When asked what they like to read, many people respond simply, I just want a great story. Knowing a great story when you read one is easy, but writing one can be elusive.
Though primarily a story consultant for Hollywood scripts, John Truby’s new guide to storytelling, The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, has value for any storyteller, screenwriter and novelist alike. Practical but not dumbed-down, Truby breaks down classic films and novels such as Chinatown and The Great Gatsby, to explore plot and premise, theme, character, moral development, and endings that refuse to let the reader go.
From symbols to scene weaving, Truby’s 22 steps are designed to help writers avoid story mistakes and instead employ the best techniques in his experience:
“My goal is to explain how a great story works, along with the techniques needed to create one, so that you will have the best chance of writing a great story of your own. Some would argue that it’s impossible to teach someone how to tell a great story. I believe it can be done, but it requires that we think and talk about story differently than in the past.”
With such specific exercises and points of reference, literature instructors–especially at the high school level–could also benefit from using this guide with students.
You’re right, Adam.The screenwriters who’ve had the biggest problems are the ones who come in with outlines, an attack plan, and want to know what we think about every single little thing.First thing to do is get it down. As rough as it might be, and to write for you, not for committee.
Absolutely, Adam. In some ways Truby’s book strikes me as a bound writer’s workshop, without the crits. Ultimately, after all the feedback and advice, it comes back to to your voice and decisions as the writer sitting at the desk. What caused you to lose enthusiasm for screenwriting?
I started out as a screenwriter, but have really lost the enthusiasm for that medium. Finally started to write the novel I have always procrastinated about.I have found that the best way to write, for me anyway is to just let it flow out of my brain from beginning to end and then worry about sorting it out in the end.That said it is paramount to have a solid image of the story in the minds eye from the outset. I have spent a great deal of time sitting under trees, or sitting on my surfboard playing out the story in my mind, questioning the characters, their motives and if their actions would be validated prior to writing the first word.Now my book has moved through the first 6 chapters in the past month. I basically publish each chapter as it unfolds in my blog.I think the idea of teaching the art of story telling is valid, but with that said each story teller must work to find their own unique voice.
True, although I’ve been thinking lately that I want to read a book with great writing, but there’s nothing wrong with telling a great story too–so thinking about that in a very direct way might only help the novelist, even if just to help see clearly how to springboard off the old into the new. I do think screenwriting is a much different animal, at the same time people have told me some of my short fiction is filmic, so perhaps crossover is inevitable?
…and you’ve been tagged
I’ve been in way too many courses with screenwriters who’ve had a modicum of success and have fallen flat on their luck as of late. So they come in and decide to “knock out a novel” in record time. And they decide to break it down like a screenplay, when really, a novel is just a different beast altogether.And I hate to say this. But of all the writers I’ve met, they’ve had the hardest time. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because they write a lot by committee, whereas the novelist is out there by himself with an old car, a desert and an jug of water.While I think it’s interesting to find out how great novels are broken down, but it also raises the question of how the form has changed from the days of Fitzgerald.