Have you ever wanted to write a screenplay? Me neither. But if you didn’t want to write a screenplay, have you ever wanted to write a story? How about a short story? Essay? A Tweet? A Haiku? Nothing? OK, this book is not for you.
I figure only a subset of humans want to tell stories that are fictional outside of the dog eating homework genre. But if you put your mind to becoming the next Stephen King, Steven King, or Phteven King, consider checking out the book Story (amazon link). I was listening to the Michael Hyatt podcast and he listed 10 books that were most influential to him and one of them was this book Story. Since I subscribe to Audible I thought I’d check it out eventually (I have an ever growing wishlist over there) and what I found most fascinating is that of all the books on Michael’s list, this one was less business oriented. Unless you’re in the business of telling stories, I guess.
The power of the book lies in how the author grabs onto the demands of a professional story teller and pushes them into the reality of the job. And then pushes some more to get them to hone their craft. And then pushes them some more to keep honing their craft. He made a statement that really got my attention [paraphrased because it’s an audiobook]:
The reason Hollywood is putting out the movies with the plots that it is putting out is because this is the best writing that they can find. They would love more and better writers.
Now, please don’t quote me on that, but that was the gist of the sentence that almost caused me to stop mid-run and post the quote to facebook. I believe this was a jarring first point in the book to begin digging into the craft of story telling in movies (and in part other forms of story telling).
After laying down his perspective so tersely the author leans in and pushes in towards how to fix this problem. Along the journey he points out other issues like audiences not being able to follow, authors wanting to add in irrational or unexplainable twists, and the need to write characters just the right way so that the writer doesn’t over build something that will become a distraction or leave the audience wondering why so much energy was put into someone so unimportant.
This book is a great introduction to thinking through fiction, thinking through your audience, and thinking through story quirks. If you find the analysis of stories, the analysis of the writing, and analysis of movies interesting, you definitely need to check this out. It’ll ruin every movie you’ll ever watch 😉