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Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction

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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).

278 pages, Paperback

First published January 14, 2011

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Larry Brooks

36 books147 followers

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5 stars
1,316 (42%)
4 stars
1,032 (33%)
3 stars
523 (16%)
2 stars
147 (4%)
1 star
68 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 458 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel.
237 reviews17 followers
April 27, 2012
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 me, I skipped all the analogies, rants against pantsters, and ‘selling’ points) I thought that he did a good job of teaching the structural elements of story-telling to people who had no idea that stories even have structure. I particularly liked his three dimensions of characterization and found his explanation on scenes as somewhat weak.

I would recommend this book to someone who is just starting out as a writer. He teachs in a very easy-to-understand way.

For someone who has studied story-telling extensively, it came off as a dumbed-down, community-college class explanation and I’d recommend Donald Maass’s Fire in Fiction instead (same ideas, Stanford level explanations).

I also found the reoccurring ‘pantsters must all feel stupid’ rants offensive. Plotter vs. Pantster has NOTHING to do with skills, abilities, speed, or understanding of structure. And EVERYTHING to do with how a writer connects to creativity. I connect by fighting with the story on the page at the story, scene, paragraph, and sentence level. That the author connects differently does not negate my own (or other pantsters) experience.
Profile Image for K.M. Weiland.
Author 29 books2,278 followers
March 26, 2011
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 craft and how to move forward to the next level as a writer. Story Engineering does just that. Larry frames the book on the idea that every successful story is made up of six necessary "competencies" (four elements and two skills): Concept, Character, Theme, Story Structure, Scene Execution, and Writing Voice. He brings worthy and inspiring ideas and suggestions to all these subjects, but the heart and soul of this book is undeniably the twenty-three chapters on story structure.

Story structure is so often neglected in the teaching of fiction writing. We learn how to create three-dimensional characters, high-concept plots, and powerful themes - but without the ability to frame them in a strong structure, they’re weak-sauce stuff at best. And yet, so many writers are crafting story structure on sheer instinct, instead of a foundational understanding of what makes a solid structure - and what doesn't. This book takes away the guess work. Larry teaches what constitutes a correct structure, how to recognize and study it in the stories of others, and how to implement it in your own work. If you're only going to have two books on writing on your bookshelf, make it John Truby's The Anatomy of Story - and this one.
Profile Image for Laura Kreitzer.
Author 14 books674 followers
February 5, 2012
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 keep that version around as a trusty guide.

And good god, I hope that people aren't so slow it takes 10 freakin' pages for them to understand and comprehend a simple one sentence definition.

On a better note, I marked pages and sections worth reading again or for use as reference. It just sucks that I had to slog through pages of bullshit to find the gold. Brooks obviously knows what he's talking about, if only he'd forgo the million sections of examples and introductions to actually say something worthwhile.

You like how repetitive I was about the wordy and repetitive book? :) Irony at its best!
15 reviews3 followers
April 17, 2012
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 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:

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.

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".

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."
583 reviews15 followers
May 2, 2015
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 with).

The bad:

*The sense that these milestones are set in stone. It will be a miracle to get published if you don't follow them within about 2% of where he places them.

The ugly:

*Too much time spent in advertising the book. I wish he'd spent one chapter in the beginning "selling" the idea, then spent the rest of the book just telling it. The repeated salesmanship made it feel repetitive to me, like it was a series of lectures or blog posts that originally stood alone but didn't get edited down enough when it came to book form (actually, I think that's exactly what happened).

*Too many metaphors. I am a girl who loves metaphors, but for me there were just far too many.

The book had such potential. Really, it was interesting and useful, but it's hard to recommend to an aspiring writer because of the repetition. By the end I was skimming probably half of it. This sort of thing really kills an editor like me because we see how a good idea struggles through such a fixable issue.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,176 reviews1,047 followers
October 18, 2015
I agree the book could lose about half its bulk, all of which is Larry Brooks telling you he's going to tell you something, any second now, something really important that will change your writing life. Are you ready? Listen, because here it comes...

But when he actually tells you, it's wonderful. Despite the tone, I'd give this 6 stars if I could.
Profile Image for Michael.
902 reviews133 followers
April 20, 2013
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 argument. Unfortunately, he has interpreted this to mean that the book should be argumentative and should assert its value and correctness repeatedly in the most aggressive possible manner. Worse, he has learned from the Internet that “arguing” is about insulting the other fellow’s viewpoint. Hence, his book spends more pages on mocking people who write differently than he does, and on telling everyone how right he is, than on actually presenting evidence to support his argument. To put it in his own terms, he needs to learn how to SHOW not TELL.

When he does get around to giving evidence, incidentally, it all comes from the same bottom-of-the-artistic-barrel bestseller sources. You’ll see The DaVinci Code referenced so many times you’re sure Brooks is getting a kickback from the increased sales.

I'd advise anyone interested in learning the basics of story structure to go to their library and photocopy pages 272-274 . That's all you really need, but if you really want the drawn-out version, read chapters 21 through 38 and skip the rest, because it's basically filler.
Profile Image for Lauren.
199 reviews8 followers
November 11, 2015
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 SRSLY, GUYS, your story will literally curl up and die before your eyes without it etc, before he finally gets around to explaining how to use it. Other annoyances that goodreaders have mentioned in their reviews, like the author's hilariously extensive snub of writing that uses no outline, and his overall wanky demeanor, I must agree with. Thank god his main points were ultimately worth it, or I would've thrown the book against the wall, so to speak (I guess the online book equivalent of that is just angrily exiting the web page, which isn't nearly as fun).

Profile Image for Marcy Kennedy.
Author 17 books109 followers
July 12, 2012
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 detailed system of planning.

He structures the book around what he calls the "six core competencies" that every writer needs to master in order to succeed.

PART ONE - What Are the Six Core Competencies...and Why Should I Care?
PART TWO - The First Core Competency: Concept
PART THREE - The Second Core Competency: Character
PART FOUR - The Third Core Competency: Theme
PART FIVE - The Fourth Core Competency: Story Structure
PART SIX - The Fifth Core Competency: Scene Execution
PART SEVEN - The Sixth Core Competency: Writing Voice
PART EIGHT - The Story Development Process

This book is worth buying for the section on story structure alone. A lot of books on plotting or book structure talk about the three act structure, and that's a helpful starting point. However, in terms of Act 2, we're often just told to make sure the tension escalates or that each conflict is bigger than the last. We definitely should do that as writers, but so many of us know that advice and still write middles that sag or feel like a series of loosely connected events.

Brooks breaks down Act 2 into two halves, with each half serving a specific purpose within the story. The halves are separated by a middle plot point (a shift in the POV character's thinking and actions). Midway through each half, you also have the "pinch points" where the focus is on the antagonist. When followed, this template helps build a strong Act 2.

I think there are better books available for teaching character development (e.g. Jeff Gerke's Plot vs. Character or Brandilyn Collins' Getting Into Character), but this book provides a solid, quick overview that will at least get you headed in the right direction for creating three-dimensional characters.

The section on scene execution is the weakest.
Profile Image for Caroline.
217 reviews111 followers
November 21, 2022
So useful. Best book I’ve read on storytelling so far…!
Profile Image for Wendy.
406 reviews56 followers
February 13, 2016
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 interested in trying the method, or else I would've quit reading back on page 20. He's very, very repetitive and uses way too many analogies.

Also, he apparently isn't aware of what the word 'pantsing' means. He uses it repeatedly to refer to people who prefer to write 'by the seat of their pants', who do little to no story planning before sitting down to write. Well...according to grade schools the world over (or at least in my time in grade school), 'pantsing' is when you yank down someone else's pants in front of a bunch of other people. This is the mental image that popped into my head every time he said 'pantsing' and 'pantsers'. It was annoying.

But all that aside, it was helpful, and helped me get thinking about parts of my story I hadn't worked out yet. I think his idea of story structure isn't really applicable to every genre, but it is a pretty solid idea, especially if you're looking to write an action or thriller novel. It's a good reference I intend to keep on my shelves. All the same, feel free to skim some parts, particularly when he starts using analogies or selling his method again.
Profile Image for Rebecca Berto.
Author 13 books1,021 followers
December 20, 2011

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 Competencies", which are concept, character, theme, story structure, writing voice, and scene execution. Yep, he drilled it in so well that I remembered all six right then. He doesn't patronise you, but drills in the concepts in the same way a coach would for an athlete training for the Olympics. His writing is very symbolic, allowing readers to fully understand (visualise) everything.

If you want to publish your manuscript, buy this book or else you won't have a chance. A "must" resource for novelists and screenwriters.

Profile Image for Wen.
47 reviews3 followers
April 23, 2022
I love coming across casual racism in a writing help book!

“Writing voice is like air: If you can smell it, something is cooking, and it may not be appetizing to everyone. In fact, something may be rotten. The scent of a Chihuahua slowly roasting on a spit over an open flame may play well in the North Hamgyong Province of Korea, but it turns stomachs in rural Massachusetts.” Pg. 247

Author 3 books117 followers
June 2, 2015
A while back I wrote a blog post about this book,
**Story Structure or, “What I learned from the Three Little Pigs”**.

[[ https://danielionson.wordpress.com/20... ]]

Pasting it here for those who hate clicking links...
When we love a story, when a book stays with us for days (or decades) we know that it “works.” What we mean by that is that the story fulfilled specific desires (based on the genre/tone of that novel). But how does one story work and another fail?

Of course there’s always some subjectivity on the matter, but overall we do seem to share a “communal objectivity” about a tale either soaring or flopping. Tastes vary, but we still recognize the difference between the mastery of Beethoven and the pop-slavery of Brittany, or that Hamlet is genius while Twilight is garbage. There is a strong element of objectivity to art.

Of course, from that introduction we could run down a hundred different avenues to explore what makes a novel work. This one is about story structure as taught by Larry Brooks in “Story Engineering.” Brooks is one of many who espouse a strong Planning stance regarding novel-creation, and I find his to be the most logical and efficacious.

The philosophy: All great tales (going back through Antiquity) work when they follow the correct “Story Structure” (or “Story Physics”). When we disregard those “laws of writing-gravity” we jeopardize our tales. EG: A story bereft of conflict (be it external/internal/both) fails. A story with an antagonistic force which is easily overcome fails. These are non-negotiable “laws of storytelling.” And there are many more.

Brooks breaks down the successful story structure like this:

Four main “Parts,” three “Turning Points” and two “Pinch Points,” each containing their own mission. (I’ll list them chronologically):

Part 1: The Setup: To establish the character/world/stakes.
First Plot Point (“1PP”): When “the story’s primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance.” (Brooks calls this the “The Most Important Moment in Your Story”)
Part 2: The Response: The effects of the 1PP change your main character. The Response shows a drastic change from the protagonist’s former way of life.
First Pinch Point: Showing the reader (and optionally, the protagonist) the nature of the antagonistic force.
The Midpoint: [Brooks]: “new information that enters the story squarely in the middle of it, that changes the contextual experience and understanding of either the reader, the hero, or both.“
Part 3: The Attack: The protagonist up until now has either been spinning or floundering, perhaps intent on just fleeing. Now this changes. Now he’s fighting back.
Second Plot Point (“2PP”): In brief, “it’s when the chase scene starts.”
Part 4: The Resolution: The hero has learned, faced his demons, and is prepared to do anything to overcome the antagonistic force, even sacrificing everything (perhaps his very life).

What fascinated me about Brooks’ Structure book was that, as I looked through all of the stories I love, that he seems to be right on the nose. They all do share a common “physics” which, when ignored, cause various degrees of harm to the tale.

The usefulness of this kind of structure comes when you see that each of these seven main parts has a specific mission for you to accomplish. This makes outlining a far easier task, for you can see what exact need exists, and how to address it.

I’m only discussing the Structure part of the Story Engineering book (because it’s the most unique part of his book), but if you look at the TOC you will see much more in there. However, I have to be fair and say that the Story Engineering book should have been edited more before it was released. I don’t mean that there are amateur typos and the like, but rather that he spends too much time beating the drum and defending himself against attacks of being “formulaic” and of “not being creative.” I take notes when I am reading a book like this, and in several sections I simply wrote: “More preaching!” I suspect that his blog came first and the book came after, for I sense that he’s still arguing against those detractors within the pages of the book. That to the side, it’s an important book for us.

I don’t think Brooks is endorsing anything ‘formulaic’ or ‘hackish’ at all. I think that, just as with all art, there are “rules” which must be internalized. It’s true that all such rules can be bent and tweaked in just the right way, and here is where the uniqueness of each artist shows. But, it’s also where many artists attract loathing (or merely fade into anonymity). At this stage I agree with Brooks, and recommend him to my fellow novel-writers.
Profile Image for David Fuller.
Author 12 books10 followers
January 11, 2013
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 didn't all hang together. I had all that developing narrative flesh, but the bones weren't there.
So it was extremely helpful to read Brooks's explanations of how character motivation is incorporated into a four-act structure (if you have also read Victoria Mixon's books, you know this is similar to her three-act structure in which she includes a Fulcrum in the middle), and seeing what needs to happen at crucial milestones in the story. He provides many examples to back up his arguments, and separates the "good writing voice/style" from the underlying "good story structure" -- so you can still criticize the writing style of whatever blockbuster novel you can't understand the success of, but recognize that its success doesn't hinge on superficialities like that, but on its (very likely) skillful execution of what Brooks calls the six core competencies.
This is one of those writing books that isn't just on my shelf -- it's on my desk, so it's within arm's reach as I write.
And now that I can see how to block out a novel in proper narrative structure, I won't be pantsing any more first drafts -- I'll be figuring out how to structure them before I start wading into scene work.
Profile Image for A. S..
Author 2 books192 followers
April 21, 2019
A fantastic book with clear guidance on planning your novel. Whether you've written one already or are planning to write one, this will help clarify the major things you need to have in your book. Not only will it make planning things simpler, it will allow you to write with purpose.

Loved this and can't recommend it enough to other writers.
Profile Image for tappkalina.
642 reviews394 followers
July 15, 2022
Beginner level. For those who don't know anything about writing, although I found some helpful things in the structure chapters.
Profile Image for Daniel Zărnescu.
Author 13 books111 followers
April 4, 2018
La esenta sunt un "plotter" (sau un structurist, cum ii place unui prieten sa imi spuna). Asta inseamna ca sunt avid de structuri de poveste, de articole, de carti, filme. Inteleg ca este o mecanica in spatele artei de a povesti si in interiorul unor astfel de structuri devin eu insumi cu adevarat creativ.

La finalul acestei carti, pot pune ca sunt dezamagit de Lary Brooks, mai ales la ce review-uri am citit si la cat de laudata este cartea. Singurul motiv pentru care ii dau 3 stele este pentru ca, intre muntii de scris haotic pentru cineva care se vrea precis (EXACT), are cateva informatii faine despre cum sa construiesti o poveste (in special la partea despre cum sa construiesti personaje).

Dar in rest, exact la fel ca in cazul lui Anne Lamott, tonul folosit este cel putin disturbing. In loc sa te inspire sa scrii, te face mai degraba sa renunti, impovarat de presiune si lipsit de incredere in propriile forte.

1 - incepe cu hype (vanzare pe propriile concepte) ca si cum nu as fi cumparat cartea deja ... si nu se mai opreste din a spune cat de important este ceea ce iti va dezvalui. Capitole intregi doar despre asta, si nu doar la inceput. Combinat cu faptul ca promisiunea nu este respectata decat partial si ca el continua cu hype-ul chiar si cand este evident ca nu iti va oferi ceea ce iti promite, la final ramai cu un sentiment confuz si de dezamagire.

2 - haosul structural al cartii; pentru un autor care iti vinde ideea ca structura unei povesti si a unei carti este esentiala in succesul ei, Dumnezeule, cartea asta este un amestec grotesc si confuzant. Nu stiu cine i-a structurat cartea, dar te incurca foarte mult in intelegerea conceptelor pe care le preda. Plus faptul ca vorbeste mereu despre informatii pe care inca nu le-a dezvaluit, ca si cum ar trebui sa le stii, crescand confuzia la cote alarmante si anxioase deseori.

3 - tonul evanghelist; repet, ar fi trebuit sa imi placa aceasta carte, judecand dupa faptul ca modelul propus mi se potriveste, ca si tipar psihologic. Dar tonul folosit este unul extrem de critic la adresa altora care nu functioneaza "la fel". M-am simtit deranjat de acest ton, chiar daca sunt in aceeasi tabara cu autorul si ii dau dreptate, in mare masura. Dumnezeule, nimanui nu-i place pe unul iti spune ca daca nu esti cu el, vei arde in iad. Dar Larry Brooks asta face: "My way or the highway" over and over. Artistul din mine, cel care se desfasoara in interiorul structurilor, s-a simtit brutalizat. Trebuie sa respecti 100% ce spun eu, nu 99%. 100% rai, 99% iad. Sentimentul este ca nici el nu are incredere in ceea ce preda, asta fiind si motivul pentru care ridica standardul atat de mult.

4 - cartea are parti foarte bune, dar aceste parti sunt ingropate in tone de explicatii, metafore, analogii si tirade impotriva celor care nu fac "plotting" (care isi permit sa scrie fara sa planifice scrisul). Am citit cartea in 1 luna si de la inceput pana la final am incercat sa imi explic ce vrea sa spuna autorul, am desenat pasii lui, structurile propuse, incercand sa cuprind logica din spate. Cartea, in esenta, daca dai la o parte inceputul si vorbaria, nu ar fi trebuit sa aiba mai mult de 30-50 de pagini (pagini care ar fi fost "aur curat")

5 - rigiditatea excesiva a autorului in respectarea regulilor. Scriu, ma educ in ceea ce priveste scrisul, sunt cinefil inrait si caut structuri si modele de lucru oriunde. Dar acest mod excesiv matematic de a vedea scrisul ma omoara pe interior ("daca ratezi cu 1% pozitia scenei Y, nu vei fi publicat, cartea ta va muri, tu vei esua"). Repet, sunt fan "plotting", dar omul asta omoara viata din interiorul unei structuri. Teoretic un blueprint ar trebui sa te entuzismeze ca sa scrii. In cazul asta iti taie cheful.

6 - Autorul propune 6 competente; 2 sunt explicate foarte bine, 2 bine, 2 execrabil (si insuficient). Mai tot timpul te intrebi "si cum fac asta?". Finalul este total pe langa. Dupa ce insista ca daca nu stapanesti una dintre competente esti kaput, la final, ultimele 2 competente, le parcurge atat de superficial incat ai sentimentul ca nici el nu crede ce spune.

Cand eram copil, bunica-mea, pioasa de fel, ma ducea la biserica regulat. Atunci am vazut prima oara un popa beat, care abia se tinea pe picioare, in timpul unei slujbe. Si a fost prima oara cand am auzit vorba "Fa ce spune popa, nu ce face el.". Larry Brooks este un popa beat mort, vorbind altora despre cum sa fie cumpatati.

O carte haotica, negativista, rigida, repetitiva a unui autor care pare intr-o lupta continua de a demonstra ca ce spune el are dreptate si ca cei care nu il cred vor muri ignorati de posteritate, fara un chior in buzunar si nepublicati.

Cele 3 stele (2.5 stele, mai exact) sunt date pentru faptul ca, dupa ce am inotat in aproape 300 de pagini de rahat, in mai bine de 1 luna, am gasit si cateva perle. Fara ele cartea ar fi meritat 1 stea cu indulgenta. Prea putin. Nu o recomand decat daca ai stomacul tare si muuulta rabdare.
Profile Image for Sarah Hipple.
29 reviews19 followers
December 8, 2012
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 analyzes what they are, why they work, and how you might get them to work for you. He gives some good examples which really help clarify what he means and see the principles he's espousing in action, and he gives some very helpful lists/tips.

Here's my negative:
This book gets 2-3 stars for the tone of the book and the extraneous info, especially in the first few chapters. For the first few chapters, I kept reading and thinking, "Wow, he just told me a lot about how helpful this book is, but I still have no idea what it is that's helpful." He spends a lot of time building up his methods/analysis (which are good) and I spent a lot of time thinking "TELL ME ALREADY!"
And then there's his attitude towards organic writers/"pantsers" (for those less familiar with writers, that's writers who fly by the seat of their pants and write as they go along.) He rightly says that it will take an organic writer more drafts and much more time to get everything into place. I totally buy that, but his implication is that he just can't understand why organic writers don't just plan because it's so much simpler. I actually marked a quote that gives you an idea of how derisive he can be about this:

First pansters don't want to hear about it. For some reason the very notion of planning out major story points before you actually begin working on the manuscript is judged as either offensive or unworkable. At least for them. This is, in my view, much like someone claiming they can't fly in an airplane ... because they've never set foot in one. And so they choose to drive.

I really don't like this attitude and, predictably, I don't pre-plan in the fashion he thinks is so very helpful. But I honestly don't know my world and characters nearly well enough to plan things out until AFTER I've started writing, no matter how much brainstorming and character mapping I do before starting. But for my second draft, much of what he says about story structure is very helpful for my editing. And a lot of what he says about writing is helpful during the planning phase too. I just could do without the condescension.

One disclaimer: this was my gym book, so I read it in short segments over the course of several months, and perhaps that kept me from making the connections that made this very, very wonderful for others but merely quite useful to me.

My writing blog: http://sarahhipple.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Liam Johnstone.
221 reviews12 followers
June 21, 2016
[Edited to add]More words on this book: http://wp.me/p1mKCz-gZ [/Edited to add]

I've finally finished this book. I rated it 4* because of the content.

In the book, Brooks talks about how the skills he preaches will empower a writer to finish more stories, in fewer drafts, hours, and tears, and actually improve the stories you write to salable quality.

I can't speak to the reality of all of those bold claims, but I can say that I feel more empowered.

He has some interesting thoughts about story structure, and how any story that's traditionally published follows the same rules for structure or what he calls story architecture, whether the author knew about the rules or not.

Again, I can't say whether they do or not, but Brooks has given me an idea of what I should be looking at when reading a book, to see if the structure is what this book says it must be. Reading with intention is, to me, a good idea, but I never really knew what to look at in order to see how to get the outcomes I want when I'm writing. So I have praise for that as well.

I've also struggled, in some stories that I want to tell, in knowing what to write, how to structure it, but I didn't know. Now, I have someone's theories to power me through planning the rest of those stories. And I appreciate that. Sure, it's one guy's theories, and they may fall on their face, but at least I have an avenue to pursue.

All of the above is true, and nothing that comes after will take away from my appreciation for what this book has provided.

Brooks talks about a writing voice, and labels it as one of his six core competencies that MUST be nailed down before you will sell any of your writing. I believe that this book completely flies in the face of that assertion.

Brooks talks down to the reader. He has nothing but contempt for people who fly by the seat of their pants and write stories without a plan in mind. He has scathing rebuttals to arguments I haven't heard the other side of before. He wanders down analogous lines and gets lost in his own cleverness. And I disagree with him about the value of more-than-mediocre narrative voice. He says that playing it safe and merely being competent is the safest way to go (which translates to more sales). Given that I'm not likely to be making millions and millions of dollars like Dan Brown, I think I would rather put more effort into my narrative than that, albeit not at the expense of a good story.

In the end, I think that this book is really valuable. I haven't been to a writer's workshop or any courses outside of a young writer's conference in high school, so a lot of these concepts, particularly the story structure bits, were new to me. If you, like me, have found yourself getting stuck on what comes next, and wanted to plan something, but didn't know how or what to put where, this book might be for you, meandering and self-important though it may be.
Profile Image for Steven Howell.
45 reviews33 followers
July 31, 2011
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 this review.

The book contains incredibly useful information for the novelist struggling with how to structure a growing pile of scenes, where to put what, and why. It all makes perfect sense once the reader slogs through Brooks's endless metaphors and analogies.
STORY ENGINEERING has gotten my novel writing on track, helping me to go from a stack of index cards consisting of scenes I couldn't figure out where to place in the story, to a solid structure of story milestones that act as a skeleton to hold the novel upright while I fill in the connective tissue with the talking, fighting, loving, and traveling my characters do on their own.
While I don't necessarily agree with Brooks that his structure is "non-negotiable" if an author intends to sell his work, this book is a terrific reference for anyone who struggles with structure. It won't write your book for you, but it will lay out a possible route to the desired destination: a finished first draft.

Now, a couple of critical comments: The structure portion of the book could have been half its current length and still covered the necessary information. It's FULL of Brooks's heavy-handed pontificating about his method and why you simply cannot be successful as a novelist unless you follow it. He says it and says it again, and again, and again, using endless metaphors until I end up shouting out loud, Monty Python-like, "Get ON with it!" In fact, as a personal tool, I condensed the book to one page showing the author's recommended structural milestones, then used the Scrivener program's corkboard to create index cards for each. I now have an invaluable template as a starting point for planning the direction of my plot and the distribution of scenes already written. It's quite helpful, and I'm grateful to Brooks for pointing me in that direction.
I only wish I didn't feel that his finger had been poking me in the sternum from cover to cover.
3 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2013
The name of the book, Story Engineering, inspires thoughts of a blue collar, nuts and bolts, no-bs approach. A solid clear blueprint, which could then be be peppered with advice on when/how to deviate and customise, warnings and what to watch out for when you do, etc. More crunchy exercises.

Sadly, no. Every core competency stretches over multiple chapters (sounds good, detailed, you say...) but then you find that you could probably delete the first 2 or 3 chapters entirely for each competency and the book would be better for it. Its just tiresome, and every new competency I was wishing he would just get to the bloody point already.

The endless analogies (multiple groupings of them at once), repetition stating the same thing over and over in far to verbose a fashion. There are sections headings where you think it will get into the detail, instead more waffle. I found myself skimming over whole sections, even chapters, cause it was just more boring and tedious, all fluff, no crunch. Eventually you get to the crunch, but even that isn't very well sectioned either. I'm sure after I re-read this a few times I will be able to hone and highlight the valuable parts - because surely a book can't get such high ratings if that info isn't lurking there.

Clearly, I'm disappointed. After reading his website and various articles, I expected much better. And an overly verbose waffle-fest was exactly what I didn't expect. Giving this 2 stars. Its probably worth 3, but my expectations were high and it didn't deliver.

As another reviewer suggested, if this book could be rewritten without the endless garbage, it might only be 10 pages, but likely 10 really good pages.

If I eventually find good value in this book, then I might indeed come back and change my rating or update this review, but until then...
Profile Image for Galina Green.
32 reviews10 followers
June 23, 2017
This books offers some useful information, but I wish I could punch author in the balls every time he goes "Do differently, and you'll never get published". Yes, he has an opinion, he is vocal about it. It's fine the first time, bearable the second, but he repeats it every 10 pages. And it's not just wrong (because a lot of what he says is defied by published authors. Haruki Murakami alone disproves a dozen of his points. Don't even start analyzing the classics), it's soooooooo annoying. He is trying to tell something useful, but the way he does it makes me (and a lot of other people, I'm sure) hate his advice. I don't know why on Earth didn't he use his own principles to write Story engineering, but that book is just badly written. It's like he had 100 pages worth of material, but he wanted to make 300 pages out of it.

Also annoying are his attempts to include women. Writing "she" instead of "he" from time to time looks like a token political correctness gesture. Because he only uses "she" to describe author or reader. But when it comes to plot there's only "hero". It's like the guy had never heard the word "heroine". Why not use "they" and "their"? It's so much more respectful.
And he writes something like "shrieking as a little girl". Let me tell you, honey, that little boys shriek absolutely the same. He generic plot examples are also strange. "His lover tries to kill him, he defends himself [from her]". Actually, if you were going for generic plot, the reverse situation would be way more likely.

The author is like a nagging parent who thinks his criticism is doing the kid a service. When in reality it's just emotional abuse.
Profile Image for Jeff Stautz.
Author 1 book5 followers
July 30, 2016
Seriously awful. Repetitive, self-aggrandizing, littered with absurd metaphors. For every sentence of substance, there are thirty sentences of meaningless fluff to wade through.
Profile Image for Derek.
983 reviews72 followers
September 17, 2020
I learnt a lot reading and applying the core principles detailed in Story Physics and came with the same, if not more, expectations for Story Engineering. My expectations were largely met, and my only quarrel is long, unnecessary introductions for each sub section! Though these two are pretty much the same book, pretty much saying the same thing; they are quite the DIY writing resource for any writer hoping to improve their writing, especially structure. I'm in the middle of plotting a new novel so this comes in handy.
Profile Image for Nick.
28 reviews
November 6, 2020
Decent introduction to story structure

If you've never read anything about story structure this isn't a bad choice. The author is a little annoying and harsh and there could have been more nuts and bolts knowledge in here. If you haven't yet, I'd go with The Snowflake Method and Save The Cat Writes A Novel, and maybe hit this afterwards if you need more convincing.
Profile Image for Brittany.
1,069 reviews36 followers
January 6, 2014
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 competency is broken down with helpful tools and activities (without being too cumbersome) that demonstrate what you must do to master the skill and why it’s so critical to effective storytelling. The competencies are further supported by many, many examples – including populist fare such as the Da Vinci Code, Shutter Island, Top Gun and Collateral (yes this book also has some relevance to screenwriters) – the more well-read you are with commercial fiction, the easier you’ll find it to apply these examples to your own writing.

The Good & The Bad: In general, I’d say this was the perfect book for someone in my personal competency when it comes to writing – but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s for every last writer on the planet. Basically I’ve got a good handle on most of the components outlined in this book – but bringing them together (in particular, structure expectations) has always been where I’ve struggled. This book helped me take a big picture look at my story ideas and actually understand what *needs* to happen to write an effective, compelling story – something I’ve always been missing. Again, the best thing this book offers is understanding. I comprehended every single suggestion and directive – and that probably can’t be said of most writing books. The structure section was by far the most illuminating; I found it fascinating that once I understood the basic expected layout of a book, I could even apply it to some of the more inventive fiction I’ve read over the years. It’s impressive that something can be so templated, yet with all of the dials and knobs and tools a writer has at their disposal, you can have literally endless combinations of fascinating fiction to play with.

Although I personally don’t have too many complaints about this book, I will make a few constructive notes. The opening and ending are a little fluffy and seem like padding to what is otherwise a very information-dense book. Also, Brooks doesn’t have much love for literary fiction. This book is perhaps a little too clearly geared toward those who want to write commercial, viable fiction (which makes sense, given that’s Brooks’ own domain). I have another writing book in my to-read pile that speaks to the success of books that straddle the line between literature and populist fiction (i.e. reads like The Help or The Time Traveler’s Wife) that I think will be a good companion to this one. Finally – and I personally appreciated this – Brooks is careful to separate talent from skill. He’s very clear that you need to master these writing skills in order to produce something worth reading...but he also regularly drives home that a certain amount of talent and innate storytelling ability needs to exist within you to truly accomplish great things. So if you’re a talentless hack and expect to read this and come away a brilliant writer, it’s not that kind of book. It brings together – concisely and clearly – writing fundamentals that every writer with a big dream needs to bring ‘em down to earth and hopefully get published.

The Bottom Line: A total must-have and somewhat shortcut to what would otherwise takes years to learn in a formal writing program. Super glad I bought this handy reference guide.

Anything Memorable?: Take note of the examples I listed above as they’re the four most oft-cited work outside of the ‘fictional’ examples Brooks inserts. If you’re not familiar with one of them, try and give it a read or watch before diving into this; it’ll help you make sense of things.

60-Book Challenge?: Book #1 in 2014
Profile Image for Jacob.
879 reviews49 followers
January 5, 2016
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 include in a story and two skills in writing/storytelling. Although I don't have a lot of experience writing or reading books on how to write, I believe his system is a pretty good one.

Ironically, it's his writing that drags this book down from four or five stars to three. The two biggest problems are that he repeats certain things A LOT (such as the difference between those who plan their stories before they write and those who just write organically), and I didn't really like his attitude (to paraphrase: "if you don't include all of these elements and execute them well, your work won't sell because all the major published authors include the elements and write them well"). He may be more right than not, but I've read a decent number of books where the author still doesn't have a good grasp of these elements so I think it's even rarer than the author believes to be very good. Brooks could have said once that not following the accepted wisdom about how stories work creates a significant risk of not getting published and continued with his information. He could also have spent less time arguing against people who write the story without planning.

There was one section I disagreed with -- the chapters about writing "voice", or narrative style. In contrast to Brooks, I think voice can be learned. While I agree that having a voice that is essentially transparent is pretty safe because it allows the reader to concentrate on the story, it's okay to develop a distinctive voice or writing style as long as you're careful not to come on too strong. And his advice about dialogue is way off the mark. He suggests that you pay careful attention to make your dialogue feel real, but what he should be saying is that you need to pay careful attention to make your dialogue read well. His example of bad dialogue writing actually seems more real than his good example, but that's the point: what's real is frequently not what's interesting or engaging. A lot of authors don't figure out that in writing you want to write something engaging that "feels real" without actually writing something "real".

This would get two stars because it's painful to read, but the actual advice and the engineering approach are such good ideas that I'll give it three. I just wish their potential had been realized better.
Profile Image for Camela Thompson.
Author 6 books46 followers
July 5, 2014
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 a pantser because that was all I knew and I thought it was working for me, but I had some doubts. I completed three novels and was only proud enough of one of them to pursue publication (successfully, but still... 1 out of 3). As I listened to Mr. Brooks, I realized my shortcomings were primarily in story structure. Character, voice, scene... these things I could manage. What made me worry was pacing. Were the right things in the right places? It took me a long time to reorganize scenes to get them in a sequence that instinctively worked.

This book has helped me learn how to outline my novel in a way that works for me. I haven't advanced to the point I can create a scene by scene beat sheet, but I do start with the five milestones and sketch the scenes as they come to me - usually well ahead of my writing. Scrivener has features that facilitate this so smoothly, I don't have a valid excuse to avoid preplanning. I know I'll end up going back and fleshing things out as a character evolves in my mind, but things have gone a lot smoother this go 'round. My hope is that I will continue to evolve and really understand each competency with time.

The only reason this book does not get a fifth star is because of the sheer volume of analogies. At first they were helpful in illustrating the concepts presented in the book. After a while, I became irritated. Did the author continue to illustrate each point because he felt the reader would not get it? The competencies are complex and the recommended application flies in the face of what many authors share as their process, so perhaps this is valid. I suppose the measure of whether my frustration was the result of my getting it early and wanting to move along or just petty irritation will manifest in whether or not I execute my competencies well in future novels.
Profile Image for Tim Johnson.
550 reviews13 followers
March 6, 2014
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 necessary. I would prefer to see some references to online exercises, reading assignments and practice. Maybe a peer forum? I do think that anyone interested in writing should approach it however they feel most comfortable. Everyone has their own style. James Patterson likes an outline and Stephen King can shoot from the hip. Knock yourself out. Brooks goes on forever in extended diatribes against "pantsing" and leaves narrative voice out completely. Also, although I agree in general with the assessment on M. Night Shyamalan, let's be honest. The 6th Sense and Shutter Island both benefit from a clever plot twist and have equal levels of thematic value. The point of 6th Sense is that something that seemed like a curse was really an incredible gift and for Shutter Island the main character chooses to live as a hero in a world of his own creation as opposed to being a violent criminal in reality. There, those are potential points for both movies. I get the sense Mr. Brooks "pantsed" this book.

Despite all of that, it's okay, because I definitely "pantsed" this review. There is plenty of good information to be had in the book. I particularly like the breakdown on characterization. Point taken on the positive relationship between outlining and foreshadowing, too. The sections on plot points could have benefited by supplementary materials online. There is value here if you can get past the 20 page elevator pitch.
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