Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Mythic Guide to Characters by Antonio del Drago Review

A while back (in fact, quite a long while back, my focuses have not been on the review portion of this blog I'm sorry to say), I was given a review copy of The Mythic Guide to Characters by Antonio del Drago. I have finally been able to give this book my attention (due to my Internet being effectively down for a few days this week).

(You can click to the Amazon page via the picture above)

I'm quite sorry that it took so long, not just because I promised a review much earlier, but because I found the book to be a spectacular resource after everything was said and done...but only after everything was said and done.

It takes a while to get going. In fact, for quite a while I was afraid I was going to give the book a 3-star review (which isn't necessarily bad, but much lower than I figured on giving). There's just too much explanation to be honest.

I agree with the philosophy behind the book. Build characters with layers and the character on the page should be an iceberg with much more behind the page than ever needs to show up. I was fully in accord with him in this regard.

But I did not need to know the history of each device the author used to help build layers. And I did not need three examples behind every archetype (although only one of the layers actually calls them "archetypes"). Still, from an educational point of view, it's hard to finish reading those chapters without knowing exactly what the layers consist of, and the knowledge you gain will be useful when the author finally gives us the advice I am assuming paying customers buy the book for.

This advice does not show up until the "Further Considerations" sections of the book, but it shows up with a vengeance. And the advice is not overbearing or of the this-is-the-only-way-you-can-write-effectively sort. It was agreeable and more importantly, useful.

I'm not going to be using the advice much personally, because I take a much more natural approach to character building, but I can definitely see it being extremely helpful to an aspiring or beginning writer, or one that has some talent but struggles with characterization. A lot of what the author brings up is frequently overlooked by many.

And when he starts the "Putting It All Together" chapter, boy does he ever put it all together. The entire book feels seamless by this point.

What I will utilize is the Character Worksheet at the back. It's spectacular, and he conveniently includes a link to a printable version. I won't use this to develop characters mind you, but I feel it is a worthwhile exercise to run every character through and especially if your characters are to the point that they have a mind of their own, may even surprise you.

The information in this book is good, the advice is great, and the worksheet is spectacular. I strongly recommend this to every writer that struggles with their characters. Although I got a free copy of the book, I definitely feel it is worth the $2.99 price point if you need it. And although it is aimed at fantasy characters, the advice and worksheet are easily applied to any character in any genre. I am glad I have a copy.

That said, there are some errors in the text (as any first edition book will have though), and the slow burn of a build-up probably would have been a deal-breaker for me if I had not already planned on reviewing the entire thing. That said, I had a lot of people tell me that it was a great book, so I probably would have given it a chance in spite of the slow-burn, but it was definitely infuriating there for a while. Still, it's an easy read and the slow-burn is really not that slow given the length of the book (about 180 pages). You could easily read it the first time in a day, but I recommend the people that need this book come back to the "Further Considerations" sections through the end more than once, and again, the worksheet is a great resource.

Zero Review: 7.5/10, a solid C, but after you've finished it and taken as a whole: 4 stars.