Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction Paperback – 25 Mar. 2011
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What makes a good story or a screenplay great?
The vast majority of writers begin the storytelling process with only a partial understanding where to begin. Some labor their entire lives without ever learning that successful stories are as dependent upon good engineering as they are artistry. But the truth is, unless you are master of the form, function and criteria of successful storytelling, sitting down and pounding out a first draft without planning is an ineffective way to begin.
Story Engineering starts with the criteria and the architecture of storytelling, the engineering and design of a story--and uses it as the basis for narrative. The greatest potential of any story is found in the way six specific aspects of storytelling combine and empower each other on the page. When rendered artfully, they become a sum in excess of their parts.
You'll learn to wrap your head around the big pictures of storytelling at a professional level through a new approach that shows how to combine these six core competencies which include:
- Four elemental competencies of concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot)
- Two executional competencies of scene construction and writing voice
The true magic of storytelling happens when these six core competencies work together in perfect harmony. And the best part? Anyone can do it!
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The only thing of value I took from this book was his chapter on character. It explained three dimensional characters in a way that made so much sense. More enlightening and practical than anything I've ever read in entire books devoted to the subject. It's only a very small part of the book though.
Sadly, the rest of the book is mostly waffle. I would have liked to have seen him apply his "core competencies" to examples of a more literary nature, rather than the ones he chooses: Da Vinci Code and the movie, Top Gun. And I say that as someone who is an avid thriller and sci-fi reader.
What I've finally discovered having read the book, is that outlining really isn't for me. It kills the fun, enjoyment and discovery of writing. Larry's tone of voice probably has something to with it as well. He comes across as a bit smug. If you like to just sit down and write, I recommend "Story Trumps Structure" and "Troubleshooting Your Novel", both by Steve James.
Good advice with ironically poor writing and editing.
My one complaint about the book was that I felt too much of the text was spent trying to convince me why the system is useful, perhaps up to 2/3 of the book. Perhaps the author has gotten criticism in the past for daring to tell "pantsers" there's a better way, and he was preemptively cutting off those arguments. ??? Therefore, I found myself skimming and wading through stuff thinking, "Stop trying to sell me on the system and just give me the nuts and bolts!"
Still, the help I received by mining the pages meant I couldn't give this helpful guide less than five stars. I've used this system to build my next novel, and I am much happier and more confident than I ever have been at this stage. Just be sure you're prepared to do a bit of digging to get to the nuggets out of Story Engineering. It's totally worth it when you do.
Brooks explains how the vast majority of stories and films almost always favour a certain format. It's a structure that works. Of your story ticks the right boxes structurally and has a good theme, concept, etc then the reader will be hooked.
I read this after reading stacks of books on description, character, view point, etc and, while useful, they never showed me how to put it all together. I must add that it fits my way of writing. I'm a planner like Ken Follett. I don't write by the seat of my pants and wander off aimlessly hoping a story will appear. This book helps planners. 'Pantsers' will find it less useful though, if they digest and retain its teachings, they may find 'pantsing' easier in the future as they should wander about a little less aimlessly.
This is essential reading for all new or aspiring authors. The components of storytelling, the “Six Core Competencies” are presented in short chapters, as study chunks, and avoids technical terms and jargon. I found it very easy to read and absorb. The use of examples was just enough to prove each point.
The book provides valuable check-lists so that an author may look at their work from a fresh point of view. If you are thinking “what’s next?” or “why is this failing?” you will find many reasoned arguments as to the best approach to resolve the issue.
It is written in a very approachable style, well structured which allows you to dip in and out of sections without having to go through it all - although I do recommend reading it in a linear fashion for the first read. I have been taking creative writing workshops and this is definitely a good addition to it.
I have learned a lot about story structure, which is in my mind my weakest point.
Whether you are a pantser or a planner, this book will definitely open your eyes on a few technique and must that you might find useful. Mine is now full of annotations and post it tabs so I can find all the relevant bits quickly.
It is all stuff I kind of knew from other books but this is by far the clearest and most empowering. I ended it with a solid framework built around key structural points, for a novel I had been vaguely planning.
This is the best book on story structure I have read.
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In my opinion, this book along with "Story" by Robert McKee, are the ones you cannot afford skipping if you are serious about writing or at least understanding how to.
I started writing drafts and then rewriting them because I thought, like everyone else, that the only way to learn writing is by doing it, over and over again. The trouble is that I often would be in the middle of draft 2 and realize I need to change things in the beginning and then I would agonize over whether I should finish draft 2 or start draft 3. The stumbling from draft to draft process is highly inefficient and focusing on the 6 core competencies mentioned in Story Engineering is the most efficient way of writing a good story.
Worth reading though.