cover image You: The Story: A Writer’s Guide to Craft Through Memory

You: The Story: A Writer’s Guide to Craft Through Memory

Ruta Sepetys. Viking, $19.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-52438-1

Novelist Sepetys (I Must Betray You) makes her nonfiction debut with a proficient guide on how to write better stories that are informed by one’s life. Sepetys discusses the principles that underlie good fiction and recounts details from her own life to illustrate how personal anecdotes can fuel literary creativity. “The reality of life is so ludicrous” that it provides fertile material for fiction, she contends, encouraging readers to look through old photos of themselves and “invent an entirely new story around the image.” She recounts receiving a backhanded compliment at a Hollywood red-carpet event to illustrate that “dialogue is not only what someone is saying, but how they’re saying it.” The advice largely follows prevailing wisdom, such as the exhortations to show a character’s personality rather than tell readers about it and to “avoid general descriptions and drill into the details.” Still, novice writers will appreciate the bounty of writing prompts, which include contemplating how a vivid childhood memory might inform the backstory of a character and composing first- and third-person accounts of a time when “you might have misjudged a situation.” Sepetys’s suggestions are solid, though there’s not much here that other programs haven’t said before. This is most likely to appeal to amateur writers and fans of Sepetys’s fiction. (May)