counter create hit Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate

Availability: Ready to download

Acclaimed by successful screenwriters and authors, Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling. Brian McDonald, an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, supplies writers with tools to make their work more effective and provides readers and audiences a deeper understanding of the sto Acclaimed by successful screenwriters and authors, Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling. Brian McDonald, an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, supplies writers with tools to make their work more effective and provides readers and audiences a deeper understanding of the storyteller's art. When people think of a screenplay, they usually think about dialogue-the "visible ink" that is readily accessible to the listener, reader, or viewer. But a successful screenplay needs Invisible Ink as well, the craft below the surface of words. Invisible Ink lays out the essential elements of screenplay structure, using vivid examples from famous moments in popular movies as well as from one of his own popular scripts. You will learn techniques for building a compelling story around a theme, making your writing engage audiences, creating appealing characters, and much more. Praise for Invisible Ink: ..".If I manage to reach the summit of my next story it will be in no small part due to having read Invisible Ink." -Andrew Stanton (cowriter Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and cowriter/director Finding Nemo and WALL-E) ..".Brian McDonald uses his deep understanding of story and character to pass on essential truths about dramatic writing. Ignore him at your peril." -Jim Taylor (Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Sideways and Election) ..". I recommend this fine handbook on craft to any writer, apprentice or professional, working in any genre or form." -Dr. Charles Johnson (National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage) "If you want to write scripts, listen to Brian. The guy knows what he's talking about." -Paul Feig (creator of NBC's Freaks and Geeks, co-executive producer The Office) "With Invisible Ink Brian McDonald has written us a book to keep and heed forever because through the simple, graceful, graspable, original wisdom of it, we might just save our screenwriting lives." -Stewart Stern (Screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause)


Compare
Ads Banner

Acclaimed by successful screenwriters and authors, Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling. Brian McDonald, an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, supplies writers with tools to make their work more effective and provides readers and audiences a deeper understanding of the sto Acclaimed by successful screenwriters and authors, Invisible Ink is a helpful, accessible guide to the essential elements of the best storytelling. Brian McDonald, an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, supplies writers with tools to make their work more effective and provides readers and audiences a deeper understanding of the storyteller's art. When people think of a screenplay, they usually think about dialogue-the "visible ink" that is readily accessible to the listener, reader, or viewer. But a successful screenplay needs Invisible Ink as well, the craft below the surface of words. Invisible Ink lays out the essential elements of screenplay structure, using vivid examples from famous moments in popular movies as well as from one of his own popular scripts. You will learn techniques for building a compelling story around a theme, making your writing engage audiences, creating appealing characters, and much more. Praise for Invisible Ink: ..".If I manage to reach the summit of my next story it will be in no small part due to having read Invisible Ink." -Andrew Stanton (cowriter Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and cowriter/director Finding Nemo and WALL-E) ..".Brian McDonald uses his deep understanding of story and character to pass on essential truths about dramatic writing. Ignore him at your peril." -Jim Taylor (Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Sideways and Election) ..". I recommend this fine handbook on craft to any writer, apprentice or professional, working in any genre or form." -Dr. Charles Johnson (National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage) "If you want to write scripts, listen to Brian. The guy knows what he's talking about." -Paul Feig (creator of NBC's Freaks and Geeks, co-executive producer The Office) "With Invisible Ink Brian McDonald has written us a book to keep and heed forever because through the simple, graceful, graspable, original wisdom of it, we might just save our screenwriting lives." -Stewart Stern (Screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause)

30 review for Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    From the audiobook: "Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words. Most people will never see or notice it, but they will feel it. If you learn to use it, your work will feel polished, professional, and it will have a profound impact on your audience... This invisible ink keeps the audience's brain active. [Armature is the underlying structure] [Superior position is when the audience knows something the characters do not know] Always tell the truth [of the experience]. [truth in fict From the audiobook: "Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words. Most people will never see or notice it, but they will feel it. If you learn to use it, your work will feel polished, professional, and it will have a profound impact on your audience... This invisible ink keeps the audience's brain active. [Armature is the underlying structure] [Superior position is when the audience knows something the characters do not know] Always tell the truth [of the experience]. [truth in fiction; not about the facts per se; audience learns through experience] Writers with the least experience and skill think that the more complicated something is, the better... If you want to come off like a mature writer, be precise. Some of the best dialogue is quiet and subtle and reveals things about plot, theme or character with the precision of a surgeon. Sometimes that means it's not quotable, but quotable dialogue is not the primary job of a storyteller."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ross Blocher

    I recently read Brian McDonald's "Golden Theme". It was helpful, but dealt with storytelling at the broadest level. "Invisible Ink" is a great corollary to that book, and dives into more specific and readily-applicable tools for creating compelling stories. McDonald's insights are simple yet profound, and their seeming obviousness is only clear in retrospect. This is a quick and easy read, and one I'd certainly return to any time I'm working on a story. It will also color the way I view films, b I recently read Brian McDonald's "Golden Theme". It was helpful, but dealt with storytelling at the broadest level. "Invisible Ink" is a great corollary to that book, and dives into more specific and readily-applicable tools for creating compelling stories. McDonald's insights are simple yet profound, and their seeming obviousness is only clear in retrospect. This is a quick and easy read, and one I'd certainly return to any time I'm working on a story. It will also color the way I view films, books and other media. The book contains numerous examples from popular films and television, and McDonald manages to point out a number of plot foibles and triumphs that I immediately agree with but am embarrassed to say I'd never noticed before. Some of the main insights include the importance of armature (an underlying structural theme that tells an important lesson about humanity and is supported by each element of the story), the elements of story that your audience expects to see, the importance of telling the truth, the use of clones to show the consequences for your character, and why you are the slave of your story and not its master. All of these points underscore the central lesson of using invisible ink: elements that are unseen by the majority of your audience, but help tell the story in a deeper way than dialog and visuals alone can convey.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Angel McCoy

    I feel compelled to tell you about this book. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine (Matthew Haley) who is a film director, and it’s wonderful. Maybe it hit me at just the right point in my “writerly” development, or maybe it’s just an amazing book. It’s short and simple. It gets right to the point. It talks about the theme of your story, and how important it is to have one. It then goes into how to support your theme, with very clear explanation and good examples. It has quite a few awful t I feel compelled to tell you about this book. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine (Matthew Haley) who is a film director, and it’s wonderful. Maybe it hit me at just the right point in my “writerly” development, or maybe it’s just an amazing book. It’s short and simple. It gets right to the point. It talks about the theme of your story, and how important it is to have one. It then goes into how to support your theme, with very clear explanation and good examples. It has quite a few awful typos in one particular section, and I dunno what that’s about. It’s almost as if some of the text was cut and pasted into the wrong area. You’ll see what I mean. I suspect the layout person had a cat who walked on the keyboard while the person was in the loo. Despite this somewhat shocking messiness in the one section, I am finding this book very helpful. I have known for awhile that I need to focus more on the forest and less on the trees in my writing, and this book addresses that. I’ve just finished a new story, and I already feel like my skills have improved noticeably. Just because I used the techniques he writes about in his book. I love this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Grishma Udani

    This is one of those rare screen writing books that not only make a lot of sense but hold your attention. I found this book almost un-put-down-able! And, yes, its a must read for a writer of any kind, not just film.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I got this book after hearing huge, extreme, impressive worshipful endorsements from the folks at ChrisOatley.com and the Paper Wings podcast-- and also I had read his other book Golden Theme and greatly, greatly enjoyed it. Here's the summary of why this book is significant, which I'm restating as a mixture of what I remember reading and what I remember hearing from those endorsements: the backbone of fiction is theme. Understanding this, you can use it to make the work of writing meaningful fi I got this book after hearing huge, extreme, impressive worshipful endorsements from the folks at ChrisOatley.com and the Paper Wings podcast-- and also I had read his other book Golden Theme and greatly, greatly enjoyed it. Here's the summary of why this book is significant, which I'm restating as a mixture of what I remember reading and what I remember hearing from those endorsements: the backbone of fiction is theme. Understanding this, you can use it to make the work of writing meaningful fiction easier. And also, perhaps even more significant, you start to see how fiction in our pop culture: movies, tv series, comics and even games use this principle, sometimes clumsily, sometimes quite obviously (obvious, at least, once you've read Invisible Ink) in order to inject a deep message worthy of communicating through the system of Story. This is, at least, what I've gotten out of it. Since reading this, it seems like every time I watch fictional TV series, I'm seeing the Invisible Ink: the actual message that they're trying to tell you, the moral of the story, through the guise of fiction. Example: I'm re-watching Battlestar Galactica, and by God if I never noticed it the first time, but that show is seriously bashing you over the head with the message "you have to take responsibility for your mistakes", sometimes devoting whole episodes and huge numbers of characters to the task of only this: illustrating how important it is to take responsibility for your mistakes. Honestly, it seems like a more badly-written show now that I see this; like I can see the writers in the board room making this artificial decision and then agreeing to make all the story arcs revolve around it. As for my own work, I think it's turned out valuable to have encountered this, and I'm not sorry I had it recommended to me (the only part I dislike is his chapter about gender, in which he makes cheap analogies in every paragraph with really outmoded models of both genders; that chapter really detracts from the whole book and it subtracted a star from my rating of it) however, as with all advice-books about writing (and I try, these days, not to read too many of those) I take it with a grain of salt. I feel like, after having read a great many writing-advice-books, I've gotten something out of most of them but it doesn't seem like a good idea to follow any of them whole-portion, this one included. As with my Battlestar Galactica example above, I think if one relies on the principle of Theme to totally carry a story, to be reliable beyond fault and to make an otherwise pointless story meaningful, you're going to wind up with something missing, something that looks hackneyed when looked on by one that knows this trick. To me, the most interesting thing about this book was it seems that all of Hollywood is following it (or at least to some degree, I am instantly able to recognize this technique in many shows) but just because all of Hollywood is following something doesn't make it fullproof, it doesn't even make it a guarantee of quality. It's just another recipe. It's good, I think, for a writer to consider what the drive and message of their story is, and I think this book can help one work on that. And this book may also serve as a good training tool for creating material that really leaves the reader with something valuable to walk away with, I think-- but don't expect this to be the magic cure-all that solves all your story problems, makes you sophisticated and gives you something to say. That said, I'd recommend this work-- perhaps as much to those who love film, as to those seeking to write. It will make the cracks in the cement visible, which I think isn't necessarily a bad thing. My dawning realization that Battlestar Galactica isn't as quality as I once thought, will I think in the end make me better at making stories that do have the level of quality I'd like to serve. Writing awesomely is such a big topic, and so many people have so many thoughts on it and so many people want so badly to write and are frustrated, this is one of the gems amongst that material. I just don't care for the gender-obsessed chapter, I'd suggest skipping that one :)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    This is probably the most informative book on screenwriting to date bar none. I bought it twice after I loaned out the first one. I have read the following books on screenwriting: Save The Cat, Save The Cat Strikes Back and Save The Cat Goes To The Movies: Snyder Creating Unforgettable Characters: Linda Seger Inside Story: Dara Marks The Anatomy of Story: John Truby The Foundation of Screenwriting: Syd Field Story: Robert McKey Writing for Emotional Impact: Karl Iglesias The list goes on. These are onl This is probably the most informative book on screenwriting to date bar none. I bought it twice after I loaned out the first one. I have read the following books on screenwriting: Save The Cat, Save The Cat Strikes Back and Save The Cat Goes To The Movies: Snyder Creating Unforgettable Characters: Linda Seger Inside Story: Dara Marks The Anatomy of Story: John Truby The Foundation of Screenwriting: Syd Field Story: Robert McKey Writing for Emotional Impact: Karl Iglesias The list goes on. These are only a fraction of the books I have on the subject. I have produced the film Blue Hill Avenue starring Allen Payne, William Forsythe and Clarence Williams III. I am currently a student at UCLA taking a screenwriting course with Victoria Wisdom (former agent for Christopher McQuarrie writer of The Usual Suspects) Brian gives a very in-dept view of the building blocks of story that most aspiring screenwriters have missed. He gives you an excellent tool set. As a writer he doesn't waste words, which was impressive in itself. He leads by example. Before you put pen to paper read this book and you'll have more than a shot. He should teach an online class. If you're out there hit me up at pytadmiration at yahoo dot com. I'll attend. If you're consulting we should talk. Keep up the good work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joaquin

    This is not being a step-by-step how-to guide to screenwriting, but it offers fundamental insight into the purpose itself of writing stories. It's a way to analyze the main spine of everything that should form your story, and make sure one doesn't go off track. Incredible easy to read, short and sweet, yet the message lingers for a long while. I'd say this plus Save The Cat would be an ideal way to start for anyone getting into screenwriting; one offers delineated structure, the other the commitm This is not being a step-by-step how-to guide to screenwriting, but it offers fundamental insight into the purpose itself of writing stories. It's a way to analyze the main spine of everything that should form your story, and make sure one doesn't go off track. Incredible easy to read, short and sweet, yet the message lingers for a long while. I'd say this plus Save The Cat would be an ideal way to start for anyone getting into screenwriting; one offers delineated structure, the other the commitment and passion.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ilse

    This was SO good and such a great reading/learning experience! Would recommend anyone wanting to go into visual storytelling and doing big projects. It's a must have for people that do! When I start writing my own animations I will definitely keep going back to this to absorb all this goodness again and again, 5 stars well deserved!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara Alan

    One of my new favorite craft books! Highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    This is one of the most useful, concise books I've read about storytelling. It's very no-frills and written with the assumption that the reader already is a committed writer who doesn't need to be sold on the spiritual or emotional significance of writing: which I appreciate, since one thing that turns me off about many books on writing is that they try to instill their audience with inspiration. I have inspiration. When I don't have inspiration, it's beyond the power of a writer's memoir to inc This is one of the most useful, concise books I've read about storytelling. It's very no-frills and written with the assumption that the reader already is a committed writer who doesn't need to be sold on the spiritual or emotional significance of writing: which I appreciate, since one thing that turns me off about many books on writing is that they try to instill their audience with inspiration. I have inspiration. When I don't have inspiration, it's beyond the power of a writer's memoir to inculcate. I take the fire of real and honest motivation from all the usual places: an idea, a new favorite book or show, an obsession, a good day. I don't need that from a book on writing at this stage. I need helpful perspective. McDonald's book is good for that. Even though it contains some very straightforward, very beginner-level advice, it also has some concise observations that resonate: and some clarifying truth that's important to keep in mind. I imagine if you find this kind of thing prescriptive and trammeling: great, you'll know that immediately. But if you're interested in flexible skeletal structure, this is a good one. The masculine/feminine analogy is obnoxious, though. Not only does it come with the author's unnecessary and defensive and sort of blandly 1990s views on gender, but I'm not sure it makes any sense as a comparison in the first place. It's true that many writers tend too hard towards shallow bare-bones plot obsessions and many get bogged down in concept and prose and atmosphere, but I don't think this is a gender split; like 80% of the time it's a maturity split. Kid/teen writers and other total beginners characteristically only think about external plot. Then if/when they develop a knack or ear for prose and think critically and deeply about characterization, they lean hard on this--especially since it often gains them praise as a young writer and marks them apart from category 1. Then they often get sort of stuck in a rut there. I think reading this as a gender thing requires a parrotfish model, or maybe an inverted erastes/eromenos situation. I dunno. In any case, I think if there is a strong gendering slant in patterns in young writers here, it has a lot more to do with complicated sexism and masculinity-related issues in education. As long as literacy carries both a homophobic stigma and the subtextual worry that it's not a lucrative pursuit for a future provider, boys are going to be underrepresented in it--at a certain age more girls read and write, period. Anyway, the book is still very useful. I like some of the obvious identifications--like the stuff about dialogue--and then the harsh but totally real advice about writing for other writers (ie, don't) and how to think of feedback.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    In my ongoing quest to learn more about story structure and character design as I work on my own fiction writing, I chose this book as the next instructional reference, because it comes so highly recommended by many others. In particular, many who skewer another oft-recommended book, Save the Cat!, as being too simplistic, hold this up as being a much better reference. Having read this entire book in one day, I find it hard to defend that assertion. I think that the author of the book, Brian McDo In my ongoing quest to learn more about story structure and character design as I work on my own fiction writing, I chose this book as the next instructional reference, because it comes so highly recommended by many others. In particular, many who skewer another oft-recommended book, Save the Cat!, as being too simplistic, hold this up as being a much better reference. Having read this entire book in one day, I find it hard to defend that assertion. I think that the author of the book, Brian McDonald, does a good job of explaining what he means by "invisible ink" -- it's all the parts of the book you don't see. The backstory the author wrote, but doesn't come out explicitly; the theme (which McDonald calls the "armature"), which is usually not openly stated; and the like. These elements are important, and McDonald certainly doesn't say anything that is untrue. However, most of these things are common knowledge and I have been aware of them since high school. Some of the major points that McDonald claims are "invisible" to most people but key to developing a good story are: Three act structure -- mentioned briefly but not really explained at all An over-arching theme, such as "You are who you choose to be." Show don't tell Use supporting characters to show "might have been" The main character should change as a result of the climax Balance externalized action with internal/emotional content This is all good basic advice, but it's the same advice you will get from any writing book or any writing class. There is nothing really new here. Furthermore, telling us that we should do these things doesn't provide a whole lot of help. Most of these ideas can be dispensed with in a few short pages (and, indeed, they are, by McDonald). The question I always have is, "OK, knowing about these things, how do I implement them in my own writing?" For example, how does one come up with a theme? What sorts of themes resonate? How do you know when you have a good one? McDonald's book is completely mute on this point. For those who claim that this book is better than Snyder's Save the Cat!, I would point out that Snyder does a much better job with theme than McDonald does with "armature" (which is the same thing under a different name -- another annoying habit of McDonald's is coming up with new names for old concepts). For example, Snyder points out that many writers don't sit down and say, "I want to write a story about the theme 'you are who you choose to be,'" but rather, as they are writing the story, the theme can often evolve out of it. Snyder tells us that either way is fine -- setting the theme first and then writing the story, or writing the story and letting the them arise almost as an "emergent property." McDonald, in Invisible Ink, says nothing about either process. Where does the theme come from in a story? He doesn't provide any clue at all. The same is true for most of the rest of McDonald's advice: it is extremely vague and general. It's easy to wave your hand and say "Balance the external and internal action." But how does one do this? Surely there are techniques -- tried-and-true methods that help one take an internal struggle and externally dramatize it. Certainly, MacDonald provides lots of examples from his favorite movies like Jaws and E.T. But telling me that Jaws is an example of an internal struggle that has been externalized does not explain the process by which one would go about doing the same in one's own story. In the end, this book was extremely superficial and had very little meat on its bones. Out of all the books on writing I have read (and it's been a good half-dozen by now), this one has the smallest quantity of helpful advice. For all the razzing Snyder takes, I credit him with at least providing the aspiring writer a bunch of techniques (bulletin boards divided into acts with a certain number of index cards per act... suggestions on how many pages to have per section of the script... etc) to accomplish the advice he is giving you. With Invisible Ink, if you don't know how to come up with a 3-act structure, McDonald's book won't help you. And if you don't know how to come up with a theme, it won't help you do that either. All it'll tell you is that "you need one!" Overall, I found this book to be extremely general and simplistic. I read this book in a day, not because it was so good I couldn't put it down, but because it was such pablum that I was able to blow through it. A good book on writing should see me making highlights and notes all over it. I highlighted TWO sentences in this book and made not one note. If you know anything at all about things such as theme and character development, this book is probably too basic for you. If you've never heard of theme or don't know anything about dramatization, then perhaps this book is worth a look. A final word... I read the eBook version of this on my Nook. It was horrible. Other than periods and commas, nearly all forms of punctuation are absent, including apostrophes and colons. In many cases these characters weren't even replaced by spaces... they are simply deleted. This has the effect of running words together. This is not the author's fault, but someone screwed up turning this into an eBook. I'd suggest getting the paperback or hardcover of this book instead. Definitely do not buy it for the Nook.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Julia Milius

    Things for me to remember: It is an equal balance of physical and emotional stimulus to the pace of the story that creates a wholistic story. Your job is to tell the truth, everything else is cliche. Your armature is key, it's what holds the entire story in place.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ksenia Anske

    This little book showed me the secret to great writing so profound I cried. Many years ago a friend gave me this book as a gift. I shelved it. Later, when moving, I sold it to a secondhand bookstore without reading it. And now I have stumbled on it again, on a suggestion of a reader. The time was right. I knew I must read it. I did. And I wept. I am blind no longer. Every writer, READ THIS BOOK. It will make your writing better in ways you can't imagine.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jason T. Rogers

    One of the best books on how to write. I review this book every year to gleam more from it. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to become a writer of stories. Everyone should read this book first before trying to write so they can avoid the common flaws of beginners. You should also listen to a podcast called "writing excuses".

  15. 4 out of 5

    Larissa

    I suppose this book might be useful if you know absolutely nothing about storytelling, but if you do then it comes across as very superficial. Also, a big yikes re: the whole masculine/feminine thing. No thanks.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Brian McDonald is a genius. His insights into what makes storytelling work are invaluable. I will have this close to me on my bookshelf at all times.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chad Welch

    This is quite possibly the best book on story structure that I have ever read. Clear, consise, and chock full of information for anyone interested in telling stories no matter what the medium.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Some good tips for structure. I like his notion that the best stories balance external (action) and internal (emotion).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shawna

    If you want to write any kind of story from picture books, novels, or screen plays, you NEED to read this book. I learned so much about how to write a good story. AWESOMENESS!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    Read it all in one (and a half) sitting. Riveting, and a great resource.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kristen C

    This book is pretty fantastic, and very accessible. I read it online for free, but will absolutely be purchasing it. It is well worth the money.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    A must read for anyone with an interest in storytelling. It really opened my eyes to it as an art and everything that I didn't notice before.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Davy

    Helpful and entertaining for both readers and writers.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Very helpful resource when thinking about telling stories - whether fiction or non-fiction.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mitali

    Useful for reviewers and writers alike Why do some stories transfix audiences across time and cultures? This book illuminates the craft and structure of a good story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jami

    2.5* This is a tough one to review. On the one hand, I've read a decent number of books on writing, especially lately, and I still found myself jumping to my notes app to copy down particularly poignant quotes as I listened to the audiobook. On the other hand, this is hardly a "practical guide." Its blatant lack of organization makes it feel more like a stream of consciousness from the author about writing, which is troubling when he spends so much time on the importance of structure. Plus, there 2.5* This is a tough one to review. On the one hand, I've read a decent number of books on writing, especially lately, and I still found myself jumping to my notes app to copy down particularly poignant quotes as I listened to the audiobook. On the other hand, this is hardly a "practical guide." Its blatant lack of organization makes it feel more like a stream of consciousness from the author about writing, which is troubling when he spends so much time on the importance of structure. Plus, there's so little concrete advice that a novice (who I assume is the intended audience, since most of what the book covers is pretty basic and widespread) would have trouble converting what's discussed into practice in any meaningful way. There are few, if any, explicit writing exercises, and very little in the way of explaining HOW to carry out the advice presented. McDonald includes several general reminders that, while not unique, might end up on post-it notes to be placed within my line of sight while writing: "Writing is about making discoveries [about your story] rather than decisions" or "Worry about the craft, and the art will take care of itself" or "Once your readers are thinking about you, you've lost them." I appreciate his emphasis on truth in storytelling, as well as his short treatise on the nonexistence of genre, and overall I didn't disagree with much of the book's substance. That being said, McDonald presents some of his ideas in ways I found pretty strange. He seems to be a stickler for semantics—though I can hardly knock him for that, being the same way myself. And I don't mind his choice to refer to subplots as "supporting plots" if it helps him remember to keep them tethered to the main story. But several of the linguistic choices he makes feel out of place and just generally unnecessary. For example, he spends two chapters explaining the merits of employing what he likes to call "clones." These are characters who are similar to the protagonist, but who handle identical situations differently or create contrast in some other way, ultimately providing more insight into the story's main character. A brilliant idea, to be sure—but why not just refer to them as "foils" like the rest of us have been doing since high school? The re-branding has absolutely no purpose, and could honestly confuse a beginner who might want to use this book as a starting point into writing as a discipline. Worse, McDonald spends a significant chunk of time talking about balancing "the masculine and feminine" of storytelling, when all he means is that a good story requires focus on both internal emotions ("the feminine") and external action ("the masculine"). For some reason he insists on using the gendered terminology, despite his need to add constant disclaimers about how these concepts are completely unrelated to someone's actual gender, and that really it's just about the internal and external. So...why bother using the gendered language at all? Like, for a non-threatening book about storytelling, this guy sure loves biological essentialism. At one point he discusses violent rites of passage/initiations into adulthood, theorizing that the presence of the phenomenon in societies throughout the world and throughout history suggests the existence of some innate biological trait in humans, but that women have less need for "ritual pain" because periods and the loss of virginity and childbirth are painful enough already. He also says that "male brains and female brains are as different from one another as a ton of bricks is from a ton of feathers: equal, but not the same." What is this book supposed to be about, again? There are a few gems that I think make it worth a read, but—especially if you're less familiar with the craft of writing—don't expect to walk away with much you can actually use.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    This week I've been bingeing the "You Are a Storyteller" podcast with Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan put out by the Belief Agency, and capped it off by listening to the audiobook of this book of Brian's. Everything in the book is pretty much covered in the podcast, including the examples peppered throughout the book that Brian uses to demonstrate his point, so it was a quick, easy-to-understand read for me. There is nothing really new in this book that I didn't already know, but I do feel like h This week I've been bingeing the "You Are a Storyteller" podcast with Brian McDonald and Jesse Bryan put out by the Belief Agency, and capped it off by listening to the audiobook of this book of Brian's. Everything in the book is pretty much covered in the podcast, including the examples peppered throughout the book that Brian uses to demonstrate his point, so it was a quick, easy-to-understand read for me. There is nothing really new in this book that I didn't already know, but I do feel like having read the book and listened to the podcast, I know it - perhaps feel it - in a way I didn't before, if that makes sense. Brian's perspective of the age-old 3 act structure, with his particular emphasis on what he calls the 'armature' of a story (its theme - the 'truth' you are trying to convey in your story through a protagonist who goes through a personal hell to demonstrate that truth) - that everything in your story needs to be centred around this armature - is going to be transformative for me when I begin writing again. It makes so much sense to me and even though nothing in the book isn't anything I didn't already know, that particular point has been hammered home to me by Brian in the book and on the podcast, and having him shine a light on actual examples in popular movies was really helpful. The reason I've dropped a star is that even though I feel like I've got everything I need now to go about planning my next story, the book itself doesn't feel so much like a practical guide as such; I wouldn't say there are any clear instructions or 'exercises' or templates or anything like that in the book to help you lay out your story. That might have been a helpful addition (disclaimer: it was the audiobook I listened to, I haven't seen the layout of the book so for all I know I've missed something). That said though, in a way, for me personally, once you've listened to Brian talk about this stuff, you don't feel like you really need much more practical advice - the rest kinda has to come from you! But still, if I was someone new to storytelling and story structure, that would have been the icing on the cake. I will also add that Brian does not think 'genre' is the important thing, that stories (and story structure) transcend genre. He's not wrong (far from it) but it does mean that there is a ton missing in this book that is also important to get to grips with for a story, particularly in genre fiction. Worldbuilding is important to SFF readers, for example - we want a whole lot more in our stories than just the proving of an armature - and a story that perfectly follows Brian's advice but falls down on worldbuilding would be a big disappointment even if it is emotionally "true" and hits the spot in that sense. However, Brian's background and focus is about scriptwriting, not novel-writing, so perhaps what's missing in terms of worldbuilding can be forgiven. I'm really excited about putting together what I've learnt from Brian and what I've learnt elsewhere for my next story. The power and responsibility of storytelling isn't covered in the book (unless I've forgotten something), but I would highly recommend that anyone who has only read the book seek out the podcast episodes about those topics, it makes Brian's points all the more powerful and important.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Halordain

    The book introduced me to a lot of helpful concepts. The differences between masculine and feminine story elements, the biological dichotomy of both viewerships, invisible ink, and *armature* -- all fantastic concepts that helped me break down story structure in new ways. I appreciated the repeated message of treating dramatic story as objective, rather than subjective. Brian McDonald also includes valuable tips for interpreting critique, both from others and self. These are all mindsets that I The book introduced me to a lot of helpful concepts. The differences between masculine and feminine story elements, the biological dichotomy of both viewerships, invisible ink, and *armature* -- all fantastic concepts that helped me break down story structure in new ways. I appreciated the repeated message of treating dramatic story as objective, rather than subjective. Brian McDonald also includes valuable tips for interpreting critique, both from others and self. These are all mindsets that I can apply to my writing. My central issue with the book is its lack of organization. I would have appreciated a more cohesive structure, so I could bundle together the litany of examples into some meaningful, memorable package, chapter by chapter. Instead, tips and advance are scattered and read like a stream-of-conscious series of blog posts, rather than a well-structured textbook. The chapters don't have some unifying theme to them, and subsections don't belong to some greater structure. The book doesn't have a glossary or index, making it difficult to jump to relevant sections or relocate previously read advice. One movie example flows into the next, without some bird's eye view unifying them together under some common message. I found myself wondering why a certain movie example was relevant to the discussion at-hand, and often forgot what I was reading prior to the example, because the titles flowed into each other without clear framing. It felt like I was reading a string of movie critiques rather than illustrative examples for a concept or technique.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon

    A quick read about storytelling techniques, particularly around the authors field of screenwriting, that I enjoyed. McDonald talks about the invisible strings (directed by the puppet-master writer) that connect words together, the subtle work done below the surface that has a profound effect on the overall story. He has a lot of good anecdotes and examples, that he keeps relating to, up his sleeves. Instead of just telling you these techniques, he shows them to you. I found the information about A quick read about storytelling techniques, particularly around the authors field of screenwriting, that I enjoyed. McDonald talks about the invisible strings (directed by the puppet-master writer) that connect words together, the subtle work done below the surface that has a profound effect on the overall story. He has a lot of good anecdotes and examples, that he keeps relating to, up his sleeves. Instead of just telling you these techniques, he shows them to you. I found the information about armatures (making sure you’re getting your point across), Aesop’s Fables (short memorable stories), and character development (clones and ritual pain) particularly useful. Things, however, got a bit weird when McDonald started talking about ‘masculine vs feminine’ elements. He could have just stopped and left it at that (I understood the elements he was talking about) or, even, just used different language. But, instead, he got defensive about his gender conformity and, anticipating backlash, did a bit of research to try to justify his opinion of traditional gender roles. It was bit out of place but, overall, this is an interesting book with some good insights into storytelling. 3.5/5 stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark Siegel

    It was originally Gene Luen Yang who urged me to read Brian McDonald's INVISIBLE INK, and it may be the writing book I've given the most to friends and fellow storytellers. It's not "Writing 101"—in a sense, it assumes you've got the basic mechanics down, and are ready to deepen. This is not one of the dogmatic writing-method books; it's a very helpful, luminous insight into the art of a good story in any medium. McDonald consults for several major movies studios, and is an author and screenwrite It was originally Gene Luen Yang who urged me to read Brian McDonald's INVISIBLE INK, and it may be the writing book I've given the most to friends and fellow storytellers. It's not "Writing 101"—in a sense, it assumes you've got the basic mechanics down, and are ready to deepen. This is not one of the dogmatic writing-method books; it's a very helpful, luminous insight into the art of a good story in any medium. McDonald consults for several major movies studios, and is an author and screenwriter himself, but this book will nourish storytellers in any format. His other book on writing, The Golden Theme: How to Make Your Writing Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator furthers his exploration of why some stories have a universal resonance. Also highly recommended.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.