15 June 2019

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Story is for any writer who ever wanted to understand and develop their craft.  Robert McKee's book is one of those wonderful discoveries that you can open randomly at any page and learn something about writing. McKee's main point is that all notions of paradigms and 'foolproof' story models for commercial success are meaningless.  Instead of looking for shortcuts we need to be faithful to our principles.

I have no aspiration to become a screenplay writer but, like many of us, I once had a go at writing a play for radio. I am glad I did, as it helped me appreciate how much easier the whole experience could have been if I'd followed the principles set out in Story.

I was particularly intrigued by the explanation of the genre and subgenre system used by commercially successful screenwriters.  McKee points out that genres don't inhibit creativity – they inspire it and anyone who ever tells a story is really doing so within the principles, structure and style of a genre - even those who rebel against genres!

His chapter on characterization and character development is also very thought provoking for any story writer. Characterization is described as the sum of all the observable qualities that make the character unique – but true 'character' is what waits behind this mask to surprise us.

McKee argues that true character is revealed through the choices made under pressure – and the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation. The memorable characters of film and literature are all of course rooted in this simple but easily overlooked principle.  I like the idea that, having analysed the clear and obvious choice for a character, we then ask what would be the opposite to that and why they would act in that way?

Story has hundreds of examples from movies of every genre (the list at the back takes 33 pages).  I've never really thought about it before but he points out that how odd it is to sit in a darkened room full of strangers and give our undivided attention to a story for two hours without a break.  I wonder if I will ever watch any of them again without thinking about the screenwriting.

I also found myself wondering how many of these movies have influenced the way I think about story writing – and I definitely have renewed respect for screenplay writers.  Next time you go to see a movie, make a point of knowing who actually wrote the story.  You will find someone who was prepared to write every day, line by line, page by page –with the courage to risk rejection and failure in the quest for stories told with real meaning.

Tony Riches
# # #

About the Author

Robert McKee developed his ideas on creative writing when he was a professor at the University of Southern California. His seminars have contributed to the work of 36 Academy Award winners, 164 Emmy Award winners, 19 Writers Guild of America Award winners and 16 Directors Guild of America Award winners. Find out more at www.storylogue.com and follow Robert on Twitter at @McKeeStory


Do you have recommendations on books for writers you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below


The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in. 

4 comments:

  1. What a coincidence, because I'm into chapter 2 of this book. I've been dillydallying though, and you've given me the motivation to read it faster. Thanks, Tony!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Screenwriting is tough! I took a class during my master of education program and learned to much from screenwriting. It really teaches one to focus on the dialogue. Thank for this great resource Tony :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've always admired the story telling through film but I've always thought of it as a group project. You've perspective never occurred to me. Thanks for the insight.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've heard about McKee's book before. Guess it's time I get and read it. My children don't like to watch movies with me anymore because I'm always dissecting the story/plot and telling them what's important, although I don't know why yet. Thanks, Tony, for a great post. All best to you!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting

AddToAny