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Nice general approach to structuring a story, with some eye-rolling bits
on 17 June 2015
There is some really interesting stuff in this book. However, I think the following observations may help you decide whether you want to read this:
* This is much more tailored to screen-writers than novelists. All by a small handful of the examples are from films, and the whole focus is on films.
* The style is a little bit holier than thou in regards to genre. McDonald appears to be of the opinion that if you can't see beyond genre, you are an inferior story teller. This began to get my back up after a while, especially because of...
* McDonald talks about internal vs. external conflict in a story as 'feminine' and 'masculine'. (i.e. feminine is emotions (internal conflict) and masculine is action (external conflict)). What was wrong with internal and external, I don't know. But perhaps it didn't allow the author to show the full range of his snippiness about inferior emotional stories or movies with lots of special effects (he harks on about these a lot). It also gave the author the chance to support his masculine/feminine idea with brief, superficial and selective evidence. There is also an odd contradiction about what constitutes a feminine film - he says chick flicks are feminine films and action films are masculine. But then says that people make feminine arty films and then wonder why no-one wants to see them, (in contrast to special effects masculine films, which he infers do well at the box office). But there was me thinking that chick flicks did well at the box office because people like them... And the generalisations about men/womens writing styles and what films they prefer is pretty insensitive. Ultimately, this chapter didn't need to be rage inducing. It could have been about internal and external conflict. I tried to keep this in mind, but still got pretty annoyed, as you can see.
* The focus here is on structure in a story (basically a beginning, middle, after type idea). If you're after help with characterisation, or specifics, this isn't it. I'm not sure about the 'resonate' claim either. A guide to making stories that feel complete would be more accurate.
* It says that it is useful for readers - I'm not so sure. As a reader rather than a writer I think this would be a guide to getting frustrated and feeling superior about story structure, especially in films. If that's what you want, go for it.
* It's short. The audio book was only a few hours long.
* It raises a couple of good general points, but I doubt that this is a book that I will come back to again.