Good news for writers. One of my favorite deep thinkers about the storytelling craft, Brian Macdonald, has a new book out.
It's slender, and cheap ($12.95), but packed with tips and insights and some of the most thought-provoking assertions I've come across in this field.
Story construction is a craft, not an inherent gift, and I'm a believer in educating oneself about it.
MacDonald's own Invisible Ink is a good place to start. I'm also a fan of sassy Blake Snyder's recipe book, Leonard Bishop's disorganized-but-full-of-riches tome, Strunk and White's classic, and Robert McKee's perhaps overanalytical blockbuster (a friend comped me a ticket to one of his seminars, which was much more fun -- thanks again, Ken).
But The Golden Theme is something different. It has a couple of striking theses, with an enormous amount of evidence marshalled to support them. They are:
a) Stories are a way to impart information about how to survive. All of them.
b) One must never lose sight of the theme that we are all basically alike in our needs and desires.
MacDonald is persuasive. They're both appealing to a guy who does so many wilderness survival stories and who has an aversion to "villains" -- since they so often are simply unbelievable. I'm unsure if counterexamples exist, though. Still mulling it.
I'll post reactions to the personal anecdotes MacDonald shares (oy, that fainting story!) and some other aspects of the book later; but bottom line, The Golden Theme is useful for those who take story-crafting seriously.