From the questions I asked the author at his reading this afternoon at Mrs. Dalloway’s, a Berkeley bookstore, I learned that he also markets a writing software, Truby Blockbuster, upgraded to match this book. (In his presentation, none of the above stridency — elegantly persuasive presenter.) At home, I looked up the amazon software-reviews of Truby Blockbuster. The software is expensive: three-hundred bucks upfront plus hundreds more for add-ons. One reviewer of Truby’s software, Razzi “the working screenwriter,” writes : “You have to take Truby’s ideas with the knowledge that Truby himself was never able to successfully apply them. His sole pro credit is as a tv writer on a series made over a decade ago. But that doesn’t stop Truby from pontificating on all the ‘mistakes’ made by writers far more successful than himself.” Well, well, Mr. Razzi: A craft teacher can be effective without being a high performer in the art. I feel that in fairness to Mr. Truby, we must not forget that Aristotle, the pioneering guru of the drama-writing craft in Western literature, did not write any drama.
It’s Truby’s brilliantly illuminating analyses of craft in numerous screenplays, novellas, novels that make this a five-star book. As to the book’s subtitle, “22-Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller,” I find “Master” as hype. But then is it not hype for academia to title the graduate degree conferred on apprentice writers “Master” of Fine Arts? [Stanford University, one of the two pioneering universities to offer a Creative Writing Program, dropped its MFA program years ago — I found this as I was about to apply for admission. Instead, I completed a Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford.]
Writing-craft books can teach only the craft, not the art that raises a story to the “master” level. And Truby’s book teaches the story-development craft in a “masterly” manner. Highly recommended.
— C J Singh
More details? Please read on.
The book sequences chapters on “techniques of great storytelling in the same order that you construct your story.” Nine of the ten chapters end with detailed exercisese book’s nine exercises are:
EXERCISE #1: CREATE YOUR PREMISE.
Premise: State your story idea in a single sentence. (Earlier books by authors such as Lajos Egri, Syd Field, James N. Frey, Robert J Ray also urge this as step one.)
EXERCISE #2: USE the SEVEN KEY STEPS of STORY STRUCTURE.
Weakness and need; Desire; Opponent; Plan; Battle; Self-Revelation; New Equilibrium. (These are repackaged concepts from Aristotle.)
EXERCISE #3: CREATE YOUR CHARACTERS.
Create characters from your premise. (Lajos Egri, Syd Field, Robert J Ray and others.)
EXERCISE #4: OUTLIINE THE MORAL ARGUMENT.
Outline the moral argument or theme inherent in your premise. Excellent exercise.
EXERCISE #5: CREATE THE STORY WORLD.
Create the story world “as an outgrowth of your hero.”
EXERCISE #6: CREATE A WEB OF SYMBOLS.
“We’ll figure out a web of symbols that highlight and communicate different aspects of the characters, the story world, and the plot.”
EXERCISE #7: CREATE YOUR PLOT.
Create your plot by following the 22 steps of the book’s subtitle. “The steps… provide the scaffolding you need” to create an organic story design. Truby presents persuasive analyses of “Casablanca,” “Tootsie,” and “The Godfather.” My initial reaction to this exercise was this is micro-managing that’ll hinder creativity. Truby’s suggestions to include four-corner opponents, fake-ally opponent, and fake-opponent ally help develop a dramatic plot.
It’s actually an excellent exercise.
EXERCISE #8: CREATE THE SCENE WEAVE.
To prepare for writing scenes, first: “Come up with a list of every scene in the story, with all the plotlines and themes woven into a tapestry.” Truby presents a brief example comparing scene weaves from an early and the final draft of “The Godfather” as well as fuller examples from “Prideand Prejudice,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” Highly instructive exercise on using jumpcuts for screenwriters as well as novelists.
EXERCISE # 9: SCENE CONSTRUCTION AND SYMPHONIC DIALOGUE
Construct “each scene so that it furthers the development of your hero. We’ll write dialogue that doesn’t just push the plot but has a symphonic quality, blending many instruments and levels at the same time.” The chapter includes instructive brief examples from “The Seven Samurai,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and a detailed example from “Casablanca.”
In sum, Truby’s THE ANATOMY OF STORY is a sophisticated story-development book, equally applicable to writing screenplays, novels, novellas, and short stories.