Story Engineering by Larry Brooks: Review

Posted September 2, 2015 by daniel in book review / 0 Comments

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks: ReviewStory Engineering by Larry Brooks
Published by Writer's Digest Books on February 24th 2011
Genres: Language Arts & Disciplines, Composition & Creative Writing
Pages: 288
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Buy on AmazonBarnes and NobleThe King's English

What makes a good story or a screenplay great?
The vast majority of writers begin the storytelling process with only a partial understanding where to begin. Some labor their entire lives without ever learning that successful stories are as dependent upon good engineering as they are artistry. But the truth is, unless you are master of the form, function and criteria of successful storytelling, sitting down and pounding out a first draft without planning is an ineffective way to begin.
Story Engineering starts with the criteria and the architecture of storytelling, the engineering and design of a story--and uses it as the basis for narrative. The greatest potential of any story is found in the way six specific aspects of storytelling combine and empower each other on the page. When rendered artfully, they become a sum in excess of their parts.
You'll learn to wrap your head around the big pictures of storytelling at a professional level through a new approach that shows how to combine these six core competencies which include:

Four elemental competencies of concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot)
Two executional competencies of scene construction and writing voice

The true magic of storytelling happens when these six core competencies work together in perfect harmony. And the best part? Anyone can do it!

There have been many books, classes, support groups, and websites catering to hopeful storytellers looking for the best/fastest way to publish their novels. I picked up this book because I, like many budding writers, was stuck in a writing rut. I was looking for something that would help me gain a better mindset for the writing process. Story Engineering appealed to my plotter side and more. The title itself was more than enough to get me to start reading it immediately.  Pantsers beware, Story Engineering is the holy grail of plotters, and you may end up changing the way you write. If you are unaware of the differences between a plotter and a pantser, here goes my best quick description. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, if they make a plan it is very vague and usually changes while they are writing. Pantsers mostly let the story go “where it wants to.” Plotters are the opposite, They plan, or plot, every element of their stories. As a computer scientist and someone who tracks their family’s every transaction via a spread sheet with custom formulas, you might guess which side I lean towards. That being said I think Story Engineering would convert even the most hardcore pantsers.

The book uses helpful examples from popular novels to show how good writers, be they pantsers or plotters, write good stories because they are competent in six basic elements of good stories. Although I hadn’t read any of the books used as examples, I was still able to understand the concepts that those examples were meant to exemplify. Each concept in the book is presented in several different ways. If you don’t quite understand the first time, just wait. It is explained again in a different way in a page or two. If you do understand it pretty well the first time, the next couple pages will only serve to solidify that understanding.

I have been reading this book for a quite a while, I did not read straight through it to the end. Instead I read chapter by chapter applying the principles of each chapter to my current writing project. I used it more as a text book than anything else. What was the result? No, I do not have a published novel, however, I do have the structure of a story which I have never felt better about. The six core competencies described by this book did more than help me understand the story I wanted to write. It helped me find a way to get it out of my head before I lost it to frustration. I would recommend this book to pantsers and plotters, because I feel like the six core competencies taught by this book are very important to any story.


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