Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Deciphering McKee's Story

Trish Wylie asked me very politely if I could tell her why McKee's Story was great or if I had some pointers. In other words - -why do I keep it on my bedside table? Why do I reccomend it? It is a large book and if it just overs the same goround....

So I am going to do a small series on some of the more important points in McKee's book. These may not be everyone's but they are mine. Hopefully it will convince some to pick uip this book or at least to ponder his ideas.

What i am talk about today is Powers and talents. It is a short but I think hugely important part of the book. It actually gets to the nub of the craft of Story.

According to McKee and I have no reason to doubt him, there are two types of talent in story writing.

First is Literary talent. This talent uses words and is the putting together of words to form images. It is a common talent. A lot of people can produce wonderfully descriptive writing. But literary talent does not necessarily lead any where. A description of a sunset stays a description of a sunset. There is no movement. The base material of literary talent is words.

Story telling talent is much rarer. It is the ability to hold an audience, to tell a story in such a fashion that the audience is transfixed. It is what causes the pages to be turned. WIth storytelling talent, even the most mundane can be exciting. The base material for story talent is life.

Commercial publishers buy story telling talent. They want page turning reads that people come back to time and again.

The desire to relate an incident in an intersting manner shows that you have some sort of story telling talent.

It is the combination of the two talents that results in a truly great writer.

Talent can not be taught, but it can be control by the learning and studying craft. You do not need to have studied craft to produce a publishable book, but if you want to stay published over the long term, you need to klearn how to control your talent. You need to learn the why behind the rules. You need to master forms and not formula. It also makes it much easier when editors come back and say -- this is wrong with your novel. With the knowledge of craft, you can see how to rewrite and make better, rater than flapping around in the dark and hoping. Craft is what allows the writer to control her environment, rather than having her environment control her.

Because I apt to have attacks of the crows of doubt. Or simply to forget. Rereading the passages where he says these things makes me feel better. It gives me the breathing space I need. It means that I don't have to get things right the first time, because I know I have learnt the craft tools to get it right when it dfoesn't work.
In other news: the Late Night Praty ducks have discovered the compost heap. where they hide. Then as I return from locking the other ducks in the duck house, one quacks, very loudly, making me jump. The LNPD then rush across the bridge. They consider this a good game. Particularly as we then play round and round the duck house and the other ducks come out and join in the fun. I find it less amusing.


Trish Wylie said...

This is great Michelle! Thanks for doing this - when I blog later on today I'll add a link across for the rest of the gang...

Looking forward to hearing more!

Unknown said...

Ditto what Trish said. look forward to reading more. Thanks :-)