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Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,208 ratings  ·  221 reviews
From story concept to character development to scene construction and beyond, this title helps you learn the big picture of storytelling at a professional level through a fresh approach that shows how to combine six core competencies: the four elemental competencies of concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot).
Paperback, 278 pages
Published March 25th 2011 by F&W (first published January 14th 2011)
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On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
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1st out of 13 books — 13 voters


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Community Reviews

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Rachel
I went into this book having read the other reviews, so I knew what I was getting. I agree whole-heartedly with a number of things other people have said:

~It drowns itself in metaphors and analogies.

~The author comes off as being hugely egotistical.

~The first 10 -15 % of the book is an infomercial (which seemed unnecessary as I’d already made the purchase).

~In terms of writing craft, there isn’t anything new (which the author freely admits).

However, when all of the above was set aside (unread by
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K.M. Weiland
Larry Brooks has long been one of the most respected writing instructors on the Web. Those familiar with his site are already aware of the quality information he churns out week after week and won’t be surprised to learn that his recently released book on “mastering the six core competencies of successful writing” presents more of the same. I read many how-to writing books every year, and I glean something from almost every one of them. But not many offer truly revolutionary ideas about the craf ...more
Laura Kreitzer
Good information, but so repetitive and wordy that I became stressed while reading. The content seems to be geared toward more advanced novelist, but the presentation was clearly meant for newbies or idiots. I say idiots because of how repetitive Brooks becomes. I wished he would have just got to the point in every section. By the end, I was skimming to find the good stuff. If this was redone for authors and, well, people who don't need to have concepts repeatedly drilled into their brain, I'd k ...more
Jeanna
The good:

*Some very interesting, useful explanations of story milestones, with a couple good examples of what he's talking about. It made me think about story architecture in a different way, and I liked a lot of what he had to say. Good food for thought, even when I disagreed.

*A number of good questions to ask yourself about your story and to help you when you're trying to plot it out. I made a copy of the character checklist, for example, to help me flesh out my characters (which I struggle w
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Rebecca Berto
Dec 19, 2011 Rebecca Berto rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: novelists & screenwriters
Shelves: best-everrr

Finally, a guide that makes it clear how to lay out a novel and how to plan without having a brain aneurysm (I'm actually going to be a planner and it isn't scary anymore!). I don't know how he has made the process seem so straight-forward, but he has. Don't get me wrong, I've got many weeks ahead of me in re-structuring my manuscript (MS), but now I look forward to it! He's cut down my stress significantly and narrowed the time it would have taken me to fix up my MS.

Larry drills in his "6 Core

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Marcy Kennedy
This book is a planner's dream and a pantser's nightmare. Near the end, Brooks writes, "Even if you hate the notion of outlining, you need to realize that it doesn't hate you. There is no downside to outlining that isn't a figment of your imagination" (264). I lead with that because I think it's important for writers to realize that, even though Brooks gives tips for how "organic" writers (his term for writers who write by the seat of their pants) can use his methods, he does advocate a very det ...more
Steven
Bottom-Line-Up-Front: STORY ENGINEERING is a great tool that, with some patience on the part of the reader, provides sound guidance for growing a concept into a well-structured first draft. If structure is your only concern, I recommend skipping this book in favor of Brooks's STORY STRUCTURE--DEMYSTIFIED, which consists mainly of the structure portion of STORY ENGINEERING, not quite cut-and-pasted, but pretty close.
Brooks's guidance on structure was most useful to me, so I'll focus on that in th
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Wendy
On the one hand, this book kind of stinks, because apparently, Brooks thinks he needs to advertise for his method and the book every few paragraphs, which...if you weren't interested, you wouldn't be reading, would you? Right to the very end of the book, he's pushing his method of story execution and pointing out that not planning ahead of time will sink your novel or screenplay. Um, if I made it to page 270, I didn't need to be reminded of that for the two-hundred sixtieth time; clearly, I'm in ...more
justscribbling
Larry Brooks describes the Six Core Competencies as a model that encapsulates all facets of fiction writing. He groups them up into six competencies (categories): [Story] Concept, Theme, [Story] Structure, Character, Scene Execution, Writing Voice. They are interrelated, overlaying/underlaying each other, working together, working off each other, etc, etc, etc. In order to write a great story (and have a chance a publishing career), a writer must ensure all six must be executed with some level o ...more
Lauren
This book is recommended all the time during NaNoWriMo, which is precisely why I read it. And yes, in the end it was worth it. But holy cow. If you stripped this book down to it's useful parts, you would probably have about 10 pages. It was astonishing having to skip page after page, in a writing book no less, just to get to Larry Brooks' actual point. He would take a page to hint at some important writing element, and then spend another 5 repeating how totally important said element is because ...more
David Fuller
This warrants a longer review, but for now, I'll say, this book is a godsend for writers whether they know they need to study structure or not.
But as a committed "pantser" for many years, I found I could revise and revise and improve and improve a draft, but not reconcile what I was discovering about my novels with a final version. I could solve micro problems like description, setting, character motivation, and the all-important "tension on every page" with varying levels of success, but it di
...more
Sarah Hipple
This book came highly recommended for anyone who wants to write a book. And, I have to say, that I did think there were some really useful pieces of information in here, and it was definitely worth a read for anyone who wants to write a book. That's why I went with 4 stars in the end.

I feel like I need to rate two completely different aspects of this book. I will give the positive first.
This book gets 4-5 stars for the fact that Larry Brooks breaks down very important elements of books and analy
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D. Thrush
This book is an invaluable tool for any indie or beginning writer. It explains the milestones and benchmarks that move a story forward and how to keep your readers reading. I’m sure many of us writers innately and intuitively already structure our stories along these lines, however, this will help you improve the structure of your story right from the start. It will help you to write more intentionally rather than gambling that it will all pay off. It will help you understand why something isn’t ...more
Camela Thompson
Jul 04, 2014 Camela Thompson rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Writers, particularly commercial fiction
The concept and material get a 5. I had the privilege of sitting in a class taught by Larry Brooks at Write on the River in Wenatchee, WA. I was so taken in by the information he was presenting that I went back to my hotel room and purchased this book. He is wicked smart and the six core competencies were something I could get behind. Throughout the class I found myself nodding my head in agreement, and I had that same feeling as I went through the book. Already the material has helped me. I was ...more
Brittany
Jan 06, 2014 Brittany rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Aspiring writers with a modicum of talent
How I Came To Read This Book: Toward the end of last year, I decided to research a few writing books and this one came out as highly regarded amongst GoodReaders, so I bought it.

The Plot: The gist of the book covers ‘Six Core Competencies’ every writer must master in hopes of being published, and ideally, commercially successful. Those areas include concept, character, theme and perhaps most critically – based on page count alone – structure, as well as scene construction and writing voice. Each
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Tim Johnson
I was initially going to write this review solely to dispute everything Mr. Brooks says in his book. Why? Because he frustrated me by taking forever to get into the meat of the subject at hand. I already have the book in hand, you don't have to sell me. I also seem to pick up a bit of a condescending attitude or maybe I am just inappropriately applying a tone of voice that isn't there.

I don't disagree with everything in the book, okay? There, I said it. There is way more analogy than is necessar
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Keelan
So. Many. Analogies.
So much complaining about 'pantsers' (would pantsers even read a book about story-planning? It'd be like a vegan reading a book on various ways to cook a beef, or…wait… OH GOD, THE ANALOGIES HAVE GOTTEN TO ME.)

The informative parts of the book are useful but i would not recommend trying to read it straight through. Much too easy to lose focus on the intended goal of becoming a better writer: There are entire pages (in at least one place, an entire chapter) which are nothing
...more
Michael
Apr 20, 2013 Michael rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Writers with low self esteem
Recommended to Michael by: Nerine Dorman
Somewhere, lost within this disorganized mess of an instructional book, is the kernel of a Good Idea. About 70 pages, stuck for no reason 2/3 of the way in, explore this Idea in detail. Said pages are summarized nicely at the end. There’s also maybe another couple dozen pages that are worth reading, scattered at unpredictable intervals amidst the other 220. And then there’s the rest of the book.

When he was in school, someone probably told Brooks that good nonfiction is about presenting an argume
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Mindi Rosser
Have you ever wondered how a captivating story is constructed? I learned the Six Core Competencies to novel/screenplay writing from master storyteller, Larry Brooks. Whether you are a reader or a writer, you'll enjoy my take on this book.

Six Core Competencies - One tidbit from each.

Concept - Not simply an idea. It is an idea that has beenevolved to be compelling and capable of sustaining an entire novel.

Character -Every story needs a hero. The hero(ine) does not need to be likable, but the reade
...more
J.L. Campbell
In Story Engineering, Larry Brooks advocates outlining, and I can’t say enough good things about that subject. Brooks believes that there are certain aspects of writing that we need to master before we can plan and execute a compelling story. The six ‘core competencies’ embraced in Story Engineering are character, concept, scene execution, structure, theme and writing voice.

Those of us who write are familiar with the meanings of the terms above. Brooks takes time to explain each and how they wo
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Adam David Collings
Before I read Story Engineering, I though I knew how to write a novel. I was wrong. Story Engineering opened my eyes to things I didn't know that I didn't know. Larry Brooks' 6 core competencies show you exactly what you need to develop in order to become a publishable author.

The section I found most helpful was on story structure. Now I know the shape that publishers expect a story to fall into. It doesn't restrict your creativity as some might think, I have found, as Larry suggested it would,
...more
Kait Nolan
So here's the thing I have learned as a teacher. Part of your job is to explain things repeatedly, in as many different ways as possible, until your audience understands whatever concept you're trying to teach them. This is something I often struggle with, as I tend to understand things intuitively in a "Yeah, you know, it's like...and stuff..." kind of way. My math teachers in grade school used to think I was cheating because I didn't show my work. I did it all in my head. On a professional lev ...more
Jacob
As an engineer who is interested in stories and how they're written, I couldn't NOT read this book. The angle is a really good one, and I believe that a lot of storytelling could be done better if it were viewed from an engineering standpoint, because there really are similarities and certain things humans look for in narratives that cause the story to be bad if they're missing or done poorly. The author, Larry Brooks, lays out a fairly clear breakdown of storytelling into four elements to inclu ...more
Sath
We were always told in English Lit. that good writing isn't something you can be taught, its just an innate skill, a gift, a calling. They'd tell you the same thing in art class, but I'm pretty sure they still explained about the basics of light and shading. In english class I can't even recall being taught basic sentence structure and grammar, its just assumed you pick these things up as you go along. And as far as writing a novel goes, apparently you just have to randomly become a genius and g ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Right. As much as I want to be inspired as a writer, I also want to use the analytical side of my brain. That's right. I write from BOTH sides of my brain. I use pantsing and plotting techniques: I outline, then I abandon the outline as I go, then I re-outline, etc. I analyze other people's stories. I break down where movies let me down and try to work out how I would fix that. I abandon my analysis when things work for me and just say, "Good job." I cry, I laugh, I make disgusted faces, I shive ...more
Sharon
I am reviewing the book "Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks.

This is a must book to read if you are a writer. I have completed my first book and was uncertain how ready it was. This book showed me how I was not. It breaks down the book into 6 components. There are four elemental competencies which include concept, character, theme and story(plot). There are two executional competencies which include scene construction and writing voice.The book breaks into great detail on how to accomplish each.
...more
Moira Katson
This is going to be the weirdest 5-star review I've ever written.

The main takeaway is that if you want to be writing, you should read this book. I really think you should, and I'm someone who went into this book with extreme skepticism.

I wrote an extended second paragraph filled with examples that made me want to throw this book at the wall, but have decided simply to say this: if tempted to do so, for whatever reason, grit your teeth and keep going. It will be worth it. Also, if you're using an
...more
Debby Zigenis-Lowery
This book is difficult to rate because the information in it is great--5 star great, however, the delivery just about drove me insane. If I had not heard the author speak and known I wanted to learn in more detail what he was talking about,I probably would not have proceeded past page 20.

Brooks discusses what he calls the six core competencies in writing (concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution, and writing voice). If after page 10 he could have stuck to these topics, instead of en
...more
Edward Wolfe
If you've read some of the other reviews, I can tell you, the critical comments are accurate. The author does repeat himself too much and sell you on the concept that you've already bought into, or at least agreed to consider by purchasing the book, but....

Read it anyway!

If you're a writer, you *need* to know what he has to teach. I'd tell how my eyes have been permanently opened regarding my own writing, but it's too embarrassing to go into that. But considering what successes I've had so far,
...more
Stephanie
I liked a lot of this book, though it did feel like someone backed up an analogy truck onto the manuscript. I suppose he felt like he had to justify his strategies to the die-hard pantsers, but I think the rabid-types he's trying to win over aren't likely to pick up a book with the word 'engineering' in its title. ;)

That said, there's some really good stuff in here. Its going to be a book I return to and use in helping me shape my current WIPs, and WIPs to come.
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“Instinct is the elusive magic that happens when art collides with hard-won craft.” 2 likes
“THE SEVEN KEY CHARACTERIZATION VARIABLES Think of these as realms, as areas of potential character illumination. Here they are, in no particular order: Surface affectations and personality—What the world sees and perceives about a character, including quirks, ticks, habits, and visual presentation. Backstory—All that happened in the character’s life before the story begins that conspires to make him who he is now. Character arc—How the character learns lessons and grows (changes) over the course of the story, how she evolves and conquers her most confounding issues. Inner demons and conflicts—The nature of the issues that hold a character back and define his outlook, beliefs, decisions, and actions. Fear of meeting new people, for example, is a demon that definitely compromises one’s life experience. Worldview—An adopted belief system and moral compass; the manifested outcome of backstory and inner demons. Goals and motivations—What drives a character’s decisions and actions, and the belief that the benefits of those decisions and actions outweigh any costs or compromises. Decisions, actions, and behaviors—The ultimate decisions and actions that are the sum of all of the above. Everything about your characters depends on this final variable, and the degree to which the character’s decisions, actions, and behaviors have meaning and impact depends on how well you’ve manipulated the first six variables before, during, and after the moment of decision or action.” 0 likes
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