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Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,933 ratings  ·  428 reviews
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).
Paperback, 278 pages
Published March 25th 2011 by F&W (first published January 14th 2011)
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Apr 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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
K.M. Weiland
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 craf ...more
Laura Kreitzer
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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 k ...more
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 o ...more
Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic, writing
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 w
Emma Sea
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
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 ...more
Marcy Kennedy
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-books
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 det ...more
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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 in ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Writers with low self esteem
Recommended to Michael by: Nerine Dorman
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 argume
Rebecca Berto
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: novelists & screenwriters
Shelves: best-everrr

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

David Fuller
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 di
A. S.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Daniel Ionson
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A while back I wrote a blog post about this book,
**Story Structure or, “What I learned from the Three Little Pigs”**.

[[ ]]

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 c
Sarah Hipple
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-writers
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 analy
Liam Johnstone
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2015
[Edited to add]More words on this book: [/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 str
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 th
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 ...more
Nov 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Camela Thompson
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Writers, particularly commercial fiction
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 ...more
Tim Johnson
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
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 necessar
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 an
Galina Green
Jun 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Galina by: very patient people who don't want to read books about screenwriting
Shelves: non-fiction, yack
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 t ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the best writing book I’ve read so far. It was simple, yet profound. I wish I had read this years ago. When I’ve bought writing books in the past (or read free ones I’ve found online), this principle-based instruction was what I was seeking, yet never found. Brooks, the author/writer, boiled fiction writing down to six core competencies that are easy to understand (though not easy to apply necessarily). I feel as if I’ve truly been taught practical writing skills and will use this book a ...more
Katherine Owen
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars This is an excellent resource for writers (beginning or otherwise) if you are in need of more structure in your storyline. I loved the concepts behind the idea of story structure, however, I was really hoping for some sort of graphical representation. I needed that in order to grasp what Brooks was trying to teach in the way of story concepts.

Update: Re-read the book and that helped clarify some of the concepts I missed the first time.
Jeff Stautz
Jul 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Seriously awful. Repetitive, self-aggrandizing, littered with absurd metaphors. For every sentence of substance, there are thirty sentences of meaningless fluff to wade through.
Dec 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
I hate this book. I was looking for something that would define all the structural elements of writing, and to that extent, I got something out of this, although it seems to be more of the genre screenwriting school of storytelling than inventive literature. I accept that there may be a fundamental structure at the core of narrative—this idea is nothing new. However, even with that being the case, Larry Brooks comes across as a smug, sanctimonious scold in how he relates this information. He's i ...more
Zel Polev
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I marathon read this book because I wanted to pick up other books. I already started on this one and I didn't want to leave it unfinished. While it contains helpful information, my god does this book have so much analogies. I'm all for metaphors to illuminate a point but this book is chock-full of them. I just wanted the author to get to the point.

I wasn't really sure if that was a legitimate complaint. I feel as though the analogies were just worsened by the fact that I read the book without s
Pat Camalliere
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Okay, how do I be fair but truthful in critiquing this book? I found it hugely annoying in that the author repeats himself to an almost laughable extent. He tells you the same thing in slightly different words three or four times, then gives an example or two that don’t really add anything, then sums up what he’s already told you, in similar words three or four times. Then moves on to the next chapter and does it all again, bringing back the same points he’s already made. I kept saying, “I got i ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This is the first book I’ve read on story-craft, aside from Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Overall, I think it is going to be a very useful resource, particularly the detailed sections on structure. Also, the chapters on character. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing stories, and who wants a solid basic structure to aid in outlining your story.

As far as criticisms, the author did get on my nerves a fair amount by beating the drum over and over and over with the anti-pants
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