Meet The Storyfixer

ABOUT THIS BLOG…

(Updated 12/18/11)

Thanks for dropping by.  Seriously, I do appreciate it.

The genesis of this blog comes from the thousands of folks who have attended my writing workshops. The consensus is this: “I’ve been attending writing workshops for many years, and I’ve read all the how-to books, and this is not only the best and clearest thing I’ve heard, it’s the first time someone has actually shown me how to write a novel (and/or a screenplay), structurally and thematically.” The developmental model referenced in that consensus feedback is what I call “The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling,” which is the topic of my book by nearly the same name.

That led me to write another book, “Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling,” which explains why those six core competencies work, and can be found in virtually every successful piece of fiction ever written.

Writing workshops and how-to books come in all flavors and intentions. But rarely is the process broken down into specific developmental criteria, from concept to character to sequence and theme, with a vision for how all the parts come together to become a whole in excess of their parts. This blog is based on that process.

Now allow me to switch to third person so I can sound objective with a minimum of hubris.

Brooks is a critically-acclaimed bestselling author of four psychological thrillers, in addition to his work as a freelance writer and writing instructor.

His message to writers who wish to publish is this: the bar is very high, and the market is very crowded.  The moment you declare an intention to publish, to write professionally, you are signing up for a tidy and largely inflexible list of criteria, formats and expectations, the nature of which applies directly to what you write.  If you want to make up your own form and function of storytelling, the road is even longer.

There is only one thing you have control over in this business, and it’s not your career (which is largely out of your hands, to be honest) — it’s your manuscript. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be better than perfect, at least better than perfectly fine. It needs to grab an agent or an editor who has seen it all before by the throat and squeeze. This blog is about how you can evolve your work to that level.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER: LARRY BROOKS…

larrybrooks

Other than a 17-year stint in the marketing and training business, Larry Brooks’ resume reads like a Cheesecake Factory menu. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon in 1952, he graduated with a degree in marketing communications from Portland State University in 1975, attended in the off-season during an unremarkable five-year career as a professional baseball player (he pitched in the Texas Rangers organization). This led to his first published writing: a magazine article on the life of a minor league pitcher. Still not keen on a writing career – the money sucked then, too – came a few more swings and misses: history’s worst stockbroker for the world’s largest brokerage firm, the world’s worst personnel manager in a department store (remember what Dirty Harry said about Personnel managers?), and a couple of other humbling fliers he chooses to forget. Each abandoned career resulted in another published magazine piece lampooning the experience, and his interest in writing began to emerge as his best – and perhaps last – viable career option.

He was also the voice behind the airport public address announcement we all hate (“No stopping or parking on the roadway in front of the terminal.  Violators will be cited and towed.” et al) for 14 years at PDX (Portland Internaional Airport).  As claims to fame go, this is as anonymous as it gets.

In 1983 he answered an ad for a “script writer” at a small audio-visual production company – eight art majors and a slide projector. Cut to 1996, when the company was one of the largest marketing and training firms in the western U.S., and Brooks was the executive creative director and a partner, with some 120 employees and a portfolio with more corporate videos, brochures and other useless stuff than Harlequin has romances. The business sold in 1999, at which point Brooks took the money and ran toward the career he’d been quietly cultivating on the side for the prior two decades – writing novels and screenplays. And now, as a novelist/blogger/freelancer/workshop speaker.

His first published novel, DARKNESS BOUND, was based on one of his original screenplays, featuring – here’s a surprise – a stockbroker who hates stockbrokering. It debuted in October 2000, spending three weeks on the USA Today bestseller list. His second novel, PRESSURE POINTS – an ad exec who hates the ad business – appeared to good reviews in December 2001, with comparable sales. His third novel, SERPENT’S DANCE, was a February 2003 release from Signet, also well reviewed despite selling like parkas in Pakistan, and his fourth, July 2004’s BAIT AND SWITCH , earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who named it their lead Editor’s Choice for that month, and at year-end to two of their notable lists: Best Overlooked Books of 2004 (the only paperback so named; perhaps, says Larry, a dubious honor) and Best Books of 2004 (lead entry, mass market).

Since then he has written two novels : SCHMITT HAPPENS (the sequel to 2004’s BAIT AND SWITCH, which remains unpublished at this writing) and WHISPER OF THE SEVENTH THUNDER, an apocalyptic thriller from Sons of Liberty Publishing (March 2010).

In late 2002, Brooks’ script for the adaptation of DARKNESS BOUND was named a finalist in the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the folks who bring you the Oscars. It was one of ten scripts selected out of 6044 submissions, which he hopes you find impressive, especially since he didn’t end up winning one of the five Fellowships. Too dark, they said.

He did get to spend an afternoon kicking around the craft of storytelling with Frank Darabont during his week in L.A. for that contest, which, if you’ve ever seen “The Shawshank Redemption” you’ll agree is a big deal.

Brooks has been developing and teaching writing workshops since the mid-1980s. He has been named a Mentor by the Oregon Writer’s Colony, and continues to teach at workshops around the country (“Call me,” he whispers here).  His new book, “Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” was released in early 2011 from Writers Digest Books, based on the popular developmental model upon which he bases his workshops… and this blog.

Brooks is very happily married to his wife of 17 years, Laura, an artist and interior designer (who assures everyone who has read Larry’s first novel that she is not The Dark Lady).  He also has a wonderful son, Nelson, who is 21 and a senior at USC; three supportive step-children, Tracy, Scott and Kelly (two of whom have read all his books); and seven step-grandchildren who have no clue what “Poppy” does for a living.

Larry and Laura live in Scottsdale AZ, where he is busy writing is a** off on a new writing book (“The Search for Story”), two novels, a screenplay, a pile of freelance assignments (“call me” he whispers again), and of course, this blog.

Again, thanks for stopping by.

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott September 30, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for writing STORY ENGINEERING. Your book put some great tools in my toolbox and cleared up some key mysteries of the craft.

Cheryl October 2, 2013 at 6:48 am

Hi Larry–

I emailed youa my digital receipt from my purchase of Deadly Faux on Amazon (just started it and I must say I’m hooked). However, I haven’t heard back from you about the bonus offer. Did you receive my email and when might I except the “present” in my inbox. Thanks.

Elizabeth Tai October 26, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I have bought tonnes of “how to” writing books but Story Engineering was one of the few that finally cut through the fog I suffered when it came to writing my stories. I was a pantser, but unlike what you think about organic writers, I wasn’t happy to be one.

I knew it wasn’t efficient and if I were to be a professional writer, writing a novel in 2 years wasn’t going to cut it. So I worked hard to write fast. Thing is, I could easily write 3000-6000 words a day, but my problem is WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT?? My first attempt at outlining was a disaster because I didn’t have all of the six components. I so get it now.

Well, your book solved that for me. Now, I watch movies and immediately deconstruct it! lol … Now I understand why I sometimes instinctively knew a story I wrote sucked, and why at other times it just worked. My brain, apparently, is sometimes able to put all the six components together in order, but when it’s tired, uninspired, not intrigued (whatever) it doesn’t.

Your method allowed me to write a story even when my brain wants to be uncooperative. And as a journalist, we know that we write eventhough we don’t feel like it. So, thanks, Larry. You’re a great teacher.

charlie October 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Love the site and your books.

A quick question or to pick your brain:
Are story endings that reveal it was all a dream (to include a dying dream) anathema to getting published? Even if it fits the story?

Jane Gardner February 28, 2014 at 10:07 am

I’ve learned a lot by reading your blog and one of your books. I would appreciate your explaining, in concrete terms for those of us too dim to understand abstract thinking, the concepts and premises of Robert Parker’s mysteries. Also those of Janet Evanovitch (sp.?) and Agatha Christie.

Linda Brewer March 3, 2014 at 7:27 am

I am appreciative of the guidelines Brooks provides in terms of structure and character arc. ( I do wish he’d realized that “physics” is not a plural noun.) Overall, his books are a good resource to use in reworking tired stories.

Larry March 3, 2014 at 8:41 am

@Linda – thanks for the comment, though. I’ll push back on the “physics” comment, though… in the context of the word (as a discipline, as a set of principles) “physics” is ALWAYS spelled that way; in fact, there really is no word spelled or used like this: “physic.” Because, in that context, it IS a plural noun.

In school you take a “physics” course, not a “physic” course.

In my books, I refer to a SET of principles, which IS plural. And when I refer to only one, I always refer to it as “one of the realms of story physics.” Plural. Always.

Not sure where you’re getting this one, but there are hundreds of thousands of writers and English teachers, not to mention physics teachers (not to mention common sense) who will tell you that you’re off base on this one.

John April 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Hi Larry,

I’m new to your books but loving them. Wondering how your model needs to tweaked,or not, with short stories?

Debrah Emerson June 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Larry, I produce an Internet Radio show called “THE WAR REPORT ON PUBLIC EDUCATION” on the BBS Radio Network hosted by Dr. James Avington Miller, Jr., PhD. He has asked me to contact you as he is seriously considering turning his shows into a book and wanted to talk to you about that and possibly hire you to help him. He has followed your blog for 3-4 years now and he does have experience writing screen plays. Are you available to talk? My number in California is 530-877-1694 and my email is above. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon!

Debrah Emerson

Doug Copsey June 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I head up the Idaho Writers Guild in Boise. We put on a 3 day writers conference each spring and a one-day fall writing workshop for our 200+ members. Your 6 core competencies would make a wonderful addition to either of these. Do you travel to present at such events, and if so, what are your fees?
Thanks,
Doug
Idaho Writers Guild

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