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Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters [Paperback]

Our Price $ 18.66  
Retail Value $ 21.95  
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Item Number 293231  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   244
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.5" Height: 9"
Weight:   1.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2006
Publisher   Quill Driver Books
ISBN  188495653X  
EAN  9781884956539  

Availability  69 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 27, 2016 01:00.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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Item Description...
The leap from concept to final draft is great, and the task is filled with hard work and horrors. It is here that most writers struggle to get the plot right at the expense of the story's real power. The result is a script that is logical in every way, yet
unmoving.  Emotional Structure, by Emmy- and Peabody-Award winning producer, writer, and teacher, Peter Dunne, is for these times, when the plot fits nicely into place like pieces in a puzzle, yet an elemental, terribly important something remains missing.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A Train Wreck, Emotional or Otherwise  Aug 22, 2008
In the past few years, I've read quite a few books on the art of screenwriting, some very effective, some very not. Peter Dunne's Emotional Structure is the first I've ever been inclined to write a review of, as it's one I fear could cause some serious damage in the wrong hands.

Dunne approaches his subject with an incredible amount of arrogance. That is, in short, his experience is the universal experience. What he believes is what all screenplays should be about. What works for him is the only way to write a screenplay.

His take on the three-act structure is especially absurd. In his approach, every film must be a buddy picture in which the end result is the restoration of faith. Every film must have a happy ending. "If the point of your script is not some human's recovery," Dunne writes, "then go write poems." Because God forbid you should try to branch out to other topics.

I'm a strong believer in the three-act structure. Adapting your concepts to the skeletal structure of the screenplay, and making it work in a beautiful, organic way, is a major factor in what makes the art of the screenplay so fascinating. But Dunne's version of the same is so tedious and mechanical--you must start use notecards, you must have a co-protagonist, you must make grand statements--that any result from this book will be purely mechanical, not emotional.

And Dunne proves it himself. I've read a lot of these books, but only Dunne has the balls and the arrogance to use his own screenplay, in full, as his primary example. But his screenplay is flat-out terrible--unintentionally hilarious at times. I won't go into great detail on everything that's wrong with Indirection (a title that has little to nothing to do with the screenplay itself), but suffice to say, the beginning and endings are ludicrous, the characters act by rote and not by organic emotion, and the dialogue, which is very bad, could hardly be more on the nose.

Dunne is supposed to be promoting the emotional structure, but he has no sense of how characters would actually behave from an emotional standpoint. He champions a ridiculously specific structure, and then deviates from it by making his Act Three pure resolution. He assumes his limitations are everyone's limitations, and I feel bad for the talented writer who believes him.

So why do I give this book two stars, if it's so horrible?

Well, damn. It's funny. Emotional Structure is an unintentional laugh riot. After using Witness as one of his main examples throughout the book, is it not hilarious that Dunne ends his screenplay with an action-packed finale in Amish country? (I'm surprised "action-packed Amish country showdown" isn't part of his ridiculously specific three-act structure.)

And how about this classic line from the screenplay, in which a runaway 15-year-old girl views the Vietnam memorial?: "How does it do that? How does a thing . . . this marble thing, make me feel . . . so . . . strongly . . . so . . . much?"

"I think that's the secret of Democracy," says some random guy.

This exchange has nothing at all to do with the screenplay. That just makes it funnier.

And once the pretentiousness of Dunne is exposed, it's easy to laugh at the gaffes, like Superman flying around in Gotham City. If you want a book to help you remember what not to do, and crack you up at the same time, this is the one for you.

But if you actually want to learn about screenwriting, look elsewhere. Try Karl Iglesias's Writing for Emotional Impact. It's not perfect, but Iglesias never forgets that all writers are different.
A Philosophical Yet Practical Book About Storytelling  May 18, 2008
I am not an aspiring screenwriter. But I am interested in storytelling so I bought a few books on screenwriting. My opinions here certainly represent those of a beginner.

Peter Dunne considers the emotional "outcome" of a story the driving force of the entire story. According to the Dunne, the success of a story depends on whether the storyteller has a clear vision about the emotional ending. The story is a spiritual journey in which the protagonist and co-protagonists "grow" by discovering more about themselves. All the "plots" are just the external realization of an internal journey. The plots have more degrees of freedom than the story per se as a result.

While the central thesis of the book is quite philosophical, Dunne is successful in explaining his points with the plots of many well-known movies. I don't watch too many movies so I have some difficulty in following him. Fortunately, he presented an almost complete screenplay of his own story titled "Indirection." Dunne shows his readers of how the story is developed, from a three-sentence outline to a three-page treatment, and eventually to a full story with all the three parts. This hand-holding exercise is very valuable to me as a beginner. Now I know how everything comes together from start to finish. I also enjoy his story "Indirection" a lot, and it was this story that I could not put down the book.
Pure Gold Amid The Rubble  Apr 5, 2008
You have to dig for it, but there's gold in these pages. In between, there's a lot of cute stuff about the author -- pure unedited egoic writing. Who cares how grateful he is to the inventor of Index Cards?? A serious writer really wants to know How he uses them, Why, What benefits he finds in the process. That info is in the book but it's necessary to scan past the author's love affair with himself.

On the other hand, he does write for film and not for general readers -- maybe no one told him to be more attentive to the reader and less attentive to himself?

If you are a seriously creative writer of fiction or film, buy the book and X-out the paragraphs that are empty of the content you seek.

You will find a lovely concept of emotional flow for you story telling -- great stuff that no one else has addressed in the many "how to write" books that I have read.

He makes good distinctions between Plot [what happens] and Story [the emotional impact on the characters as well as the film viewer or fiction reader].

And he details the emotional path your character must travel.

Dunn is only focused on film scripts but I bought the book as an aid to working on novels.

Get the book and go mining for the good stuff -- take a deep breath and pass over the gunk.
good supplemental resource  Feb 24, 2008
Well written resource for those beginning to write screen plays. Examples are concrete and easy to understand. A good supplement to a basic book on screen writing. I don't think it is a stand alone.
buy it. It's good.  Oct 5, 2007
I should have posted this months ago. I bought this book, full price at the bookstore because I'd never seen anything like it. I still haven't. This guy is concise, thorough and easy to understand, using small words when small words are appropriate--instead of ten dollar words to show off his knowledge. I love it, have worn it out, and will buy anything else he does. Everyone else has talked about how good this book is. What I'll say is this--thank you for NOT using the sterotypical "archtype" babble, or mythic journey, or GMC, or any of the other overused cliches. This guy spent time thinking. It shows in his writing. Way to go, Dunne.

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