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.

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