Robert McKee - soundofheaven.info - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf) or read book online. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. McKee, Robert, Story: substance, structure, style, and the principles of screen writing f. Robert McKee. ROBERT McKEE writer. For at the nucleus of a story is a "substance," like the energy world through your character's eyes, experiencing the story as if.
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Full text of "Robert Mc Kee Story (pdf)". See other formats. Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting ROBERT MCKEE ReganBooks An. Robert McKee - Story (PDF). September 8, | Author: Duque | Category: N/A An error occurred while loading the PDF. More Information Less Information. Robert McKee - Story (PDF) - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf) or read book online. Storytelling.
We can only imagine the sweat and pains Horton Foote invested in plotting this precarious film. Who are these characters? Distributors have the same motivation now they had then: Her hair falls magically into place. When you go to the movies, don't you often feel you're more intel- ligent than what you're watching? From an instant to eternity. Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App.
I found it easier to grasp McKee by writing one paragraph summaries of each chapter as I progressed. It may be helpful to think of each chapter as a separate vignette of knowledge. I suggest reading the chapters in this order: On a side note, the slip cover is absolutely awful. Throw it away. I don't know why, but I actually feel emotional about this book. I've had it for a long time and read it over and over, turned down the top corners and bottom corners, marked up passages with different colored pens, and I'm not even a screenwriter.
I read it for fiction writing and to strengthen my editing skills. It's like a family member I feel great gratitude and appreciation for. His bias against the avant-garde was shocking to me at first and it took time to get past that, but I forgave him. He does include meta and anti-novel type structures, at least.
I recommend this book to my fiction students all the time. What a gem. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. I truly regret that I hadn't digested this book sooner.
Having the book along through the 3-day closed seminar with restrictions on the use of electronic devices helped me to fully immerse myself into the content while listening to Robert McKee explain and exemplify the strategies and concepts. I write screenplays and novels and find that though STORY indicates a concentration on "Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting," the concepts and strategies have already proved useful for writing any genre.
McKee's seminar given me a new outlook on my writing, I also have found the materials useful in teaching literary analysis to my high school students and will utilize the material for my Creative Writing class next school year. How any real writer could discount this book as not offering "much help" or would suggest that writers should "steer clear of it" makes absolutely no sense.
If you read a popular, well-crafted book or view a movie or TV show with those qualities and want to understand how it works, what makes it tick, you would be hard pressed to find a better book, and you should just order this book now -- you're in for a treat. It's from this perspective that I'm writing this review.
Writing fiction is an incredibly personal experience, so to be clear I'm not saying that people who love this book as a writing how-to are wrong. I think if you have a certain mindset or approach to writing, this book will be extremely helpful to you. Some fiction writers employ a very methodical, intellectual approach, putting stories together like watchmakers carefully constructing a complex timepiece, creating detailed outlines first and using them as blueprints to build their stories.
This is a completely valid way to work -- in fact, I'm envious of such writers and wish it worked for me. Some writers employ a more organic, intuitive approach, where creating a story is an unstructured process of discovery the so-called "pantsers", because they work from "the seat of their pants". In my view this is also a perfectly valid way to work, not inherently better or worse than being a dedicated outliner. I personally am neither a hardcore outliner nor a committed pantser.
I am finding that I produce my best, most satisfying work when I bounce back and forth between the two approaches. I can't go full organic because I get lost in the work and find that I constantly have 16 ideas that I can't choose between, and each one of those leads to 16 other ideas, and so on. On the other hand, for me employing a rigorous outlining approach is too intellect-driven. I feel I lose the creative spark and fascination that made me want to write the story in the fist place.
Instead, deliberately or not, I find myself "solving" my story structure like a sudoku puzzle, overtaken with concern about hitting the right points in the right way at the right time, and things like, losing control of my story that way.
As someone else here said, McKee isn't telling you, "These are rules! You must follow them! The thing is, his approach is extremely methodical and intellect-driven, it has a gravity that's going to pull you in that direction.
It's so intellectually appealing it's like your brain can't let go of it. Like I said earlier, if your writing mindset and approach are on the same wavelength as what McKee teaches, this is gonna be awesome for you and you're going to love it.
If you're not, this can really mess with your head and your writing for a bit. That said, this is good material even for someone like me, and I am glad I read it. There are useful ideas here, and it's good to be aware of them even if you're not going to go about building stories the way McKee teaches. But if you go about putting McKee's tools into practice and it just doesn't work for you, or you're simply not that kind of writer to begin with, don't panic if it feels like your brain has been taken over by McKee for a while.
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When you think about it, going to the movies is bizarre. Hundreds of strangers sit in a blackened room, elbow to elbow, for two or more hours. They don't go to the toilet or get a smoke.
Instead, they stare wide-eyed at a screen, investing more uninterrupted concentration. From this perspective, a second question arises: What is the source of story energy? How does it compel such intense mental and sentient attention from the audience?
How do stories work? The answers to these questions come when the artist explores the creative process subjectively.
To understand the substance of story and how it performs, you need to view your work from the inside out, from the center of your character, looking out at the world through your character's eyes, experiencing the story as if you were the living character yourself. To slip into this subjective and highly imaginative point of view, you need to look closely at this creature you intend to inhabit, a character.
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Robert mc kee-story 1. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quota- tions embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Harper- Collins Publishers, Inc. HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promo- tional use. For information please write: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Motion picture authorship. Motion picture plays-Technique. PN M 8o8. Scene Design I n. Scene Analysis I Problems and Solutions I Character I r8. A rule says, "You must do it this way. Your work needn't be modeled after the "well-made" play; rather, it must be well made within the principles that shape our art. Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.
Story is about eternal. All notions of paradigms and foolproof story models for commer- cial success are nonsense. Despite trends, remakes, and sequels, when we survey the totality of Hollywood ftlm, we find an astounding variety of story designs, but no prototype. Story urges the creation of works that will excite audiences on the six continents and live in revival for decades. No one needs yet another recipe book on how to reheat Hollywood leftovers. We need a rediscovery of the underlying tenets of our art, the guiding principles that liberate talent.
No matter where a film is made- Hollywood, Paris, Hong Kong-if it's of archetypal quality, it trig- gers a global and perpetual chain reaction of pleasure that carries it from cinema to cinema, generation to generation.
The archetypal story unearths a universally human experience, then wraps itself inside a unique, culture-specific expression. A stereotypical story reverses this pattern: It suffers a poverty of both content and form. It confines itself to a narrow, culture-specific experience and dresses in stale, nonspecific generalities.
For example, Spanish custom once dictated that daughters must be married off in order from oldest to youngest.
Inside Spanish culture, a film about the nineteenth-century family of a strict patriarch, a powerless mother, an unmarriageable oldest daughter, and a long-suffering youngest daughter may move those who remember this practice, but outside Spanish culture audi- ences are unlikely to empathize.
The writer, fearing his story's limited appeal, resorts to the familiar settings, characters, and actions that have pleased audiences in the past. The result? The world is even less interested in these cliches. On the other hand, this repressive custom could become mate- rial for a worldwide success if the artist were to roll up his sleeves and search for an archetype. An archetypal story 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.
Yet Esquivel's observation of home and society, of relationship and behavior is so rich in never-before-seen detail, we're drawn irresistibly to these characters and fascinated by a realm we've never known, nor could imagine. Stereotypical stories stay at home, archetypal stories travel. From Charlie Chaplin to Ingmar Bergman, from Satyajit Ray to Woody Allen, the cinema's master storytellers give us the double- edged encounter we crave. First, the discovery of a world we do not know.
No matter how intimate or epic, contemporary or historical, concrete or fantasized, the world of an eminent artist always strikes 7. Like an explorer parting forest leaves, we step wide-eyed into an untouched society, a cliche-free zone where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Second, once inside this alien world, we find ourselves. Deep within these characters and their conflicts we discover our own humanity.
We go to the movies to enter a new, fascinating world, to inhabit vicariously another human being who at first seems so unlike us and yet at heart is like us, to live in a fictional reality that illuminates our daily reality. We do not wish to escape life but to find life, to use our minds in fresh, experimental ways, to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add depth to our days.
Story was written to foster films of archetypal power and beauty that will give the world this dual pleasure. Story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts.
From inspiration to last draft you may need as much time to write a screenplay as to write a novel. Screen and prose writers create the same density of world, character, and story, but because screenplay pages have so much white on them, we're often mis- lead into thinking that a screenplay is quicker and easier than a novel. But while scribomaniacs fill pages as fast as they can type, film writers cut and cut again, ruthless in their desire to express the absolute maximum in the fewest possible words.
Pascal once wrote a long, drawn-out letter to a friend, then apologized in the postscript that he didn't have time to write a short one. Like Pascal, screenwriters learn that economy is key, that brevity takes time, that excellence means perseverance. Story is about the realities, not the mysteries of writing. There's been no conspiracy to keep secret the truths of our art. In the twenty-three centuries since Aristotle wrote The Poetics, the "secrets" of story have been as public as the library down the street.
Nothing in the craft of storytelling is abstruse. In fact, at first glance telling story for the screen looks deceptively easy. But 8. If a screenwriter fails to move us with the purity of a drama- tized scene, he cannot, like a novelist in authorial voice, or the play- wright in soliloquy, hide behind his words.
He cannot smooth a coating of explanatory or emotive language over cracks in logic, blotchy motivation, or colorless emotion and simply tell us what to think or how to feel. The camera is the dread X-ray machine of all things false. It magnifies life many times over, then strips naked every weak or phony story turn, until in confusion and frustration we're tempted to quit.
Yet, given determination and study, the puzzle yields. Screenwriting is full ofwonders but no unsolvable mysteries. Story is about mastering the art, not second-guessing the marketplace. No one can teach what will sell, what won't, what will be a smash or a fiasco, because no one knows.
Nothing in our art is guaranteed. That's why so many agonize over "breaking in," "making it," and "creative interference.
If you knock out a knockoff oflast summer's hit, you'll join the ranks of lesser talents who each year flood Hollywood with thousands of cliche-ridden stories. Rather than agonizing over the odds, put your energies into achieving excellence. If you show a brilliant, original screenplay to agents, they'll fight for the right to represent you.
The agent you hire will incite a bidding war among story-starved pro- 9. What's more, once in production, your finished screenplay will meet with surprisingly little interference. No one can promise that unfortunate conjunctions of personalities won't spoil good work, but be certain that Hollywood's best acting and directing talents are acutely aware that their careers depend on working within quality writing.
Yet because of Hollywood's ravenous appetite for story, scripts are often picked before they're ripe, forcing changes on the set. Secure writers don't sell first drafts. They patiently rewrite until the script is as director-ready, as actor-ready as possible. Unfin- ished work invites tampering, while polished, mature work seals its integrity.
Story is about respect, not disdain, for the audience. When talented people write badly it's generally for one of two reasons: Either they're blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove or they're driven by an emotion they must express. When tal- ented people write well, it is generally for this reason: They're moved by a desire to touch the audience. Night after night, through years of performing and directing, I've stood in awe of the audience, of its capacity for response.
As if by magic, masks fall away, faces become vulnerable, receptive. Filmgoers do not defend their emotions, rather they open to the storyteller in ways even their lovers never know, welcoming laughter, tears, terror, rage, compassion, passion, love, hate-the ritual often exhausts them.
The audience is not only amazingly sensitive, but as it settles into a darkened theatre its collective IQ jumps twenty-five points. When you go to the movies, don't you often feel you're more intel- ligent than what you're watching? That you know what characters are going to do before they do it?
That you see the ending coming long before it arrives? The audience is not only smart, it's smarter than most films, and that fact won't change when you move to the other side of the screen.
It's all a writer can do, using every bit of No film can be made to work without an understanding of the reactions and anticipations of the audience. You must shape your story in a way that both expresses your vision and satisfies the audi- ence's desires.
The audience is a force as determining of story design as any other element. For without it, the creative act is pointless. Story is about originality. Originality is the confluence of content and form-distinctive choices of subject plus a unique shaping of the telling. Content setting, characters, ideas and form selection and arrangement of events require, inspire, and mutually influence one another.
With content in one hand and a mastery of form in the other, a writer sculpts story. As you rework a story's substance, the telling reshapes itself.
As you play with a story's shape, its intellectual and emotional spirit evolves. A story is not only what you have to say but how you say it. If content is cliche, the telling will be cliche. But ifyour vision is deep and original, your story design will be unique. Conversely, if the telling is conventional and predictable, it will demand stereotypical roles to act out well-worn behaviors.
But ifthe story design is inno- vative, then settings, characters, and ideas must be equally fresh to fulfill it.
We shape the telling to fit the substance, rework the sub- stance to support the design. Never, however, mistake eccentricity for originality. Difference for the sake of difference is as empty as slavishly following com- mercial imperatives. After working for months, perhaps years, to gather facts, memories, and imagination into a treasury of story material, no serious writer would cage his vision inside a formula, or trivialize it into avant-garde fragmentations.
The "well-made" formula may choke a story's voice, but "art movie" quirkiness will give it a speech impediment. Just as children break things for fun or throw tantrums to force attention on themselves, too many film- Great screenwriters are distin- guished by a personal storytelling style, a style that's not only inseparable from their vision, but in a profound way is their vision.
Their formal choices-number of protagonists, rhythm of progressions, levels of conflict, temporal arrangements, and the like-play with and against substantive choices of content-set- ting, character, idea-until all elements meld into a unique screenplay. If, however, we were to put the content of their films aside for the moment, and study the pure patterning of their events, we'd see that, like a melody without a lyric, like a silhouette without a matrix, their story designs are powerfully charged with meaning.
The storyteller's selection and arrangement of events is his master metaphor for the interconnectedness of all the levels of reality- personal, political, environmental, spiritual.
Stripped of its surface ofcharacterization and location, story structure reveals his personal cosmology, his insight into the deepest patterns and motivations for how and why things happen in this world-his map of life's hidden order. Each has stepped out of the crowd because each selects a content like no one else, designs a form like no one else, combining the two into a style unmistakably his own. I want the same for you.
But my hope for you goes beyond competence and skill. I'm starved for great films. Over the last two decades I've seen good films and a few very good films, but rarely, rarely a film of stag- gering power and beauty.
Maybe it's me; maybe I'm jaded. But I Not yet. I still believe that art transforms life. But I know that if you can't play all the instruments in the orchestra of story, no matter what music may be in your imagination, you're condemned to hum the same old tune. I've written Story to empower your command ofthe craft, to free you to express an orig- inal vision of life, to lift your talent beyond convention to create films ofdistinctive substance, structure, and style.
Story is not only our most prolific art form but rivals all activities-work, play, eating, exercise-for our waking hours. We tell and take in stories as much as we sleep-and even then we dream. Why is so much of our life spent inside stories?
Because as critic Kenneth Burke tells us, stories are equipment for living. Day after day we seek an answer to the ageless question Aris- totle posed in Ethics: How should a human being lead his life? But the answer eludes us, hiding behind a blur of racing hours as we struggle to fit our means to our dreams, fuse idea with passion, turn desire into reality.
We're swept along on a risk-ridden shuttle through time. If we pull back to grasp pattern and meaning, life, like a Gestalt, does flips: Momentous world events are beyond our control while personal events, despite all effort to keep our hands on the wheel, more often than not control us. Traditionally humankind has sought the answer to Aristotle's question from the four wisdoms-philosophy, science, religion, art-taking insight from each to bolt together a livable meaning.
II Sci- ence, once the great explicator, garbles life with complexity and per- plexity. Who can listen without cynicism to economists, sociologists, politicians?
Religion, for many, has become an empty ritual that masks hypocrisy. As our faith in traditional ideologies diminishes, we tum to the source we still believe in: The world now consumes films, novels, theatre, and television in such quantities and with such ravenous hunger that the story arts have become humanity's prime source of inspiration, as it seeks to order chaos and gain insight into life. Our appetite for story is a reflection of the profound human need to grasp the pat- terns of living, not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.
In the words of playwright Jean Anouilh, "Fiction gives life its form. But what, after all, is entertainment? To be entertained is to be immersed in the cere- mony of story to an intellectually and emotionally satisfying end.
To the film audience, entertainment is the ritual of sitting in the dark, concentrating on a screen in order to experience the story's meaning and, with that insight, the arousal of strong, at times even painful emotions, and as the meaning deepens, to be carried to the ultimate satisfaction ofthose emotions.
To retreat behind the notion that the audience simply wants to dump its troubles at the door and escape reality is a cowardly abandonment of the artist's responsibility. Story isn't a flight from reality but a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out ofthe anarchy ofexistence.
Yet, while the ever-expanding reach of the media now gives us the opportunity to send stories beyond borders and languages to hun- On occasion we read or see works of excellence, but for the most part we weary of searching newspaper ads, video shops, and TV listings for something of quality, of putting down novels half-read, of slipping out of plays at the intermission, ofwalking out of films soothing our disappointment with "But it was beautifully photographed Flawed and false storytelling is forced to substitute spectacle for substance, trickery for truth.
Weak stories, desperate to hold audi- ence attention, degenerate into multimillion-dollar razzle-dazzle demo reels. In Hollywood imagery becomes more and more extrav- agant, in Europe more and more decorative. The behavior of actors becomes more and more histrionic, more and more lewd, more and more violent. Music and sound effects become increasingly tumultuous.
The total effect transudes into the grotesque. A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling. When society repeatedly experiences glossy, hollowed-out, pseudo-stories, it degen- erates. We need true satires and tragedies, dramas and comedies that shine a clean light into the dingy comers of the human psyche and society.
Ifnot, as Yeats warned, " A few are excel- lent, but the majority are mediocre or worse. The temptation is to blame this glut of banality on the Babbitt-like figures who approve productions. Tim Rob- bins's young Hollywood executive explains that he has many ene- mies because each year his studio accepts over twenty thousand story submissions but only makes twelve films.
This is accurate dialogue. The story departments of the major studios pore through thousands upon thousands of scripts, treatments, novels, and plays searching for a great screen story. Or, more likely, something halfway to good that they could develop to better-than-average. Despite a The hard-to-believe truth is that what we see on the screen each year is a reasonable reflection ofthe best writing ofthe last few years.
Many screenwriters, however, cannot face this downtown fact and live in the exurbs ofillusion, convinced that Hollywood is blind to their talent. With rare exceptions, unrecognized genius is a myth.
First-rate screenplays are at least optioned if not made. For writers who can tell a quality story, it's a seller's market-always has been, always will be.
Hollywood has a secure international business for hundreds of films each year, and they will be made. Most will open, run a few weeks, close, and be mercifully forgotten. Yet Hollywood not only survives, it thrives, because it has virtu- ally no competition. This wasn't always the case. From the rise of Neo-realism to the high tide of the New Wave, North American cin- emas were crowded with works by brilliant Continental filmmakers that challenged Hollywood's dominance.
But with the death or retirement of these masters, the last twenty-five years have seen a slow decay in the quality of European films. Today European filmmakers blame their failure to attract audi- ence on a conspiracy of distributors.
The system hasn't changed. The audience for non-Hollywood film is still vast and loyal. Distributors have the same motivation now they had then: What's changed is that contemporary "auteurs" cannot tell story with the power of the previous generation.
Like pretentious interior deco- rators, they make films that strike the eye, and nothing more. As a result, the storm of European genius has become a slough of arid films that leave a vacuum for Hollywood to fill. Asian works, however, now travel throughout North America and the world, moving and delighting millions, seizing the interna- tional spotlight with ease for one reason: Asian filmmakers tell superb stories. Rather than scapegoating distributors, non-Hollywood filmmakers would do well to look to the East, where artists have the passion to tell stories and the craft to tell them beautifully.
The world audience is devoted but thirsting for story. Not from a poverty of effort. The Writers Guild of America script registration service logs over thirty-five thousand titles yearly. These are only those that are registered. Across America hundreds ofthousands of screenplays are attempted each year, but only a handful are quality screenplays, for many reasons but this above all: Today's would-be writers rush to the typewriter without first learning their craft.
If your dream were to compose music, would you say to your- self "I've heard a lot ofsymphonies I can also play the piano I think I'll knock one out this weekend"? But that's exactly how many screenwriters begin: I got A's in English After years of diligence, you'd merge your knowledge with your cre- ativity, flex your courage, and venture to compose.
Too many strug- gling writers never suspect that the creation of a fine screenplay is as difficult as the creation of a symphony, and in some ways more so. For while the composer scores with the mathematical purity of notes, we dip into the messy stuffknown as human nature.
The novice plunges ahead, counting solely on experience, thinking that the life he's lived and the films he's seen give him something to say and the way to say it. Experience, however, is overrated. Ofcourse we want writers who don't hide from life, who live deeply, observe closely. This is vital but never enough. For most writers, the knowledge they gain from reading and study equals or outweighs experience, especially if that experience goes unexamined.
Self-knowledge is the key-life plus deep reflection on our reactions to life. As for technique, what the novice mistakes for craft is simply his unconscious absorption of story elements from every novel, film, or play he's ever encountered.
As he writes, he matches his The unschooled writer calls this "instinct," but it's merely habit and it's rigidly limiting.
He either imitates his mental prototype or imagines himself in the avant-garde and rebels against it. But the haphazard groping toward or revolt against the sum of unconsciously ingrained repetitions is not, in any sense, technique, and leads to screenplays clogged with cliches of either the commercial or the art house variety.
This hit-or-miss struggle wasn't always the case. In decades past screenwriters learned their craft either through university study or on their own in a library, through experience in the theatre or in writing novels, through apprenticeship to the Hollywood studio system, or through a combination ofthese means.
Early in this century a number of American universities came to believe that, like musicians and painters, writers need the equiv- alent of music or art school to learn the principles of their craft. To that end scholars such as William Archer, Kenneth Rowe, and John Howard Lawson wrote excellent books on dramaturgy and the prose arts.
Their method was intrinsic, drawing strength from the big-muscle movements of desire, forces of antagonism, turning points, spine, progression, crisis, climax-story seen from the inside out. Working writers, with or without formal educations, used these texts to develop their art, turning the half-century from the Roaring Twenties through the protesting sixties into a golden age ofthe American story on screen, page, and stage.
Over the last twenty-five years, however, the method of teaching creative writing in American universities has shifted from the intrinsic to the extrinsic. Trends in literary theory have drawn professors away from the deep sources of story toward language, codes, text-story seen from the outside.
As a result, with some notable exceptions, the current generation of writers has been undereducated in the prime principles ofstory. Screenwriters abroad have had even less opportunity to study their craft. European academics generally deny that writing can, in any sense, be taught, and as a result, courses in Creative Writing have never been included in the curriculum of Continental univer- Europe does, of course, foster many of the world's most bril- liant art and music academies.
Why it's felt that one art is teach- able, another not, is impossible to say. What's worse, disdain for screenwriting has, until recently, excluded it from study in all Euro- pean film schools save Moscow and Warsaw. Much can be said against the old Hollywood studio system, but to its credit it was a system of apprenticeship overseen by seasoned story editors. That day is gone. Every now and then a studio redis- covers apprenticeship, but in its zeal to bring back the golden days it forgets that an apprentice needs a master.
Today's executives may recognize ability, but few have the skill or patience to tum a talent into an artist. The final cause for the decline of story runs very deep.
Values, the positivejnegative charges of life, are at the soul of our art.