contains 106 negative traits. Each listing includes the following:

1) Definition
2) Similar Flaws
3) Possible Causes
4) Associated Behaviors and Attitudes
5) Associated Thoughts
6) Associated Emotions
7) Positive Aspects
8) Negative Aspects
9) Example from Film
10) Overcoming This Trait as a Major Flaw
11) Traits in Supporting Characters That May Cause Conflict

As you can see, each negative trait is jam-packed with great brain-storming content.

I recommend authors use this tool as follows:

1) When creating your character profiles
2) When you need to add extra depth to your characters
3) When brainstorming new characters
4) To find additional ways to add conflict to your story

And I’m sure there are tons of other uses for this tool as well. The authors also provide introductory material which could be a book in itself as well as tools in the appendix including a needs and lies list, a reverse backstory tool and character pyramid tool with links to print these tools off as well.

I highly recommend this book as a resource and brainstorming tool for fiction authors!

  • [easyazon-link asin=”0989772500″ locale=”us”]The Negative Trait Thesaurus (PRINT)[/easyazon-link]
  • [easyazon-link asin=”B00FVZDZ6K” locale=”us”]The Negative Trait Thesaurus (KINDLE)[/easyazon-link]


#3:  The Positive Trait Thesaurus

by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”0989772519″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515LR5MMoxL._SL160_.jpg” width=”112″]
In “The Positive Trait Thesaurus,” the authors provide a wealth of ideas for fiction authors to use to create believable characters in their books including 99 positive and/or neutral traits. Each listing includes the following:

1) Definition
2) Categories
3) Similar Attributes
4) Possible Causes
5) Associated Behaviors
6) Associated Thoughts
7) Associated Emotions
8) Positive Aspects
9) Negative Aspects
10) Example from Film
11) Traits in Supporting Characters That May Cause Conflict
12) Challenging Scenarios for This Trait

I recommend authors use this tool as follows:

1) When creating your character profiles
2) When you need to add extra depth to your characters
3) When brainstorming new characters

The authors also provide introductory material which could be a book in itself as well as tools in the appendix including a character profile questionnaire, character attribute target tool and category breakdown. They recommend including at least one trait from the four different categories: Achievement, Identity, Interactive and Moral.

I highly recommend this book…keep a copy handy when brainstorming your characters for your next book!

  • [easyazon-link asin=”0989772519″ locale=”us”]The Positive Trait Thesaurus (PRINT)[/easyazon-link]
  • [easyazon-link asin=”B00FVZDVS2″ locale=”us”]The Positive Trait Thesaurus (KINDLE)[/easyazon-link]


#4:  Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View

by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

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I keep hearing over and over as I learn the craft of writing fiction that it is important to write with a deep point of view.  Some authors call it layering to include how the characters respond emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, etc.   This book was available for a free download and so I picked it up and read it.  Even though I got my copy for free, I would gladly pay for it as it was very helpful to me.  She gives examples which I found very helpful as well.

I recommend this book especially for new fiction writers.

  • [easyazon-link asin=”1470063859″ locale=”us”]Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View (PRINT)[/easyazon-link]
  • [easyazon-link asin=”B007PUMQ1O” locale=”us”]Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View (KINDLE)[/easyazon-link]


#5:  Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

by K.M. Weiland

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This book was so helpful to me.  By the time I read this book, I had already read several other writing books and this helped put the puzzle pieces together for me.  I literally took 7 pages of notes in my notebook as I read to help the concepts sink even deeper into my mind.

The basics of story structure are essential for all authors that write fiction and I recommend this resource.

  • [easyazon-link asin=”0985780401″ locale=”us”]Structuring Your Novel (PRINT)[/easyazon-link]
  • [easyazon-link asin=”B00EJX08QA” locale=”us”]Structuring Your Novel (KINDLE)[/easyazon-link]



#6:  Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

by K.M. Weiland

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I know, I know.  Not everyone chooses to outline their novel.  However, no matter if you like to plot out your novels in advance or not, I recommend reading this book first.  It may just convert you to do some outlining before writing your story.   It makes sense that you can avoid painful deletion of scenes during the editing process and be much more efficient at your writing when you outline.  I encourage you to at least read this book to decide what the best option is for you.

  • [easyazon-link asin=”0978924622″ locale=”us”]Outlining Your Novel (PRINT)[/easyazon-link]
  • [easyazon-link asin=”B005NAUKAC” locale=”us”]Outlining Your Novel (KINDLE)[/easyazon-link]


What Books for Fiction Authors Do You Recommend?

Share them in the comments below!


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  1. Well, shoot. Now I’m going to spend some money. Those books sound very interesting. I have the emotion thesaurus and I love it. I definitely have to add the other two thesaurus to my list.
    Constance Burris recently posted…Dark Elves vs. Black ElvesMy Profile

  2. <3 IT!

  3. This is a nice collection Shelley. All too often we have 36 ways for marketing, but leave off the number one way, which is improving our writing. I’m sure any writer could find something helpful in these books.
    John Cranor recently posted…Tiger Trainer Refutes AbuseMy Profile

  4. Thanks for the recommended resources. After publishing a dozen non-fiction books with traditional publishers I’ve always wanted to try my hand at fiction but it is so very different and more difficult, I think. I get good ideas for stories or novels and I’ve had good success with my (non-fiction) ideas, but I never get past the ideas because the fiction process just seems mysterious and overwhelming compared to non-fiction. So, thank you for these helps.

  5. Hi Shelley,
    Great list! I have most of them :) I’d also add The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson. It’s full of amazing advice and examples on how to plot your novel and plan the emotional development of multi-dimensional characters who drive the plot and draw readers into the story. I refer to her material in my fiction writing retreat!
    Happy writing,

  6. Oh… and I’m also half way through Stephen King’s memoir ‘On Writing’ and would suggest adding that too. Who would have thought he was so funny!
    Anne O’Connell ( recently posted…Guest Post—Put Some Heart in Your EmotionMy Profile

  7. Thanks for those suggestions, Anne! I’ll have to check them out.
    Shelley Hitz recently posted…How To Change The Price Of Your Paperback BookMy Profile

  8. Terrific suggestions. The first three fit exactly what I’ve been looking for.

  9. Donna Whichello says:

    This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley is a wonderful touchstone for those who can lose themselves in rewriting and never get beyond their first chapters. His advice is to set a daily time and keep writing, no rewriting, until you have a first draft. Then you have the bones to write your novel. Frustrating for those of us who obsess but prods us toward completion.

  10. Great list! I have the Thesaurus books.

    My favorite new craft book is SUPER STRUCTURE; the Key to Unleashing the Power of Story, by James Scott Bell.

    Short and packed with info on how to write in the ‘story beats’ that are so important to satisfy readers, it’s the best exposition of essential story structure that I’ve read. Highly usable on your current story, or the one you’re planning.

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