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April 21, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Quotes from Story by Robert McKee

Here are some of the better quotes from Robert McKee’s book “Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.” Feel free to suggest additional quotes from McKee in the comments. Thanks for reading.

“Story is equipment for living.”
Kenneth Burke

“Story is not only our most prolific art form but rivals all activities–work, play, eating, exercise–for our waking hours. We tell and take stories as much as we sleep–and even then we dream. Why? Why is so much of our life spent inside stories? Because as Kenneth Burke tells us, stories are equipment for living.”
Robert McKee, Story

“A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling. When society repeatedly experiences glossy, hollowed-out, pseudo stories, it degenerates. We need true satires and tragedies, dramas and comedies that shine a clean light into the dingy corners of the human psyche and society.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Our appetite for story is a reflection of the profound human need to grasp the pattern of living, not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Story is a metaphor for life.”
Robert McKee, Story

“The storyteller’s selection and arrangement of events is his master metaphor for the interconnectedness of all the levels of reality–personal, political, environmental, spiritual.”
Robert McKee, Story

“You must shape your story in a way that both expresses your vision and satisfies the audience’s desires.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Who are the characters? What do they want? Why do they want it? How do they go about getting it? How stops them? What are the consequences?”
Robert McKee, Story

“The most powerful, eloquent moments on screen require no verbal description to create them, no dialogue to act them. They are image, pure and silent.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Classical story design charts the vast interconnectedness of life from the obvious to the impenetrable, from the intimate to the epic, from individual identity to the international infosphere. It lays bare the network of chain-linked causalities that when understood, give life meaning.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Never force words into a character’s mouth to tell the audience about the world, history, or person. Rather, show us honest, natural scenes in which human beings talk and behave in natural ways…yet at the same time indirectly pass along the necessary facts. In other words, dramatize exposition.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns. Story plays to this universal desire by doing the opposite, posing questions and opening situations. Each Turning Point hooks curiosity.”
Robert McKee, Story

“The principle of antagonism: A protagonist and his story can only be as intellectually fascinating and emotionally compelling as the forces of antagonism make them.”
Robert McKee, Story

Personal progression “Drive actions deeply into the intimate relationships and inner lives of characters.”
Robert McKee, Story

Symbolic ascension: “Build the symbolic charge of the story’s imagery from the particular to the universal, the specific to the archetypal.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Invite them to bring their best selves to the ritual, to watch, think, feel, and draw their own conclusions.”
Robert McKee, Story

(The need for passion & love of the art p. 21, Types of plots p. 80 to 86)



Leave a Comment
  1. Peter Hackbert / Apr 21 2011 2:41 pm

    I really enjoy your blog. Your content connects to me and motivates me to design the most compelling activities for my students. I am in the midst of preparing the two course syllabi and set of exercise and community based field experiences for the EPG Summer Institute – an 8 week intensive “deep dive” with 20 undergraduates into creating, inventing and innovating social entrepreneurial ventures in the Appalchian Region.

    One of the books selected for the summer is: “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.” This book builds on the writing of Chip and Dan Heath and their previous work – “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” Your quotes from Robert McKee align with the Heath points.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Apr 21 2011 3:49 pm

    Thanks Peter. “Switch” is quite good–especially for social entrepreneurs–or people who want to think constructively about changing their behavior.

    I haven’t had a chance to read “Made to Stick,” but will shortly.

    Some of your students may also find the “Switch” themes echoed in “Nudge”–particularly the first 5 chapters and the last 2 chapters.

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