The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  534 ratings  ·  84 reviews
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 of his secrets for writing a compelling script.Based on the lessons in his aw...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published October 30th 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,802)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Mark O'Bannon
I've read over 150 books on writing, and I can throw them all away now. This book is, by far, the best book ever written on the subject of how to tell a story.

The book breaks stories down to seven basic steps:
1. Problem/Need - The problem is what the character is dealing with as the story opens. The need comes from the character's weaknesses. The weakness is something that is ruining the character's life. The need comes out of the weakness. The weakness/need is the wellspring of the story.

2. De...more
It's a bedrock truth of writing that the oldest scam in the game is writing about writing. Most writing books are junk, and the reason they're junk is that they push formula, transforming art to engineering. They reduce everything to archetype and suggest logical, linear approaches to what is in fact an intuitive, iterative process. You get recipes.

No doubt the steady appetite for books pushing writing to formula motivated the misleading subtitle of The Anatomy of Story. But there is no 22 step...more
I actually stumbled upon The Anatomy of Story more or less totally by accident while I was searching for online writer's resources. I was sure someone somewhere must have at some point sat down and picked apart great stories, broke them down to their constituent components, and analyzed what elements worked in which plots, and why. I didn't find much. It dawned on me while I was trying to come up with more refined search terms that what I was looking for was the fundamental anatomy of the storie...more
SUMMARY: 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 of 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, o...more

This is arguably one of the only books necessary for learning the art of Storytelling. John Truby begins this book by simultaneously praising and denouncing Aristotle's Poetics. He mentions that Aristotle perpetuates vague terms like "rising action" or "climax." In actuality, this makes it difficult for writers to apply. This kind of theorizing leaves little impact or support for those who are actually attempting to write. Along those lines, this theorizing tends to be streamlined while teaching

K.M. Weiland
Fabulously insightful, practical, hands-on guide to storytelling. Should be read and reread.
While one must be careful when seeking advice from these How-To writing books it is essential to understand the basic concepts of story. Trained writers will know when to take Truby's advice and when to ignore it. He and I agree that all stories function in a similar way, but I disagree with him that most of these rules always apply. For example, I do not agree that the protagonist must change at the end of the story. He argues that this is non-negotiable. However, there are many stories where t...more
Eileen Iciek
Good reference book for writers working to craft a story - either for novel or script. I learned a lot from it, but my one complaint is that the book lacked succinctness. The author gushed with references to movies and how certain movies successfully told their particular story. Towards the end, I skimmed some of his more elaborate explanations. It got too analytical at times and I was confused - were there 7 steps, or 22 steps, or both? If both, how do I combine them? Also, he did not have much...more
Ostensibly a book about screenwriting, John Truby somehow manages to capture the essence of story craft within a fairly contained set of rules and guidelines. There were moments when reading this that the scales fell off my eyes, and I felt like shouting, "Eureka! I understand now." I've always balked when it came to formulae like symbolism or following a certain narrative structure, but Truby manages to present them in such a way that I didn't feel like he was inviting me in for a lobotomy at t...more
4.5 stars. Great breakdown on storytelling and how to create a strong and gripping narrative. It also inspired me to watch Casablanca for the first time ever, which I loved. Like many how-to's of its type, this got a little repetitive at times but I found it quite valuable. It even changed the way I am approaching my current novel (including who the protagonist is!) One of those must-reads for all writers, in my opinion.
Anton Tomsinov
I've devoured a lot of similar books, but that one I currently find the most useful (my previous personal favourite was Sol Stein). Truby has succeeded in shifting readers' focus from exterior of stories to their inner meaning, from outward hero change to Weltanschauung clash. Truby's psychological plan of conflict and self-revelation makes character and plot concoction much easier, as if from aimless wandering in a foreign city you turn to a well-prepared journey with pack of maps and backgroun...more
Good and helpful. Truby seems best on the detailed aspects of screenwriting, and that continues here. Overall, though, this treatment isn't as strong or succinct as Snyder's Save the Cat. Still, you'll miss some handy details by skipping it.
Jerry Foster
This book is equal in value--and a great companion--to Robert McKee's Story. Both are for serious students of fiction writing. I should have learned these principles in my MFA program, but did not.
Sebastien Castell
Jan 10, 2014 Sebastien Castell rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Writers
Shelves: writing
I very much appreciated the depth and amount of complexity in this book relative to most writing guides. It's also very much on-point all the time. Rather than getting into long introductions or extraneous motivational material, Truby goes straight into the mechanics of his method for constructing stories. It's not a book for beginners, though, as there are many concepts you have to hold in your head simultaneously as you go through the book and it's much easier to do if you're already experienc...more
Mar 27, 2014 Douglas rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Fiction Authors
A friend of mine, who is also a writer, recommended this book to me a couple years ago. I'm mentally kicking myself for not reading it sooner, but I can't wait to use what I've learned in my next works of fiction.

John Truby is a story consultant who has worked with various Hollywood screenplays. He breaks down the components of a good story and explains what works and why, followed by many examples, both from screenplays and literature. At the end of each chapter, he presents an exercise to appl...more
The Truby Method Provides The Bones On Which To Hang The Flesh Of Your Story.

Writers can be a stubborn, superstitious lot, especially if they've EVER been published. Getting someone who doesn't map out her story structure to try to do it can be darn near impossible. Somehow it’s an affront to her creativity, an insult to her style, and the worst kind of cage in which you are trying to trap her.

But it’s not. Not if you have Truby to guide you.

To say I recommend this book is an understatement. My...more
This was very helpful in getting me started on and into the workings of the book I've been writing in my mind for, oh, about the last 4 years now! This book managed to trick me into actually getting some of those thoughts on paper, as well as some new ways to go about it I hadn't thought of. For that I applaud it.

On a second note it made me realize a lot about myself as a reader too, and why some stories and the way they are being told simply don't work for me. A few examples would be, when the...more
Whew... this was more difficult to get through than I expected, and I'm still not sure why. Maybe it was just too many dry passages of abstract discussion that was mostly meaningless. Maybe not, though; I don't remember there being that much of it. And most of it isn't dry, or too abstract, or meaningless.

Some key things are, though. Truby's instruction to come up with a designing principle is very important, but he can't for the life of him nail down what a designing principle is. He starts wit...more
Probably the most comprehensive book for screenwriters who wish to take their screenplay to the 'next level'. In the past you would have had to pay quite a lot of money to attend one of Truby's seminars. But now his main ideas are detailed here in his first book. Truby disparages the idea that one has to work within the "three act structure" to develop a good story. The outline however of the three act structure still can be found in "The Anatomy of Story" for those who are most comfortable foll...more
Mark Williams
Good for beginners, the 22 steps help frame a plan for developing a story but the advice here is often vague. For example, his advice on dialogue is worthless. He literally ends the chapter with: "Make sure that each character speaks in a unique way." The sort of thing that makes you scratch your head and go, "Yeah, I mean, I agree, of course..." But he doesn't actually give any tips or techniques on achieving this.

Like most writers of writing books, John Truby hasn't really achieved any of the...more
So far I would say this has some interesting ideas in it. On the other hand, it's funny how many of these books could really use a re-write. And I think re-writing is not a skippable part of the process to becoming a "master". He mentions you should make your main character endlessly fascinating. In theory, I could see why that would be a good idea. But Truby gives one example on how to do this and then moves on. I guess it's that easy? I'll update more later.

Okay, I'm a little further along. Wh...more
William Redd
This book is a solid guide to formulaic story structure. Of course, as much as it claims to break from the "stale and formulaic" three-act structure, it also creates a whole new form of potential "stale and formulaic" structure that will help the reader create excellent stories, that all feel exactly the same.

As I was reading, there were several times where I thought the ideas Truby discusses are excellent, but a little stilting if the reader follows each and every step as if it is gospel. The r...more
Kal Cobalt
My battered copy of AoS has guided me through more stories than I can count. It's the one book I'm constantly hoping to find in ebook form to save a little space and weight in my "go bag" -- I don't like being without this one at my fingertips!

Truly revolutionary, with a "formula" flexible enough to encompass nearly any story without feeling, well, formulaic. If you're bored with the three-act structure or struggle to really integrate aspects of "traditional" story plotting, Truby's approach is...more
Wonderful writing guide that takes apart a story by its bare bones and teaches you how to vet plot, characterization, among other aspects to make them more dimensional. This is an invaluable guide for fiction writers, filmmakers and storytellers, but probably not for the beginning writer because the concepts in themselves may seem a bit overwhelming to take in all at once. One of the things I found refreshing also about this guide is how it doesn't necessarily rely on the three-act structure for...more
Like any good book about writing, its insights are just as relevant to enhancing your reading. Despite the subtitle making it sound like this is a writing-by-numbers guide, it is in fact an excellent inquiry into how stories work and what makes them work well, with emphasis on how stories can be composed organically rather than having a rigid structure imposed from above. Highly recommended for anyone interested in how stories function.
Yousif elsayed
it deserves more than 5 stars...that was a must read book for any one who dreams to be an unusual writer.....need to read it a lot of times
يستحق اكثر من 5 نجوم ...كتاب لا غنى عنه لاى شخص يحلم ان يكون كاتب غير عادى...احتاج ان اقرأه مرات عديدة اخرى
Mars Dorian
As a storyteller, I've read dozens of how-to write books.
Most of them were rubbish, but Truby's bible stands out like a naked man in the sky.

Seriously, his insight into compelling storytelling and his practical approach make story learning the funnest skill in the universe.

What I luv about this book :
it comes with tons of storytelling examples
it has practical exercises and summary points
it has good, clear structure that makes looking things up again a joy.

Truby's the man, and it helps that he...more
Enjoyed this a lot, in the midst of editing my own novel, so renewed a couple of times. Need to buy my own copy I guess. - See more at:
Tim Byers
Of the dozen or so books I've read in this category, Truby's sits on top. Where others gravitate toward plot points such as the three-act structure, Truby presses deeper. He argues that the core of a successful story is it's moral argument. The hero and his or her opponents contend for their vision of what's true in the world. The story is the battle over which vision will ultimately prevail. This may seem like a subtle difference from story as the journey of a hero against a villian, but it str...more
I met Truby years ago in the context of my job and was aware of his reputation and theories, but had no practical use for them until I hit the wall in my own writing, at this point largely short stories. My character development and plot, much less theme and moral development were inadequate. I have changed writing teachers, and in the new context, critiques made that clear. So I turned to Truby. It's very valuable, this book. There's a grand scheme, many plates turning simultaneously, somewhat...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 60 61 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction
  • Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction
  • Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Dynamic Characters
  • The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
  • 45 Master Characters
  • The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
  • Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • The Plot Whisperer: A Groundbreaking Approach to Story Structure That Any Writer Can Master
  • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
  • Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
  • Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
writing comedy Anatomía del guión: el arte de narrar en 22 pasos Anatomie du scénario : Cinéma, littérature, séries télé (French Edition)

Share This Book

“Audiences love both the feeling part (reliving the life) and the thinking part (figuring out the puzzle) of a story. Every good story has both.” 6 likes
“Good storytelling lets the audience relive events in the present so they can understand the forces, choices, and emotions that led the character to do what he did.” 4 likes
More quotes…