on May 19, 2003
This is the ultimate book on the art of screenwriting. Maybe Syd Field knows what he's talking about, but he sure doesn't explain it like McKee. When I finished this book I really felt I had a much deeper understanding of the storymaking process than I ever had before. I feel like I'm well equiped now to finally start that screenplay I've had in my noodle for the past three years. I've just been waiting for the confidence to bring it to the page. McKee has given me that confidence with Story.
As he states, he's not going to teach you a formula for great scripts. There's no such thing. He teaches what has been true about stories since the first person carved the first story in a stone tablet. You'll learn the psychological effects that story structure has on the audience and the undeniable truths about how to reach an audience with a really good story.
This book touches on every part of the screenplay from plot points to characters, from antiplot to archplot, from beat to act. You'll understand story like you never have before and if you really pay attention, you too may be able to write that academy award winning screenplay you've been dreaming about.
on April 29, 2003
On the surface, Robert Mckee appears to be one of those slick Hollywood types who trounces across the globe, charging hundreds of dollars a ticket for his seminars and rousing the masses into thinking that yes, they too can sell the next million dollar screenplay. I don't like those types.
Fortunately, I suspended my judgement long enough to read Robert Mckee's "Story," and I realized that this guy really seems to know his stuff. Moreover, I got the impression that he was holding nothing back in his attempt to help me, the reader, to write a better screenplay. "I've written Story," Mckee says, "to free you to express an original vision of life." The book goes a long way toward fulfilling this promise.
I've read several other screenplay books (Linda Seger, Lew Hunter, Ronald Tobias), and this is the clearest, most complete screenwriting guide that I've found. Unlike many of the others, this one spends the most time answering that most difficult question, "What makes a good story?"--and it answers it in ways that are entertaining and easy to follow.
You may be wary of the length (at 400+ pages, it's a hefty tome to lug), but I assure you--the length is a good thing. Mckee uses the space to explain each concept in great detail (the list of films he uses as examples takes up 33 pages at the end of the book), and in many cases this extra explanation makes a big difference. I had more "Ah-ha!" moments of understanding in this book than I've had in all other film books I've read combined.
on April 25, 2003
This book is by far the best of its kind, and is also more useful to me than the many writing courses I've taken over the years.
It's truly extraordinary how McKee is able to distill universal forms and principles from a huge variety of narrative writing. One would think such an approach would be quite restrictive, but the opposie is true: by helping the reader understand why and how effective narratives work, and how a writer should approach the creation of a screenplay, a universe of possibilities emerges.
The main problem with writing workshops is that their negative approach focuses on a student's work and what's wrong with it. A support group, as the positive counterpart rarely results in genuine improvement. As McKee notes, a lot of writers go through endless revision cycles in the hope of salvaging what's good in their work.
When a story is committed to novel or screenplay form, the battle to forge this elemental structure is almost lost. McKee teaches the principles that writers should follow in this critical pre-writing stage as they develop the progression of their narrative.
Contrary to some teachings out there, narrative writing can be taught, and the effectiveness of a gifted writer can be improved on. "Story" is a sound investment for any aspiring writer. I can recommend this book without reservations.*****
on April 13, 2003
In my opinion, with any art form being taught, a teacher can only take a student to a certain level, where, once reached, it is up to the student's creativity and talent to judge if he or she will be successful. As far as screenwriting goes, McKee's book, on its own, will take you to that level.
I honestly feel that this book, coupled with The Screenwriter's Bible (because of its great section on formatting), is all you need to be a professional, paid, successful, and downright good screenwriter. I read the book twice through, highlighted the important information the second time, and now I read through the book once a week storing the highlights to memory.
McKee doesn't teach you formula, instead he tells you and analyzes what makes a story a story. Going further with that, he then teaches you what makes a great story. Some may think that this is formulaic, but it isn't. McKee has simply stated the similiarities between all the great stories, not just movies, throughout history, and your knowledge of this will help you in crafting your own great piece.
I would write even more, but if you have read more reviews than this, what I have written is surely redundant. But I'll say it, is as they all have, this book is all you need.
on August 2, 2002
If you've ever wondered "Why aren't films very good these days?", you're not alone. Most of us have noticed that most movies being released are predictable, dull, and just plain boring. It doesn't matter that the films are packed with chase scenes and explosions -- we've seen it all before. Robert McKee is a visionary intent on bringing fresh creativity to movies in his classic reference book on screenwriting, STORY. He writes in the introduction to this book, "But my hope for you goes beyond competence and skill. I'm starved for great films. Over the last two decades I've seen good films and a few very good films, but rarely, rarely a film of staggering power and beauty." He adds, "I've wriitten STORY to empower your command of the craft, to free you to express an original vision of life, to lift your talent beyond convention to create films of distinctive substance, structure, and style."
If you're a screenwriter or novelist, STORY is not a mere nicety, but is an absolute must! There simply isn't any better guide to writing excellent screenplays -- and this one covers every genre and structure. McKee is a master at the craft of coaching writers, and he excels at helping writers discover their own unique strengths and weaknesses. McKee is brilliant at explaining something so basic yet fundamental as the difference between mood and emotion in a scene -- and ideas so subtle as getting the beats just right in a given scene. McKee's passion for excellence and enthusiasm are contagious, and inspire me to make my writing the best it can be.
I find myself so riveted to STORY that I feel adrenaline racing through my when I read this masterpiece. There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe how essential this book is -- do yourself a huge favor and read this awesome book!
on March 22, 2002
I'm working on my first screenplay and bought about a dozen screenplay books. They seemed helpful until I was stuck and none of them had anything for me. On the advice of a real screenwirter, I bought Story, and man, am I unstuck now. McKee teaches how basic storytelling works, and digs deep into the fundamentals of what people react to.
This is the best screenwriting book I've come across because it focuses on the fundamentals, the foundation you're basing your story on. What's it REALLY about? What's the true conflict? Once you do the hard work in figuring out the fundamentals (more than just those two questions, of course), the story itself comes quickly, and it's a blast - I'm having the most fun writing I've ever had (and I've published 10 books). I'm getting up at 5 a.m. just to have enough time to write, and I love it.
If you're working on a screenplay, get this book. It gives you an essential clarity about the story you're working on. Seriously. It's a hard look at storytelling, nothing vague or touchy-feely about it. Seriously, I can't recommend it enough.
on March 22, 2002
I have found Robert Mckee's insights to be immensely helpful and would highly recommend this book to anyone who is seriously interested in a screenwriting or other literary career. It certainly is not the kind of book that can be polished off over the course of a couple of subway rides. The material is actually pretty cumbersome in places requiring paragraphs to be re-read several times in some instances, but the information is invaluable. It also might be more meaningful for the novice writer to complete a first draft of a screenplay utilizing some of the other books available such as Syd Field's "Screenplay", etc. before reading Robert McKee. The information may be easier to digest after having acquired some knowledge of screenplay writing and applied to the re-write, but the material is definitely well worth reading. I know it has made a tremendous difference in my writing. And as for those who claim this book was of no use to them--I wonder where all the antagonism comes from....nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head forcing them to buy the book or attend the seminars! McKee's "greed"??? I'm grateful to Robert McKee for sharing his knowledge and insight with those who wish to benefit from it, and at the reasonable cost of a hardcover book that will certainly remain a reference book on the writer's shelf, right next to the Thesaurus. I say, buy it!
on October 17, 2001
As an aspiring rookie screenwriter, I'm always in need of some sort of guidance. After reading the reviews, I decided to drop my street-peddled [money] on Mr. McKee's big screen wish list "Story." Overall, I'd say this book is a worthy addition to my library. With chapters on structure and meaning, scene design and analysis, as well as antagonism and exposition, I've sucked down a frothy bit of good advice. However, my literary journey through Mr. McKee's book has not been without toil. He seems to write at a level that attempts to overly amplify his knowledge of a movie's inner-workings-to a point that almost boasts, brags, and commands. Sure he's got the credentials, but the world is what it is. I also found his use of the English language both amazing and perplexing. He reminds me of a college English professor I once knew, a professor who prided himself on knowing the meaning of more words than Mr. Webster. Mr. McKee's use of words like "solipsism," "couscous," and "cacophonous," twist my mind into spasms of vocabulary hurl. I found myself constantly referring to a dictionary just to turn the page. And once I did decipher Mr. McKee's complex stretch of the English language, I had to go back and reread the paragraph just to absorb the context. A tiring experience to say the least. On a more obtuse note, he seems to sublimely suggest that his way is the only way. I found myself chuckling when reading, "Instead he pours a cup of coffee, then asks for ten minutes." I don't drink coffee (knock wood) and I surely don't want to verbally pitch my movie premise in ten minutes. I'd rather immerse my critic via a well-written treatment. Or better yet, here's my script. Would you take some time to read it? Most supportive friends and relatives would gladly take the time to sit down and curl up within your surreal journey. I like the book, don't get me wrong. It's got mountains of good information. And I undoubtedly will refer to it often. But do your pushups before you dive into this slice of bark. It will exhaust and enrich you at the same time. As they say in my new movie, "Maverick, word-alert on your six! Beware of 'didacticism' and 'rubric' in chapter 7." Yowza, my eyes are suffering from negative Gs.
on September 4, 2001
I tend to spend much of my writing time looking at my fingernails, not knowing which way to go. Now I know why I should go one way or another, and more of how to get there. I understand characters a little more. (They're just trying to back get to balance, they will always try to take the path of least resistance, they think they're normal, they're not always what they seem...) I understand dialog a little more. (They're not necessarily talking about what they're talking about, they lie.) And in learning a little more about story, we learn a little more about ourselves.
I got out my highlighter 5 pages in. And I never get out my highlighter. McKee can be a bit repetitive, but that's fine; didn't bother me a bit. I do wish there were some day-to-day get-past-the-fingernail-staring exercises, but hey, that's not what he's teaching. I wish I had this book years ago -- would've saved a lot of head-banging anguish.
This, along with "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers," (Browne, King); Lawrence Block's "Writing the Novel," and Stephen King's "On Writing," were all tremendous, practical help to me.
Thank you, Mr. McKee.
on July 26, 2001
This book is by far the best book on narrative writing that I've ever read, and is also more useful to me than the many writing courses I've taken over the years. I'm a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA) and also took many writing courses as an undergraduate -- this single book beats them all put together.
It's truly extraordinary how McKee is able to distill universal forms and principles from a huge variety of narrative writing (primarily screenplays, of course, but his insight extends beyond screenplays). One would think such an approach would be limiting and reductive, but the reverse is true: by helping the reader understand why and how effective narratives work, and how a writer should approach the creation of a screenplay, a universe of possibilities emerges.
The main problem with writing workshops is that they focus on a student's work and what's wrong with it -- it's a very negative approach, the opposite of a support group, that rarely results in genuine improvement. As McKee notes, a lot of writers go through endless revision cycles in the hope of salvaging what's good in their work. But the problem with most narrative writing seems to be in its elemental structure -- the story and its progression -- which occurs on a "pre-writing" level. Once a story is committed to novel or screenplay form, the battle to forge this elemental structure is almost lost. McKee teaches the principles that writers should follow in this critical pre-writing stage as they develop the progression of their narrative.
There's a lot of baloney being spewed in academia and elsewhere that creative writing can't be taught and that plot is relatively unimportant. McKee shows the lie in all this -- that narrative writing *can* be taught and that well-developed plot is critical. Save your money and time, skip the MFA programs, read this book and dedicate yourself to learning from it.