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Story Engineering

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

well organized and presented

"Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks consists of eight parts-including the introduction, the six parts dedicated to six "core competencies" (concept, character, theme, story structure, scene execution, and writing voice), and part eight, the last chapter, which is dedica...
"Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks consists of eight parts-including the introduction, the six parts dedicated to six "core competencies" (concept, character, theme, story structure, scene execution, and writing voice), and part eight, the last chapter, which is dedicated to the story development process.

Right off the bat, the author admits that there are many books dedicated to writing a book-many of which are written by famous novelists themselves, but nevertheless fail to accurately analyze the process. Brooks goes about this a different way-saying that the best structure for writing a fiction book is one that the screenwriters use, and one which Brooks himself has adapted for this book. On the other hand, he avoids advocating formulaic writing=--straight off saying that his book is about concentrating on different aspects of the story, instead of relying on some kind of a formula. If you're looking for just that-a formula to writing a successful novel-than you're better off picking a different book. On the other hand, Brooks himself admits that formulas often don't work.

Overall, I found this to be a helpful reference tool to writing a story. Many of the things Brooks covers have already been covered before, but nevertheless, I found the book well organized and presented.

posted by Alla_S on July 19, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

It Works

Like a million other "wanna-be" writers I have a shelf full of how to write books. Or maybe two shelves full. I've written three, so far unpublished, mystery novels and I've learned a lot about the craft of storytelling with each one. However the time it took to write m...
Like a million other "wanna-be" writers I have a shelf full of how to write books. Or maybe two shelves full. I've written three, so far unpublished, mystery novels and I've learned a lot about the craft of storytelling with each one. However the time it took to write my first, by my old seat-of-the-pants, uneducated process caused me to write and re-write it several times over the course of three or four years. Not a prodigeous output.

My second book, a sequel to the first, lies "complete" but untouched in my laptop. Then I discovered Larry Brooks. I was able to purchase an early version of Story Enginering. Once I began to understand the need for story process as taught by Larry things seemed to fall into place. I recently completed a first draft of a 64,000 word mystery in about six months that actually reads pretty well thanks to following Larry's methods of story planning.

I'm always mistrustful of zealots, so I'm trying to temper my views a little. Quite frankly, the process Larry lays out in this book works. If you are going to add one more book on writing to your shelf, this is the one to have.

posted by PMMessina on March 1, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2011

    A real treasure trove.

    This is the best book on how to write fiction. You will not be disappointed if you purchase this book even if you are a panster. Larry explains all of the elements of story structure that is required to write a great story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    This One Is a Must-Read

    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 craft and how to move forward to the next level as a writer. Story Engineering does just that. Larry frames the book on the idea that every successful story is made up of six necessary "competencies" (four elements and two skills): Concept, Character, Theme, Story Structure, Scene Execution, and Writing Voice. He brings worthy and inspiring ideas and suggestions to all these subjects, but the heart and soul of this book is undeniably the twenty-three chapters on story structure.

    Story structure is so often neglected in the teaching of fiction writing. We learn how to create three-dimensional characters, high-concept plots, and powerful themes - but without the ability to frame them in a strong structure, they're weak-sauce stuff at best. And yet, so many writers are crafting story structure on sheer instinct, instead of a foundational understanding of what makes a solid structure - and what doesn't. This book takes away the guess work. Larry teaches what constitutes a correct structure, how to recognize and study it in the stories of others, and how to implement it in your own work. If you're only going to have two books on writing on your bookshelf, make it John Truby's The Anatomy of Story - and this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2012

    I really like this book and agree with the other reviews that al

    I really like this book and agree with the other reviews that also like how the book conveys the major areas needed to write great fiction. I wil be using the book to write my future compositions and this book will help me to revise my first drafts and make them much better. I look forward to Larrys next book, Story Physics.

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  • Posted June 29, 2011

    Only Writing Book I've Read, Only One I Need

    Can I just tell you, right off, how much I enjoyed Story Engineering? Yes, I think I can. Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks is an enlightening book filled to the brim with advice for authors who are constantly aggravated by the questions "What do I write and where do I put it?" and "What exactly does a book/screenplay need in it to be successful?" It's easy to come up with an idea for a book or screenplay; it's a lot harder to execute it well enough to become published (or at least to feel confident in one's own work).


    With humor and an easy-going attitude, Larry Brooks efficiently details the six core competencies of successful writing. By the end of the book, the reader should have a very good sense of how to proceed in his or her own writing. Brooks also offers advice for "organic" or "seat of the pants" writers - those who prefer to skip story planning. For me, that was an extremely helpful section, as I've never enjoyed planning what I write before I write it.


    Also, Brooks defies the common standard of drafting that is popular among writers; this goes hand in hand with refusing to plan, really. I especially enjoyed this section because, as I have read about how to go about writing a full-length novel, most authors recommend the style of drafting, where the writer writes several drafts in order to eventually come out with a good, crisp novel. I've never been one to enjoy drafting. And, as Brooks points out, drafting is a huge downer on a writer's soul because it involves constant rewriting of a three hundred plus page manuscript. Not fun. With Brooks's method of understanding the structure of a story and utilizing a beat sheet (which outlines scenes), a writer will eventually come out with a first draft that is only a few minor tweaks away from completion. That sounds a whole lot better to me!


    Even if you've sunk yourself deep into the concept of drafting and "organic" writing, give Story Engineering a shot. It's an entertaining book to read, first of all, but, second, I think any writer can gain useful information from it. This is definitely a book to break out the highlighters, sticky-notes, and paper clips with, as I can guarantee you will read something that you'll want to make sure to remember later.

    The publisher was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    It's a five!

    This is a book that every writer would want to include in his artistic arsenal! Definitely informative without trying too hard to sound too smart. This book of guidelines for writers does not pretend to be anything else other than that--a guideline, and a witty and entertaining one at that. It offers some really helpful practical exercises, insights, and tips for newbie writers as well as seasoned ones who wish to hone their craft further.

    The author does not only give the technical aspects of writing. At most, he tries to be an inspirational voice that encourages writers to develop a passion and determination to be good at everything he does--especially in writing. And I believe he has indeed achieved his goal of empowering writers of every level in every which way. This is a writing resource that I will definitely keep close beside me as I take on the challenging journey of being a writer.

    It covers everything from the initial urge of writing to write a story, to revising the whole thing up to the very last point. It is not genre specific so any kind of fiction writer can benefit much from it. This book is a real keeper!

    I got a free copy of this book to review from booksneeze.

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    A Must for Every Writer's Toolbox

    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 level, I understand my subject and it seems simple and easy to me, so when my students don't get it the first or second time, I often have a really hard time coming up with some other means of explaining.

    Not so with Larry Brooks. There are so many analogies in this book that you could make a drinking game out of it. Take a shot for every new metaphor, and you'll be hammered by the end of chapter 3. This is the mark of a great teacher. If you don't "get it" by the time you finish this book, you're brain damaged.

    It is a MUST BUY, MUST READ, MUST HAVE for every writer, no matter whether you are a pantser or plotter. It will change your writing life, alter the way you see story (in books, movies, TV, or plays) forever. You can never got back to NOT understanding it because in these 278 pages Brooks lays out the core foundation of good story, without which you don't have a prayer of getting published (unless your Tarantino and sold your soul to the devil).

    The book covers (as the title implies) the 6 core competencies. They are:

    Concept
    Character
    Theme
    Structure
    Scene Execution
    Writing Voice

    Now I think we all intuitively understand at least SOME of these things on a gut level. Some better than others. We all have different natural strengths. But what this book will do for you is illuminate the dark corners and show you, not only where the weak spots ARE, but how to fix them.

    I cannot say enough positive things about this book. Brooks' conception of story structure (which I initially read in a series of posts on Storyfix, then later in a more detailed ebook) literally changed my writing life. I used to have stellar beginnings and kick ass endings and schlumpy middles. I used to refer to it as The Dreaded Valley of the Shadow of the Middle because I was lost. My friends, now I am found. These concepts lit the way so thoroughly that the section of the book I once dreaded now I LOOK FORWARD TO.

    Every section of Story Engineering has wisdom to impart. It isn't the kind of inspirational craft book you pick up and breeze through in a day or two. It is, or should be, a slow read, one where you take your time reading through and really think over the content, applying it to your work. Then you'll want to read it again. You'll want your sticky tabs, highlighter, and post it notes handy when you read it. Mine copy is starting to look like a porcupine. But hey, I can attest, the binding is good!

    I'll stop waxing poetic here and just end with this: BUY THIS BOOK TODAY.

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Is "genius" going too far? Nope!

    "You can write like Shakespeare in love and have the imagination of Tim Burton on crack, but if your stories aren't built on solid and acceptable structure - which means, you don't get to invent you own structural paradigm - you'll be wallpapering your padded cell with rejection slips." That's my favorite quote from Larry Brooks' brilliant writing craft book, Story Engineering, and one that states one of his main theses pretty well (he has several, but since a large section of the book focuses on structure, this one stuck out to me). Your story needs structure. Without it, it will fail. He doesn't so much harp on how you arrive at that structure, though it's clear that he prefers the planning method and finds it most efficient, merely that you find your structure somehow and it exists in the form that is acceptable to audiences and industry professionals (your first audience), alike. Brooks' method involves mastery of the "Six Core Competencies" - concept, character, theme, story structure, scene execution, and writing voice. You can see that structure is only one of the Competencies and he delivers equally fantastic advice on each, if not quite in the same detail as he covers structure. Brooks doles out this brilliance with a biting wit and dry, cynical tone. See above example. As I noted in my review of Steven Harper's Writing the Paranormal Novel, it's helpful when craft authors use the same examples repeatedly so the reader becomes familiar with the work, even if she hasn't read it before. Brooks employs the same technique, using a few well-known movies and novels as continuing examples, particularly The DaVinci Code. His communication style is a bit repetitive. He tells us about a dozen times that "drafters" (those who don't plan their novels but rather write multiple drafts of the same story) are really just participating in a different kind of planning process as they search for their stories through drafts. At some point I found myself thinking, all right, already. I get it. But, while occasionally annoying, it was also helpful, as many of his concepts are now burned into my brain through the repetition. So overall, no complaints here. Perhaps this is a strange thing to note, but I liked the brevity of most of his chapters. This probably stems from the fact that I'm a busy mom/novelist, and I don't often get long stretches of time to myself for reading unless I want to stay up until 2AM - which I have been known to do. But with Story Engineering, I could almost always pick it up for few minutes, get through a whole chapter (and thus a whole, complete thought of the author), and not feel like I had to readjust as I sat down the following time to read. Bottom Line: This book is genius. Click "Add to Cart." Quickly. Note: Writer's Digest provided me with a copy of Story Engineering for reviewing purposes.

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  • Posted May 17, 2011

    Top Notch Resource!!!

    Im going to go 4 out of 5 stars on this book. If you have any interest in writing a novel this is a good resource. the wuthor spends the first 40 pages trying to sell his formula. It is not the best resource Ive come across but it is one of the top 5.
    His formula is simply to train yourself to put a character in that is motivated and driven and set him up to experience life changing events. Create reader empathy and give him hope. he completely outlines a process that will help a beginning writer to develop the necessary skills to write a successful book. he calls it a 6 step plan. A rose by anyother name would smell as sweet and every major book on how to write a book says the same things this books says but in a little different way.
    Still, for a new writer this would be a great resource and I would highly recommend it.

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  • Posted May 16, 2011

    Must Read

    If you are a fiction writer, this book is a must read. It has fabulous information that makes sense and can be easily applied to the writing process. Story structure helps an author set up their story in the proper sequence with all the highlights and lowlights in the right places.

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  • Posted May 6, 2011

    Writing from the Ground Up

    Writing is my favorite thing to do. As a blogger, it's something that I do almost every single day and it's a craft I've woven into my profession as a marketing consultant. It seems that many bloggers forget about the writing aspect of their posts in the midst of all the photos, videos, product reviews and sponsored "conversations" that we have available. I know I've been guilty of this. That's why I enjoy my Friday Flashback posts so much; They give me the opportunity to focus only on the story and thoroughly explore one small window in time without any of the extra stuff.

    I've attended numerous writers' conferences and taken story development courses and seminars, but this book is by far the most concise and thorough explanation of story crafting that I've seen. Story Engineering lays out the six essential elements of a story: concept, character, theme, story structure, scene execution and writing voice. Just about everyone gets one or two of these aspects spot-on, but bringing them together takes skill and devotion. As the author explains, "You can be the best writer of sentences on the planet, but if you don't understand story and the structure that makes it work, you'll have to settle for love letters and poetry."

    I would highly recommend Story Engineering to anyone who writes either casually or professionally. The author lays out the essential elements of a story in a manner that's easy to understand and relate to, even for those who have no formal schooling in the subject. Whether you're looking to get published or just want to express yourself better in a journal or blog post, Story Engineering can help you find the words you're looking for.

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Story Engineering Is A Must

    Author Larry Brook asks the question "does the world need another book about writing?" After reading this one my answer is definitely ... yes! Story Engineering "shows the storyteller what to write, where to put it, and why it works there without any of it being remotely formulaic." And any writer (from beginner to seasoned) should know and practice the adage - Show, do not tell. Using 6 core competencies (think concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution, writing voice) Mr. Brooks takes the would be novelist by the hand and guides them through the entire process ... "Step by excruciating step." Using well known novels, popular TV shows and movies as examples the writer is taught what works and what doesn't. Working as a community writing instructor for fifteen years I know what writers need to write their first or next novel. And this book delivers. "Nobody on the planet teaches story structure better than Larry Brooks. Nobody!" says Randy Ingermanson, and he should know he wrote the book Writing Fiction for Dummies and is the creator of the snowflake method. The chapter on wrapping your head around theme is a must read (I judge all writing how-to books on whether they have an index - a necessity in my opinion and how the author handles the subject of theme.) Story Engineering will help future novelist reach their goal and help them save time doing it. This one goes on the keeper shelf.

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  • Posted March 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    It's like having the recipe for "hot story!"

    (but it's still up to you to dish it up)

      I just came back from a week in a cabin in the woods unplugged to start a rewrite of my novel.  I bought "Story Engineering" on my nook just before I left and read it while rewriting. 
    Wow! If I had read it before starting the first draft back in November, The manuscript wouldn't have been such a hot mess to work with. Thanks to looking at my story from each of the six core competencies, I have a much stronger version now. Which is a good thing since I'll be taking it to the Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs in July!

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