Thursday, April 22, 2010

Robert McKee

McKee is a famous/infamous script doctor and screen writer who offers a very worthwhile and grueling 3-day workshop (12 hours of lecture per day) on story--on what makes a classic story and how to write one.

My friend Diane and I took it a couple of years ago in Vancouver, BC. We thought we'd do some sightseeing but instead we went to the sessions, got dinner, fell into bed. Our brains were worn-out but it was never boring and oh so helpful.

In a good story, the main character is transformed. He faces his fears and overcomes conflict to get what he really wants. He doesn't always get it but he transforms in the effort. McKee's lessons really had a big impact on my reworking of the first novel I wrote, Witnessing the Creation, and it's having an equally big effect on my second novel.

There are all kinds of suggestions in his book (which closely parallels the workshop) but the one that has meant the most to me both as writer and editor of fiction is the idea of the plus and minus, the character moving closer or further from his goal. I wrote about this in a much earlier blog, but I've been thinking about it again because I'm reading Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It's a nonfiction book about the stories we live and he uses a lot of McKee's ideas, giving McKee full credit. It's an interesting promise for life transformation and a nice review of McKee's ideas for us writers.

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