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The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller Paperback – October 14, 2008
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“Truby attempts to inform the entire story, addressing plot, character, tone, symbolism, and dialog. The key here is to grow a script organically rather than force the story into preexisting mechanics . . . Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal
“A comprehensive guide to writing stories of all kinds, Truby's tome is invaluable to any writer looking to put an idea to paper.” ―Booklist
“The Anatomy Of Story is concrete and practical without resorting to simplistic 'Three Act Structure' screenwriting clichés. It will be an indispensable guide to writing your first great script. Then, the perfect survival manual to help you negotiate the often confusing, contradictory and cutthroat world of professional screenwriting.” ―Larry Wilson, co-writer /co-producer of BEETLEJUICE and co-writer of THE ADDAMS FAMILY
“A veritable bible for screenwriters.” ―Backstage
“If you're ready to graduate from the boy-meets-girl league of screenwriting, meet John Truby . . . [His lessons draw] epiphanies that make you see the contours of your psyche as sharply as your script.” ―LA Weekly
About the Author
John Truby is Hollywood's premier story consultant and founder of Truby's Writers Studio. He has worked as a story consultant and script doctor for Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, FOX, and HBO, among others, and has taught screenwriting to students worldwide.
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This approach didnt feel like it covered everystory. Indeed, he had trouble bringing this to genre type projects. Also, the moral section troubled me because not every story has a moral. Some feel like explorations rather then declarations. Another issue i had with the content is the lack of outdated examlles. Gone with the wind, tootsie, La confidential. I feel updates are neccesary, and this applies to genre as well. More contemporary movies and novels will have a better time resonating with audiences.
Despite my skepticism, i started applying the tools and referring back to it when writing. When i looked at other theoretical frameworks for writing, i discovered there was a lot of overlap. Similar sections but with different language. A prime example of this is Story maps. It better suits my approach to story analysis, while ackowledging all the same topics including theme (which is what tryby referred to as the moral).
Overall i believe truby to be a great resource that shaped the way i approached writing and reading for the better.
I have some favorites out there when it comes to writing (Shawn Coyne, Steve Pressfield, Larry Brooks) and I'd been pretty well versed in outlining and structure. I work in novel writing as opposed to scripts, so I didn't think I needed to add this to my list.
I was wrong. I learned so much and I highly recommend this book.
A couple things were real eye-openers to me.
If you've been working with the three-act structure and doing things like "getting it down" then you might read this and at least see why you could be harming your craft with some habits that might be counter-productive. I know I learned a few things that will save me grief.
If you are a beginning writer, or someone who has not read a lot of craft books previously, skip this one. Or alternatively, save it for the very bottom of your book list. Mr. Truby's process is so overly (and unnecessarily) complicated it's probably just going to confuse you.
For a much more accessible explanation of story, and how to put one together, I recommend looking into books by Jeff Kitchen, Deb Dixon, William C. Martell, Syd Field, Joseph Campbell, Michael Hague, and the tried and true Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Yes, I realize Mr. Truby doesn't like beat sheets, but using one doesn't make a story any more generic than using the hero's journey or the standard three act structure. It's a framework, nothing more.
I normally don't mind paying so much for a craft related book, but the author's explanations are so poorly defined, I'm more than a little disappointed I paid for this. Desire line, moral line... just call it goal, motivation, and conflict already. If you are looking for structure, this one riffs off the hero's journey. Before shelling out any money, you can see it yourself by doing a Google Image Search for Truby's 22 Steps. Simply speaking, there are other books that cover the character's journey and do a better job of explaining it.
It's not all bad, though. The high point in this book for me was the set of exercises near the beginning that suggest writing down as many premises and story ideas as you can think of, and then using your results as a list to figure out who you are as a writer and the types of stories you're truly interested in. Now that is genius. It's not enough information to justify the cost of the book, in my opinion, but it can seriously help you get a grasp on what you like, and help you nail down your genre.
Top international reviews
Ultimately, is this a useful book for storytellers? Undoubtedly. But is it a clear and engaging experience? I'd argue that it's not. A great chunk of this book is made up of examples from novels and scripts. At times this is obviously necessary to illustrate techniques. Yet Truby often fails to fully connect /every/ example used with the point he's trying to make with them.
Outside of these examples, Truby flounders at times in his explanations. These are complex ideas and, for brevity's sake, it's important to cut out the chafe. However, Truby may have attempted too much in one space.
I was made aware of "The Anatomy of Story" in a writing book by K.M Weiland. She is by far the vaguer teacher and I appreciate the clarity Truby brings to certain storytelling ideas, despite my other misgivings. I don't regret buying "The Anatomy of Story" and will return to it in future, which is much more than I can say about Weiland's book.
Apologies for the sparse review. I wanted to say more but I've got a headache.
Truby presents rules for “good” stories despite so many not following them at all. Furthermore in his demonstration of boiling stories down to a simple premise, the idea being you should be able to put yours as simply, he grossly misunderstands the premise of several huge movies which does not inspire confidence.
Truby also constantly refers to theoretical protagonists as “he” and later says he does this because “it’s easier”. Kind of hard to take writing advice from so lazy a writer when “they” has existed as the word for a person of unknown gender since way before Shakespearean times. Or even just switch up the genders of your theoretical protagonists, geez.
Will be straight off to the charity shop, thanks.
When you read enough 'how to write' books (which have proliferated like mushrooms over the last two decades), it doesn't take long to see them all devolve into a copy of a copy, recycling the same ol' same ol'; usually gleamed from Robert McKee's Story, Aristhotle's Poetics etc.
For that reason I had turned against this particular cottage industry and wholesale rejected any more writings on the topic, believing every last drop had been squeezed from that lemon. That was a mistake. John Truby's book is a gift. It allows everything else that came before to be synthesised and integrated. If you're writing a novel or screenplay, reading this book is the biggest favour you could do for yourself.
A joy to read, descriptive, easy to follow and amazingly informative.
I was lucky enough to stumble on an interview with John Truby on Y**Tube.
He really came across very knowledgable with a no-nonsense approach, so I pursued his book.
So, so glad I did. It takes what I had as concept ideas and puts it on a route to making it a really professional screenplay/story.
His studies into what makes an outstanding story is thorough, informative, and worth its weight in gold.
This will be the lynch pin that holds all my writing together.
It doesn't matter if you are writing a book, a script, or even filming/editing a film, because John Truby condenses key storytelling advice into this book that you can apply to whatever project you are doing.
Having read a few books on writing now, this is one of the very few that offers some proper tips on how to structure the plot effectively.