Story Engineering

Story Engineering - Larry Brooks This book hovers on the brink between 4 and 5 stars for me. In the end, it gets five, if only because it contained so much useful information and analysis that I hadn't before seen written in such a clear, concise manner. The section on story structure, the largest section of the book, is itself worth the price of admission and although i'm not yet sure I agree with everything he said, it's certainly making me look at stories I am reading in a different way, more analytically, with an eye to what the author is doing in each part.

The major downside of this book is that much of the space is wasted. Brooks has clearly been teaching and pushing his views on planning and structure for a long time, and in that time has encountered a great deal of resistance from people who prefer to work "organically", without planning their stories, and who view any sort of planning or structure as some sort of offence against their own creative impulses. I've certainly met people who held this view myself.

In this book, Brooks strives to meet those objections head on, and argue against them. However in doing this, he finds himself constantly repeating himself, making those same arguments, over and over in almost every section, when discussing any new topic. These discussions alone probably take up a full third of the book and after reading the same line of argument for then third, fourth and fifth times, the author starts to come across as very defensive.

Brooks is also very proscriptive in this book. He has obviously been working on these ideas for a long time and come to the conclusion that they represent Truth. This likely also goes part of the way to explain all of the arguments presented against the expected detractors. I can't help but feel however that the direct proscriptiveness of his approach may well work against him if his goal really is to reach those that might otherwise be unreceptive to his message here, I found my own inner stubborness rising at several points, despite having no real personal disagreement with anything he said.

All that aside, there is real, solid gold insight in this book, and whether or not it really does represent Truth in Storytelling, there is definitely more than enough to get you thinking productively about craft, story and structure.

Highly recommended.