Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Making Shapely Fiction” as Want to Read:
Making Shapely Fiction
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Making Shapely Fiction

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  693 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
This book is different from other books on writing.You can start writing serious fiction from the first page -- because, as Jerome Stern makes clear, learning to write spontaneously is the first step to writing well.As you begin to grasp the principle of momentum, tension and immediacy, you'll find your fiction has shape and form. You'll discover how to "write what you kno ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 3rd 1992 by Laurel (first published 1991)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Making Shapely Fiction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Making Shapely Fiction

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,491)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 11, 2012 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
got a workshop to run soon on writing stories and thought I'd better re-acquaint myself with some techniques.. I've read a few of this type of manual and this one looks one of the best.
yes this did prove to be one of the better ones, with useful dos and don'ts, although never prescriptive, and a fine alphabetical list of cross referenced terms.. will add more later, haven't got the book with me at the moment.
Printable Tire
Dec 24, 2012 Printable Tire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the "required reading" for a writing class I just took. Since part of taking the class was being able to use Brown University's resources, I ingeniously borrowed it from their library (they in turn had to borrow it from SUNY Buffalo). Now it's quite a bit overdue but since I am persona non grata in the library now I am taking my time.

The first part of the book, which deals with different "shapes" of fiction (thus explaining the somewhat embarrassing title) is excellent. It's basically a
Robb Lightfoot
Mar 27, 2013 Robb Lightfoot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is the best book I've read in 5 years on the subject of writing. I say this as someone who owns scores of how-to-write books and has been reading them for the past 40 years.

I came across this book as required reading in the now defunct UC Davis creative writing program. I could see immediately why they chose it. The first half of the book is outstanding, the second half merely great. The first half discusses a variety of story-forms, structures, that are useful to solve problems or ac
Liz Shine
This book is an A to Z list exploring the function and importance of some elements of fiction. It'd be great for beginning writers. I read it as a way to launch into a new writing schedule and summer writing. It held many nice reminders for me.
Julie Dill
Aug 14, 2007 Julie Dill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any creative writer
This is one of, if not the best writing manual I've ever read. It's thoughtfully written and it's not geared toward someone who hasn't ever written before. It seems to speak to someone who's been writing since birth, but needs unsubtle nudges in the right direction to sculpt the talent into an intricately wrought topiary, pruning out the... ridiculous metaphors like that one. The book came close to making me switch from poetry writing to fiction writing in grad school.

Caution: it makes it nearly
Dec 03, 2014 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
When I first bought this book many moons ago it came highly recommended (and I see a lot of 5 star reviews here) but it didn't inspire/assist me the way some other books did and I set it aside. The book is structured in three sections. The first section is the basis for the title - The Shapes of Fiction - and comprises 16 chapters, each a way of thinking about/crafting a story and this is the strongest part of the book and the one that has the most enduring quality. The second section has some " ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Angeli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help, writing, 2014
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth C. Haynes
This is THE best book I've read on writing fiction to date. I will refer to it again and again. Just a very clear, easily digestible presentation of essential concepts.
Aug 07, 2012 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's some good general advice for writers in here, but it's all very basic stuff. If you need to know what "plot" is, for example, this is a good place to find out. I'd use this in a high school writing class, but if you're beyond that level or looking for more advanced advice...ehhh, not so much. The list of resources in the back dates to the late 80s or early 90s, so is of minimal use.
Ploi Pirapokin
Mar 07, 2014 Ploi Pirapokin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft-books
In terms of providing story shapes and how they work best, this is a great encyclopedia of examples, and they come in hilarious, palatable doses. I've been introduced to this book because the shapes that Stern provided could be applied to scenes too - so that a story is a combination of well-shaped scenes.

His "Do not write the following stories" is stomach ripping funny. The "Banging Shutter" story, the "Hobos in space story", the "Moral" story which is aptly names "The I cried because I had no
Jun 06, 2016 Balbina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An informative, entertaining and inspiring reference book on writing fiction. Reading it made me impatient to sit down and not only write, but revise anything I've ever written so far. I know I will reread and browse through the book for years to come. Definitely reccommended reading.
An irreverent but thoughtful way to bone up on the basics or just be reminded of what you're doing and why. Well structured to be either read straight through or in the necessary bits and pieces. Highly recommended, even if you think you already know everything about writing.
Ann Douglas
Nov 25, 2012 Ann Douglas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, read-in-2012
A very helpful writing guide that explains the finer points of writing fiction. The book is divided into a series of topic-specific chapters, each of which focuses on a topic related to fiction writing. Highly recommended.
Oct 03, 2008 Carolyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A few interesting points, but mostly felt like a book by someone who set out to write a book, not someone with something to say.
Dec 31, 2015 Greg rated it it was amazing
I’ve had this book since it was a textbook in a creative writing class my junior year at the University of Utah. I’ve used it often, but never read it cover to cover until this year. In November I participated in National Novel Writing Month (, and cut down on all my reading except for this.
This book is organized into two parts. The first is a collection of “The Shapes of Fiction.” For example, Last Lap “places the character, right in the opening lines, close to the climax of a se
Joshua Rivera
Nov 15, 2011 Joshua Rivera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Making Shapely Fiction is a great book for writers. Stern’s book helps writers get a better concept how to write better. The book is split into four parts. Part 1 is The Shapes of Fiction in which Stern describes, “These shapes aren’t rule that you follow so much as ways to create them.” They include anything from façade, A Day in the Life, Journey, to Explosion. Part 2 is an interlude to explain to writers that they should write what you know and what not to do when it comes to writing. Part 3 ...more
Kristen Chavis
Apr 12, 2011 Kristen Chavis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Making Shapely Fiction is a book about the craft of writing. It is the dos and don’ts of writing. Stern takes students through the shapes of fiction and explains how each shape works and gives the readers examples. Stern essentially breaks down the craft of writing and explains how each step works.
This book was originally assigned reading for a class I took, however, I find that it is a helpful resource and I actually enjoy reading it. Stern makes learning the shapes easy and his explanations
Jun 14, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My expectations were high when I picked up Stern's book -- so many writing teachers recommend it. I hate that kind of pressure (both as writer and as reader).

What a relief to discover that I agree with all the praise. Love the organization, which allows nonlinear sampling of techniques and the titular "shapes."

But the best part is that this is clearly not a one-off reading but rather a reference manual to put on the shelf next to Strunk and White, King's On Writing, Snyder's Save the Cat, and
Sep 26, 2013 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
It wasn't so much a manual of how to write as it was an encyclopedia of writing terms and conventions, all conveniently laid out in alphabetical order.

Seriously, nothing new is under the sun, and I've known about all of these since high-school, but sometimes it's kinda nice to be reminded of what you might have forgotten in your old, old, old age. You know, kinda like that old saying, "I've forgotten more than you've ever known." It makes me feel a little bit like a curmudgeon and an old fogey.
Alan Fay
Mar 16, 2009 Alan Fay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This is a great guide to learn some basics about writing short stories, without cramping your style. What I found truly excellent about the book was the myriad of examples that illustrated each "shape."

The book is divided into three sections: "shapes" of fiction, what NOT to write about, and concise definitions of writing terms. All are excellent.

This book was required writing for the creative writing class I took in high school from the PE coach. This particular PE coach also introduced us to H
Eddie Dean
Jan 31, 2016 Eddie Dean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-in-2016
Very informative and important. But I am happy to know that I know a lot of what is told in the text. I recommend to all writers, especially beginners.
Sep 04, 2015 Alyssa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite writing book ever, mainly because most of it is advice I've heard before, but it still offered some useful insights.
Stephanie Bird
Jan 31, 2015 Stephanie Bird rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. It is simply seductive. Compulsive reading. I'm sure it will be helpful to my writing.
Kimberlee Borden
A great book for people looking to write novels, short stories, or even poetry in some cases.
Pan Pan
Oct 18, 2014 Pan Pan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to navigate, great examples, helpful instructions.
Practical and straightforward advice. More on the side of definitions, advantages and disadvantages than "this is what is good". Offers lots of ways to play with the 'rules' of writing. If this were a grammar book, it'd be descriptive instead of prescription. In a lot of ways it's covering the same ground as Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, but far less academic and more useful.
Luke Miller
Apr 05, 2016 Luke Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Love reading this book. I'll definitely buy this book at some point in the future. The "shapes" of writing in the middle section were wonderful prompts for writing. Excellent!
Horrible title aside, this book has quite a bit to offer. It is more a reference book than one to read start to finish. For beginning fiction writers, his "shapes" of fiction offer a way to think about the writing done not-quite-consciously. And in the creative writing classroom, the glossary that composes the latter part of the book offers an common frame of reference.
Nov 12, 2008 Brent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
Stern's book is uniquely structured. The first part, about 'shapes', is interesting; however, I wish he had written more about these topics. The final section of the book is a glossary of terms that is broad and helpful, but, again, the entries could have been longer. Even so, I found plenty of useful information in Making Shapely Fiction.
Heather June Gibbons
Apr 13, 2009 Heather June Gibbons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teaching
I love the way Stern clearly and succinctly articulates these ideas about craft. This book seems to be just the right amount of detail for my beginning students (unlike the Burroway text which seemed to be too much for them). I just wish it were organized in a way that lent itself more easily to sequential lesson plans/units...
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 49 50 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Plot
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
  • The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
  • What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
  • Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated
  • The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot
  • What Would Your Character Do?: Personality Quizzes for Analyzing Your Characters
  • 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters
  • Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer
  • Fiction Writer's Workshop
  • The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
  • Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-On Help for Making Your Novel Stand Out and Succeed
  • The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction
  • Ron Carlson Writes a Story
Jerome Stern (1938 (?) - 1996) was the head of the Creative Writing program at Florida State University and taught writing workshops and classes on popular culture.

While at FSU he created the "World's Best Short Short Story Contest" and edited the book Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories. His other books include Making Shapely Fiction (1990), Florida Dreams (1993), and Radios
More about Jerome Stern...

Share This Book

“Dialogue is not just quotation. It is grimaces, pauses, adjustments of blouse buttons, doodles on a napkin, and crossings of legs.” 0 likes
More quotes…