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Story Engineering [Kindle Edition]

Larry Brooks
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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!

Editorial Reviews


"If you've been searching for an accessible, well-reasoned explanation of how the story building process works, look no further. Here is the roadmap you need to understanding the craft of writing." --Terry Brooks, author of more than twenty five bestselling novels including The Sword of Shannara

"Story Engineering is a master class in novel writing. Reading it is like getting an MFA, without the pesky admissions process or student loans. This book will make you smarter about the craft. Period." --Chelsea Cain, New York Times Bestselling author of Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart

"Larry Brooks's Story Engineering is a brilliant instructional manual for fiction writers that covers what the author calls the `Six Competencies of Successful Storytelling.' The author presents a story telling model that keeps the writer focused on creating a dynamic living and breathing story form concept to the `beat sheet' plan, through story structure and writings scenes. It's a wonderful guide for the beginner and a great refresher for the pro. I guarantee this book will give you new ways to fire up your creativity." --Jim Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel

"A useful guide explaining how to transfer screenwriting techniques to the craft of novel-writing. Good for screenwriters, too, summarizing the essence of entertaining commercial storytelling with great clarity." --Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

"Larry Brooks' groundbreaking book offers both novelists and screenwriters a model for storytelling that is nothing short of brilliant in its simplicity, its depth, its originality and its universality. Following his unique process is guaranteed to elevate your writing to the highest professional level." --Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell, and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds

About the Author

Larry Brooks is a critically acclaimed best-selling author of six psychological thrillers (including Darkness Bound, Pressure Points, Serpents Dance and others), in addition to his work as a freelance writer and writing instructor. He is the creator and editor of, one of the leading instructional writing sites on the internet. His website is

Product Details

  • File Size: 782 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1582979987
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 1 edition (January 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J35J8W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,907 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
283 of 293 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Info in too much Chaff April 17, 2011
By karrose
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I listened to a Larry brooks interview on The Creative and it lit my proverbial light bulb. He discussed the very problem that has kept me drafting and butchering my stories while never hitting a sequence of events that sang to me. I immediately bought his book for my kindle.

Story Engineering delivered, provided the missing ingredient. The book was worth the money spent and the time spent. I'm hopeful and excited to put his methods into use.

That said, this book was truly painful to read. The Six Competencies were buried in extraneous pontifications, excessive rebuttal of his critics, and attitude--like his deep seated bias for certain types of writing. To make maters worse, these lectures, defenses, and opinions were repeated ad nauseam in each and every section. My head hurts from trying to sift out the wheat buried in all that chaff.

It's apparent that Mr. Brooks has a chip on his shoulder that he's extremely touchy about. He's obviously received strong ego-crushing criticisms of his storytelling method. He wastes pages endlessly trying to convince us that his method is the only real way to write successfully. Failure to use his structure means you will NOT get published. The organic writers, and other pantsers, who have still gotten published are using his structure but by different name. Okay, good to know, but this message was received in first chapter. Fine, reiterate it occasionally to drive the point home. But he replays this defense over and over even within chapters.

Hey, we had already bought and are reading the book! The author's job was now to present and teach us the method clearly and concisely, and then step back and let the reader/writer fly, or not. Writers will either buy into the structure or they won't.
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168 of 173 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much work to unveil the good parts... May 19, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read dozens of craft books. Story Engineering moved me enough to write my first review. I love what he said; I hate the way he said it.
While I found the method behind his madness enlightening and inspiring, there was far too much argumentative redundancy in this text. The constant barrage of 'you will not get published if you don't do this' and picking on other writing methods was tedious. I got it the first time. And every time after that. By the end, I felt like the author believed his whole audience to be ignorant. Brooks' delivery of the information was antagonistic throughout most of the book. So much so, that I felt like I should argue, but I agreed wholeheartedly with his structures. He was preaching to the choir. By the tenth time he bashed creating any other way - those people that disagreed wouldn't still be reading anyway. Let it go.
I have the kindle version. Too many too-wordy sentences that often straddled pages were a hassle to try to consume. Typos always jar me, and there were plenty. One, that I wish I'd marked so I could share the location, where the word CAN tried to stand in for the word CAN'T. I can see the usefulness of similes to explain concepts to people who just don't get it. There were so many that he must feel all of his readers just won't get it.
Had these core competencies been laid out in a concise, clear, and less argumentative manner, I would have rated Story Engineering 5 stars easily. I believe a book targeting professional writers, and even wannabes, could have been--should have been--presented more professionally.
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of funny, when you think about it. October 5, 2011
The six core competencies of successful writing, according to Larry Brooks, are: concept, theme, character, structure, scenes, and voice. The first four are elemental components; the last two relate to execution.
And that was the summary this book needed. Honestly, I read this book and I had to search for a place in the book where the main point of it could be easily discovered. There are two helpful pages tucked at the end of the book (218-219). Otherwise? Good luck. This book does not seem heavily edited.
But first, the positives: Brooks has been immensely helpful in providing writers with an alternative model of story-writing other than "pantsing," as he calls it. Since Stephen King's memoir "On Writing," I've had this image of the writing process in my mind where you just feel your way forward, write the whole thing about three times, and hopefully discover a story along the way. That's pantsing: flying by the seat of your pants.
Brooks offers an alternative. In short, plan ahead. Sketch the story, all of it, from characters to scenes, ahead of time. That was phenomenally helpful. King and others give the impression that anything other than pantsing it is not true art. Brooks knocks that idea flat. It's about the story first; art second. It has to be a story before it can be art. Tell a good story; make good art.
Brooks' six competencies may also be helpful. I'll have to go back and think about it because they were drowned in a deluge of analogies and lists. Oh! the metaphors. Oh! the lists. What I'm about to say may sound like an exaggeration, but it is not: This book contained thousands of analogies/illustrations/examples/metaphors. I estimate an average of a dozen a page. Seriously. And lists. Lists sprouting all over the place!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful!
Mr. Brooks manages to demystify fiction writing in a clear and understandable way. This book, and his other one, "Story Physics" are a valuable addition to my library. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Martha P. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Money
Pros: Definitely worth the money. The most useful book on writing I have ever read. Full of examples and easy to follow principles. Easily applicable. Read more
Published 19 days ago by writergirl87
4.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read, but Brook's is a terrible writer!!!
I've read a dozen creative writing books and learned a lot, but Brook's makes me want to sit down and write. Read more
Published 1 month ago by jane doe
3.0 out of 5 stars A book that should be an article
Takes forever to get to the point
Published 1 month ago by npa
5.0 out of 5 stars Story Engineering has become my bible both as an author and as a...
Many new writers need a detailed road map to get their story out of their heads and present it in a way that will be professional and enjoyable to their readers. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Phyllis Bandy
5.0 out of 5 stars The one book on craft EVERY fiction writer should read and use!
This book revolutionized how I write. I finally understand why I've abandoned so many projects once I've completed the first draft, or even long before that. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Maddy
4.0 out of 5 stars Brooks' book has really good information. He probably could have said...
Mr. Brooks' book has really good information. He probably could have said pretty much the same thing in about half the space though. Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. Clark
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
Insightful, encouraging and equipping. Although a little difficult to grasp at times, all in all it was worth the read
Published 1 month ago by Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong words for strong writing
Larry Brooks writes his book as though he were a nagging, desk-pounding teacher. And that's not bad. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dan Sutton
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book, then wrote my first novel. Thank you Mr. Brooks!...
Excellent explanation and analysis of what is one of the most mysterious processes of all: Writing a good story.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author


Larry Brooks is the author of six critically-acclaimed thrillers, and the guy behind, one of the fastest-growing and most respected writing sites on the internet. His latest novel is DEADLY FUAX, released by Turner Publishing, who will also be publishing his four prior novels as trade paperbacks within months following the DEADLY FAUX release, and will be releasing another new novel, THE SEVENTH THUNDER in April 2014.

Brooks was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He graduated with a degree in marketing communications from Portland State University, where he attended in the off-season during a five-year run as a professional baseball player in the Texas Rangers organization. He was a pitcher, and to this day is still undergoing medical and therapy procedures from years of trying to throw a ball through a wall.

This led to his first published writing: a magazine article on the life of a minor league pitcher. Still not keen on a writing career - like most of the newly graduated, he had his eye on the money back then - his first stints in a business suit had more than a few more swings and misses. He says he was history's worst stockbroker for the world's largest brokerage firm, then the world's worst personnel manager in a now-defunct major department store (remember what Dirty Harry said about Personnel managers?), in addition to a couple of other humbling career fliers he chooses to forget. Each crashing career resulted in another published magazine piece lampooning the experience, and his interest in writing began to emerge as his best - and perhaps last - viable career option.

In 1983 he answered an ad for a "script writer" at a small audio-visual production company - eight arteests and a slide projector. Cut to 1996, when the company was one of the largest marketing and training firms in the western U.S., and Brooks was the executive creative director and a partner, with some 120 employees and a portfolio with more corporate videos, brochures, websites and other useless stuff than Harlequin has romances. He and his partners sold the business in 1999, at which point Brooks ran toward the career he'd been quietly cultivating on the side for the prior two decades - writing novels and screenplays.

His first published novel, DARKNESS BOUND, was based on one of his original screenplays, featuring - here's a surprise - a stockbroker who hates stockbrokering. It debuted in October 2000, spending three weeks on the USA Today best-seller list. His second novel, PRESSURE POINTS - an ad exec who hates the ad business - appeared to solid reviews in December 2001, with comparable sales. His third novel, SERPENT'S DANCE, was a February 2003 release from Signet paperbacks, and was also well reviewed despite selling like parkas in Pakistan. And his fourth, July 2004's BAIT AND SWITCH , earned a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, who also named it their lead Editor's Choice for that month, and at year end to two of their lists: Best Overlooked Books of 2004 (the only paperback so named; perhaps, says Larry, a dubious honor) and Best Books of 2004 (lead entry, mass market).

DEADLY FAUX, his newest novel, is a sequel to BAIT AND SWITCH, bringing the hero, Wolfgang Schmitt, back for more seduction of dangerous women who are not based on the author's real-life wife.

His book on writing - Story Engineering: Understanding the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing - was published by Writers Digest Books in February 2011, and his second writing book, Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling," came out from WDB in June 2013. Book books leverage the growing audience for his writing-skills website (, which explores a fresh and rhetoric-free perspective on writing fiction from a carefully articulated model and plan, rather than the seat-of-the-pants creative chaos so many writers employ

In late 2002, Brooks' script for the adaptation of DARKNESS BOUND was named a finalist in the prestigious Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the folks who bring you the Oscars. It was one of ten scripts selected out of 6044 submissions, which he hopes you find impressive, especially since he didn't end up winning one of the five Fellowships. He got the t-shirt anyway.

Brooks has been teaching writing workshops since the mid-1980s. (As he writes this, he's making the international mime sign for a telephone receiver and holding it up next to his ear.)

Brooks is very happily married to his wife of 18 years, Laura, an artist and interior designer, who wants you to know she "is not the Dark Lady" (the villainess from his first novel), though central casting might disagree. He also has a wonderful son, Nelson, who is 23 and a manager in the beverage industry after a degree from USC; three supportive step-children, Tracy, Scott and Kelly; and seven step-grandchildren who have no clue what "Poppy" does for a living, only that he can still bench press the family car.

Larry and Laura live Scottsdale, AZ, where the heat and the spectacularly bad drivers are challenging.

Feel free to contact Larry at his website (, or email him at


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