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March 30, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Robert McKee quotes from “Story”

“Drive actions deeply into the intimate relationship and inner lives of the characters.” (p. 295)
Robert McKee, Story

“Start with a personal or inner conflict that demands balancing, yet seems relatively solvable. Then, as the work progresses, hammer the story downward–emotionally, psychologically, physically, morally – to the dark secrets, the unspoken truths that hide behind the public mask.”
Robert McKee, Story

“Cliche or not, we much control rhythm and tempo. It needn’t be a symmetrical swelling of activity and shaving of scene lengths, but progressions must be shaped.” (p. 294).
Robert McKee, Story

“Symbolic ascension. Symbolic progression works in this way: start with actions, locations, and roles that represent only themselves. But as the story progresses, chose images that gather greater and greater meaning, until by the end the telling characters, settings, and events stand for universal ideas.” (p. 296).
Robert McKee, Story

“We often put off doing something for as long as possible, then as we finally make the decision and step into the action, we’re surprised by its relative ease. We’re left to wonder why we dreaded it until we realize that most of life’s actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.” (p. 304)
Robert McKee, Story

“The Crisis decision must be a deliberately static moment.”
Robert McKee, Story

“William Goldman argues that the key to all story endings is to give the audience what it wants, but not in the way it expects.” (p. 310)
Robert McKee, Story

“The depth of our joy is in direct proportion to what we’ve suffered.” (p. 310).
Robert McKee, Story

“This brilliant gap hurls the audience through the entire film.” (p. 311)
Robert McKee, Story

“Fine writers have always understood that opposite values are not the limit of human experience.” (p. 332)
Robert McKee, Story

“All other factors of talent, craft, and knowledge being equal, greatness is found in the writer’s treatment of the negative side.” (p. 332).
Robert McKee, Story

“Dramatize Exposition. Convert exposition to ammunition.” (p. 334-5)
Robert McKee, Story

“Pace the exposition. Like all else, exposition must have a progressive pattern…Secrets. The painful truths characters do not want known.” (p. 336)
Robert McKee, Story

“Rather we tell stories about people who have something to lose–family, careers, ideals, opportunities, reputations, realistic hopes and dreams. When such lives go out of balance, the characters are placed in jeopardy. They stand to lose what they have in their struggle to achieve a rebalancing of existence. Their battle, risking hard-won values against the forces of antagonism, generates conflict.” (p. 339)
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.” (p. 346).
Robert McKee, Story

“We all share the same crucial human experiences….Therefore, the more you penetrate the mysteries of your own humanity, the more you come to understand yourself, the more you are able to understand others.” (p. 387)
Robert McKee, Story

“When we survey the parade of characters that has marched out of the imaginations of storytellers from Homer to Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Hemingway, Williams, Wilder, Bergman, Goldman and all other masters–each character fascinating, unique, and sublimely human and so many, many of them–and realize that all were born of a single humanity…it’s astounding.” (p. 387)
Robert McKee, Story

“To write vividly, avoid generic nouns and verbs.” (p. 395)
Robert McKee, Story

“Homer invented beautiful motifs for his epics, as did Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides for their plays. Shakespeare submerged a unique Image system into each of his works, as did Melville, Poe, Tolstoy, Dickens, Orwell, Hemingway, Isben, Checkhov, Shaw, Beckett–all great novelists and playwrights have embraced this principle.” (p. 407)
Robert McKee, Story

“And I’ve no argument with that, for ultimately, the directory is responsible for every square inch of every shot in the film.” (p. 408)
Robert McKee, Story

“I argue that the screenwriter should begin with the film’s Image System and the director and designers finish it.” (p. 408)
Robert McKee, Story

“For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule, and failure….Then, like a hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.” (p. 419)
Robert McKee, Story

Other Concepts, Ideas, & Terms from McKee’s Story:
Composition–ordering & linking of scenes
Unity and variety
Subtext (analyst example…writing down the unsaid)
Emotional transitions
Medias res (in the midst of things)
Flashbacks as exposition
Dream sequence
Voice over narration
Curiosity, Mystery, Suspense, & Dramatic Irony
Surprise (cheap & true)
Red Herrings (mystery)
Dramatic Irony–Opening with the Ending
Action/Reactions within characters
Turning points
subliminal poetics
Corkscrew Climax
Climaxes: Positive/Negative/Mixed
Fish out of water
3 x 5 card methods of dialog (p. 412)

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