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Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,628 ratings  ·  392 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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4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,628 ratings  ·  392 reviews

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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.
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
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

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
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
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
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: 2015, library
[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
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
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
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.
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
Jim Wilbourne
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. A tad long-winded, but the author's voice is well developed.

I wish I'd found this book a few years back. Its value per page would have been much higher for me. However, now it's not as high. I still give this five stars because I'm measuring it against how good it is for the right person. Or, rather, me when I would have needed it most. Even though many of the ideas aren't what I need now, and some of the ideas he glosses over are what I'd like to go deeper on now that I'm further int
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not exactly a pantser, nor am I particularly a plotter, but with the information imparted in this volume, I've definitely reconsidered my approach for my own forthcoming novel. If you're a writer, or want to be a writer, then this presents an interesting alternative option for whatever state your process presently exists within.
Bruno Bueno
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
Story Engineering é um dos livros mais úteis que eu conheço para aspirantes a escritor.

Ele desenvolve uma estruturação para a escrita de romances por meio de seis competências básicas (Conceito, Personagens, Tema, Estrutura, Execução de cenas, Voz do autor) e dá dicas interessantes em todas elas.

O coração do livro, porém, está na parte de estrutura. Brooks descreve uma metodologia de escrita, baseada no planejamento preciso, cena a cena, de um romance, trazendo a experiência do trabalho com rote
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Aspiring writers with a modicum of talent
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
Kait Nolan
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So here's the thing I have learned as a teacher. Part of your job is to explain things repeatedly, in as many different ways as possible, until your audience understands whatever concept you're trying to teach them. This is something I often struggle with, as I tend to understand things intuitively in a "Yeah, you know, it's like...and stuff..." kind of way. My math teachers in grade school used to think I was cheating because I didn't show my work. I did it all in my head. On a professional lev ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
We were always told in English Lit. that good writing isn't something you can be taught, its just an innate skill, a gift, a calling. They'd tell you the same thing in art class, but I'm pretty sure they still explained about the basics of light and shading. In english class I can't even recall being taught basic sentence structure and grammar, its just assumed you pick these things up as you go along. And as far as writing a novel goes, apparently you just have to randomly become a genius and g ...more
Dec 06, 2012 rated it liked it
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 inclu ...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
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“Instinct is the elusive magic that happens when art collides with hard-won craft.” 2 likes
“Because, if you haven’t wrapped your head around this principle, chances are you’ll never sell a story.” 1 likes
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