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Not perfect but the best of its kind
am 7. Januar 2013
This book is by no means perfect - but its still one of the best (maybe THE best) about the topic of "story".
WHY IT ISN'T PERFECT:
1) The book starts with pages and pages of facts and theory that are quite obvious. You read page after page and say "Yes, he's right, that's true", and it is, but its meaningless. Even if this is the first time in your life you think about "story". But if you continue reading, the pages start bearing more significance. Would have been better with just 200 pages instead of 400.
2) Although the book has the word "structure" in its title, the books own structure is horrible, if not completely absent. If you really want to "work" with the book, its probably a good idea to write down the essence of the book in short notes and give them your own structure afterwards.
3) McKee is very dogmatic. Obviously he has an incredible (philosophical) knowledge about the topic. Enough to make him a story guru in my opinion. But dogmatic statements are never a good idea. And with some statements I think, he's wrong. But honestly that doesn't really matter, because ...
WHY IT'S STILL THE BEST BOOK ABOUT STORY:
1) ... Even if McKee might be wrong with some of his claims (in my opinion), the great achievement is, that without McKee pointing out some aspects, I had never given them a single thought. So no matter if you share all of his opinions or not - while reading his book, you start to think about "story" in a new and different way. That's brilliant. And even if you contradict - you almost certainly learned something new and valuable. But the point is: don't just shovel the pages into your brain like a bowl of Kellogg's Frosties. Think, criticize and question everything. Make your own mind! This book teaches you how to walk and stand on your own two feet. But like any good father who teaches you to follow into his footsteps, in order to become a real successor, first the father has to die.
2) McKee covers every aspect of "story" there is. If you re-structure the book a bit, it will you provide you with an in-depth "how-to" instruction. And its a great tool to analyze your or other stories.
3) The book is mainly about blockbusters. Big Hollywood movies. Its not about "how stories work" but about "how Hollywood movies work". At first this might look like a flaw. Especially if you're bored of the Hollywood story telling style. But actually its not a flaw but a very good thing: You learn how and why these blockbusters work and you learn why and when they bore you. I you want to write an intelligent, individual avantgarde story there is no "how to" instruction anyway (or it would be pointless). You have to do this by yourself. But you have to know and understand the conventions of your craft first. Its like painting. You have to learn to paint photo-realistic before you can successfully do abstract art (have a look at Picasso and van Gogh and their early work). Which means: If you do not want to write a Hollywood blockbuster - read this book and learn what you have to avoid (or to include).