47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2006
When I open a book to read and review I often put myself into the mindset of either a student in my class with their new idea and passion to write - or I compare what I'm reading to whatever project I'm currently working on. For "SFFTG" - I fell into the former.
When I get first time writers in my class they usually show up with TONS of passion mixed with very little idea. Something they heard, a family friend story, a true life adventure they went on and they want to write it. Then, during my class, we go through the process of fleshing out their idea into something cohesive. Hopefully ending up with a fully fleshed out idea that they can now go write. I do not psychoanalyze what they are putting into the idea. We do not deal with issues of conscious versus subconscious, metaphors and archetypes or dealing with the quintessential character. Mostly, we are just trying to show character, build conflict, create momentum and complete the story.
What James Bonnet does in his book, though, is deal with that subconscious. He deals with the metaphors, the archetypes. The journey of hero and the antihero.
Using a device entitled "The Story Wheel" he shows the journey of the hero to antihero. He shows the upside of a story and the downside of a story. He does not push a belief that you need to write one or the other - he really explains, in clear language, the path of story. A path you may not really realize you are on (subconscious).
He also does a great job of giving you examples of both types of story in film. How "The Godfather" is a story of an antihero while "Star Wars - Episode IV" is a classic story of a hero called to do great things. Much like Frodo in "The Lord of the Rings Trilogy."
The only real fault I have with the book comes from that thought process of my students: "I want to tell a story, how do I tell it?" The book starts out with the basics of where stories came from, what their purpose is, who they touched and how they moved people. Then, with the written word, how stories changed. But then, in part three, he goes into the story wheel and the golden paradigm and all the details - and it becomes a bit overwhelming. I found myself bogged down in minutia and confusion wondering: "Okay, do I have an archetype? Is he on a journey upwards? Where does the antihero come in? Is my conscious mind speaking? My unconscious?"
What I think would have been more helpful, would have been for Mr. Bonnet to have moved part 4 where he writes about the art of story-making and put that BEFORE part 3. Get people's creative juices flowing in the right direction and then explain how they can use the wheel to their advantage, how their subconscious is affecting their story, how they have archetypes and heroes and antiheroes.
Another benefit would have been for Mr. Bonnet to use a made-up story as a basic tool for exploration. He frequently uses the 9/11 tragedy as an example - but would have liked him to have started with that earlier on in the book. In other words write: "Lets say your idea is about 9/11. How many stories can you glean from that? From what angle? The firefighter, a trapped victim, the wife, the daughter, the son, the mother, the father, the pilot, the colonel, the terrorist, the homeless man on the street, the President, etc." And then take it to the next level: "Okay, lets narrow this down to a typical hero story and focus on the firefighter." And then follow that through the book - touching on other aspects and how someone's unconscious mind can influence what you have written or are writing. Instead, what I found later (in part 3) was very helpful, but scattershot. Having written 15+ screenplays I can see what he was talking about - but for a first time writer - I think this would add to confusion.
Bottom line: For an experienced story writer, I think this is an excellent book. It helps you look back on your stories and see how they followed a certain logical path and how your subconscious affected that path. How you followed the story wheel whether you meant to or not. But for a first time writer, I would suggest the book only if you have got a story already laid out and, even then, I would read parts 1, 2 and 4 and then part 3.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2006
I initially came upon Mr. Bonnet's book through a round-about manner. I had written my first novel and feeling very ambitious, I was going to learn how to write the screenplay for it. After taking an online screenwriting class, the teacher posted an article written by Mr. Bonnet on his website. From that article, I found Mr. Bonnet's website, storymaking. After seeing the 1st edition of Stealing Fire From the Gods, I ordered it from Amazon. As soon as it was in my hands, I couldn't put it down. I absorbed the book's content and in the process, I let go my ego about the book I had written and took off the rose-colored glasses which revealed all the flaws in my story. I was fired up to apply what I had learned from the book but the information didn't completely gel inside my head until I flew to Studio City and took Mr. Bonnet's weekend seminar, The Master Class. It made all the difference and that was a year and a half ago.
If you are a writer of novels or screenplays, you must purchase this book. Its insights will help elevate your writing. Stealing Fire from the Gods is meant to be highlighted up, passages marked for reference. It is the roadmap to your story without it being formulaic. Mr. Bonnet gives many, many examples from popular, well-done films to illustrate his teachings as well as examples from events in history that fall into the story pattern he's uncovered. I believe the examples he uses are the most important elements in the book because if you are familiar with the film, book, or history examples, you immediately make the association with the material.
Just last month, in October, I returned to Studio City as Mr. Bonnet's guest in his weekend class and I placed in his hands a copy of the novel that came out of me as a result of his first class. (The Breath of Hu published through Lulu under Michele Angel) I applied the story model that I learned from his book and class initially to rewrite the first book. It organically changed into a whole different story, a process different from the first time around. As I let go of my first story and embraced the new one that emerged, my creative unconscious took control over the whole process with spectacular results. The same can happen for you. Just take the first step and buy Stealing Fire From the Gods.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2006
We've all read the screenwriting books. We're reminded about how technically specific the writing needs to be. We're simultaneously horrified and execerbated by what the money-making writers do/did/will do to sell their manuscripts. And then out of the blue, you read Jim's book. And you're reminded of the beauty and wonder of the process we all used to call storytelling (before the idea got restocked under "selling"). Read this book twice. You won't get it the first time. Once you do, you'll stop thinking about the quick buck, and your creative aspirations merge with the likes of such greats as Chayefski, Schulberg and Mamet. It's hard to admit that we have so much to learn. It's refreshing to know STEALING FIRE FROM THE GODS teaches it to us.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2006
This edition of Stealing Fire from the Gods presents several new key concepts that will help you gain a deeper understanding of the storymaking process.
Key concepts include the high concept and the threat. Jim Bonnet shows how the threat is key to story because it creates all the critical elements of story and brings the story into being. Indeed, the threat (for example, the shark in Jaws) provides the resistance that creates the classical structure.
In addition, story diagrams have been updated. Through images, you're now able to see how the whole story passage and the hero's journey relate to the story focus.
The structure of the story focus is explained and Jim's thought leadership is showcased through his critical analysis of the three-act structure. Instead of the three-act structure, look at story through the eyes of the problem. Hollywood execs, however, are stuck on three acts, so you also learn how to pitch your idea in three acts.
From archetypes to zenith, the concepts in this book are powerful tools for the beginning or experienced storymaker. If you want to create great stories, this is the book to begin and end with.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2006
I have long been an admirer of James Bonnet's work. He in turn claims inspiration from Joseph Campbell, whose biography: A Fire in the Mind was written by myself and my wife Robin (original pub date 1991). What is this fire that flits from mind to mind, igniting creative passions, and that can be "stolen from the gods"? Bonnet not only honors Campbell, but the very process of creative inspiration itself, in this classic work, now in a new, updated, attractively published edition. This approach to screenplay writing shows us that the "stealing" of the divine fire of creativity is not a crime (for which Zeus punished Prometheus, because the "fire" of the creative process is not a "thing" to coveted or owned. Rather, his work shows it to be an "energy," of inspiration and communication, passed on from psyche to creative psyche, using the mythic ground rules Bonnet learned from Campbell, and in this inspiring book, passes on, in turn, to us, to use in our own processes of inspiration and creation. When Campbell received the National Medal of Honor for his own work, the thing that he was proudest of, was that the award was in the filed of "the creative arts" (rather than mere "scholarship" which he is also known for). Thus Campbell did not spawn a generation of imitators, but of new creative spirits in the company of George Lucas and Richard Adams (who claimed inspiration from Campbell but surely did "their own thing" with it.) This new edition of Stealing Fire from the Gods opens the apertures of the mythic imagination wide, to a new generation of creative Prometheans.
Stephen Larsen, New Paltz, NY July 21, 2006
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2007
This second edition of James Bonnet's guide to storytelling expands on the original by some forty pages. Like Christopher Vogler, Bonnet is inspired by C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell's works, so anyone acquainted with The Hero's Journey will feel at home immediately. However, Stealing Fire goes far beyond the basic hero myth. Bonnet traces the entire LIFE of the hero, from his auspicious beginnings to his final doom. In this way, he opens the door to telling other types of stories than the overexposed coming-of-age hero myth - and about time too.
Another important concept here is the `whole story', namely the entire sequence of events which form the backdrop and the future of the screenplay or novel. For instance, if we consider World War II to be a whole story, then Casablanca and Saving Private Ryan are specific moments of its storywheel.
Stealing Fire is an incredibly rich book, filled with ideas and concepts which stimulate the storytelling mind. However, it's not an `easy-to-use' method which depends on a single, easy to remember formula. The second edition material is mainly concerned with making the book more immediately practical for writers. It succeeds, but there are still many concepts and ideas here which could have been treated in more depth (for instance the Anti-Hero's Journey is described in just two pages). I also feel that the visual representation of the Golden Paradigm described here is too complex and abstract. Nevertheless, James Bonnet's book is thought-provoking, insightful and creatively exceptionally stimulating.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2006
I am an independent filmmaker and writer now living in Hollywood, and I just recently finished the latest edition of Stealing Fire From the Gods.
Bonnet's work is absolute genius. I have always had this burning conviction inside myself as a writer to tell the TRUTH. To pull realism from the aspects I see in life and craft my characters to be real and true and human. I knew I had an even more important goal to achieve as a storyteller, but I couldn't put my finger on it. When watching films that had it, I of course could point it's quality out, but I did not know how those film's invisibly touched me. Unlike most films, I related to these few great ones somehow and "got" what the filmmaker's were trying to say in such a way that they moved me. But why?
I read the first ten pages of Stealing Fire in a bookstore, and my jaw dropped..... This was it!!!! This is what I've been working toward in all my stories. This is the REAL truth. I've read the book now, and am so enlightened. No kidding, I would pay thousands of dollars for the wisdom it's awakened inside me now. Bonnet has shown me how I always wanted to tell stories and gave me the easy ways to break them down into the blocks necessary to build them. The secrets to those movies I'd see that touched me, are no longer invisible and I understand them now. This story model literally breaks down any story and helps you understand the energies at work, and when applied to your own storys, it helps act as your compass to tell you what is working and what is not genuine.
I cannot thank Bonnet enough for how his work has changed my writing, and my feature film script (which was missing something) really started to fall into place for me once I read Bonnet's work.
This book has taught me that to be a Great Writer, I need to teach my audience the ancient lessons I have learned in my life, and enlighten them as I would a friend. The Great Stories are how we've always shared this wisdom and how we evolve as humanity. Fascinating!!!!
As you read this, know that I am not someone paid to write this for the author or publisher, spewing ad copy to sell this book. James Bonnet's work has truly changed me, and I mean that from my heart. If you read this Mr. Bonnet, thank you for your amazing work.
Buy this book, you'll be glad you did!!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2006
The subtitle for this book should also include "A liberating guide." I'm a recovering three-act-structure-aholic. All the while I was buying into the three act structure way of writing, I couldn't help feeling that great stories are too big to fit into such a narrow model. This book was the answer I was looking for. Unlike other screenwriting gurus, Bonnet doesn't try to push all the elements of great stories into a corner and then leave you to figure out how to put these pieces together. Instead, he gives you maps and a compass and sends you on your journey with an understanding that the differences of great stories are just as important as their common elements. By for this is the most empowering and liberating book I've ever read on the art and craft of storytelling.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2008
If you appreciate the deepest dimensions of stories and you want to tell them, buy this book.
The author said he began decades ago asking the question, 'what are stories about?' (Or something similar). A few years ago, I began the same quest, and pretty much all of my discoveries are included in this book--as well as a whole lot more. I've been humbled, because I invested a lot of myself into 'my theories' but I've come to realise they're not mine, they're universal and we can all tap into and share them.
The concepts in this book go very deep but are explained succinctly, meaning one might breeze over the ideas without understanding their significance. Touching on the anthropological, emotional, psychological, spiritual, you'll consciously get a lot from this book if you have an open, explorative mind.
This isn't so much a practical guide to the technicalities of the craft of writing; it's much bigger and deeper. This book is about stories, what they are, how to tell them and why they work. It's also about life.
Like someone has said, 'all great works are built on the shoulders of giants'--in this case, people like Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung--but...
if I were to pick one book for an aspiring storyteller, a single book that encompasses the most about stories, it would be this one, with the advice, "Have the patience and faith to explore the many treasures that certainly exist within it."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I have to give this a three-and-a-half-star review, because like an opera viewer, while I can recognize the skill of the singers, I am technically inept at understanding the reasons for that skill.
This is advanced level writing, and I can sort of catch glimpses of brilliance in how the author describes story but, for me, that brilliance is frequently hidden from view by the ponderous language and the intricate psychological contrivances. I wanted to really understand this book, but I don't know if that's possible as a neophyte screenwriter. I believe this is a book I will return to when I have a bit more knowledge and confidence.
In the meantime, I will finish reading Syd Field.