Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

 Larry Brooks has long been one of the most respected writing instructors on the Web. Those familiar with his site Storyfix are already aware of the quality information he churns out week after week and won’t be surprised to learn that his recently released book on “mastering the six core competencies of successful writing” presents more of the same.

I read many how-to writing books every year, and I glean something from almost every one of them. But not many offer truly revolutionary ideas about the craft and how to move forward to the next level as a writer. Story Engineering does just that. Larry frames the book on the idea that every successful story is made up of six necessary “competencies” (four elements and two skills): Concept, Character, Theme, Story Structure, Scene Execution, and Writing Voice. He brings worthy and inspiring ideas and suggestions to all these subjects, but the heart and soul of this book is undeniably the twenty-three chapters on story structure.

Story structure is so often neglected in the teaching of fiction writing. We learn how to create three-dimensional characters, high-concept plots, and powerful themes—but without the ability to frame them in a strong structure, they’re weak-sauce stuff at best. And yet, so many writers are crafting story structure on sheer instinct, instead of a foundational understanding of what makes a solid structure—and what doesn’t. This book takes away the guess work. Larry teaches what constitutes a correct structure, how to recognize and study it in the stories of others, and how to implement it in your own work. If you’re only going to have two books on writing on your bookshelf, make it John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story - and this one.

As a special bonus: If you purchase Larry’s book from Amazon
and send him an email (storyfixer [at] gmail [dot] com) letting him know Katie sent you, he’ll send you a free copy of his e-book 101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters.
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