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Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  8,530 Ratings  ·  767 Reviews
Robert McKee's screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all fl ...more
Kindle Edition, 490 pages
Published (first published 1997)
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Sep 08, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
I think this is the first time where I read a book solely based off a scene in a movie. The scene can be found here:

Lines like, "You cannot have a protagonist without desire! It doesn't make sense! ANY. F****NG. SENSE!" and "WHY THE F*** WOULD YOU WASTE MY TWO PRECIOUS HOURS WITH YOUR MOVIE? I DON'T HAVE ANY USE FOR IT! ANY. BLOODY. USE FOR IT!" more or less had me drooling. For those of you who don't know anything about Robert McKee, he's the writing tea
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Josh by: Charlie Kaufman's twin brother
YES! It took me six months, but I finally, finished this bitch.

The reason it took me six months was that Story is incredibly dense, and in the best possible way. If you want to understand what makes for a good story, and how and why they work, this is the book to read. But you'll need to read it slow because this is the kind of dense where you'll want to stop and think about what you just read after every few pages to make sure it really sinks in.

Though oriented primarily towards screenwriting,
Mahdi Lotfabadi
کتاب واقعاً خوبی بود و لذت بردم... نکتههای خیلی خوبی رو توش بهش اشاره میکنه! برای کسایی که میخوان فیلمنامهنویسی یاد بگیرن و یا فیلمنامه خوب رو از بد تشخیص بدن خوندنش خیلی میتونه مفید باشه! ...more
Aug 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a past life I did a professional writing degree for my undergraduate BA – half of which was in script writing. I wish we had been taught the stuff that is contained in this book. This is such a good book it is hard to praise it too highly. The advice is clear and all of it good. From avoiding adverbs and adjectives in your treatment to the psychology of interesting characters this book has many very important things to say to anyone thinking about writing a screenplay (or anything else, if yo ...more
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Robert McKee is the famous Hollywood screenwriting teacher gently poked fun at in the movie "Adaptation." Though that film could leave one with the impression that McKee teaches formula storytelling, this book is about how good stories transcend formula to become great art.

McKee has a masterful understanding of the fundamentals of story itself, and he writes with clarity about the basic story tools every writer must develop in order to move beyond cliche and into something original. Using examp
Jerilyn Marler
As a freelance editor of any type of writing, I am always searching for insight, wisdom, guidance, illumination about the many forms of writing that cross my desk. I'd heard about McKee's "Story" but shied away because screenwriting is so far removed from my usual work. Or so I thought. I bought the digital version on a whim thinking that it might prove useful someday as a reference book. I was immediately hooked and read it straight through. Then I went back and highlighted many passages for fu ...more
K.M. Weiland
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe it's taken me so long to read this book. I expected more of the same: structure, story elements, character tips. And those are certainly there. But Story actually deserves its tremendously broad title, because that's exactly what this book is: a discussion of *story.* It's theory and practicality all wrapped up into one module. McKee presents ideas I've never seen elsewhere, backed up by solid example after solid example and all in an extremely engaging and absorbing way. This is ...more
Ksenia Anske
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is not a book. This is like a school in a book. A master's degree. The amount of notes I took got out of hand, so I decided to just outright buy it, to have it handy. The best parts are the scene analysis chapters, which are pretty much the same for novel writing and screenwriting. Seeing a scene broken down into manageable bits has made it clear for me how to rewrite my scenes to make them better. Because if I can't write excellent scenes, I can't write an excellent book, period. So glad I ...more
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're a writer of drama or fiction, you need to master these rules before you consider breaking them.

I knew from an early age that I wanted to write stories, but it wasn't till I was about 17 that I learned that there are actual methods, principles, and techniques involved in storytelling, when I received as a gift a copy of The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. Wow! What a revelation! I read it greedily.

Flash-forward to 1990. I was 31 and now had my own TV series, The Odyssey, in devel
Jun 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cinema
The truth is that this whole concept of three acts and obligatory antagonist will make you unemployed screenwriter in 99,9% of cases. I know, I've witnessed it myself. In some ways the book is usefull, I think it gives pretty accurate analysis of turning points and different types of screenplays and genres, some other things maybe... But in general film bussiness has moved on from straight-forward "hero against something" concept, festival cinema and mass production for theatres and television a ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This is the text that went along with his three-day seminar that I attended. Although it is primarily focused on the screenplay, it is equally suitable for a novel, and there were quite a few novelists in attendance at the seminar. Although the focus is on traditional story structure—something McKee believes has become a lost art—his emphasis is so heavily on character, and writing from the inside out, that if well executed, a reader/viewer would not be consciously aware of the story's structure ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
McKee may be a great screenwriter, but I certainly hope his classes are less pompous and verbose than this book is. It's poorly edited, with too much preaching, and long lists of movie titles cited as examples of a particular point. Since the style is to use ALL QUOTES for titles, when he goes on for a third of a page it just gets annoying.
In his acknowledgements, he thanks someone for their omnivorous will to omit needless words - his wife. Obviously she was too close to it all to tell him to j
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-shelf, movies, writing
Why are there so many bad movies out there? I mean seriously - you and I both know that of all the films that are released every year, we probably get only one or two that are actually good. There's some that are good enough to spend an afternoon watching, maybe enjoyable enough that we'll want to watch it again on DVD later. But so many are just... bad.

It is my own fault, I think, for seeing Transformers 2. I have no one to blame but myself.

The really scary thing is that, in the summer of Trans
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
به عقیده ی من مشخصه ی کتاب های آموزشی/فنی مرجع در گام آهسته ی آن هاست. این کتاب به صورت کامل این اصل را ارضا می کند. مطالب بسیار جزئی و فشرده ی این کتاب هرچند سرعت مطالعه ی آن (مطالعه ی صحیح همراه با یادداشت برداری و درک) را پایین می آورد ولی خواننده را حداقل به یک دید عالی جهت تمییز بین فیلمنامه ی خوب و بد می رساند، حتی اگر نتواند موفق به تولید یکی از آن ها شود.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
UPDATE: Once a year or so I get the urge to return to attempts at screenwriting: it's actually a cheap hobby that's a great mental exercise. In the past, I've bought stacks of books about screenwriting: this is one of a handful I've kept and referenced. It's a stupendously fast read with some very good points. My review below digresses away from the book itself, as all my reviews eventually tend to do, but all in all, McKee is as good as anyone else in Hollywood at kick-starting your career.
Ben Starling
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this book certainly covered all the topics one would hope for in a book on writing craft. It was a bit on the theoretical/academic side for me. I was looking for something that was more practical. But if you are looking for something theoretical/academic, then you would have your bases covered here. I will keep the book on my shelf, but for use more as a reference text. Still, solidly written throughout and I am happy with the purchase.
Adam Page
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: potential screenwriters
I can understand how this book would be good for potential screenwriters; in fact, that's who this book is for exactly. However, the book does get tedious and has a lot of personal bias involved (a tendency that spills over into McKee's seminar, unfortunately). There is no story in "Story," so unless you are gung-ho about becoming a Hollywood writer, stay away from this one.
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow. I mean it. For the would-be average screenwriter this is the best thing since sliced bread.
An excruciatingly insightful book- for a tyro, that is. 'Cause that's the angle I'm judging from.
My first thoughts upon reading the book- boy, am I lucky I stumbled upon this book and no other which might have been a disheartening bummer. I guess it's off the essence to start off on the right foot.
Getting down to brass tacks, I recommend this book to everyone who's looking for a no-nonsense, comprehe
Chauncey Bird
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a science to this art, and Mr. McKee seems to understand it quite well. For any aspiring author of screenplays, plays, or novels, this is recommended reading.
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For all of you who loves films and screenwriting this is arguably the best book about it.
also this amazing youtube channel
Lessons from the Screenplay
Patrick Sherriff
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
I usually race through how-to-write books in a day or two, but this one took me a month because it is so damned good. And what a month. I found myself wanting to underline sections and scribble in virtual exclamation points!!! In triplicate!!! On my Kindle!!! And I hate exclamation points!!! Because, well, it's not so much that McKee was telling me anything I hadn't read before in the writing-craft circuit, but dammit, the way he said it, the waaaaaay he said made this storytelling business fina ...more
Walid jeve
- تنطلق القصة من تجربة إنسانية تغلف نفسها داخل تعبير فريد
- الوقت الذي تحتاجه لكتابة سيناريو بدء من الإلهام حتى المسودة الأخيرة قد يماثل الوقت الذى تحتاجه فى كتابة رواية
- حين يكتب الموهبون بشكل سيء فأن ذلك يرجع إلى سببين إما وجود فكرة مجبرون على إشباعها او يكونوا منساقين وراء عاطفة يريدون التعبير عنها
- ليست القصة هي ما يجب عليك أن تقول ولكن كيف تقول ايضا
- إذا لم تكن تعزف على كل الآلات فى اوركسترا القصة فلن يكون مهما ما تكونه الموسيقي في خيالك، فأنت محكوم بأن تدندن اللحن القديم نفسه
- نحن نحتا
S. Baker
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read this twice and I've recently put the audio book (narrated by the man himself) on my iPod so I can exercise my thoughts while I drag my over-fed carcass around the landscape. When I first read it, I wanted to reject almost everything in it, but then I hadn't written a feature-length screenplay at that time. By the time I'd read it again I'd written one and half screenplays and was wondering why my brilliant outline wasn't currently turning itself into a masterpiece. That's when it start ...more
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Buon libro, rivolto a chi cerca di avvicinarsi al mondo della sceneggiatura e della scrittura di storie in generale.

Praticamente un classico, nel suo genere, scritto da quel Robert McKee che ha fatto della formazione sull’argomento un vero e proprio business. Tra i suoi “alunni” ci sono decine di sceneggiatori che hanno fatto fortuna nell’industria cinematografica raccogliendo awards a tutto spiano.

Forse, mi chiedo un po’ malignamente, li avrebbero raccolti anche senza frequentare quei corsi in
May 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those gearing up for script frenzy
as a newbie (and a scared newbie at that_ screenwriter, i thought i would give this a go before diving into script frenzy. i am very excited to approach this new challenge. the rules he presents you with are very reasuring to those of us who have little experience, but long-term writers may find them restrictive. either way, there is sure to be something thought-provoking in this book for the writer of any sort. at the very least i have to love someone who comes out and takes a stand in favor of ...more
Alex Ristea
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
If you only ever read one book on writing, this should be it.

Even if you're not an author, STORY will deepen your understanding of novels and movies. What makes a good plot? What drives character motivations? How do you deal with audience expectations?

Telling stories is one of the most defining characteristics of being a human. Learns to do it well, and learn how to appreciate it, too.

I read a lot about writing, but nothing has ever blown me away like this. It has everything, and I plan to keep
While I've not read (or better said listened to) that many books on screenwriting, of the few that I have Story is by the best one yet. The others offered some interesting insights on the screenwriting process, but what differentiates Story from them is the fact that it goes into how to construct a story which is actually good, regardless of the medium. A must read for anyone interested in any form of creative writing.
Bahareh Mahooti
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: screenwriting
this book is fantastic and it has become my bible since I bought it. it doesn't just give you "How to s"... but also gives deepest views on elements of storytelling. It's one of the best book about screenwriting that I have ever read. so I recommend it to anybody who wants to do serious writing in screenwriting field.
you are the best McKee!!!
James Morcan
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the very best books on the fundamentals of screenwriting. I found it provided me with inspiration before doing rewrites during pre-production on one of the recent feature films I made.
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prose, non-fiction
I like to write. Well, there’s an old adage that some authors use that says, “I hate to write… almost as much as I hate not writing.” That might fit me a bit better.

But the reason that I *hate* to write is because as I’m doing it, except for brief moments of insanity, I know that what I’m putting out there is going to need a lot of work before anyone seriously considers it good. Then it would probably be lots more work before I could convince anyone of literary merit, or of exacting standards,
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What screenwriters can teach novelists 31 59 Aug 20, 2013 12:55PM  
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  • Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need
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  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
  • Cinematic Storytelling
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  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style (Hollywood Standard: The Complete & Authoritative Guide to)
  • 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
Robert McKee began his show business career at age nine playing the title role in a community theatre production of MARTIN THE SHOEMAKER. He continued acting as a teenager in theatre productions in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Upon receiving the Evans Scholarship, he attended the University of Michigan and earned a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature. While an undergraduate, he acted in ...more
More about Robert McKee...
“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.” 104 likes
“A fine work of art - music, dance, painting, story - has the power to silence the chatter in the mind and lift us to another place.” 65 likes
More quotes…