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

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,582 Ratings  ·  300 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 ShrekThe 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 ...more
Hardcover, 445 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Faber & Faber (first published 2007)
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Pinguino Even if you're a casual writer as a hobby or looking for inspiration, read this. If you never write but are just interested in what makes good stories…moreEven if you're a casual writer as a hobby or looking for inspiration, read this. If you never write but are just interested in what makes good stories good, this is still a great book. For every tip he provides an example of a work that uses it well. (Try to see The Godfather, Casablanca, and Tootsie before reading. They are heavily referenced.)
That said, the book definitely assumes the reader is writing a story of their own. There's a lot of "consider if anything on this list applies to your story." The parts on world-building and symbols might be less interesting to non-writers.

There's a YouTube channel I adore called Lessons from the Screenplay, which is basically the video version of the book. I suggest watching a couple of these, and if you want to learn more, go ahead and read the book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg0kn...(less)
Pinguino The tips generally apply to any kind of story, but the focus is on movies and novels. I can't recall anything from the book specifically about oral…moreThe tips generally apply to any kind of story, but the focus is on movies and novels. I can't recall anything from the book specifically about oral storytelling.(less)

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Wil Wheaton
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinarily useful guide to understanding why and how stories work. Some writers are just naturally able to know what needs to happen in a story. They innately know what beat needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and -- most importantly -- WHY it needs to happen. These writers make the rest of us look bad, and make us feel like we have no idea what we're doing.

For the rest of us, there is this book, which walks us through things like the steps that every story needs to have in
...more
A.J.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
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
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
PUMPKINHEAD
All in all, I'd say this book was good. It wasn't great, it wasn't poor, it was just plain good and not much more.

It's a how-to guide basically, for people who want to be writers (particularly screenwriters). There was lots of good advice and insight. The pages are littered with story breakdowns, concepts, and techniques. It dug right into the meat of the matter of storytelling, but to be honest 'Anatomy of a Story' really did come off like little more than an autopsy at some points.

And that's
...more
Suzannah
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Suzannah by: Lessons from the Screenplay
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
This book was phenomenal. Please go out immediately and torch your copy of SAVE THE CAT and get this book instead.

Well, maybe I exaggerate. I didn't agree with Truby's contention that three (or four, or five) act plot structure, containing three plot points on which to hang the story, was artificial and useless. I'll stand by it; it was good enough for Shakespeare and it's good enough for me, and it helps with pacing. However, apart from the occasional minor niggle, I thought this book was absol
...more
Danny
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
K.M. Weiland
Dec 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fabulously insightful, practical, hands-on guide to storytelling. Should be read and reread.
ياسمين خليفة
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
A must read book for anyone who wants to be a screenwriter,or a Novelist.
Dani
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jacob
Mar 27, 2011 rated it liked it
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
მინდია არაბული
მხოლოდ ეს წიგნი რომ არსებობდეს და სხვა წერის სახელმძღვანელოები არა(კინგს თუ არ ჩავთვლით), საკმარისი იქნებოდა
emily
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am skeptical of 'how to write stories' books, as I've been plenty disappointed in the past, but this was recommended by a published author as the 'secret' to their novel planning and thus decided it couldn't hurt to have a read. It was well worth my time, packed full of logical, actionable instructions on how to create a story that never reduce into ridiculous "do's" and "don't's" like so many other how-to books do. I have long struggled with taking my smaller character, plot, or setting ideas ...more
Omid Kamyarnejad
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
کتابی است که بیشتربه سمت فیلم نامه نویسی می رود و بحث های ساختارگرایی رمان در آن مورد توجه است.
ایده های داستان نویسی آن بسیار خوب و حائز اهمیت بود. ولی به درد نوشتن داستان کوتاه نمی خورد. شبکه معنایی و نماد های آن بسیار مو شکافانه و دقیق و خب البته دانستن آنها خالی از لطف نیست. در مجموع کتاب خوب و قوی بود
Benoit Lelièvre
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's a lot to like about this book and a lot any wannabe writer will convince themselves they :

a) don't need

or

b) are already doing

I particularly love the work of Truby on the premise and the importance of having a clear roadmap of who's who and what's going on prior to writing, but when it comes to the meatier part of storytelling, he doesn't say much and gives countless examples instead. Which is fine, I mean, there's no secret recipe of becoming a great author outside of studying the master
...more
Anton Tomsinov
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Julie
Sep 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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

...more
Rose
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Catherine
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, writing-books
I think this might be one of my new favorite writing books. It kind of hurt my head to think about and take in, but in a "this is genius" kind of way. I underlined so much of the book and I've found it really useful when developing plot. It has specific advice but helps in a more organic way than I found with, say, Save The Cat.
Abbe
Sep 20, 2012 added it
Shelves: in-library
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
Daniel Sadicario
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Terms like "rising action," "climax," "progressive complication," and "denouement," terms that go as far back as Aristotle, are so broad and theoretical as to be almost meaningless" (page one).

Thus starts 400 pages of practical tips on how to structure and design a great story. The book can't possibly have every last bit of advice on how to write a screenplay, but this is by far the best foundational text I've seen out there. I have not read "Save the Cat!" but I've read McKee's "Story," and I
...more
Helen
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best book on writing that I've ever read. Even though most of his examples are from screenplays, the author's insightful analysis of stories we're all familiar with makes his points crystal clear.
Borja Vargas
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: escritura
Excelente libro de referencia para escribir historias. El autor dice entender el concepto "historia" en sentido amplio, aunque parece especialmente enfocado a crear historias hollywoodienses de éxito. No en vano, la mayoría de sus profusos ejemplos son películas y son estadounidenses, algunas eternas (como 'El padrino' o 'Casablanca') y otras algo olvidadas ('Tootsie', 'Hechizo de luna'). Es en su elogio a estas obras de segunda donde se ve con claridad que su aproximación es funcional. Es decir ...more
Anna Ilona
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lot of books on writing tell you to do things. This book actually shows you how. It's an incredibly helpful look at the universal pieces that make up good stories.
Lindsay
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Whoa.
Excuse me while I go write a bestseller now.
Lukáš Pokorný
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is my Bible, and John Truby is storyteller god!
Evie Hughes
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Anatomy of Story is my favorite story craft book. When it comes to writing, I am not a planner by nature so books on structure have always grated against my instincts. This book, however, stressed organic character driven plot changes and it clicked with me. The only downside to this book is that it is definitely geared towards screenwriters. Most of the time, this is not a problem (though most of the examples are from film) but when it came to scene construction, this slant became obvious. Scen ...more
Einar Nielsen
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book and thought it had some very clear and good ideas. Although it focuses a lot more on scriptwriting than fiction writing (especially towards end) compared to what I'm used to. it has some good exercises that I'm trying out and on a whole I'm happy with it.
Eustachio
Se sei un aspirante scrittore e ti sei ritrovato ad avere un'idea di partenza senza sapere come svilupparla, oppure a cominciare spedito a scrivere per poi non sapere come continuare, The Anatomy of Story fa al caso tuo: l'autore, analizzando storie di successo, spiega quali sono i meccanismi che le hanno rese tali, e dà consigli pratici su come fare lo stesso. Basta con i tre atti di Aristotele, il segreto è nei ventidue passi del sottotitolo.
L'ho trovato molto utile. Ho riempito pagine di appu
...more
Peter Ayscough
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I got roughly half way through this book and then inadvertently left it in my pack after a hike and it wasn't until my next hike 4 months later that I rediscovered it and finished it. I bought this book after sitting next to a man on a plane who saw me reading "Story" by Robert McKee https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4..., and recommended it.

I've been writing my first novel while reading this book, which has made for an interesting reflective process. As I have covered the theory in Truby I've
...more
Steven
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Truby presents one hell of a process and I think any lengthy fiction project, whether it be novel or screenplay, could certainly benefit from the rigorous story and character work he sets out. I was schooled, however, in the "don't think, just write" philosophy and this structured approach, where so much planning and thinking about what you will eventually write is the whole point of the process was exceedingly foreign to how I've written previously and that made it hard for me to go all in with ...more
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“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.” 12 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.” 9 likes
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