Friday, November 25, 2005

Story -- Complete

I finally finished Robert McKee's Story last night. It's really an excellent book, and he is obviously passionate about his theories of how story works. For the most part, I think his theories are spot on, so there is a lot to be learned by reading this book. I'm sure he is a very dynamic speaker, and I'd love to attend one of his seminars one day (although I seriously doubt I could ever afford it). Unfortunately, his writing is so -- dramatic -- that it's sometimes hard to get a good grasp on what he's trying to say. A good teacher boils things down into clear, concise pieces of information that he wants his students to learn. McKee talks a lot and gives you a lot of examples from film -- all of which are good -- but he's not as good a teacher as I would like him to be. As I said, though, there is a lot to learn from the book, and it's certainly not dull, so I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take fiction writing seriously. On the other hand, I would also strongly recommend that you have written at least one complete novel (sold or unsold) before trying to apply his techniques. I really think you need to have the experience of plotting and carrying out a complete novel (or screenplay, obviously) before his ideas will make sense. You'll get something out of it no matter what, but reading this book is a big investment time-wise, so you'll want to make sure you're getting the most for your money.

I'll post some examples of things I've learned from the book in the next few days. Even though the book is aimed at screenwriters, there is really only one chapter that isn't all that applicable to novelist -- and even that chapter is interesting, as it reveals how the "other half" lives. Screenwriters are under a lot more restrictions than we novelists are, and some of the techniques that work for screenwriting would be a death nell for novelists. Nevertheless, having the ability to write only what the "camera" sees -- no thoughts inside anyone's head -- for example, would be a powerful exercise for any budding novelist.

Overall, the book is well worth the (hefty) price of admission.

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