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The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
     

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

4.1 13
by John Truby
 

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John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood's most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all of his secrets for writing a compelling

Overview

John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood's most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. The Anatomy of Story is his long-awaited first book, and it shares all of his secrets for writing a compelling script. Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby's own unique approach for how to build an effective, multifaceted narrative. Truby's method for constructing a story is at once insightful and practical, focusing on the hero's moral and emotional growth. As a result, writers will dig deep within and explore their own values and worldviews in order to create an effective story. Writers will come away with an extremely precise set of tools to work with—specific, useful techniques to make the audience care about their characters, and that make their characters grow in meaningful ways. They will construct a surprising plot that is unique to their particular concept, and they will learn how to express a moral vision that can genuinely move an audience.

The foundations of story that Truby lays out are so fundamental they are applicable—and essential—to all writers, from novelists and short-story writers to journalists, memoirists, and writers of narrative non-fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429923705
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/14/2008
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
103,008
File size:
631 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Anatomy of Story

22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
By Truby, John

Faber & Faber

Copyright © 2007 Truby, John
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780865479517

Excerpt
Everyone can tell a story. We do it every day. “You won’t believe what happened at work.” Or “Guess what I just did!” Or “A guy goes into a bar . . .” We see, hear, read, and tell thousands of stories in our lives.
The problem comes in telling a great story. If you want to become a master storyteller, and maybe even get paid to be one, you run up against tremendous obstacles. For one thing, showing the how and why of human life is a monumental job. You have to have a deep and precise understanding of the biggest, most complex subject there is. And then you have to be able to translate your understanding into a story. For most writers, that may be the biggest challenge of all.
I want to be specific about the obstacles of story technique because that’s the only way a writer can hope to overcome them. The first obstacle is the common terminology most writers use to think about story. Terms like “rising action,” “climax,” “progressive complication,” and “denouement,” terms that go as far back as Aristotle, are so broad and theoretical as to be almost meaningless. Let’s be honest: they have no practical value forstorytellers. Say you are writing a scene where your hero is hanging by his fingertips, seconds from falling to his death. Is that a progressive complication, a rising action, a denouement, or the opening scene of the story? It may be none of them or all of them, but in any event, these terms don’t tell you how to write the scene or whether to write it at all.
The classic story terms suggest an even bigger obstacle to good technique: the very idea of what story is and how it works. As a storyteller in training, the first thing you probably did was read Aristotle’s Poetics. I believe Aristotle was the greatest philosopher in history. But his thinking about story, while powerful, is surprisingly narrow, focused on a limited number of plots and genres. It is also extremely theoretical and difficult to put into actual practice, which is why most storytellers trying to learn the practical techniques of their craft from Aristotle leave empty-handed.
If you are a screenwriter, you probably moved from Aristotle to a much simpler understanding of story called “three-act structure.” This is also problematic, because three-act structure, albeit a lot easier to understand than Aristotle, is hopelessly simplistic and in many ways just plain wrong.
Three-act theory says that every story for the screen has three “acts”: the first act is the beginning, the second is the middle, and the third is the end. The first act is about thirty pages long. The third act is also about thirty pages long. And the second act runs to around sixty pages. And this three-act story supposedly has two or three “plot points” (whatever those are). Got that? Great. Now go and write a professional script.
I’m simplifying this theory of story, but not by much. It should be obvious that such an elementary approach has even less practical value than Aristotle. But what’s worse is that it promotes a view of story that is mechanical. The idea of an act break comes from the conventions of traditional theater, where we close the curtain to signal the end of an act. We don’t need to do that in movies, novels, and short stories or even, for that matter, in many contemporary plays.
In short, act breaks are external to the story. Three-act structure is a mechanical device superimposed on the story and has nothing to do with its internal logic—where the story should or should not go.
A mechanical view of story, like three-act theory, inevitably leads to episodic storytelling. An episodic story is a collection of pieces, like parts stored in a box. Events in the story stand out as discrete elements and don’t connect or build steadily from beginning to end. The result is a story that moves the audience sporadically, if at all.
Another obstacle to mastering storytelling has to do with the writing process. Just as many writers have a mechanical view of what a story is, they use a mechanical process for creating one. This is especially true of screenwriters whose mistaken notions of what makes a script salable lead them to write a script that is neither popular nor good. Screenwriters typically come up with a story idea that is a slight variation on a movie they saw six months previously. Then they apply a genre, like “detective,” “love,” or “action,” and fill in the characters and plot beats (story events) that go with that form. The result: a hopelessly generic, formulaic story devoid of originality.
In this book, I want to show you a better way. My goal is to explain how a great story works, along with the techniques needed to create one, so that you will have the best chance of writing a great story of your own. Some would argue that it’s impossible to teach someone how to tell a great story. I believe it can be done, but it requires that we think and talk about story differently than in the past.
In simplest terms, I’m going to lay out a practical poetics for storytellers that works whether you’re writing a screenplay, a novel, a play, a teleplay, or a short story. I will
*Show that a great story is organic—not a machine but a living body that develops
*Treat storytelling as an exacting craft with precise techniques that will help you be successful, regardless of the medium or genre you choose
*Work through a writing process that is also organic, meaning that we will develop characters and plot that grow naturally out of your original story idea
The main challenge facing any storyteller is overcoming the contradiction between the first and second of these tasks. You construct a story from hundreds, even thousands, of elements using a vast array of techniques. Yet the story must feel organic to the audience; it must seem like a single thing that grows and builds to a climax. If you want to become a great storyteller, you have to master this technique to such a high degree that your characters seem to be acting on their own, as they must, even though you are the one making them act that way.
In this sense we storytellers are a lot like athletes. A great athlete makes everything look easy, as though his body just naturally moves that way. But in fact he has so mastered the techniques of his sport that his technique has simply disappeared from view, and the audience sees only beauty. Excerpted from The Anatomy of Story by  John Truby. Copyright © 2007 by John Truby. Published in October 2007 by Faber and Faber, Inc., an affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Anatomy of Story by Truby, John Copyright © 2007 by Truby, John. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John Truby is Hollywood's premiere story consultant and founder of Truby's Writers Studio. He has worked as a story consultant and script doctor for Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, FOX, and HBO, among others, and has taught his 22-Step Great Screenwriting and Genre classes to over 20,000 students worldwide.


John Truby is Hollywood’s premier story consultant and founder of Truby’s Writers Studio. He has worked as a story consultant and script doctor for Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, FOX, and HBO, among others, and has taught screenwriting to students worldwide.

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The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Diogeneia More than 1 year ago
The Truby Method Provides The Bones On Which To Hang The Flesh Of Your Story. Writers can be a stubborn, superstitious lot, especially if they’ve EVER been published. Getting someone who doesn’t map out her story structure to try to do it can be darn near impossible. Somehow it’s an affront to her creativity, an insult to her style, and the worst kind of cage in which you are trying to trap her.  But it’s not. Not if you have Truby to guide you. To say I recommend this book is an understatement. My own dog-eared copy is filled with notes and highlights and will soon need replaced from excessive use. I recommend it because Truby makes good on his promises to do the following: • “Show that a great story is organic—not a machine but a living body that develops • “Treat storytelling as an exacting craft with precise techniques that will help you be successful, regardless of the medium or genre you choose • “Work through a writing process that is also organic, meaning that we will develop characters and plot that grow naturally out of your original story idea” Truby’s methods will not stifle your creativity in any way. That’s part of what “organic” means. In fact, going through his exercises has become a way for me to emerge from writer’s block. I can’t rightly say I’ve even had writer’s block since discovering this book two years ago. This book is not perfect. I wish he would update some of his examples. I’d like to see a glossary of terms as well. I believe Truby expects writers who come to his book to already have some background or education in writing, but in the world of writing books, that’s not always going to be the case. These are just a few things he can do to make the book more accessible to new or young writers.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it, though. You’re going to have to put in a lot of work to get the most out of this book. It’s pointless just to read through it and not do the exercises. The exercises in this book require DOING (not just reading or skimming) in order to really understand how Truby’s concepts can help you. Don’t trust any reviewer who scored this book low and admitted to not doing the exercises. I often wonder if these folks are really just afraid of the work. I don’t blame them—this is masters work, easily graduate school level. If you are a new writer and/or without some background or education in writing, I recommend starting with STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL by K.M. Weiland first, and once you are comfortable with it, then diving into Truby’s work. Weiland’s book is much more accessible to the newbie writer.  In summary, this book lives up to its promises—if you put in the work. Its complex concepts won’t always seem clear upon the first reading, but working through the exercises at the end of each chapter will help make them clear. If you apply them all to your work on a single story, you will build a repository of story elements that you can refer to like a map as you write. In the end, you’ll have a great story with organic elements and a solid structure. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truby does a very thorough job of explaining how stories are structured. This one of the best books I have found on storytelling. He describes the fundamentals clearly and then give easy to understand examples of his points. I am savoring every page.
BookloverCL More than 1 year ago
Genius. Truby transforms the way you think about story and he gives you the tools to do it. I've taken his seminar a few times, which was also invaluable. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must - read for writers of fiction, this book codifies the requirements of a compelling story, guiding the thinking and planning process without making it feel like you're following a formula. 99% of writer's block can be resolved by finding which of the 7/22 steps you haven't thought through.
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I'm Pissed off that I can't down load this book and run through my computer to read it out load. Please fix this and allow me to down load this book.