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130 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2003
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.
Put simply, this book is invaluable to you if you're writing a story, or just interested in them. Be warned though, it is dense and somethimes daunting - you need to set aside a good couple of weeks. Like others reviewing here though, I'm going back for a second read to take notes. And considering this is something I didn't even do for school exams, it gives you an idea of how much I value McKee's inspiration.
If you want to make your writing something others want to read too, BUY NOW.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2009
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
I wish I had read all of them when I wrote my first novel Call me Aphrodite ; of course my book still turned out excellent :)
I recommend Story as a bible to read then dip into many times in the future.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 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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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2004
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
on 24 June 2013
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.

There's no doubting the author's credentials, he is one of the heavyweights of Hollywood. He pulls no punches in pointing out the many (in his eyes) flaws in modern screenwriting. Some of the concepts are a bit hard to follow, but hey it's a book you can always re-read when it comes to preparing your masterworks.

My only niggle with the book is he does cite the French New Wave - Brunuel, Godard as well as Ingmar Bergman an awful lot. The only American writer who gets a look in is Robert Towne. Perhaps McKee doesn't rate any of the Scorseses or Spielbergs but it would have been good to at least get his take on their (immensley successful) approaches to story.

Despite all the self-analysis, smashing of preconceptions, and an awful lot of honest (are you sure you can do this?) talk, McKee has crafted a text that spurs the budding writer on. It builds confidence by presenting the tools, saying 'Look, this works' and then setting you free. His parting message is to be courageous. Something that I have learned and will be putting into practice today, and everyday from now on.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2007
'Story' is the best of the dozen or so screenwriting books I've read, precisely because it ignores the nuts and bolts of what to put where on the page and the latest trend in writing in favor of going back to the basics of what makes a movie story work. Rather than claiming, as other books do, that the format has to be perfect and the hero has to meet his love interest on page 34 of the script or no-one in Hollywood will buy it, McKee goes back to the first principles of scenes and structure and builds up a theory of movie storytelling from there.

The downside is that I would agree with some of the other reviewers that the book is overly long; it could have been condensed to probably half the size without losing much and that's the only reason why I've given it four stars rather than five. But for anyone who's thinking of writing a movie script, I'd put this book high on the list.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2011
I was so excited to see the kindle edition of Story. The book itself is one of my favourites. What a shame the images towards the end of the book are so poorly scanned. Could the original clean image not have been recreated?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2007
Okay, so McKee isn't the be all and end all of screenwritng. Some people find him too wordy, too smart or too arty. But this is a book which all aspiring screenwriters should read as it contains so many valuable insights on the art and craft of writing itself. Within the first chapter you will find a great many nuggets that will give you a deeper appreciation of what it is to write a script. I'm not saying that you don't need to read other books. You do. However this is one of the few that contain worthwile information every screenwriter should know. It is told in a pretty easy-to-read style. Some of it is padding, but it's interesting padding. If you're going to start writing, do a little internet research of your own first, then read this. This book should be on every budding screenwriter's shelf.
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