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Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (Methuen Film) [Paperback]

Robert McKee
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Methuen Publishing Ltd; Reprint. edition (16 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780413715609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0413715609
  • ASIN: 0413715604
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Story" deciphers the guiding structural principles that animate every classical and award-winning film, ranging from "Citizen Kane" through to modern acclaimed works like "The English Patient".

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First Sentence
Imagine, in one global day, the pages of prose turned, plays per , films screened, the unending stream of television comedy and drama, twenty-four-hour print and broadcast news, bedtime tales told to children, barroom bragging, back-fence Internet gossip, humankind's insatiable appetite for stories. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
127 of 133 people found the following review helpful
Putting pen to paper is not as simple as putting pen to paper. And this only becomes evident when you've read a book like this.
This book's inspiring. It's to the point. And - although written primarily for screen writers - it's invaluale for anyone who thinks they have a story in them.
If you're a keen writer like me, you may have sat yourself down at a computer with an idea, started writing, scratching your head and wondering whether it's good or not. Step up Robert McKee:
"When talented writers write badly it's generally for one of two reasons: either they're blinded by an idea that they feel compelled to prove, or they're driven by an emotion they need to express. When talented people write well, it's generally for this reason: they're moved by a desire to touch an audience."
I'm not saying I'm a 'talented writer', but this statement hit home. McKee states that "story is not what you have to say, but how you say it." Writing should be 75% story design and 25% words. This is one of many revelations.....of which there are many.
By reading a book like this you can not only put a structure to the words that come out of your head, you can learn more about why people need stories, why they work and why they don't. How do you keep your audience's attention all the way through, how do you build them up to a climax, how do you make sure characters and story elements aren't cliched, and how do you appeal to a wide audience? Each is discussed in satisfying detail.
The other nice thing aout the book is that McKee talks 'forms' rather than 'formulas'. He's not saying that we should stick to rules - resulting in cliches - but just observe why things work. The 450 odd pages are also peppered with film examples too, which helps.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A substantial, often brilliant book 1 Dec 2001
McKee analyses not just movie plots but the principles of dynamic storytelling, dramatising his general points with perceptive commentaries on individual scenes and sequences. The audio cassette is greatly condensed from the book, but adds the impact of the author's forceful, atmospheric delivery. Both versions are well worth having.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable! 14 Jun 2000
This is simply the best book available for the aspiring screenwriter (and I've read most of them).
McKee fleshes out many important concepts (including turning points, the nature of irony) in a thoroughly readable journey into the nature of story - how and why it works.
But more importantly he shows us how to construct a 'great story well told'.
If there is just one screenwriting book on your bookshelf, make this it.
Do not let this one pass you by.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
As a professinal script editor I can honestly say that there's little here to disagree with. He's not wrong when he says that these story structures work in delivering satisfying scripts and if your script isn't a great read it's probably down to the story structure not working. However, it's a fairly torturous read and McKee's style of delivery (here and in his famous lectures) is really hard to listen to. There is little attempt to entertain and one feels utterly preached at. If you can stick with the un-engaging writing and learn the lessons that he's hitting you over the head with, then it's well worth a read.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential! 30 Mar 2004
By A Customer
Writing a screenplay is nothing like writing a novel: its concise, terse format presents a challenge to any writer who is used to the freedom of novel narrative. Robert McKee's book is just one of many that any newbie writer should read before writing a screenplay. His emphasis and dissection of effective story structure ensures that you too will begin to consider the technical aspect of your story: the hard part! Some people dislike the idea of the three-act structure, but to be honest, there's no way you can play with it until you understand it thoroughly. Don't read this book passively though: you'll need post-its, highlighters and a notebook in order to make the most of it. Dense and technical as it is at times, if you're serious about this screenwriting business you should set aside as much time to study the craft as you would to write. Here's the place to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bible for scene writing 8 April 2011
This is not a cosy read, it is long (could benefit from an edit that cuts 25%) and in places not easy to understand. So why have I given it 5 stars? Because it is well worth the trouble of re-reading it to really understand how to write a scene and to understand character arcs. I was lucky in that it was a set book on my MA in Creative and Critical Writing and we had to summarise whole chapters so I got to really understand it. On that basis I thoroughly recommend this book as the guide to writing a scene and to understand the principle of characer arc. It is a bible that you should read and then dip into many times as you write your stuff.
McKee states correctly that stories are not made up of chapters, they are made up of scenes and it is by knowing the dynamics of a scene that help the writer create a good story. For example many writers understand that a character must change from the beginning of a story to the end of a story but McKee says that the point of view character must change (arc) in a scene also. This adds huge power to every scene and often explains why some scenes are flat (no character arc in it).
I would say this book, along with Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers and The Story Book: A Writer's Guide to Story Development, Principles, Problem-solving and Marketing and The Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction are the main story theory books any writer needs on his or her shelf.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Good book
Published 22 days ago by Christine
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
A really fantastic introduction to story telling. Robert McKee breaks it down in a way that makes it easy to understand the basic building blocks of any story. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Josh Lipworth
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
this is a a good book I think.
yet to compare it to other screenwriting books and other techniques though.
Published 7 months ago by lala
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book!
This book has surpassed my expectations. If you want some great advice on writing a screenplay I suggest this! It's worth every penny!
Published 7 months ago by Catherine Delaloye
5.0 out of 5 stars A gift for any aspirant writer.
I am a novice writer who had rewritten her novel many times and got completely stuck. I approached this How To book thinking, another load of overblown American rubbish. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Sheena Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a review
It's not a review.
Sorry i though this was delivery review, i wasn't well awake, please delete this.

remove it.
Published 12 months ago by Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant piece of work
No question the best book on the art and science of story-telling I have come across. More than just screenwriting, this book sheds light on every aspect of story.
Published 14 months ago by quinet
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, not for the faint-hearted!
This book is a confidence builder. It's about as complete a text as possible on what it means to be a writer, and what demands that makes of the individual. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mister Ewan
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone wanting to write novels, screenplays or...
It's incredible. This offers so much insight. I have a masters degree in creative writing and I wish that my tutors had only read this! Read more
Published 17 months ago by MISS C R DAVIES
5.0 out of 5 stars very happy with this item
First the item got lost in the mail, but as soon as I got in touch with the company, I as offered a discount cuppon and a new item was sent. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Rui Cavalheiro
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