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The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction

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THE IDEA is a manual for conquering the most important part of the writing process -- the first part. Most writers (and most screenwriting books) rush too quickly through choosing a story idea, to get to the process of outlining and writing it. And it's the biggest reason most projects don't move forward in the marketplace: producers and editors are underwhelmed by the cen THE IDEA is a manual for conquering the most important part of the writing process -- the first part. Most writers (and most screenwriting books) rush too quickly through choosing a story idea, to get to the process of outlining and writing it. And it's the biggest reason most projects don't move forward in the marketplace: producers and editors are underwhelmed by the central concept. Multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter and producer Erik Bork (HBO's Band of Brothers) explains the seven key ingredients in stories that have a chance of selling and reaching a wide audience - in any genre or medium.


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THE IDEA is a manual for conquering the most important part of the writing process -- the first part. Most writers (and most screenwriting books) rush too quickly through choosing a story idea, to get to the process of outlining and writing it. And it's the biggest reason most projects don't move forward in the marketplace: producers and editors are underwhelmed by the cen THE IDEA is a manual for conquering the most important part of the writing process -- the first part. Most writers (and most screenwriting books) rush too quickly through choosing a story idea, to get to the process of outlining and writing it. And it's the biggest reason most projects don't move forward in the marketplace: producers and editors are underwhelmed by the central concept. Multiple Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter and producer Erik Bork (HBO's Band of Brothers) explains the seven key ingredients in stories that have a chance of selling and reaching a wide audience - in any genre or medium.

30 review for The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Dell'Antonia

    This is a fantastic and easy to absorb description of how the sausage--that is, the story--gets made, from the very beginning (get your who, your why now and your why is this so hard straight from Day One) through character building and things like believability and originality. It's geared towards screenwriters but is every bit as useful in creating a scaffolding on which to build a novel. A new favorite for me. This is a fantastic and easy to absorb description of how the sausage--that is, the story--gets made, from the very beginning (get your who, your why now and your why is this so hard straight from Day One) through character building and things like believability and originality. It's geared towards screenwriters but is every bit as useful in creating a scaffolding on which to build a novel. A new favorite for me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dee Chilton

    I've read many writing and screenwriting books and have always got something from each one of them. This one goes on my 'top books I wish I'd been able to read when I started' list. Clearly written and easy to understand, it will save you 'wasting' time on a 'bad' idea that won't work before you even write it, and aid identification of how to make ideas work better... with the caveat that no writing is ever wasted as a writer develops their 'voice' and craft skills and should always write what f I've read many writing and screenwriting books and have always got something from each one of them. This one goes on my 'top books I wish I'd been able to read when I started' list. Clearly written and easy to understand, it will save you 'wasting' time on a 'bad' idea that won't work before you even write it, and aid identification of how to make ideas work better... with the caveat that no writing is ever wasted as a writer develops their 'voice' and craft skills and should always write what fires their passion regardless. Highly recommended reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Touts the use of the P.R.O.B.L.E.M. method of setting up a screenplay. Can be useful in novel writing as well. A well thought out and written book. I'll keep it close by when outlining my next story. Many useful insights. Touts the use of the P.R.O.B.L.E.M. method of setting up a screenplay. Can be useful in novel writing as well. A well thought out and written book. I'll keep it close by when outlining my next story. Many useful insights.

  4. 5 out of 5

    CC

    It's supposed to offer wisdom on how to get a big idea for your script, but mostly it just tells you what a good idea possesses -- though even there, the examples listed are more about the execution (Bridesmaids, Jaws) than the idea. I agree that scripts suffer if they start too late or when there isn’t enough conflict, or if they have a premise whose end-goal isn’t large or meaningful enough – but implying that creation can be reduced to a simple check-list is deceitful; people don’t write in t It's supposed to offer wisdom on how to get a big idea for your script, but mostly it just tells you what a good idea possesses -- though even there, the examples listed are more about the execution (Bridesmaids, Jaws) than the idea. I agree that scripts suffer if they start too late or when there isn’t enough conflict, or if they have a premise whose end-goal isn’t large or meaningful enough – but implying that creation can be reduced to a simple check-list is deceitful; people don’t write in this manner. For a book hinging on ideas, there’s no real process explored of how to get yourself to generate more of them. There’s also an odd sort of defeatism in the book – the author makes note of saying multiple times that people only get a few great ideas (ever, in their lifetime?) so don’t expect too much from yourself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    D. Thrush

    I’ve read quite a few books on writing and this one comes at things from a different perspective – your actual story idea and is it viable? Most plotlines will be if you write them in the right way. This book breaks down the elements of what makes a manuscript or screenplay or TV pitch work and stand out. I’ve published 8 books, but this makes me more aware of the elements that resonate with readers. I found valuable information and inspiration in this book. It will help you tweak your plot so i I’ve read quite a few books on writing and this one comes at things from a different perspective – your actual story idea and is it viable? Most plotlines will be if you write them in the right way. This book breaks down the elements of what makes a manuscript or screenplay or TV pitch work and stand out. I’ve published 8 books, but this makes me more aware of the elements that resonate with readers. I found valuable information and inspiration in this book. It will help you tweak your plot so it works.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katarína

    What an excellent short craft book! Exactly what I needed to hear!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brock Books

    About the right size for beating people about the head and shoulders—I mean for citing to your critique group. If you want a prioritized checklist and an explanation of the Idea process, here it is. Recorded with the patented Phil Spector Wall of Text System, it left me wanting more paragraph breaks. Which are practically free in the digital world. How Is the World Different from Ours? P. 121 My BS detector went off twice. Once when saying you need to tell the differences between our world and a About the right size for beating people about the head and shoulders—I mean for citing to your critique group. If you want a prioritized checklist and an explanation of the Idea process, here it is. Recorded with the patented Phil Spector Wall of Text System, it left me wanting more paragraph breaks. Which are practically free in the digital world. How Is the World Different from Ours? P. 121 My BS detector went off twice. Once when saying you need to tell the differences between our world and a fantasy world upfront. This might be true in TV SF where only one thing is different, but this seems unwieldy in the fantasy fiction genre. You end up with prologue-itis and deny the reader the process of discovery. Imagine if Silverberg told you everything upfront in Downward to Earth. It would spoil the book.Downward to the Earth Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass YouTube Sanderson's Magic Laws, if you think I'm a clone now. I believe in some books you can illustrate the ordinary world during the inciting incident, if your story is simple enough, and you have the skill. Otherwise, an easy read, perhaps unintentionally illustrating why dino-TV is swirling the drain. Who wants to watch cop, doctor, lawyer, episodic network television under the age of fifty? Not I, said the fly.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Steven Sweeting

    My main problem with this is that it touts itself as something it is not. It suggests it goes beyond the technicality of story-writing (fundamentals like scenes, plot structure etc.), and teaches a different angle on how to conjure up premises worthy of writing. It does not. All it does is retread the exact same theory on story-structure with a different point of view, as seen by a script-writer more than a writer of prose. Aside from a few pages on conjuring loglines (elevator pitches) for agents My main problem with this is that it touts itself as something it is not. It suggests it goes beyond the technicality of story-writing (fundamentals like scenes, plot structure etc.), and teaches a different angle on how to conjure up premises worthy of writing. It does not. All it does is retread the exact same theory on story-structure with a different point of view, as seen by a script-writer more than a writer of prose. Aside from a few pages on conjuring loglines (elevator pitches) for agents and publishers, there is nothing new here. Everything geared towards "creating a working idea" is based upon the same, already known fundamentals of story structure. It's not that the information is bad. But it has definitely been told better elsewhere (The Story Grid by Shawne Coyne). And it certainly offers no real insight or practicality as to how you would actively search for desirable premises.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This book hit me hard, right in my chest, because so much good advice appears here. I took plenty of notes from it. The advice is extremely well organized and clearly explained. The book is so concise that it can be read and digested easily. Before you start writing and before you study screenwriting technique, start with a great idea and this book called “The Idea.” You have my word that this book will save you time and frustration.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pjs_books Sather

    I’ve read a lot of writing books by now. And while most of them have something to offer, The Idea joins the much shorter list of writing books that are worth digesting fully. Short, clear, and helpful. This book lays out the elements that make a story appealing to audiences.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hots Hartley

    The craft aspects of the book were applicable. Three particularly memorable, applicable parts stood out to me as clear-cut positives 1.) The approach the author takes in the introduction, describing why and where it's difficult breaking through, the importance of the logline, and the general challenge in the industry of getting noticed. He answers questions on a lot of writers' minds, and he sets out to solve the PROBLEM -- an acronym for key elements to a successful story -- in the chapters that The craft aspects of the book were applicable. Three particularly memorable, applicable parts stood out to me as clear-cut positives 1.) The approach the author takes in the introduction, describing why and where it's difficult breaking through, the importance of the logline, and the general challenge in the industry of getting noticed. He answers questions on a lot of writers' minds, and he sets out to solve the PROBLEM -- an acronym for key elements to a successful story -- in the chapters that follow. 2.) The section titled "Sticking to the Audience's Ribs" is gold, listing specifically and explicitly ways in which an audience might emotionally react to a story or theme. These are all takeaways that make it very clear what it is we're trying to achieve, and provides a great basis for evaluating ideas. 3.) The process of ideation is actionable. The basic principles listed out from page 208 -- "Note things that you like and are interested in, in the world and in other stories. Keep track of these" etc. -- aren't particularly novel or scientific, but they're presented in a way that leads believably to results: more ideas, habits and discipline in generating them, and ways to filter through the bad ones early. I appreciate the cut-and-dry approach. The one thing that hinders the message is a viewpoint permeating the text that "Writers almost never break in with a green-lit movie. Rather, breaking in means impressing a manager, an agent, or a producer with a script that likely won't even sell, let alone get made, but that puts them on the radar of the industry, gets them fans, and starts to give them some momentum toward future sales or employment." The realism comes from a good place, a position of setting expectations, but in the end, not all writers are seeking mere "momentum" or "future sales or employment." Point being: Some writers just have an idea (for a book, a movie, or a project), and their sole purpose is to get that idea out there in a consumable form, business-plan and long-term "career" be damned. I don't think the author does enough justice to the creation of singular, standalone pieces of art, whether that be an independent film, a breakthrough novel, or the successful completion of a personal project that may not even fit an existing medium. The idea of submitting ideas just to get employment isn't that appealing; writing a single, timeless piece of work can be the end goal, and that level of singularity isn't addressed with enough respect in this book. Having said that, I still found the book enjoyable and enlightening to read, and I'd recommend it to writers under the caveat that, like a TV series, it focuses a bit too heavily on building a career, or developing one's idea filter, rather than advancing an idea.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Kriebel

    Pragmatic and Direct With a sort of “been there, done that” attitude that is is not dogmatic, but empathetic and sympathetic for the aspiring writer, the book cuts to the heart of what is needed to make something that “may” work. Obviously the checklists provided in the book are not foolproof; that’s why you should read the book: it walks you through some of the pitfalls surrounding the checklist items. (Note: my initial interest in the book was simply to get to the checklists.) But the voice an Pragmatic and Direct With a sort of “been there, done that” attitude that is is not dogmatic, but empathetic and sympathetic for the aspiring writer, the book cuts to the heart of what is needed to make something that “may” work. Obviously the checklists provided in the book are not foolproof; that’s why you should read the book: it walks you through some of the pitfalls surrounding the checklist items. (Note: my initial interest in the book was simply to get to the checklists.) But the voice and tone of the author is authoritative and colloquial which makes it educational and entertaining as well. I also enjoyed the fact that he did not stray into too much of the comedic or anecdotal like, say, Blake Snyder, whose “Save the Cat!” the author references several times, or as Jessica Brody does in her STC! novel writing book does (both of which are also very good for screenwriting and/or the novel writer). As I read the book, I came to trust the author like an older brother providing genuine, pragmatic advice to his younger brother.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    Erik Bork’s book “The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction” takes a hard look at the original idea and how to make sure it holds until the end of the story. Using the acronym PROBLEM, he gives a writer a checklist on developing a writing project. How to make sure your idea is the right one. Punishing the protagonist – is the idea strong enough to last through the entire story. Relatable – can the audience relate to the story and cheer for the protagonist? Original Erik Bork’s book “The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction” takes a hard look at the original idea and how to make sure it holds until the end of the story. Using the acronym PROBLEM, he gives a writer a checklist on developing a writing project. How to make sure your idea is the right one. Punishing the protagonist – is the idea strong enough to last through the entire story. Relatable – can the audience relate to the story and cheer for the protagonist? Original – does it have a fresh take on the story? Believable – does it feel real or will the audience wonder why things happen? Life-Altering – is it a life-changing event? Entertaining – will the audience enjoy it? Meaningful – will the audience feel it was worth the time spent? It’s the idea that makes everything happen and Erik Bork’s book shows how to use those seven elements create a good story. He’s won 2 Emmys and 2 Golden Globe awards – and this book will keep you from wasting too much time on an idea that you discard.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emma Cyrus

    Although Bork is a screenwriter, his book provides solid guidance for novelists as well. His premise is that a well-articulated “idea” must grab the attention of industry gatekeepers in synopsis form. While much of this content is available in other forms spread across writing courses, Bork’s accessible style and clarity of language, focused as it is on ‘before you start writing,’ makes it an excellent and economical starting point for any project. Further, he encourages writers to see that thei Although Bork is a screenwriter, his book provides solid guidance for novelists as well. His premise is that a well-articulated “idea” must grab the attention of industry gatekeepers in synopsis form. While much of this content is available in other forms spread across writing courses, Bork’s accessible style and clarity of language, focused as it is on ‘before you start writing,’ makes it an excellent and economical starting point for any project. Further, he encourages writers to see that their wordsmithing skills are less important than the willingness to undertake this discipline up front. I recommend The Idea to writers who want to improve both their craft and their marketability.

  15. 4 out of 5

    F.J. Harmon

    Erik gives a heavy dose of reality in his thorough exploration of the macro elements for a great TV Series/Screenplay/Novel. Erik offers clear examples of what he means by the PROBLEM criteria for a great story and the importance of your logline. His bottom line that readers should come away with an emotional response to your work if it is good. I came away with the realization of what a monumental task it is to write a good story. Writing is an exercise in frustration and futility and should no Erik gives a heavy dose of reality in his thorough exploration of the macro elements for a great TV Series/Screenplay/Novel. Erik offers clear examples of what he means by the PROBLEM criteria for a great story and the importance of your logline. His bottom line that readers should come away with an emotional response to your work if it is good. I came away with the realization of what a monumental task it is to write a good story. Writing is an exercise in frustration and futility and should not be attempted by anyone with a shred of mental competence.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Lerner

    I am thinking of turning one of my novels into a screenplay for a TV limited series, and this book has been helpful. It made me realize that my novel is just a starting point, but the tools of screenplays are so different than those of novels, that the story will inevitably change. I am now thinking more about how to make it more "high concept". As I read through the book, I kept getting ideas (good title for the book!). He writes clearly and it's well organized. I am thinking of turning one of my novels into a screenplay for a TV limited series, and this book has been helpful. It made me realize that my novel is just a starting point, but the tools of screenplays are so different than those of novels, that the story will inevitably change. I am now thinking more about how to make it more "high concept". As I read through the book, I kept getting ideas (good title for the book!). He writes clearly and it's well organized.

  17. 4 out of 5

    William

    Didn't finish, but didn't consciously abandon. At the same time, I bought it as a substitute for actually writing, and my experience is that when I'm "wanting to write" but not writing, I want to buy a book about writing but I don't actually want to read it. So next time I'm wanting to write but not writing I'll probably buy another book that says the same thing as this says. 4.5/5 for being a thing to buy. Didn't finish, but didn't consciously abandon. At the same time, I bought it as a substitute for actually writing, and my experience is that when I'm "wanting to write" but not writing, I want to buy a book about writing but I don't actually want to read it. So next time I'm wanting to write but not writing I'll probably buy another book that says the same thing as this says. 4.5/5 for being a thing to buy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rand McGreal

    Essential Skill All writing begins with an idea. Erik Bork makes that the subject of his focused informative book. No writing will succeed unless the author selects the right idea. Erik Bork takes you through the process of making that selection. This book is great. Use it as the starting point of your writing journey or as a checklist, but use it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    Succinct, solid and helpful. Great, brief book that isn’t stuffed with filler. Well worth the price. Lucid and intelligent discussion of the role THE IDEA has in the modern screenplay or teleplay, and why you’re probably not spending enough time in that stage. Great words of encouragement, too. A new hero of mine!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Louis Lamoureux

    The book is an excellent guide for creating a compelling story. It is well written. In the first chapter, the author lays the groundwork for the seven elements, then he presents a chapter on each. It is insightful, clear and concise. No wasted sentences. I am working on the second draft of a novel and can see places where I will change the story based on the book's advice. The book is an excellent guide for creating a compelling story. It is well written. In the first chapter, the author lays the groundwork for the seven elements, then he presents a chapter on each. It is insightful, clear and concise. No wasted sentences. I am working on the second draft of a novel and can see places where I will change the story based on the book's advice.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary Mimouna

    Gets Right to the Point, and Gives Great Examples This was a great book for me as it focused upon the exact areas I need help with. I would recommend this book over most others I've read. It's short, to the point, with excellent examples. Knowing these things could save a writer years of time from going down the wrong tracks. Gets Right to the Point, and Gives Great Examples This was a great book for me as it focused upon the exact areas I need help with. I would recommend this book over most others I've read. It's short, to the point, with excellent examples. Knowing these things could save a writer years of time from going down the wrong tracks.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura McNeill

    Loved it! Excellent reading for the beginning or experienced writer. “The idea” of a screenplay or story should be finessed, polished, and vetted before beginning a first draft. Smart, time-saving advice for any writer serious about the craft.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris French

    Essential reading for anyone who wants to write a story. I've read it twice, and taken notes, and refer to it anytime I start a new story. It's amazing to have a whole book devoted to this one piece of the puzzle. Essential reading for anyone who wants to write a story. I've read it twice, and taken notes, and refer to it anytime I start a new story. It's amazing to have a whole book devoted to this one piece of the puzzle.

  24. 5 out of 5

    N.

    Fantastic book written by a very accomplished screenwriter. The concepts discussed may seem simple, but they are the basics of telling a compelling story, regardless of the medium you choose (books, film, theater, etc.) Highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Highly recommended for writers of any form, even though the focus is on screenwriting. Among books I've found on writing, this is at the top of the heap; I expect to refer back to it frequently. Excellent work! Highly recommended for writers of any form, even though the focus is on screenwriting. Among books I've found on writing, this is at the top of the heap; I expect to refer back to it frequently. Excellent work!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mjke

    Probably a must-read for all storytellers, no matter if you are a scriptwriter, playwright or novelist. The Idea strips out all the extraneous noise from the storytelling craft and zooms in on what is important: What the reader wants and the essence of story. Highly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Should be required reading before any new writing project! Incredibly helpful when trying to find workable ideas.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Giovanni

    Useful tips but quite simplistic in expressions. 15% overpriced.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe Stallone

    Concise and informative, this book clearly illustrates the important of story premise. Helped me to to rethink how to begin creating a good story at a conceptual level.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jesús Molina

    I can't believe I spent so much time without having read this marvelous book, this is a must have for every aspiring writer. I loved it I can't believe I spent so much time without having read this marvelous book, this is a must have for every aspiring writer. I loved it

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