Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review of The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

Despite the slew of “rules” that can sometimes clutter a writer’s mind, the craft of writing is actually a rather hazy territory, in which most writers are guided more by instinct than any solid formula for writing the “perfect story.” In fact, most formulas claiming to be no-fail guides to fiction often produce lusterless, cookie-cutter stories that are robbed of all originality and personality. At first glance, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller may appear to be another formulaic dissertation that breaks story down into stereotypical pieces. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

This marvelously insightful book takes a look far beyond even the dissertations of successful techniques offered in most helpful books on the craft. It dives below the various parts of the story (character, plot, dialogue, etc.) to look at the foundation itself. What makes a good story? What particular arrangement of story components guarantees success, no matter your genre? The answers are surprising, accessible, and entirely brilliant.

Truby, one of the most sought-after story consultants in the film industry, strips dozens of excellent books and movies down to the bare bones to show his readers how to build a powerful story from the ground up. His discussions include selecting a promising premise, fleshing out the “seven key steps of structure,” designing characters who can fulfill strong and memorable thematic arcs, using setting and symbols to back up your story’s message, and, most particularly, how to construct your plot to maintain the perfect rhythm.

Truby tackles a weighty, complicated subject and condenses it to a step-by-step creative process that all writers can follow. This is a book that belongs, not on your bookshelf, but on your desk, within easy reach, so you can refer to its wealth of information over and over again. Five out of five stars.
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