A Tale of Two Writers…
by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, a time to panster and a time to plot. But in the end the writers both engineered a great story, because they both used the same six components of great storytelling.
How do we engineer a great story? We start by reading “Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing” by Larry Brooks. If you recall, we reviewed his other scientific book on writing titled “Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling.” This month’s book goes hand in hand with that masterpiece of Mr. Brooks.
This textbook of how to build a strong concept, craft the character arc, define your theme, and execute on your scenes is a solid manual on how to write well and engineer a great story beautifully told.
Don’t worry that this is all science. It is a fun book to read. Mr. Brooks explains the components in a refreshing manner that makes sense. One of my favorite explanations is how he explains the difference between an Idea, a concept, and a premise.
“A non-story example: an idea is to travel to Florida. A concept is to travel by car and stop at all the national parks along the way. A premise is to take your estranged father with you and mend fences while on the road.”
Wow, now I understand clearly the difference between the three. What a great tool to walk your own story through and see if you have your idea, concept and premise aligned before you start outlining and writing scenes.
And while Mr. Brooks acknowledges that he hates formulaic writing, he does admit every writer needs to understand the key components of storytelling and how they work in harmony together. Our job as writers is to engineer each component so it works well with the others.
Mr. Brooks gives you all the tools you need in this book to be a solid story engineer by tackling each component with examples and ways to think about each component. For example, he gives you a checklist to use as you write your scenes to ensure you have the strongest execution possible.
Once you understand the six components, he then moves on to how to put these all together to craft a solid story structure and find your writing voice. He describes the writer’s journey in life to our journey in writing and how we mellow with age and accept things as they are and from that we gain our voice and how we view the world and various topics. His description is absolutely beautiful and will help writers of all ages understand how to find their “voice”.
Finally, Mr. Brooks dresses Story development. In his final chapter titled “Getting It Written” he talks to all writers, plotters, planners, pantsers by asking four key questions that you answer:
* Where are you in this story?
* What will further the dramatic tension best at this point?
* Have you characterized in parallel with exposition? (Gotta read the book on this one)
* Is your next idea the best creative choice among the options?
Don’t be afraid of the title. It is very friendly and easy to read, while breaking down some of the tougher components of writing into easy tools that you will use again and again.
Happy Engineering until next month!
If you pick up this book and use it to help you with your next project, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it helped you!
See you next month. Jessica Brown, Writing Engineer