Larry Brooks describes the Six Core Competencies as a model that encapsulates all facets of fiction writing. He groups them up into six competencies (...moreLarry 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 of competency. This model can empower the writer to do that. So Mr. Brooks says.
Sounds good so far, right?
The bad news is that while Larry Brooks has the information, he seems to have forgotten to apply a model to this very book. Granted, Story Engineering is not a novel, but even a nonfiction book that delivers how-to advice can be a story of some kind.
I picked up this book hoping to learn this model. Instead:
1) YOU WILL FAIL UNLESS... Brooks tells you that there are many areas of writing. He calls them competencies. He emphasizes all are needed. And all needed to be done competently. Otherwise, you. will. fail.
He will drill this point over and over and over again, well past the point where you've already gone "Okay, I got it. So how do we do this?"
You might be ready to learn the model, but Brooks doesn't seem convinced. Nor does he seem to believe that learning the model will naturally show how everything's important and interrelated. He has to tell you. Repeatedly.
2) EVERYTHING IS RELATED, SEE A IS RELATED TO B TO C TO A TO C TO D ... We get that from #1. But when explaining a concept or idea, even when everything is related, most teachers deliver information in some structural form (an introduction, an explanation, some examples to re-enforce that explanation). Unfortunately, everything is ..everywhere.
The narrative is dragged down with tangents, from which you come back and then wonder what the hell was being explained in the first place.
It's repetitive in parts.
It has headings that don't quite mean a heading of a subsection, but is really just a bolded statement that serves as a narrative pause for... I don't know ... dramatic effect?
There's a lot of circular referencing (talking about concepts that are covered in later segments, but hey, there's some relevance here, so, let's just detour and stuff it in here for a bit).
Some examples assumes you're relatively familiar with the movie, book, or cultural situation and that revealing the example means you'll suddenly "get it".
3) BOO ON PANTSERS There's a constant sly narrative that beats down on pantsers. Some may find that tone off-putting and insulting. I didn't really have a problem with the fact that Brooks didn't think highly of pantsers -- to each his own -- but what I found tedious was the constant repetition, the never-ending nudge, nudge, wink, wink, sneer as if "See? How ridiculous."
I get it. Can I just please have the information now?
* * * * *
I really wanted to like this book. I think it really does have a lot of valuable information. I made notes, I did bookmarks, I marked sections (including ones of importance and ones that were skimmable and to be ignored) but even that wasn't enough. It wasn't until I started to rearrange my notes in a NEW structure that made sense to me that I started seeing something worthwile. So the information IS there.
Personally, I think the author's previous experience of delivering this information through blogs and workshops might have handicapped; what worked in those formats does not necessarily work in this format.
Would I recommend this book? Well, you might be able to get some information out of this book (the model seems sounds IMHO), but only if you're able to weed it out from all the repetition, the circular referencing and tangents, and a tone that might irritate or offend.
To quote Brooks' own words: "Good luck with that."(less)
This started as an easy read, with me nodding along, and going "huh, that's /exactly/ it", then it started to poke into my head and began to dig deep...moreThis started as an easy read, with me nodding along, and going "huh, that's /exactly/ it", then it started to poke into my head and began to dig deep whispering hard questions that I'm still trying to come to grips with, and before I knew it, I'd finished the book-- the second "writing" book I've ever managed to finish so far, and I have shelves full of 'em.
Anyone who has struggled to write, wondered why they subject themselves to the madness, and yet kept coming back as if unable to stop needs to read this book.
This is not so much of a how-to or a commentary, but a sort of chat with a fellow writer. A chat that reassures the solitary writer (the internet has helped in that regards, but when we're writing, it's really just the writer and that blank page) that they're not alone... and that courage (or the "chops") to write isn't a matter of fixing things so you're no longer afraid/struggling... it's to write through it. To sometimes embrace it. Or trick it. Maybe minimize it for a time. But really, to acknowledge that it's there...and that perhaps, it's /supposed/ to be there.(less)