Paying the Viking's Price

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Form, not formula

Because my editor went on a course with Robert McKee, I ordered his book. As I assume she will have assimulated his words, I wanted to see where her keen editorial eye would be going. For a variety ofreasons I like to get things straight from the horse's mouth.
Robert McKee's Story -- Substance, structure and the principles of screenwriting (ISBN 0413715604) so far has not disappointed. It has confirmed a number of strongly held views, so I suspect that I am going to be quoting from this for while.
He believes in form, not formula. To quote: Anxious inexperienced writers obey rules; rebellious unschooled writers break rules; an artist masters the form. He believes in teaching the craft of writing from the inside out( looking at desire, antagonism, turning points, spine, prgression, crisis and climax) as it was done in the first half of the 20th century. The current vogue is to teach from the outside in (ie looking at language, codes and text). It is one reason he postulates there has been a deep decline in the ability to tell and craft a story. He does not discount talent, rather he believes that talent can be and should be honed and sharpened. In short the forms of creative writing can be taught, but the mastery of the forms is down to an individual's talent.
He also believes in authenticity something that comes when a writer writes with authority. A story well told.
Anyway, I plan to spend some time digesting the tome. It looks excellent.
There again, I am always striving to hone my craft skills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This book is great. I first saw it in the public library then got so sick or renewing it I bought my own copy.

I especially like the section on scene analysis where he explains how a scene builds and turns. How each action/reaction exchange ('a beat' )builds towards the scene's turning point

How the scene turns when a gap opens up between character expectation and result. (p.259)and ends with a change. (either positive to negative or vice versa.)

I find myself anaysing this process each time there's a dramatic scene in East Enders!

Janet