Make Your Story Really Stinkin’ Big by Houston Howard (book review).

There are two things that struck me from the start of Houston Howard’s book, ‘Make Your Story Really Stinkin’ Big’, and that was there was a predominance of SF films and that if you’re going to make one then you need to be a world-builder. He calls it ‘transmedia’ but it’s still world-building in our language. After all, in SF prose, world-building is seen as a matter of course. We have to have firm reality foundations or rules established before actually writing the story. Seeing it being brought home to film-makers does tend to suggest that many scriptwriters don’t go far enough in creating their realty. It does make me wonder just how many SF scripts have done the Hollywood rounds and not sold because of this lacking. Maybe too many scriptwriters think they can just write SF without knowing how. Even so, a big script also requires big investment from a studio so you have to twist a good idea with some firm recognisable tropes. Well, unless you’re a writer-director like Jim Cameron with mega-bucks to invest and spend.


I like the way Howard describes how to spice up the selling pitch and I think the same applies to us when we need to sum up the theme of our stories with a bit of hype when touting to book publishers. If you’re a prose writer you can learn a lot from this because it’s often a weakness we have in self-promotion.

It’s also one of those rare books that I read and didn’t disagree with. Indeed, I find I was already doing a lot of these things with my ‘Psi-Kicks’ stories. Things like leaving gaps for readers to fill in what they thought was going on and leaving hints to develop across stories than giving big reveals all the time rather than laying everything on the line. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you have to do the big reveal continually to the reader. I’m not even a frustrated scriptwriter, I’m just applying some commonsense to how I developed my mosaic.

Whether you’re into film or prose, I do think this book will help cement your ideas in reality creating, pointing out things you need to consider in bringing your world to life and, more importantly, sustaining it over a longer period. If you have a decent reality and one story doesn’t succeed, you can also create a different story using the same ingredients and not waste anything. Howard points out that these are key ingredients with many of the SF gems we all still treasure. Although I doubt if such thoughts were through their minds when created, they certainly contributed to the templates here. If you’re looking to build some reality foundations, then this book addresses you to the things you need to contemplate in its development which is always for the good.

GF Willmetts

August 2014

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 170 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $18.95 (US), £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-155-2)

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