SOCIAL SCIENCES

27 Essential Principles of Story: Master the Secrets of Great Storytelling, from Shakespeare to South Park

Workman. Jul. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781523507160. pap. $19.95. COMM
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Seasoned multimedia writer Rubin (NBC, the WB) injects the traditional writing manual with an overdue fix of dash and utility. While classics such as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing focus on short- and long-form literature, Rubin ranges through television, movies, video games, as well as novels and short stories. Above all, the author reminds writers that the tales one tells are personal. Storytelling is a revealing art. Throughout the detailed analyses of 27 master works (Hamlet and South Park, to Beloved and Breaking Bad), readers observe clear resonance between authors’ defining experiences, passions, personality, and subjects and themes explored. For example, despite being a nightmarish icon of surrealist/indie filmmaking, David Lynch’s Eraserhead doesn’t stray from emotional truths and traumas common to starting a family, having sex, childbirth, and death. Nor does Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home. Storytellers must cultivate inner meaning unfindable in a fragmenting world. Mirroring the coherence of a three-part structure, this manual covers essential principles of plot, character, dialog, setting, and theme.
VERDICT This new bible of lessons and practices for creators across media will likely appeal to readers curious about behind-the-scenes realities of those who bring to life today’s most popular and intelligent entertainment.

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