Story Engineering

Story Engineering

by Larry Brooks


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582979984
Publisher: F+W Media
Publication date: 02/24/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 126,337
Product dimensions: 8.24(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Larry Brooks is a critically acclaimed best-selling author of six psychological thrillers (including Darkness Bound , Pressure Points , Serpents Dance and others), in addition to his work as a freelance writer and writing instructor. He is the creator and editor of, one of the leading instructional writing sites on the internet. His website is

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 What Are the Six Core Competencies ... and Why Should I Care?

1 The Power of a Fresh Storytelling Model 10

2 The Six Core Competencies-A 10,000-Foot View 15

3 Defining the Six Core Competencies 20

4 Launching the Storytelling Process 24

Part 2 The First Core Competency-Concept

5 Concept-Defined 30

6 The Criteria for Concept 35

7 How Do You Know If Your Concept Is Good Enough? 45

Part 3 The Second Core Competency-Character

8 The Fundamental Essence of Character 54

9 The Three Dimensions of Character 61

10 Character Unmasked 75

11 The Human Nature of Character 80

12 Creating Backstory 86

13 Interior vs. Exterior Conflict 92

14 Crafting a Character Arc 97

15 Character-The Sum of the Parts 106

Part 4 The Third Core Competency-Theme

16 Defining Theme 117

17 Implementing Theme 121

18 Theme and Character Arc 126

Part 5 The Fourth Core Competency-Story Structure

19 The Need for Structure 131

20 Story Structure vs. Story Structure 137

21 The Big Picture of Story Structure 139

22 The First Box: Part 1-The Set-Up 146

23 The Second Box: Part 2-The Response 151

24 The Third Box: Part 3-The Attack 154

25 The Fourth Box: Part 4-The Resolution 156

26 The Role of Story Milestones 158

27 Writing to Publish: The Most Important Aspect of Your Story 163

28 Five Missions for the Set Up of Your Story 165

29 A Deeper Look at Foreshadowing 170

30 The Most Important Moment in Your Story: The First Plot Point 173

31 A Kinder, Gentler First Plot Point 179

32 Shades of Gray: A Somewhat Liberating Spin on Story Structure 182

33 Expanding Your Grasp of the Part 2 Response 187

34 Wrapping Your Head Around the Mid-Point 192

35 Commencing the Part 3 Attack 196

36 Pinch Points 199

37 The Second Plot Point 204

38 The Final Act 209

39 The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You'll Ever See That Fits on One Page 217

40 The Six Most Important Words in Storytelling 220

41 Outlining vs. Organic Storytelling 224

Part 6 The Fifth Core Competency-Scene Execution

42 The Essential Nature of Scenes 227

43 The Function of Scenes 232

44 A Checklist for Your Scenes 242

Part 7 The Sixth Core Competency-Writing Voice

45 Finding Your Voice 246

46 The Best Writing Analogy I Know 253

47 More Musings on Voice 256

Part 8 The Story Development Process

48 Getting It Written 260

49 The Pantser's Guide to Story Planning 269

50 From How We Do This to Why We Do This 275

Index 279

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Story Engineering 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
PMMessina More than 1 year ago
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.
LookinaBook More than 1 year ago
Story Engineering - Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing As someone who hopes to have a published book someday, I chose to read Story Engineering with the hope that it would kick-start the courage to actually begin putting the story ideas that have been swimming in my head down on paper. While I haven't delved into the writing yet, I have stepped out of the boat and at least chosen the idea I want to work with. I believe that taking the time to study "Story Engineering" was well worth the invested time I spent reading it. It is not a book to be simply read, but one that must be studied. I had to read and take the time to really think about the chapters. I had to spend time thinking of how they would and should apply to my writing. Story Enginerring is organized into 8 sections. The introduction gives an overview of the 6 core competencies and the reasoning the author states that they are important to good storytelling. The first core competency is concept. This section really helped me evaluate the story ideas I have collected and to prioritize them into which ideas might actually be worth exploring. The next section leads us to the second core competency which is character. As a instuctor at the local junior college, I can tell you that we spend a lot of time talking about character in the composition and analysis classes I teach. I found this section to be very well written and thought out. The author examines all of the various avenues that play a part in the development of character in a story. The next concept the author addresses is theme. While this section of the book is shorter than other sections, don't be fooled into thinking that theme isn't important. The information provided in this section of the book really captures the difference between plot and theme. The next section covers story structure. To me, this is the author's best work. This was the treasure I was hoping to find. This section isn't really a "how to" or "formula", but more of an inquiry into what makes a good story. It's taking those things, tearing them apart, examining them, and applying them to the story you are hoping to craft. The final parts are scene execution and writing voice. After the "meat" of story structure, I found these sections to be informative, but they didn't necessarily lead to that "aha" moment. The author finishes up the book with a closing section on the process of story development. In all, I would recommend this book. This book is an investment - not something to be read quickly. Not a book you will devour. It's one you have to take in small bites and contemplate. Thanks to Book Sneeze for offering me the opportunity to read this book. I received this book through Book Sneeze, a part of Thomas Nelson Publishing. The opinions expressed here are my own and were in no way influenced by the publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Fedral Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Alla_S More than 1 year ago
"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.
KWeiland More than 1 year ago
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.
Garridon More than 1 year ago
I got this book because it had been recommended as being about structure. The business terms use (milestone and Core Competencies) also suggested it might be taking writing from a business metaphor. Instead, I got a book that was marketing fluff and didn't present anything new. The Core Competencies ended up being more like a marketing buzzword to relabel fairly common writing elements like characers that you'll find in any craft book. The book describes this as a new approach that other books don't do, but it didn't give any new insights into the craft. The book says it's not about outlining, but all it does is label an outline as a plan. One of the turn-offs about the book is that it kept bashing writers who don't outline. Non-outliners are greeted with sarcastic phrases like "Good luck with that" because they don't outline and there's a clear suggestion they won't ever get published unless they follow the plan in the book. So the book manages to alienate a part of the audience who might have been able to take ideas and use them in different ways. The other turn-off is the marketing spiel. It might work well in a workshop where the author can use voice and inflection to make it work, but in a book for 200+ pages, the constant high energy "Sell! Sell! Sell!" it's just too much. That alone made this a book that I wanted to put down and not read.
madcurrin on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Presents itself as offering a kind of formula for writing stories which might put you off, but it is actually about the underlying principles of story telling. Very, very useful.
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book outlines the basics of writing in a well written, easy-to-follow way. If you are just getting started with writing, this book will provide lots of advice on how to write successfully. If you have read multiple "how to write" books, then this book is probably not the one for you. Overall, I thought it was fairly interesting and concise.
LadyD_Books on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Whether you've been writing stories ever since you can remember or you've just begun, like so many of us, you will need a map (blueprint plan) to get to where you want to go. Hopefully, that means seeing your stories published and in the hands of wonderful readers.Larry lays done the right foundation to the essential elements of story architecture, in his book Story Engineering: Mastering The 6 Core Competences of Successful Writing, released by Writer's Digest Books. If you're hungry to see your novel or screenplay published one day, and you realize that things are just not flowing for you right now or perhaps you're discouraged with the many re-writes or rejections you've received... I believe you will find the answers in this amazing book of treasures (Larry's professional experiences) that work.I love the book (especially the music comparisons) and I see "Story Engineering" as a great tool box for writer's. The tips will help you fix your story. A wealth of valuable information is being shared and you will feel as if you're sitting under a waterfall. Once you come up for air, you will begin to write your story, your dream with passion and with understanding more successfully.
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I've not gotten too far -- too busy. However, I'm a little put off by someone who wants to teach us how to read and has a book peppered with grammatical errors. I look forward to actually getting into the meat of his theories, but it sort of feels like he was padding the beginning to get to the six points because without the padding the book wouldn't be long enough.
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runtowrite More than 1 year ago
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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PlantsandPillars More than 1 year ago
Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of successful writing. Overview: Story Engineering is a rather interesting "how-to" book. As Mr. Brooks takes you through the 6 Steps for Successful writing, you come to understand how to build your story. He compares it to the way you read a recipe for a flavorful dish. Or how you build a house. Just what are the 6 steps? 1. Concept: What is concept versus ideas versus premise? 2. Character: Of course you know your characters must have character. They must be interesting, exciting, and deep. But, character is always a challenging must to the story. 3. Theme: When you read or watch a movie you know what it was about. Mr. Brooks points out that you know what it was about on two levels. About what the plot was and about what the story means. The latter is theme. 4. Story Structure: The four pieces of structure, setup, response, attack, and resolution. 5. Scene Execution: Mr. Brooks compares this step to the building of the house. Up until now everything has been two dimensional. A blueprint. Now we begin to build. 6. Writing Voice: Keep your adjectives to a minimum. Mr. Brooks guides you through writing with a great voice. In addition to all of this, Mr. Brooks also goes through Story Arc and Plot Points. My Impression: I enjoyed my time spent in this book. I thought he had a lot of good stuff to say and Mr. Brooks is a talented writer. One thing I especially enjoyed was the advice for screenwriters, something I am very interested in. However, there were some draw backs. One was the occasional use of language. Another was the examples of movies and scenarios he used were not always the cleanest. I find this to be a disappointed flaw in many writing books today. Also, this book lacked appeal for rereading. I will keep it on my shelf to use for the occasional reference, but it won't be very likely that I reread it. Due to this I score this book a three. Score ~ ??? Violence ~ None Indecency ~ (3) Language ~ (3) Age Appropriateness ~ Ages 15 and Up
BlogfulofBooks More than 1 year ago
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.