Book Review: What’s the Story? Building Blocks for Fiction Writing

I recently had a chance to review What’s the Story? Building Blocks for Fiction Writing by Melissa Donovan. I know it sounds like hyperbole to say that this book has everything you need to know about writing, but it really covers a lot.

It covers basics such as character, plot, point of view, and setting but it also gets into deeper topics like theme, story structure, and even topic such as concept and premise. For the first time, I finally understand what concept means and the difference between low and high concept which is something I see in agent wish lists all the the time.

As Donovan describes it, low concept is more simple on first glance, but contains more character development and nuance than a high concept novel. For example, a widow dealing with grief or a detective solving a crime. On the other hand, high concept novels offer a new twist on an old idea and one line can usually draw people’s attention. For example, Jurassice Park scientists build dinosaurs from preserved DNA.

The book also shines at the end, where Donovan pulls all of the pieces together and does a story analysis of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to illustrate the points in the book. She also includes other helpful worksheets for the reader to do the same as well as an extensive dictionary.

I have also read Donovan’s Ready, Set, Write, and like this book, that book had lots of appeal for both new and seasoned writers. Her writing is very easy-to-read and always makes you think of new ideas.


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