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Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting Hardcover – Illustrated, November 25, 1997
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"...the best guide on writing you can find." -- Laurence Chollet, The Record, Northern New Jersey
"In difficult periods of writing, I often turn to Robert McKee's wonderful book for guidance" -- -- Dominick Dunne, Novelist
"McKee is the Stanislavski of writing." -- -- Dennis Dugan, Writer, NYPD Blue
"[Story is]an excellent instruction manual on the craft of storytelling." -- Austin American-Statesman
"to the people who write, direct and produce for Hollywood - or desperately wish they did - Bob McKee is a cross between E. F. Hutton and Sun Myung Moon. The man speaks, and people start to take furious notes - he is now the undisputed screenwriting king... for the legendary screenwriting boot camp that he runs. Thirty-thousand aspiring screenwriters have already taken McKee's 30-hour, three-day course..." -- Newsday
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It's kind of ironic, when you think about it, because the problem with this book (a book on writing no less) isn't the content or ideas, it's the writing of it. And I've found this in many other books on writing too... why do writers that write these books have such a hard time using some of the very lessons that they are teaching, in their own writing. Dunno. Anyway, useful book, I do recommend it, but it's needlessly wordy and the content is badly diluted.
Out of a dozen or so books on writing, I found McKee's "Story" thoroughly enlightening.
It can be a challenge to comprehend in places - but worth the extra effort!
In terms of characters driving narrative, review chapter 7 and examine writing w/in "the gap".
I found it easier to grasp McKee by writing one paragraph summaries of each chapter as I progressed.
It may be helpful to think of each chapter as a separate vignette of knowledge.
I suggest reading the chapters in this order: 1-3, 8, 4, 7, 5-6, 15, 9, 10-11, 14, 18, 12-13, 16-17
(the above order was suggested to me in fact by L.S.)
Also, try reading "Save the Cat", contrast/compare w/ "Story" and refer to the "Bible" by Trottier.
On a side note, the slip cover is absolutely awful. Throw it away.
The hardcover book w/out the slip cover is a tasteful blue-purple w/ STORY and McKee in gold print.
(see attached photo)
His bias against the avant-garde was shocking to me at first and it took time to get past that, but I forgave him. He does include meta and anti-novel type structures, at least.
I recommend this book to my fiction students all the time. What a gem.
The discipline to write is NOT taught in this book, so it's not going to make you a better screenwriter. Only trail and error can do that.
McKee's seminal text can do is help you focus and give structure to how you compile your screenplay; his central notion that plot is character and character is plot (although he's not the first to suggest this) is the heart of what he's conveying, and you can learn from this or whole-heartedly disagree. Unfortunately, no one really cares about that debate; what they care about is: can you write a compelling and engaging screenplay. Don't bore us, surprise us when and where you can, but learn to tell us a satisfying story that resonates.
Otherwise, you fail.
This book is sort of like a riveting coach for a Division One NCAA athlete; although, you better have some raw ability to begin with, otherwise, what are you doing?
The way this book is broken down and its terminology is helpful for any writer's journey, but it's not a panacea or quick-fix, as McKee is points out, writing is hard work and if you're not willing to be in the chair time and time observing life, then nothing in here is going to solve any mysteries you might think there are to success in the film industry.
Top international reviews
The book is well written and gives so much insight into the process. It has made watching films / TV shows very different for me now as I feel like I understand story much better
There's no doubting the author's credentials, he is one of the heavyweights of Hollywood. He pulls no punches in pointing out the many (in his eyes) flaws in modern screenwriting. Some of the concepts are a bit hard to follow, but hey it's a book you can always re-read when it comes to preparing your masterworks.
My only niggle with the book is he does cite the French New Wave - Brunuel, Godard as well as Ingmar Bergman an awful lot. The only American writer who gets a look in is Robert Towne. Perhaps McKee doesn't rate any of the Scorseses or Spielbergs but it would have been good to at least get his take on their (immensley successful) approaches to story.
Despite all the self-analysis, smashing of preconceptions, and an awful lot of honest (are you sure you can do this?) talk, McKee has crafted a text that spurs the budding writer on. It builds confidence by presenting the tools, saying 'Look, this works' and then setting you free. His parting message is to be courageous. Something that I have learned and will be putting into practice today, and everyday from now on.
It can be a bit repetitive. Some of the advice might discourage you as he can be too much of a perfectionist. As he hasn't had much of his own word produced I think that is easy to demand perfection from others. I found it more useful to see it as a work of analysis and criticism rather than as a how-to guide.