Friday, April 10, 2009

Where Is Your Creative Effort?

Recently, I bought acclaimed author and teacher Robert McKee's book STORY. If you don't know about it or don't own a copy, get it QUICK here: [link]. Every person who is serious about writing should own it. Though McKee is focused on screenwriting, the book holds truths for ALL forms of writing.

Something I read a few nights ago made me think about the Writers Boot Camp course I offer online.

McKee states, “Of the total creative effort represented in a finished work, 75 percent or more of a writer’s labor goes into designing a story. Who are these characters? What do they want? Why do they want it? How do they go about getting it? What stops them? What are the consequences? Finding the answers to these grand questions and shaping them into story is our overwhelming creative task.

“Designing story tests the maturity and insight of the writer, his knowledge of society, nature, and the human heart. Story demands both vivid imagination and powerful analytic thought.”

In my Writers Boot Camp, I instruct and coach writers on the questions mentioned by McKee because like McKee, I believe that for a story to live and breathe and connect with readers it has to be designed in a way that all storytelling engines run perfectly together.

Many new writers spin stories that lack full development of these vital questions. We read way too much description of a character's appearance. We read way too much backstory. We read way too much thoughts and feelings that are not integral to the story's purpose. We read flowery prose that is meant to heighten our reading experience but is too "fluffy" to hold any real literary weight. We read way too much telling and not nearly enough showing. We read way too much "real life" that is not examined to show us a "real" life.

To grow as a writer, to develop your storytelling abilities, you need to study and put forth most of your creative effort in examining the vital components of a story: character, desire, motivation, conflict, obstacles, resolution, etc. By taking the time to understand what these components are and how to develop them for your story, you will be surprised at how deep, how complex, and how real your book will feel to you...and to your reader.


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services and online programs at CLG Entertainment.

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  1. Excellent post. I've taken McKee's course and read his book. You make me want to go pick it up again. :)

  2. Thank you Sharon; as always your posts are very informative and helpful.

  3. Wonderful post, Shon. McKee has some great insights and is a good teacher/mentor for writers.

  4. Great post, Sharon. Very straightforward advice.

  5. Great advice. Sometimes it's best to stop and think if the novel has enough basic components to make readers want to read.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. This is a great post, Shon. I haven't read McKee's book, but I do love a good book for writers. Thanks for the recommendation, and the great advice in this post oday.

  7. Hey there, Jenny...everyone, thanks for the comments. I am LOVING McKee and he's making me reflect on some basic ideas regarding story while I'm working on this screenplay of mine.



The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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