Readings For Writers: Pick of the Week 11/14/14

Every few weeks, a member of the Grub community recommends a book they find helpful or inspirational from a craft perspective. This week, instructor Mark Fogarty recommends his favorite screenwriting book. 

Story by Robert McKee is a book I read over and over again the way some people read the bible, as if with each new read, I will gain a deeper insight. It is a dense, confusing and all-encompassing discussion on storytelling. It is not like most screenwriting books which focus on reducing story to a simple formula, it deals in big and difficult questions about writing.

McKee is famous for running weekend long seminars in which he swears at the audience and angrily proselytizes storytelling as a way of life. (You may remember Brian Cox played him in the film Adaptation, where he viscously browbeat Charlie Kaufman for writing a story where nothing changes).

One passage that deeply resonated with me both in life and in writing is his discussion about the "gap between expectation and reality". The idea is that a person takes an action assuming they will achieve a certain result. In great storytelling there is always a gap between what the person expects to happen and what actually happens. The "gap" is what makes writing interesting. In other words, we always expect the world to act the way we want it to, and it never does, and we never learn. We just keep expecting it to bend to our will, and that is exactly what makes it interesting.

True in screenwriting and true in life.

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About the Author

Mark Fogarty was a story consultant and producer on the film, The Killers Next Door. You can check out the film here: Mark runs the filmmaking program at Bishop Hendricken High School. The program allows students to study film every day of their High School career and combines theory with production. Before becoming a teacher Mark worked as a video editor and cameraman for Numark, and Pet Fashion Week. He has made every kind of video imaginable, including short films, fashion videos, DJ tutorials and more.

See other articles by Mark Fogarty
by Mark Fogarty


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