Larry Brooks has created a must-read writing book in Story Engineering. His approach to storytelling uses six Core Competencies to build structurally sound, compelling narratives. Brooks lays out the plan well and makes it simple to understand, though there’s no guarantee it will be easy to execute.
While dozens of writing books exist, this is one of the most useful I’ve found in the overall story building category. Despite giving us a precise recipe, Brooks isn’t in any way setting out a formula. This approach can be used on any type of novel or screen play, regardless of genre.
Structure is my weak point as a writer, and that was the section I learned the most from. Some of the others, such as Character, Concept and Theme, did more to reinforce my current WIP is on the right track in those areas, leaving me free to focus on fixing the structural issues. Other writers might find those sections more helpful. By segmenting the process in those six areas, Brooks makes it easy to hone in on the area or areas that need the most work.
One caveat for writers: Brooks uses DaVinci Code and Top Gun frequently for reference material. If you haven’t seen the book and read the movie, the examples could be less helpful than intended. Sticking to two main example works makes it easy to see how the six elements fit together in a cohesive whole, but it does make having seen or read them more critical than in a book that draws from many works. Brooks does draw from other books for examples, but those two dominate.
The publisher could greatly improve the ereading experience by including a table of contents in the ebook that makes it simple to jump from section to section. That’s almost a necessity in a reference book of this sort.
Those two issues aside, Story Engineering is definitely worth the price for any serious writer. One warning: You’ll start seeing a lot more flaws in the books you read after digesting Brooks’ information about compelling storytelling. But you’ll also better appreciate the ones who get it right.