McKee’s ‘Story’

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I’ve recently acquired a small pile of new books on writing, things that had been recommended by friends or caught my eye in articles on the craft. So while I’m glowing in the fake sense of achievement my online shopping has provided, I thought I’d recommend one of my favourite writing books – ‘Story’ by Robert McKee.

McKee is a screenwriter, and the book is designed for script rather than prose writers, with examples taken from film. Despite this, I’ve found it very useful in thinking about story writing. McKee looks at stories in terms of structure and scene. He looks at the way a story is structured overall, different structures to use and the dramatic elements contributing to them. He discusses the emotional charge of each scene, the necessary shifts in this, the sense of conflict and crisis necessary to draw your audience in. He connects both of these themes to characters, and how they drive stories. And he also covers some of the odds and ends, such as different genres and dealing with exposition.

A lot of what McKee says will seem familiar to anyone who’s read around the craft of writing. It only takes a casual flick through a beginner’s book to learn about three act structure and inciting incident. However, McKee provides real focus and coherence in bringing ideas together, and an impeccable grasp on the details. It’s not the be all and end all, but right now it’s my favourite book on writing.