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Inside Story Paperback – 1600
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I am not a screenwriter or even an aspiring one, but this book is rich in useful advice for novelists like me, or in fact for anyone telling a story. This is no “screenwriting made easy” guide, with outdated tips about margin size, typefaces, and what kind of brackets to use around stage directions. Marks’s focus is lasered in on how to shape a story—what you tell at which stage, how to create characters that viewers can attach to, how to develop and sustain a strong theme, in short how to make a story meaningful, no matter what genre you are writing in. As she amply demonstrates, her advice works equally well for action-adventure stories as for romantic comedies, thrillers, or tragedies.
To do this she starts each chapter with a generalized concept, such as building a character or identifying your underlying theme, and after discussing the concept in broad terms, she gives examples from well-known films. The way she analyzes movies most people will recognize is one of the most enlightening and valuable aspects of this book: she explains why a particular story works and why it doesn’t, where the author is doing something right and where he or she has gone astray. Later in the book she takes the reader through the arc of a story step by step, revealing what’s important at each stage—the concept-establishing first act, the busy and eventful second act, and the cathartic and transformative third. Her advice moves seamlessly from the general to the particular and back to the general, illuminating both the mechanics and the uniqueness of any story. It’s not just a how-to, but a WHY-to.
I found this book tremendously valuable in its approach, full of both thought-provoking and actionable advice. I recommend it for anyone who tells stories, regardless of your genre or medium.
If there is a first and last book to read about writing a story, this is it. EVERYTHING else is filler, compared to this (no disrespect to other highly renowned authors, lol).
If you want to make your readers and/or viewers CARE about your character, their journey, your STORY, read this book.
Then read it a few more times. You'll be glad you did.