Robert McKee

A writer emailed me with the following comments:

Your ideas make so much more sense than certain other writing teachers. For example, McKee.  I don’t see any logic to many of his statements.  He says things such as ‘imagine the universe of story as a triangle of possibilities.’ and he draws squiggly lines that’s supposed to represent the story going back and forth from positive to negative territory. He is proud of his ideas but they just don’t make much sense and I certainly don’t find them to be practical. I doubt he has any sort of background in math or physics or logical thinking.

My reply:

I know what you mean.  Back in the early 1990’s, just after we developed the first version of Dramatica, we invited McKee to come by our offices and give us his feedback.  We were just starting out in the field and were kind of in awe of him, as he was the leading “guru” of the time.  So, it was with nervous but eager anticipation that we awaited his comments while we demoed the Dramatica software and explained the concepts behind our Dramatica theory of story.

When it was over, he bolted up from his chair, proclaimed that this was the exact kind of crap he had been fighting against for all those years, and stormed out of the room.  We were crushed.  Our hero had just pronounced that we were less than worthless – we were the enemies of all writers.

Well, he was just the first of a long line of folks who are so into the passion of writing that they see any attempt to approach it logically as an all out assault against the Muse – an effort to subvert her and replace inspiration with scientific analysis.  It took many years after that before we really had a lock on the idea that structure is logical, storytelling is passionate.  And that structure is a carrier wave that delivers the storytelling experience.

Structure can ONLY be understood by logic; the magic of story can ONLY be engaged by our emotions.  Both the binary and the analog must be present in order to fully satisfy the human mind, from its neural networks to its biochemical drives.