My reference shelf is overflowing with a wide assortment of books about writing. Some I’ve read once and barely given a second look. A few, like Robert McKee’s Story, I reach for again and again.
Story was written primarily for screenwriters, but every fiction writer can benefit from studying McKee’s advice. In particular, his definition of events and scenes help me plot.
He says: “A story event creates meaningful change in the situation of a character that is expressed and experienced in terms of a value and is achieved through conflict.” And a scene “is an action through conflict …that turns the value-charged condition of a character’s life on at least one value with a degree of perceptible significance.”
When I reread those words and examine my work, I often see flaws in my story progression clearer.
McKee also talks about the point in every scene where a gap should open between a character’s expectation and the events as they unfold. If I examine my work and don’t find a gap, I know I still have work to do on that scene.
His section on Controlling Ideas helps me focus the story rather than wander into unrelated territory.
Whether you are outlining a plot, working on a first draft, or revising a second or third, Story is a valuable reference. I highly reccommend every writer own a copy and keep it within arm’s reach on their desk.