Subtitled, ‘Traditions in Narrative and the Age of Visual Culture’, this tome of nearly 400 pages of erudition is a considerable piece of work. The book is essentially about storytelling on the screen and is, in fact, part of a series under that title.
Academic, considered, analytical and full of wisdom, it is a book for those working in the film industry, for students of that medium, for critics and reviewers and, ultimately, for those who write screenplays. As a manual for study and an analytical tool for those involved in film, it is a wonderful book.
There are many illustrative case histories: unfortunately, I’ve seen vary few of the many popular films discussed, so this aspect was of less value to me. In any case, although I’ve dabbled in screenwriting and my fiction is visually based, I’m essentially a novelist. As such, I have different needs as a writer. That’s not to say that the book has nothing to offer me. The analysis of story elements and the explanation of story structure are valuable elements and I come away with a deeper understanding of the history and purpose behind story. Myth and legend form the basis of most of what we write today and the discussions of the various root tales are useful and inspiring.
My writing method is that of the pantster. I don’t plan or structure, except in the very loosest way possible. Generally, I start with a theme, develop a story beginning and ending, to which I add characters, and then allow these invented people to determine the route, the journey, of the novel. So, analysis and structural planning are of little help to me; in fact, they can be destructive of a process that relies hugely on instinct and the subconscious mingling of experience, knowledge and emotional elements. Sorry if that sounds pretentious, but it’s the nearest I can find to expressing what actually happens when I sit at the keyboard to create.
Planners and plotters, however, of which there are multitude in the writing world, will find this book invaluable. It guides and explains, suggests analogies, prompts with themes, and labels those elements of a story that such writers need to identify.
So, a book I’d definitely recommend to scholars, scriptwriters, film directors, those with an abiding interest in film, and to those writers who find their creative stimulation in plot.