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Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting (1997)

by Robert McKee

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1,925336,960 (4.11)9
For more than 15 years, Robert McKee's students have been taking Hollywood's top honors. His "Story Seminar" is the world's ultimate seminar for screenwriters, filmmakers, and novelists. Now, Robert McKee's Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting reveals the award-winning methods of the man universally regarded as the world's premier teacher on screenwriting and story. With Hollywood and publishing companies paying record sums for great stories, and audiences clamoring for originality, McKee's Story gives you the strategies you need to win the war on clich. Story is about form, not formula. McKee's insights cut to the hidden sources of storytelling, the decisive differences between mediocrity and excellence. This audio goes well beyond the essential mechanics of screenwriting and is packed with examples from such film classics as "Casablanca" and "Chinatown." Then, scene by sequence by act, he illuminates the principles of story design that take a writer's vision to brilliant realization. Story elevates the craft of screenwriting to an art form. Take it from the pros; if you're serious about your writing, this is the audio that will help you to get your story from page to screen.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
This book was hard going at first. Forgive me if a book aimed at helping writers loses some credibility for me if it's not well written. Nor did the in-your-face typography help. But I stuck with the book, and it taught me a lot about how to "read" a film: character (including text vs. subtext), value (or would it be clearer to call it valence?), inciting incident, turning points, challenges, crisis, climax, resolution. Perhaps I could have learned some of this from Aristotle, but he was even harder for me to read. And McKee earns one of the three points of my rating by his cameo in Adaptation. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Interesting analysis of principles of writing. Eventually becomes too specific to screenwriting to be of further use. ( )
  beaujoe | Apr 10, 2021 |
There's a lot of shouting at young people but I have no interest in screen writing so I don't mind that much. It's all very preachy and the author is very sure of his rules despite them being so vague that you can apply them any which way you like and still be right. If this is meant to be guidance for young screen writers I can't see what possible help this would be.

I don't get the world of entertainment. It's not a blight like marketing but I'm lukewarm on it. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
It took me months to finish this book. Not because it is boring, but because it is so full of knowledge, so dense with useful information about how to create good stories. I'm sure I will go through it again and again and learn something new every time. If you're creating stories, I think you can't miss this book. ( )
  pbaumann | Sep 25, 2020 |
I've dabbled before into articles, blogposts, youtube videos about screenwriting and wrongly believed this book would act merely as a refresher of knowledge. Boy was I wrong.

It started off on shaky grounds. It quoted too much, gave too many references and used examples where it could have left them out.

The interesting bits start out after 1/4 of the book. It becomes more about the nuances of screenwriting. It made me realize screenwriting is more intricate, with more depth than I previously thought, and I had a great deal of admiration for screenwriters to begin with. It made me want to pick up screenplays of my favorite movies and read them, which I'll probably gonna start doing this year. Great read for anybody interested in knowing more about screenwriting or wanting to write themselves. ( )
  parzivalTheVirtual | Mar 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"Stories are equipment for living." - Kenneth Burke
Dedication
I dedicate this book to the happy memory of my parents who, in their very different ways, taught me the love of story.

When I was first learning to read, but not always behaving appropriately, my father introduced me to the fables of Aesop in the hope that these ancient cautionary tales might improve my deportment. Each evening, after working my way through the likes of "The Fox and the Grapes," he would nod and ask, "And what does this story mean to you, Robert?" As I stared at these texts and their handsome color illustrations, struggling to find my interpretations, I slowly came to realize that stories mean much more than words and pretty pictures.
Later, before entering the university, I deduced that the best possible life includes as many rounds of golf as possible, and therefore, I would become a dentist. "Dentist?!" my mother laughed. "You can't be serious. What happens when they cure all teeth problems? Where will dentists be then? No, Bobby, People will always need entertainment. I'm looking out for your future. You're going into show business."
First words
Intro:
Story is about principles, not rules.
A rule says, "You must do it this way." A principle says, "This works ... and has through all remembered time." The difference is crucial. Your work needn't be modeled after the "well-made" play; rather, it must be well made within the principles that shape our art. Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.
1:
The decline of story
Imagine, in one global day, the pages of prose turned, plays performed, films screened, the unending stream of television comedy and drama, twenty-four-hour print and broadcast news, bedtime tales told to children, barroom bragging, back-fence Internet gossip, humankind's insatiable appetite for stories...
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

For more than 15 years, Robert McKee's students have been taking Hollywood's top honors. His "Story Seminar" is the world's ultimate seminar for screenwriters, filmmakers, and novelists. Now, Robert McKee's Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting reveals the award-winning methods of the man universally regarded as the world's premier teacher on screenwriting and story. With Hollywood and publishing companies paying record sums for great stories, and audiences clamoring for originality, McKee's Story gives you the strategies you need to win the war on clich. Story is about form, not formula. McKee's insights cut to the hidden sources of storytelling, the decisive differences between mediocrity and excellence. This audio goes well beyond the essential mechanics of screenwriting and is packed with examples from such film classics as "Casablanca" and "Chinatown." Then, scene by sequence by act, he illuminates the principles of story design that take a writer's vision to brilliant realization. Story elevates the craft of screenwriting to an art form. Take it from the pros; if you're serious about your writing, this is the audio that will help you to get your story from page to screen.

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Amazon.com Review
Writing for the screen is quirky business. A writer must labor meticulously over his or her prose, yet very little of that prose is ever heard by filmgoers. The few words that do reach the audience, in the form of the characters' dialogue, are, according to Robert McKee, best left to last in the writing process. ("As Alfred Hitchcock once remarked, 'When the screenplay has been written and the dialogue has been added, we're ready to shoot.' ") In Story, McKee puts into book form what he has been teaching screenwriters for years in his seminar on story structure, which is considered by many to be a prerequisite to the film biz. (The long list of film and television projects that McKee's students have written, directed, or produced includes Air Force One, The Deer Hunter, E.R., A Fish Called Wanda, Forrest Gump, NYPD Blue, and Sleepless in Seattle.) Legions of writers flock to Hollywood in search of easy money, calculating the best way to get rich quick. This book is not for them. McKee is passionate about the art of screenwriting. "No one needs yet another recipe book on how to reheat Hollywood leftovers," he writes. "We need a rediscovery of the underlying tenets of our art, the guiding principles that liberate talent." Story is a true path to just such a rediscovery. In it, McKee offers so much sound advice, drawing from sources as wide ranging as Aristotle and Casablanca, Stanislavski and Chinatown, that it is impossible not to come away feeling immeasurably better equipped to write a screenplay and infinitely more inspired to write a brilliant one.--Jane Steinberg
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