Story Engineering, Story Physics, and Story Fix: Blogging About Books by Brooks (Say That Ten Times Fast)

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It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Larry Brooks’s books. I’ve mentioned them several times on my blog as well as in the comment sections of others. Aside from Stephen King’s book On Writing, Brooks’s books remain my favorite on the craft, and I’m relieved I discovered them early in my writing journey.

Though the author leans heavily toward plotting—which is why the books appeal to my left-brained thinking—pantsers will benefit as well, because regardless of our writing style, a good novel requires strong structure and execution. And that is what these books help us accomplish.

1. In Story Engineering, Brooks outlines six core competencies critical for strong story architecture: concept, character, theme, story structure (plot), scene construction, and writing voice. Within the competency of story structure, he presents what I find to be the most helpful tool in my writing arsenal: the four parts of story and the nine milestones that optimize story structure. This section of the book is my most dog-eared, highlighted, noted, and tagged.

My copy of Story Engineering. Book purists everywhere are weeping.

My copy of Story Engineering. Book purists everywhere are weeping.

2. In Story Physics, Brooks dresses up this underlying architecture with six storytelling forces: a compelling premise, dramatic tension, pacing, hero empathy, vicarious reading experience, and narrative strategy.

3. In Story Fix, his newest book, he helps us dissect our story for weaknesses, whether those weaknesses lie in concept and premise or in the execution itself (or both). This book is particularly helpful for those who’ve had a novel repeatedly rejected, because Story Fix allows a manuscript assessment in real time. Of course, it’s equally helpful to those in the throes of manuscript creation as well as those who are just getting started.

While you wouldn’t necessarily have to read Story Engineering and Story Physics before Story Fix, I’d recommend it. The first two give you a solid understanding of the craft, while the third allows you to assess what you’ve created.

As a thriller writer, Brooks’s books make strategic sense to me, but his techniques apply to all genres. After all, our goal is to keep readers turning the pages. The tools he offers will help us do that.

What’s your favorite writing book?

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Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of Eating Bull and The Seneca Scourge. For full bio, click here.

190 Responses to “Story Engineering, Story Physics, and Story Fix: Blogging About Books by Brooks (Say That Ten Times Fast)”

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks to his books, my outline is well planned out which makes the first draft so much easier to write. I know not everyone likes that approach, but it works well for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. thefolia

    I was happy to read the last paragraph of your post of how a reader was prompted to think about his eating habits. Thinking is a start right? May we all think and implement healthy, happy habits!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “Thinking is a start right?”–Absolutely. And in fact, my public health nurse in my book mentions that “Any action’s first step is thought.” 🙂

      Like

  2. philosophermouseofthehedge

    I love your book markers and bent pages. Nothing better than seeing a well loved/used book. That series sounds great…maybe have to find room on the book shelf for these. Thanks (So cool seeing your book is having impact, yes?)

    Like

  3. Luanne

    Interesting! I am a fan of Stuart Horowitz with his Book Architecture method. Have you checked out his books?

    Like

  4. aFrankAngle

    Coming from a nonauthor, something got me wondering … Wouldn’t writing style be a reason why some writers are successful and other not? For instance, they may have a great story idea, but their style just doesn’t fit … or their style doesn’t maximize the story for the reader. Meanwhile, thanks for the giveaway opportunity – 217 for me.

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  5. Diane Henders

    I hadn’t heard of Larry Brooks before – thanks for the heads-up. Those look like very useful books… but at the same time they make my little pantser brain shiver. (Which probably means I should really read the books.) 😉

    Like

  6. pegoleg

    Wow, you are such a hard worker with your writing, and I am such a lazy schlub by comparison. I really admire how you research and work to do the very best possible. I’m resolving to make more progress next year!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      You are definitely not lazy! Not with a full-time job, blogging, writing for your local newspaper, and whatever else you’ve got your fingers in. We just have different pies for our fingers. 🙂

      Like

  7. Ally Bean

    I’m not familiar with Larry Brooks, but he sounds like he’s got some sensible ideas. Unlike most of the gibberish I read about content creation, here is someone who can see both the forest and the trees. I bookmarked his website to read a bit more about him. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, he doesn’t mince words or get all muse-y, which I like. He treats writing as an objective process which I like. Others might feel differently.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. BunKaryudo

    The part about plotting might be useful for me. I’ve only ever tried writing fiction a few times, but I often got tangled up in the plot. I couldn’t follow what was going on half the time, so goodness knows how the reader was supposed to.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      These books are the best I’ve found in teaching how to avoid plot holes. I kind of winged it with my first novel–and ended up with a lot of plot holes as a result. I had to do major revision. With my second (and now my third), I worked out all the kinks before I invested much in the writing. It’s all a style preference. Plotting and planning just work better for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Curt Mekemson

    I really liked King’s book. Two of my other favorites are Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down to the Bone,” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird. ” –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  10. D. Wallace Peach

    So interesting, Carrie. I have to admit I dislike Brooks’ approach to writing. Not that it’s wrong or doesn’t work, but it feels too constrictive to me. My brain completely shuts down any sense of creativity. To be honest, I haven’t finished one of his books – I get mad or panicky! 🙂 Oh, and my number is 684.

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  11. diannegray

    I’ve never been one to read anything on how to write a story, Carrie. I know they are probably extremely helpful, but for some reason I shy away from them (maybe because I’m worried I’ll overthink the entire process instead of just getting down and dirty with a novel) 😉
    My number is 54 😀

    Like

  12. sknicholls

    Very informative. I like posts that give me guidance without overwhelming me with TMI. I’m a little concerned about vicarious reading experience with my current WIP. The one that will be published, hopefully, the first of next year. It goes back and forth between a male and female lead. I’ve found most male readers identify with Richard and most female Brandi (which I suppose is good cause she’s transsexual), but my concerns are that the reader has to flip-flop between them, thus breaking the rhythm of engrossment into character. Just have to wait and see how it’s received.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      I would imagine that would work fine as long as there are scene breaks between POV shifts. My latest has three POV characters. I think as long as our voice is distinct to each character, readers can relate and live vicariously through them all.

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      • sknicholls

        I’ve got a confession in this regard. It’s limited POV alternating chapters between Richard and Brandi throughout with one chapter in the villain’s POV. However, despite my editor’s pleading, I couldn’t make myself accept limited POV in the climax chapter d/t the fasct that Ricahrd and Brandi are working in tandem. I know the rules, and I’m choosing to break them in this instance. There’s no head-hopping within paragraphs. It’s clear which paragraphs belong to whomever is thinking, feeling, acting and speaking, but I tried a rewrite in Richard’s POV and rewrite in Brandi’s POV and others who have read it agree that it’s the only way to tell the story. Guess I’m going into this knowing I’ll be subject to criticism…what else can I do?

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        • Carrie Rubin

          If it works for the story and it’s not confusing, then I say go for it. I’m reading JK Rowling’s newest in her detective series. She head hops between the two main characters. I don’t particularly like that, but it’s never confusing and I LOVE the series, so since she does it well, it works fine.

          Liked by 1 person

          • sknicholls

            I don’t mind it if it’s pretty clear. It does confuse me when, in the same paragraph one is thinking and another is feeling. One of the things here, is that Brandi’s purse has become like a character unto itself, so it really has opportunity to shine, but it can’t do that without Brandi, yet Richard has to actively participate. (I promise it’s not a Land of the Giants lunchbox 😉 )

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  13. Kourtney Heintz

    Carrie, I’m still reading Story Engineering, but I’m glad to hear about the other books. They will definitely get added to my TBR craft pile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Story Fix is a cool idea, because it allows us to do our own manuscript assessment with a more critical eye. That’s always tricky to do, but that book helps us gain a more objective eye.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kourtney Heintz

        That sounds really useful. I think story structure is really important and I’ve been trying to incorporate more craft books on it. I’ll definitely check those two out when I get through the Story Engineering book.

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        • Carrie Rubin

          Regardless of genre, structure is important. I’ve read some books that start out so well, but then they seem to not go anywhere for a while. Oftentimes, it’s most likely because the story’s structure is weak. I think a good plot base allows for continued escalation of tension. And that’s what keeps us turning the pages. 🙂

          Like

  14. Kate Johnston

    I love Larry Brooks’ books. I like to use a varied library when it comes to writing guides, mainly because I have noticed that when an author writes to the same formula in all of his/her books, they become sorely predictable.

    So glad to hear that your book impacted a reader to get him to rethink his eating habits. Now that’s what I call a warm fuzzy!

    Number 385 – Human Circuit.

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  15. Brigitte

    Hi Carrie, so nice to get recommends of good books describing the craft of writing, though King’s is my favorite. I’ve not read Brooks’ books but now I’ll need to check them out! Thanks for your tips. Number, let’s see…983.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Hi Brigitte. If you’re looking for ways to beef up your novel’s structure, then Brooks’s books are spot-on. At least for me they are.

      Hope you’re doing well. Nice to see you. And I’ve got your number down. Thanks!

      Like

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