Thursday, January 29, 2009

What Makes A Story



On my current reading list is a Christmas gift that was given to me by one of my critique partners. As a matter of fact she gave a copy to each of us in our small group with the comment of something like, “this book is making me miserable so I thought you all had to have it too!” Sweet. This is why I love my critique partners and wouldn’t trade them for anything. She did back it up with, “don’t get me wrong, it’s making me miserable in a really good way.”

The book in question is The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby.


Here is a blurb: "If you're ready to graduate from the boy-meets-girl league of screenwriting, meet John Truby . . . [his lessons inspire] epiphanies that make you see the contours of your psyche as sharply as your script."—LA Weekly. John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.


Now, I’m just beginning the book and am only up to step three. I’m horrible at finishing writing books. It’s a strange block with me or maybe they are just hard to get through. The only one I did do start to finish was Stephen King’s On Writing. He even made a writing book interesting. Go figure.

But so far this book has me with its talk about The Dramatic Code which says: character change is fueled by desire. Truby steps away from the classic 3 act structure of most stories. He promises you’ll enjoy the creation process as you follow his 22 step program then in the very next chapter on premise he challenges you to: Write something that may change your life! Gulp. Sure I'll get right on that. And then he gives this little tidbit: 9 out of 10 writers fail at premise. Yeah, it’s a real upper. Tons of enjoyment there.

But I’m up for the challenge. I just adore my friends. Misery, company and all that.

So tell me, what makes a story good for you? Can you pin it down? Is it a feeling? The Characters? The flow? The tension? The suspense? Please share or give examples of your favorite stories, either books or movies. Don't be shy now.


Best,
Kwana
P.S. - Scroll down for Top Chef talk. Warning spoilers ahead.

17 comments:

pve design said...

What makes a story for me is feeling it, feeling like "I am so that character" or that I want to be "that character" in the book.
I may not always like it, but sometimes that alone makes me love it even more. I think I need discord, drama, mystery and something that pulls me in and away from my own little life. Sort of like music, it needs highs and lows...you know like Amy Winehouse.

Frau said...

I have to visualize it, feel it, taste it, hear it, like pve designs it has to have the highs and lows. I like almost all stories!

Kristen Painter said...

I might have to look for this book. Because, you know, my writing isn't making me miserable enough. LOL

Kwana said...

Kristen you make me laugh.

Carolyn Jean said...

Kwana, this sounds really interesting. I'm starting something, so it's really helpful to be thinking about this desire thing. What DO my characters really want? Besides great sex....a handsome fella....

Ina J Offret said...

I like to feel like the characters are "real" and the setting or mood of the story grabs me too. Sometimes when I am reading a book it is so good that I feel like I am watching a movie or can "feel" what the character is feeling or wearing. An example of how a book can grab me is the writing of John Berendt's (non fiction) "The City of Falling Angels" about the fire at the Fenice Opera House in Venice and really enjoyed his "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil". He makes you "know" the characters...

Colour Me Happy said...

I like to be thoroughly entertained. I like a little drama and romance. And I think writing is a very special gift that I would love to have!

Jen said...

Glad you like the book. (Misery really does love company!) My favorite kind of story seems to be about women overcoming the odds and moving up in society. Whether they do it by becoming a great general in the military or a courtesan doesn't matter to me.

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

I think the characters make the story for me. I hate it when the central characters aren't developed enough in books and in films. It kills the entire story.

This sounds like a really great book!

Natalie Hatch said...

Kwana, I'm working my way slowly through Donald Maas's 'Writing the Breakout Novel workbook' right now. I read the other book cover to cover so now I'm trying to work out how to fix a story I've written.
Some things he says do get you down but then he shows you how to fix it.

PBW said...

I'm going to order that book off Amazon.

Characters always make the story for me. Good ones can even make up for a weak plot.

Shannon McKelden said...

I think I'll have to pick this book up, Kwana! Sounds very intriguing, although I have to say, I'm with you...I have a VERY hard time finishing writing books for some reason. I've started a million and probably finished only 3-4. Go figure.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I love a writer who has a unique way of speaking; of relating their ideas. I think really good fiction can elevate the reader - by recognizing the truths that reside in a character, even a fictional one, it helps us all understand better what it means to be human. That's why To Kill A Mockingbird is so very powerful, I think. And I also love Virginia Woolf's work. Mrs. Dalloway is like a penetrating dream to me. The words are so lyrical, almost like music, and they seep into my pores like little drops of illumination. As for screenwriting, gosh that seems difficult. I should think so many things come into play that one might not even take into consideration in other forms of writing. Horton Foote is a favourite of mine. And, I just saw Doubt last week...that I found to be amazing. I look forward to seeing one of your works one day, too!!

Kwana said...

Your comments are wonderful. Thanks so much. I love reading them. For me it's all about character and voice. If I'm invested in the characters I can usually forgive a lot. And I have to like the writers voice. It's got to just flow for me.

N said...

This is such a great post--you can see your passion in it!

I like when I lose myself in the story. When I forget where I am. Until, you know, one of the kiddos says, "Mama."

Joyce said...

For me it is following the character pretending to be right there in the moment with him/her through thick and thin. xoxo

heidi said...

I love how the past & the present unfold in the movie "Conversations with other Women." Alot of what I loved is also in how it was filmed.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
 

blogger templates | Make Money Online