The Anatomy of Story

For years––going back to college––I’ve studied (but admittedly, mostly perused) many books on writing. Those that broke out the infamous 3-act structure. Ones where another writer without best-seller credentials was going to share the skill of good writing, even if their professional writing success was limited to sharing with others how to write. (Right?) Some even unabashedly detailed what not to write, figuring that the opposite of bad had to be good.

And a number of us know, if you ask someone what their favorite book on writing is, they’ll share with you a book they studied . . . or maybe two . . . but we know that––like a hammer––these writing books are merely tools. We the writers are the carpenters. And like building a house, you need more than one tool to construct it properly, and that’s before you even get to the aesthetics that make a house a home. Warm and inviting. (Or, if you hate people, something that the neighbors envy)

While everyone may have a different opinion about what tools in their toolbox have been most helpful for them, I can tell you of a book that changed my attitude toward writing (for the better), changed my formulaic outlook on storytelling, and inspired me. (How much is true inspiration worth to you?) One day out at Disneyland, my good pal Peter Ettinger brought up The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby. While virtually any book on writing is constructive and helpful in discovering new ways to improve your craft, I found Anatomy to stand apart from the pack with its awareness of what elements can make a good story great. Think of those books or movies that you will go back to again and again. What is it about those stories that you relate to on such a conscious or subconscious level that you want to relive them? Through Truby’s coaching, discover within yourself how to best deliver those ahhhh moments with the greatest impact. If you’re looking for a new friend to assist you in determining how to break the rules once you know them, I very much recommend this book.

I couldn’t have gotten to the quality of my first novel without all of the books and instructors I’ve ever had, but Anatomy changed the game for me. Now it’s time to start pitching my manuscript, and we’ll see if I properly implemented what I’ve learned. I’ll let you know how it goes. And, as I promised Peter, when it is published, he’ll have my greatest acknowledgment.

But then, maybe I’m biased.