cover image The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

John Truby. Faber & Faber, $30 (445pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-951-7

Teacher and screenplay doctor Truby (responsible for popular screenwriting software Blockbuster) brings his complicated but time-tested story development system to print for the first time, a 22-point process that's more thorough-""an extremely precise map of your entire plot"" that ""shows you the most dramatic way to tell your story""-but also more unwieldy than the traditional ""three-act"" technique. For example, the first seven steps Truby introduces apply to structure: develop ""weakness and need"" and ""desire"" in your hero, give him an ""opponent"" and a ""plan"" for overcoming that opponent, then throw in a ""battle"" that leads to ""self-revelation"" and, finally, a ""new equilibrium."" Chapters build on each other, fleshing out these steps with a number of terms and concepts (character types include hero, main opponent, ally, fake-ally opponent and fake-opponent ally) that alternate between cagey (the ""character web"") and confusing (the nearly indistinguishable ""designing principle,"" ""theme line"" and ""moral argument""). Further frustration arises in Truby's examples, old movies retrofitted with his techniques (most notably The Godfather and Tootsie) rather than a script that has actually been put through Truby's paces (or, even better, a new script invented just to demonstrate the steps). Following Truby's complex system may yield a memorable screenplay, but writers without great patience may find it more trouble than it's worth.