Featured Author Review: ‘500 Ways To Tell a Better Story' by Chuck Wendig


He’s back! This time around, we’re giving you LitStackers an entire month of Chuck Wendig. Prepare thyself, much glee and foul mouthedness* is forthcoming. In case you are unaware, Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of BLACKBIRDS, DOUBLE DEAD, DINOCALYPSE NOW, the forthcoming MOCKINGBIRD and is co-writer of the short film PANDEMIC, the feature film HiM, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative COLLAPSUS. 

Along with writing partner Lance Weiler, Wendig co-wrote the digital transmedia drama Collapsus, which was nominated for an International Digital Emmy and a Games 4 Change award.

Chuck has contributed over two million words to the game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP). He is a frequent contributor to The Escapist, writing about games and pop culture. He lives in Pennsylvania with wife, taco terrier, and tiny human.

We begin our August Featured Author segment with a review of Wendig’s craft book 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story. Fair warning: like the man and the book, NSFWish contents follows.

Thanks so much to Chuck and Angry Robot for supporting us!


*Foul mouthedness brought to you courtesy of Neil Cicierega ala this.



500 Ways To Tell a Better Story
Chuck Wendig


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 500 WAYS TO TELL A BETTER STORY aims to help you be a stronger writer and a savvier storyteller. You’ll learn how to infuse your narrative with mystery and gain tips on tackling the first chapter or mushy middle of your story. The book answers questions like, ‘What is transmedia? Why is now the coolest time to be a storyteller? How do I write a fantasy novel? What’s this guy’s fascination with unicorns, pornography, whiskey, and profanity?’ And, finally, ‘Where are my pants? I was wearing pants when I started reading this book.’

The book roves giddily between advice that is practical, abstract, and downright satirical. Whether you’re a novelist, screenwriter or game designer, contained within you’ll find an exploration of what it is that we do – and how we do it better.

(Warning: Okay, seriously? This book really is NSFW. It features a heaping helping of naughty language. Proceed with filters off.)

500 WAYS TO TELL A BETTER STORY contains the following:

25 Lies Writers Tell (And Start To Believe)
25 Realizations Writers Need To Have
25 Reasons I Hate Your Main Character
25 Reasons Now Is The Best Time To Be A Storyteller
25 Reasons You Should Quit Writing
25 Things All Writers Need
25 Things I Learned While Writing Blackbirds
25 Things I Want To Say To So-Called “Aspiring” Writers
25 Things To Know About Writing The First Chapter Of Your Novel
25 Things Writers Should Know About Creating Mystery
25 Things You Should Know About Creativity
25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia Storytelling
25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice
25 Things You Should Know About Writing Fantasy
25 Things You Should Know About Writing Sex
25 Things You Should Know About Writing Short Stories
25 Ways To Earn Your Audience
25 Ways To Fight Your Story’s Mushy Middle
25 Ways To Unf-ck Your Story
25 Ways To Write Full-Time

One could say that Wendig holds no punches. And if that one actually said that, they’d be grossly understating the truth. Part George Carlin, part sardonic, blatantly honest scribe, Wendig breaks down the essentials of writing and many aspects of the job that may not commonly cross the novice writer’s mind.

500 Ways To Tell a Better Story is a gut punch, a visceral, brilliant wake up call to writers who need a bit of clarity and honesty in their processes. This isn’t King’s On Writing (though there seems to ring an honest echo of that great craft book in 500 Ways). Bluntly put, Wendig not only tells you the truth, (even when you don’t want it), he also gives writers the specific tools necessary to stopping the inevitable cop outs and whining that hinder producing a quality story.

These 500 ways are broken down into lists, and for that, the common writing craft book collector won’t see the same rudimentary comments one would find in an average book of this nature. But, that’s the beauty of 500 Ways. Wendig gives us honest, from the gut, advice on how to get to the heart of a story, on how to stop making excuses for why we aren’t writing and, my personal favorite, how to cultivate and maintain a writing career:

Deny anybody who wants you to work for free. If you work for free, that’s something you do, not something someone asks of you — doubly true where they’re making money and you’re not. They might as well ask you to bend over and stick tennis balls up your poopchute for the pleasure of an audience without you getting even the benefit of a reach-around. Or health care. Or free tennis lessons! Stories have value. Storytellers have value. Anybody who says different should be thrown into a wood chipper and used for mulch.”

500 Ways certainly isn’t your mama’s craft book, but it’s not supposed to be. This book is an unflinching “how to” on writing the best story you can. Call it exposure therapy for the thin-skinned writer. It stings, sure, but by the end, you’ll be sporting your Wendig-sanctioned Teflon armor.

Readers who want to keep the momentum going, (and keep themselves in line), should check out Chuck’s frequent posts on his blog.