November 16, 2009

The Substance of Story

Hey All!

I know, it's been what? Two weeks since my last post? Well, I'll try to do better from now on. It's been pretty hectic then, right after, I went through a lazy-phase (yes, I know, I tend to go through those pretty regularly--can't help it, it's addicting!).

As I've mentioned before, while I'm finishing up the edits to my novel, I'm also developing a movie script. Yep. It's turning out to be a lot of fun, and a lot more complex than I had anticipated (my story, that is, I'd always imagined making movies to be difficult to begin with^^).

BUT, I found this super great book to help me: Story by Robert McKee.

Already in the intro he gives us the gist of what a story truly is and, as a learning storyteller myself, I thought I'd share some of his points with you:

1) Story is about principles, not rules. That is, your story should be well done and should follow guidelines, but it doesn't HAVE to do anything.

2) Story is about eternal, universal forms, not formulas. Yes, I believe that's a jibe to a lot of movies (and dare I say? books) out there, that are pushed forward because they follow a successful trend but end up being just so much fluff.

3) Story is about archetypes, not stereotypes. In Robert's words, "[a]n archetypal sory creates settings and characters so rare that our eyes feast on every detail, while its telling illuminates conflicts so true to humankind that it journeys from culture to culture."

Note: have I mentioned this author has a super awesome way with words? No? Well, he does! (end of note)

4) Story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts. This one's a hard one for me to swallow. I mean, come on, we all know I'm so not the patient type! I'm a product of today, I want immediate gratification.

5) Story is about realities, not the mysteries of writing. In other words, there's no secret to good writing, it's a craft you need to work and rework--like everything else in life you want to do well.

6) Story is about mastering the art, not second-guessing the marketplace. I think this one's linked to points... uh, looks like it's linked to all the previous points :)

7) Story is about respect, not disdain, for the audience. Seriously, people out there aren't that stupid. Yes, that includes me, come on. Haven't you heard of the expression "don't judge a book by its cover"? So they'll get your subtle points, no need to over-explain (hu-hum... yeah, that last one's for me, really. I have a tendency to repeat myself in my book, I've noticed, which makes for dragging scenes sometimes...)

8) Story is about originality, not duplication. Need I say more?

Well folks, guess that's it for tonight. Wasn't this fun? But before I go, I want to mention that it's because a lot of "would-be writers," according to Robert once again (and I'm not contradicting his words) don't think about these points when writing a story. That's why, especially nowadays, there's an over-reliance on technology or the musical score to carry the story along when it is itself lacking.

What do you think about that?

--The Writing Apprentice

PS1: For more info on Robert McKee, check out his website.

PS2: I dunno what the story's going to be like with this movie, but I don't care: I'm gonna watch Ninja Assassin. Period. Nothing's gonna deter me from that!


  1. Woot! Ninja assassin's gonna be a kickass movie!

  2. I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean in point (1) when you say Story doesn't have to do anything.

  3. Anon,

    Got to see ninja assassin last night (yep, got free screening tickets, I'm stoked!)--it was all it promised to be: an homage to corny 80's ninja movies. Not much story development, but hey, who cares about that when the main actor's cool?

    Jennifer: what I meant is that it doesn't HAVE to follow rules. Rules are meant to be broken, but it has to be done well. Hope this answers your question :)

  4. I am still waiting for "Ninja Assassin" to come to the big screen here in Cyprus :/ Dunno why they didn't bring it yet (maybe i should just download it lol). I love the main actor, Rain (Jung Ji Hoon). I had watched some Asian TV series he played on (i.e. Full House, A Love to Kill etc). He is very famous in Korea and i believe all around Asia.

    Nevermind... i was gonna ask, where can we find this lovely first novel of yours? I love fantasy novels as well and i would love to read it. Did you publish it? :)

    xxx Melina from Cyprus

  5. Wah! I can't believe you wrote on my blog :) Yay! And sorry for replying so late, I don't get notices so I only look at whether I've received comments on my last entry or not :p

    I had NO idea you liked Korean drama too! Yes, the first time I saw him was in Full House (a friend of mine was raving about it). I have to say I didn't like him in it at first, but opinions change, and mine did ^^

    I know. Ninja Assassin wasn't out when I went to Belgium either, and I'd wanted to go see it with my brother. It's so strange how some movies make it and others don't in terms of coming out at the same time as in the States...

    As for my book, I'm still working on it. My goal is to be done with it by May. And yes, it's an urban fantasy, originally set in Belgium.

    I'm hoping to get it published as soon as possible though. Disclosure: this might take a while depending on how quickly I can find an agent and how quickly said agent can get an editor interested and how quickly that editor can convince the publishing house my book's so-awesome-they-just-have-to-publish-it-ASAP :)

    Of course, I'll keep you posted as to its status.

    In the meantime, I'm also working on a movie and then will be working on 2 other books starting in June (one in English and one in French).

  6. No worries about replying late, I am glad you did! :) I love reading books and i love fantasy novels. I also love reading "vampire books" (it is the era of vampires now haha) Can you say what is yours about?

    What is the movie that you are working on about? Are you writing its script? Is it a Hollywood movie? I know lots of questions hah? :)))) Damn i should have asked for an autograph at the math center in USD since you will become really famous... :p

    I hope everything goes well and that you will soon have your own book published. Do keep me posted about its status. :D

  7. Melina!

    Haha, yes, lots of questions, but it's GREAT :)

    Ok, so my book is an urban fantasy set in Belgium (nope, no vampires in this story). Premise: magic isn't magic, it's physics.

    Which means that it's all about controlling energy with your mind, and since everything energy... well, I'm sure you get the picture.

    All of us can do that, it's just that in most of us that ability is too small for us to really notice the effects (or when we do, we think it's a miracle). But there are a few out there who are like the Da Vincis of energy manipulation, and when we see them at work, for us, it looks like what they're doing is magic.

    The story's set (originally) in Belgium, where the government there recruits anyone whose abilities are highly developed and sends them to a secret village to be trained with others like them (aka special forces). But when Olivia wakes up in that strange place, she doesn't remember anything but her own name.

    So now she has to not only figure out how she ended up in the village, find her place in that society, and come to grips with this new facet of herself (and the world in general) that she had no idea existed.

    But all's not well in the village as she slowly comes to understand, and when she and her friends find a hidden message warning her Clan about a spy, nobody believes them...


    So yeah, that's the basic storyline for this book.

    The movie's totally different. It's not a fantasy at all. I got the idea for it when my friends made fun of me (concerning Rain, actually^^). And though their suggestions were rather outrageous, I thought they would make a GREAT movie, and that's what I'm working on now.

    My goal is to have both of them finished by end of April, as (1) I've been working on the book for a LONG time (over 4 years, almost 5, on and off, granted, but it's still a long time), and (2) I want to participate in this screenwriting contest (due date May 1).

    Thanks for all the good wishes, I definitely need them! And I WILL keep you updated on my progress, of course.

    PS: don't worry, it's not because I'm going to be really famous that I'm going to forget my friends! And by then, I'll have the ability and time to go visit you too, so you'll be able to get as many autographs as you want! :)