Cover Image: 27 Essential Principles of Story

27 Essential Principles of Story

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

27 Essential Principles of Story is a masterclass in plotting and storytelling aimed at authors by Daniel Joshua Rubin. Due out 18th Aug 2020 from Workman Publishing, it's 384 pages (for the ebook) and will be available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an -extremely- well written and usable manual presenting clear and concise examples of plotting, tension, characterization, setting, dialogue, theme and other parts of narrative fiction which are essential tools for writers. The tutorial examples are arranged thematically: essential principles of plot, character, and setting dialogue & theme. Each of the tutorial chapters is presented with a real life example from literature, tv, or other media and broken down and examined point by point. Highlighted text boxes provide prompts and self quizzes to help the reader master the presented material.

Wonderful book on the nuts and bolts of story creation and writing. It would also be quite useful for reviewers and other readers who need to understand the bones of creative writing. Highly recommended.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Was this review helpful?
This book is broken into three overarching sections: plot, character, and everything else. Each principle is introduced by the author, Daniel Joshua Rubin. He gives a short overview of how each principle impacts storytelling. Next, Rubin offers a description of how to recognize it when it is being used by another storyteller. Followed by an example of how it was used by a particular writer successfully. Rubin then breaks it down into action steps for an aspiring writer to integrate into their work. One of the more unique aspects is when Rubin offers a hypothetical story with multiple possible answers (one or more of which illustrated the principle in action). This prompts a decision from the reader, forcing them to take part in active storytelling. When the answer is revealed on another page, Rubin offers rationale for his choice. 
One of the most interesting factors of this book is the constant references to writing as a practice. From the beginning, Rubin makes the connection between practice and work. 
While I’m not convinced that there are only 27 principles of story, I am certain that this is one of the most valuable texts that I have encountered for aspiring writers. Much of that has to do with the no-nonsense, practice your craft attitude that counters the long held and harmful assumptions about talent and inspiration. 
I recommend this for any aspiring novelist or screenwriter. This book will help you decode the stories that you love, while honing your craft.
Note: I received an electronic ARC through #NetGalley in exchange for my review. #27EssentialPrinciplesofStory
Was this review helpful?
I won't be blogging about this book because it bored me to tears and I only post positive books on my site. I couldn't finish it and I adore craft books. When I saw it was 350 pages, my eyes rolled back in my head. It reads like someone who couldn't get into the MFA of his choice and decided HE WAS GOING TO SHOW THEM. 

I've got nothing here. I'm sorry. I wanted to love it.
Was this review helpful?
As an aspiring writer, I am always looking for ways to procrastinate actual writing. And this often includes reading books about writing. 27 Essential Principles of Story was an entertaining and useful resource. Each chapter/element was clearly laid out, including examples from modern media. Chapters also included exercises for the reader to try their hand at each element.
Was this review helpful?
Outstanding. Practical. Clear. Logical. No showy use of terminology. No snobbery. Rubin has given us a book that values storytelling and spares us the cheap psychologizing that marks too many titles in this genre. He comes off as a guy who's genuinely trying to help us all tell stories that will engage, enlighten, and maybe even sell. There are very few "essential" books in this genre, but 27 Essential Principles has joined that list.
Was this review helpful?
I'm one of those people the author pokes at as "someone you know who has a fancy degree in writing."  Yet my focus has always been creative nonfiction, so I'm always looking for resources to help me understand and practice the how-to's of story-telling. I enjoy the author's variety of relatable references, from Hamlet to Harry Potter to South Park, from Beloved to Breaking Bad to Eminem. And I appreciate how his methodology emphasizes fundamentals. This is a book I will continue to work through. Then I'll keep it on my reference shelf and revisit it from time to time.
Was this review helpful?
The craft of writing as demonstrated by example

I enjoyed this book. Daniel Joshua Rubin uses examples from literature, movies, and television to illustrate in detail the 27 principles in the book. Rubin also gives enough of the background to the examples he cites that it is not necessary to have read/seen them in order to appreciate his commentary. I liked the Mini Final exam at the end of each principle with an explanation of the answer. I also appreciated the continuing education where Rubin refers to specific works and asks questions. Overall this is a great book on the craft of writing.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.
Was this review helpful?
The advice in this book is sound and worth reading for any writer, including both beginners and published authors. However, the author of this book uses a huge number of pages giving synopses of works of fiction, TV shows, and movies. While I appreciated the concepts presented, I found myself skipping many, many pages of examples that I did not find helpful.  I would rather have had a presentation of the concepts with very brief examples.
Was this review helpful?
Overall this book covers a lot of  the key topics on writing a novel. I have read a few other writing books and taken some masterclasses by authors as well. This book used a lot of examples to help the readers  get a better sense of how to use the principals effectively when writing a story.

I found this book to be great for new writers and a good refresher  and reference materiel for everyone else.
Was this review helpful?
27 Essential Principles of Story: Master the Secrets of Great Storytelling from Shakespeare to South Park, although packed with information, is a fascinating read. Author Daniel Joshua Rubin, who clearly knows his stuff, comes across in a way that reminds me of the engaging writing professor, the one whose classes always fill fast and invariably have long wait lists.
Because plot twists can be especially difficult to explain to uninitiated writers, I chose to check out chapter six, “Clash Expectation with Reality”.  As does each chapter, this one begins with a “Quick Take”, a brief down-to-earth anecdote that illustrates the principle at hand, along with a definition. Under the next sub head, “How It Works”, Rubin deconstructs plot twists in Roadrunner cartoons, Oedipus Rex and a Bible story. Then he analyzes the purpose twists serve and how they contribute to the meaning of the story. Next is a five-point list of elements necessary to create a plot twist. Under “How a Master Did It”, he leads readers through the twist in the “Dead Freight” episode of Breaking Bad revealing both how and why it works so well. This is followed by an eight-point “How You Do It” section that guides the reader through the execution of a plot twist in his or her own project. This chapter ends with a single- question, mini final exam followed by “Continuing Education”, intriguing questions focusing on the twist in the movie, The Sixth Sense, for the reader to think through. 
The fact that each chapter is organized in a similar, in-depth manner means that the book is not only a trove of information for newbies. Experienced writers can gain new insights on plot, character, setting, dialog and theme as well.  To make it even better, Rubin covers the essential principals of story without pushing formulaic writing and jargon. In addition to teaching how and why to use the 27 principles, he educates readers in the skill of how to read and think like writers.
Was this review helpful?
Daniel Joshua Rubin has written a solid and engrossing page turner of a read with 27 Essential Principles of Story! Well worth your time!
Was this review helpful?
Refreshing! Wow! From Shakespeare to Southpark-it works!
I thought the book was well written with clear cut examples and it was readable-not textbookey. I did take notes, highlight and underline. The Author does an excellent job crossing the modalities of plays, songs, South Park, video games-its all there. I think it is definitely a contemporary take on writing original, creative fiction. The Author does 'drill down' and dissects the narrative, in a well written artsy-creative guy type way.

Thank you NetGalley & Workman Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read & review this delightful book!

janne boswell
Was this review helpful?
I am a reviewer, not a writer. 

However, I use this a lot to structure my reviews, to better understand what I read and how to judge it. I loved the fact that it comes with examples so you can understand what the author is talking about.

I don't consider a book to read at once, but rather a manual to keep close and open as often as you need guidance.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for sending me a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

I wish I enjoyed this book more. 27 Essential Principles of Story held a lot of promise: “a bold new approach to teaching the art of great storytelling” where the author “unlocks the secrets of what makes a story work”. Unfortunately, for me this book was simply a mediocre reiteration of principles I’ve already learned and I found it rather boring: it reads like a textbook when it could have read like a story and further explored the point it was trying to make.

While I did find some tidbits of information that I will add to my own craft knowledge, this book did not revolutionize my writing process in the way that other writing craft books have. I often found the author’s tone to be willfully ignorant, as if he was the first one to discover that stories have definable points (despite the quantity of literature that’s already been written on this same subject and the author’s refusal to acknowledge this work).

Perhaps the author was trying to impart a sense of wonder at these discoveries for his reader, but for me it missed the mark. This subject isn’t new: one of the first that comes to mind is Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. While I can’t say The Hero’s Journey is one of my favorite writing craft resources, I do recommend Jeff Gerke’s Plot Versus Character and Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (an adaptation of Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book Save the Cat!). Both of these books discuss the same topics as 27 Essential Principles of Story, but I personally found them much more informative, accessible, and useful.

Perhaps the information in this book is new to some (and if so, you have a wonderful journey of discovery ahead of you), so this book might be best for fiction writers who haven’t read many creative writing books or for those who have hit a road block in their writing quality and are not sure where they might start to improve it.

In all, 27 Essential Principles of Story is not the most effective book on writing craft I’ve ever read, but it does have some useful examples for writers who are just starting out with writing craft research. This book will still be added to my writing advice shelf on Goodreads, and ultimately I hope it finds the readers it needs.

Thank you again to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for the privilege of reviewing an ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Well, a lot of me wants to suggest this how-to-write guide is a success.  Part of me wants to hold back a few years to see if it succeeds in making an author of me, but that's not fair when a brief review is in order.  It's well-written, and impactful in its very own talk of how to be impactful – asking us to think of hammer-drops to kick narratives into play, equating the exercises here with martial arts training (although the pointless cussing is just that, pointless and rather childish).  It is successfully wide-ranging, too – not all such guides cover "South Park", Rockstar video games, televised cooking contests and Netflix box-sets alongside their "Hamlet".  Format-wise, we see a similar structure to every chapter – the general introduction to the topic at hand, a more forensic discussion of it, an example from the world canon of narrative ideas, some basic portrayals of how things might be done, courtesy of our author, the whole thing in closer application, and some furtherance to all that courtesy a second well-known text and so on.

Something else it's not, in the end, is geared to the beginner – there's no mention of breaching writers' block, or telling us where to get ideas from, per se.  It tells the person who knows they want to write what to think of while they write, with the emphasis on long-form narrative, and assumes we can form a cogent description, and string a few sentences together already.  I think the book succeeds with the stated aim, too, of being clear as to what it's trying to tell us, and yet not prohibitive or proscriptive.  What I didn't realise was that the bits where we turn to the classics are in summary – I thought we'd see them reproduced as was.  But I don't think that's at all a game-changer.  This book might be one, however – but give it time to prove itself before deciding if it is or not.
Was this review helpful?
Before reading this amazingly informative book on writing stories, I thought successful authors are poked by some kind of divine power, get inspired and start typing. What I did not know was that behind every successful story there is a set of systematic rules and equations which lead to victory.
I loved the way the book is constructed. It is cleverly divided into chapters. In each chapter, a popular and powerful example is given in accordance with the title. These popular examples are taken from famous novels, films, series and even video games. After every story, there are mini final exams to test your new skills. Therefore by the end of the book, you will learn how to build a well-structured and engaging story, how to build dynamic, lovable characters with tips, tricks and golden rules that pave the way to success. 
As a bookworm, I dream of one day writing my own story and this book has given me great tips and basic ideas. A surprisingly interesting read recommended for those curious about writing.
Was this review helpful?
This is such a brilliant resource! Outside of reading, I'm also a writer and studied creative writing at the Master level. I can confidently say the content in this book rivals higher-education material and fast-tracks lessons graduate professors spend entire terms teaching. I especially appreciate how this book is thoughtfully organized for quick reference -- as I'm sure many storytellers will be returning to it again and again. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this title in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I was always fascinated by stories. Movies, shows, books, manga or comics.
It didn't matter. I loved interesting stories, stories that made me cry, that made me laugh, that made me be afraid. 
I always had my own ideas, own stories that wanted to be freed out of my head. 
And when I set myself a goal to put my own idea on paper there was this book. 
I got accepted for an arc and it felt like a push for myself. 

And what can I say? 
This book was amazing. It was filled with many great tips for storywriters, fascinating examples from movies, books, articles, songs etc. It was written in an easy way and still filled with a lot of information. 
All in all I'm absolutely in love with this book. 
It helped me improve my story a lot!
Was this review helpful?
I read the ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

A useful and clear guide on writing that goes through all the important aspects of a good story and explains how they work in a simple and easy-to-understand way. 

As the author states in the beginning of the book, the point of this guide is not to explain the terminology, but rather to show through examples how the important principles of crafting a story work. And so, for every principle the author creates an example of how the principle in question would work in an imaginary story, and then shows how that same principle is applied in the published work of a master storyteller. 

A very useful read that I will surely add to my collection as soon as it's published.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed the straight forward, well organized approach to story telling that this book offers. It will be a great asset to any aspiring writers library. Veteran writers will be able to use it as a brush up reminder for their skills. A notch above many other how-to writing books.
Was this review helpful?