Saturday, April 17, 2010

It Resisted For a Reason

Recently I noted that I'm struggling to get through the final third of my novel, to craft an ending that brings things together in some satisfying fashion (Resistance is Futile, Stupid Novel).

My difficulty revolves around the fact that the story doesn't have nearly enough story drive for my satisfaction. I like the characters. I'm happy with several of the important scenes. But in the end, a story must have a compelling narrative drive.

I'm not there.

In my frustration, I bought Story by Robert McKee. I wasn't in the mood for yet another paint-by-numbers writing book, or any damn writing book, for that matter. But this one has shown up so frequently, in so many disparate places for me lately that I felt I needed to give it a look.

Robert McKee (his seminar, not his book) is the target of funny ridicule in the movie Adaptation. I came to the experience with some hope but low expectations.

I have, to put it mildly, been pleasantly surprised.

This is no paint-by-numbers horse-manure. It isn't even strictly a screenwriting book. Most of its example are from the screen, it's true, but its notions are much broader, much more usefully applicable than that.

It has one of the more coherent discussions of types of plot, their possibilities and audience expectations that I've seen.

It also talks a great deal about what does and doesn't make a story compelling, why some stories fall flat while others don't. And it does it in a way that makes sense to me.

In the reading, I've come to understand why my story lies flatter than I'd like it to. I don't exactly have the cure figured out yet, but I have a sense of where I should be looking and the kinds of surgeries I should be attempting.

That realization, alone, makes the book a worthwhile purchase.

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