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Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  782 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
Acclaimed by successful screenwriters and authors, Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling. Brian McDonald, an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, supplies writers with tools to make their work more effective and provides readers and audiences a deeper understanding of the sto ...more
Paperback, 170 pages
Published January 11th 2010 by Libertary Co.
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Miriam Robarts I borrowed an e-audiobook online from my local public library (through OverDrive). It was missing the screenplay/short film that's supposed to be…moreI borrowed an e-audiobook online from my local public library (through OverDrive). It was missing the screenplay/short film that's supposed to be attached, though, so I borrowed the e-book version (from the same library) & that version had it.(less)

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From the audiobook: "Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words. Most people will never see or notice it, but they will feel it. If you learn to use it, your work will feel polished, professional, and it will have a profound impact on your audience... This invisible ink keeps the audience's brain active.
[Armature is the underlying structure]
[Superior position is when the audience knows something the characters do not know]

Always tell the truth [of the experience]. [truth in fict
Ross Blocher
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I recently read Brian McDonald's "Golden Theme". It was helpful, but dealt with storytelling at the broadest level. "Invisible Ink" is a great corollary to that book, and dives into more specific and readily-applicable tools for creating compelling stories. McDonald's insights are simple yet profound, and their seeming obviousness is only clear in retrospect. This is a quick and easy read, and one I'd certainly return to any time I'm working on a story. It will also color the way I view films, b ...more
Angel McCoy
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I feel compelled to tell you about this book. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine (Matthew Haley) who is a film director, and it’s wonderful.

Maybe it hit me at just the right point in my “writerly” development, or maybe it’s just an amazing book.

It’s short and simple. It gets right to the point. It talks about the theme of your story, and how important it is to have one. It then goes into how to support your theme, with very clear explanation and good examples.

It has quite a few awful t
Grishma Udani
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: film
This is one of those rare screen writing books that not only make a lot of sense but hold your attention. I found this book almost un-put-down-able!

And, yes, its a must read for a writer of any kind, not just film.
Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I got this book after hearing huge, extreme, impressive worshipful endorsements from the folks at and the Paper Wings podcast-- and also I had read his other book Golden Theme and greatly, greatly enjoyed it.

Here's the summary of why this book is significant, which I'm restating as a mixture of what I remember reading and what I remember hearing from those endorsements: the backbone of fiction is theme. Understanding this, you can use it to make the work of writing meaningful fi
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone intrested in writing
Recommended to Bryan by: Amazon
This is probably the most informative book on screenwriting to date bar none. I bought it twice after I loaned out the first one. I have read the following books on screenwriting:

Save The Cat, Save The Cat Strikes Back and Save The Cat Goes To The Movies: Snyder
Creating Unforgettable Characters: Linda Seger
Inside Story: Dara Marks
The Anatomy of Story: John Truby
The Foundation of Screenwriting: Syd Field
Story: Robert McKey
Writing for Emotional Impact: Karl Iglesias

The list goes on. These are onl
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, best
This is not being a step-by-step how-to guide to screenwriting, but it offers fundamental insight into the purpose itself of writing stories. It's a way to analyze the main spine of everything that should form your story, and make sure one doesn't go off track.

Incredible easy to read, short and sweet, yet the message lingers for a long while. I'd say this plus Save The Cat would be an ideal way to start for anyone getting into screenwriting; one offers delineated structure, the other the commitm
Ksenia Anske
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This little book showed me the secret to great writing so profound I cried. Many years ago a friend gave me this book as a gift. I shelved it. Later, when moving, I sold it to a secondhand bookstore without reading it. And now I have stumbled on it again, on a suggestion of a reader. The time was right. I knew I must read it. I did. And I wept. I am blind no longer. Every writer, READ THIS BOOK. It will make your writing better in ways you can't imagine.
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
In my ongoing quest to learn more about story structure and character design as I work on my own fiction writing, I chose this book as the next instructional reference, because it comes so highly recommended by many others. In particular, many who skewer another oft-recommended book, Save the Cat!, as being too simplistic, hold this up as being a much better reference. Having read this entire book in one day, I find it hard to defend that assertion.

I think that the author of the book, Brian McDo
Julia Milius
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Things for me to remember: It is an equal balance of physical and emotional stimulus to the pace of the story that creates a wholistic story. Your job is to tell the truth, everything else is cliche. Your armature is key, it's what holds the entire story in place.
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was SO good and such a great reading/learning experience! Would recommend anyone wanting to go into visual storytelling and doing big projects. It's a must have for people that do!

When I start writing my own animations I will definitely keep going back to this to absorb all this goodness again and again, 5 stars well deserved!
Jason T. Rogers
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on how to write. I review this book every year to gleam more from it. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to become a writer of stories. Everyone should read this book first before trying to write so they can avoid the common flaws of beginners. You should also listen to a podcast called "writing excuses".
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read it all in one (and a half) sitting. Riveting, and a great resource.
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Some good tips for structure. I like his notion that the best stories balance external (action) and internal (emotion).
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you want to write any kind of story from picture books, novels, or screen plays, you NEED to read this book. I learned so much about how to write a good story. AWESOMENESS!!
Kristen C
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is pretty fantastic, and very accessible. I read it online for free, but will absolutely be purchasing it. It is well worth the money.
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone with an interest in storytelling. It really opened my eyes to it as an art and everything that I didn't notice before.
David Davy
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Helpful and entertaining for both readers and writers.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very helpful resource when thinking about telling stories - whether fiction or non-fiction.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Brian McDonald is a genius. His insights into what makes storytelling work are invaluable. I will have this close to me on my bookshelf at all times.
Chad Welch
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is quite possibly the best book on story structure that I have ever read. Clear, consise, and chock full of information for anyone interested in telling stories no matter what the medium.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A quick read about storytelling techniques, particularly around the authors field of screenwriting, that I enjoyed. McDonald talks about the invisible strings (directed by the puppet-master writer) that connect words together, the subtle work done below the surface that has a profound effect on the overall story. He has a lot of good anecdotes and examples, that he keeps relating to, up his sleeves. Instead of just telling you these techniques, he shows them to you. I found the information about ...more
Mark Siegel
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was originally Gene Luen Yang who urged me to read Brian McDonald's INVISIBLE INK, and it may be the writing book I've given the most to friends and fellow storytellers.

It's not "Writing 101"—in a sense, it assumes you've got the basic mechanics down, and are ready to deepen. This is not one of the dogmatic writing-method books; it's a very helpful, luminous insight into the art of a good story in any medium.

McDonald consults for several major movies studios, and is an author and screenwrite
Collin Henderson
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very well done book about how to tell good stories. Personally I was familiar with all the concepts within it (thanks four year writing degree!) but it's always good to have a refresher when it comes to what makes a good story good. He talks in a way that's not condescending but very easy for anyone to understand. Only weird chapter was the one about masculine vs feminine qualities in a story. I would have been fine with just his take on it but he goes on for a few pages about research backing h ...more
Carolyn Harris
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent writing book! The chapters are short and precise, the examples relevant, and the book kept my attention. I enjoyed reading it where a lot of writing books are boring and bland. It went beyond the basic and tired beginning/middle/climax/resolution format and gave me a whole new set of tools and ideas. I finally understand some of the struggles I've had with my stories. Thank you! Recommended to all aspiring writers.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: knowledge, audiobook
Clear and compact explanation of why you should always write your stories with intent and goal in mind. I especially appreciate that each concept was clearly described with an example in a from of a story .
Scott B.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read! McDonald really breaks down the myths and barriers to writing a strong story. Concisely and powerfully gets to the heart of storytelling. I'm starting it over again.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this really useful (barring the oddly sexist and nonsensical middle chapter). Definitely worth adding to your writing manual shelf.
Violet Patterson
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent read for any writer
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Excellent writing advice and a good many seemingly simple pieces of advice with profound consequences. The criticism given by my other reviewers—namely, that the advice could be found in other books—is valid, but I've never found it expressed in such a way as this book shows it. The formatting does get a bit screwy towards the middle and end of the book, but I think the information given is valuable enough to overlook it.

edit: Dropping to 4.5 stars since the female/male thing in the mid
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine books 3 23 Jul 20, 2016 09:05AM  
  • The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come to Life
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
  • Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters
  • Plot
  • Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete, Step-By-Step Guide for Writing and Selling to the Movies and TV, from Story Concept to Development Deal
  • Thanks, But This Isn't for Us: The Compassionate Guide to Understanding What's Wrong with Your Writing and Leaving the Rejection Pile for Good
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Myth & the Movies: Discovering the Myth Structure of 50 Unforgettable Films
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End
  • The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
  • Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time
  • Getting the Words Right
  • Psychology for Screenwriters
  • CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovati on
Brian McDonald has taught his story seminar at PIXAR, DISNEY FEATURE ANIMATIION and George Lucas' ILM. His award-winning short film WHITE FACE has run on HBO and Cinemax and is used in corporations nation-wide as a diversity-training tool.

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“Stories are not complicated. They are, in fact, deceptively simple. But like anything simple, they are difficult to create.” 1 likes
“Because change is never easy, and is resisted, it is your job as storyteller to apply as much pressure on your characters as possible. You must back them into a corner and force them to change. Make it as painful as you can. Bring them to the brink of physical or emotional death if you possibly can. Your protagonists will be measured by the size of their struggle, so don't pull any punches.” 1 likes
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