This book is about improving one’s fiction writing by adhering to time-honored story structure, increasing dramatic tension and reader empathy with the hero. However, I found it poorly organized, repetitive and almost incoherent in parts.
After I finished the first 20 pages—the first two chapters—I realized the author had told me nothing of substance but was still selling me the book. It may not be braggin’ if ya dun it, but it’s still tiresome to listen to. However, the question in my mind at this point was if the author has dun it.
Author Larry Brooks does indeed come with credentials as an award-winning author of thrillers as well as a screenwriter. Additionally, he runs a website devoted to helping writers learn story structure and correct their works in progress.
One of the early precepts in the book is that an idea does not a story make. An idea is not a concept. A concept involves conflict and is one of the Six Core Competencies (See Chapter 22). In the early chapters, he repeatedly makes references to these Six Core Competencies (See Chapter 22) without elaborating any further on them. The idea (or concept?) of the Six Core Competencies was apparently developed in an earlier book, which perhaps he assumes the reader has read. Alternately, he may hope the reader will buy it to interpret the present book (See Chapter 22).
Brooks has a habit of throwing out terms such as “story beat,” “First Plot Point,” “First Pinch Point,” but only defines these at the end of the book and then by using a chart drawn up by another person. He uses an analysis (before the chart that defines these terms) of “The Hunger Games” to illustrate many of these terms—here is the First Plot Point, the Midpoint, the Second Plot Point, etc.—in only the most general terms: “everything changes.” If the reader is hazy on what to look for, the choice appears random.
Your hook could be unconnected to plot and entirely connected to characterization, like the revelation on page 1 that the narrator of the story is a ghost. That’s a hook.
When it’s not connected to plot, it’s not an inciting incident.
If the event, however, is huge, like someone murdering someone on page 1, or leaving them, or hiring them, or painting them with stars and stripes, then it is an inciting incident and a hook.
If that happens, say, on page 45, it’s not a hook at all, but an inciting incident. But it’s still not the First Plot Point… unless it is.” (p. 131)
It’s only the roughly in the last two chapters, some 80 pages of the 242-page book, that the author presents any material of clarity and worth. These contain the aforementioned chart, an analysis of Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” and an additional analysis of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.”
While I have spoken to people who have been helped by Brooks’ method, I would not recommend this book a writer, aspiring or established. It is just too disorganized, too garbled, and what there is to be gained from it too deeply buried to be worth the effort of reading it. There are many other books out there for anyone interested writing fiction.