Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review: Story Engineering

If you’ve never read a book about how to write a novel or a story or some other work of fiction, this book will be useful to you. It covers the basics beautifully. However, if you’ve already read several books of this type, this book has nothing new to offer you. The author may have repackaged the basics as “Six Core Competencies,” but they’re still the basics. You will find them covered in most other books of this kind.

Perhaps this is why the author felt the need to defend his work throughout the lengthy introduction and on and on into the first few chapters. It was as if he was saying, “Really. Picking up this book was worth your time.” He also felt the need to mention in several different places that his book on writing would prove to be more useful to the reader than Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” I haven’t read King’s book, so I can’t say if that’s true. But the author of this book makes me wonder if maybe it’s something I need to do.

Throughout the book, the author uses scenes from popular books and movies in order to make his points about the effective (or not-so-effective) use of core competencies. I think this is meant to add interest to the book. But in one case, he described a scene from a trailer from a fairly recent movie and told what was wrong with it. I’ve seen the movie, though—not just the trailer. That particular scene didn’t end where he thought it did. The actress’s very next line, in fact, subtly foreshadowed the movie’s end perfectly—just enough to make the viewer wonder what was coming, but without giving anything away. It was a skillful use of that particular competency.

The author does know the basics of a good story, and, overall, he presents them well. If you’re looking for something to help you develop this skill, this book may be helpful to you.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this review! I had read so many glowing reviews of Story Engineering that I eagerly got a copy and began reading. And soon felt as though I were slogging through an endless explanation of why his ideas are important. I grew to loathe his analogies. At the half-way point, I considered giving up, but all those glowing reviews encouraged me to keep going, so I could get to the actual writing advice. Now, I can be okay about giving up on this book.