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The Anatomy of Story
The Anatomy of Story
The Anatomy of Story

The Anatomy of Story

John Truby
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A comprehensive tutorial covering the fundamentals of story examining each essential element and showing authors how to weave them seamlessly together to make an effective narrative.


Many writers struggle with creating compelling and effective stories. Without a strong understanding of storytelling essentials, writers risk falling short in engaging their audiences and achieving success.

"The Anatomy of Story" by John Truby provides a comprehensive guide to the key elements of storytelling, including premise, character, plot, theme, and more. By following Truby's step-by-step approach to story creation, writers can develop unique and compelling stories that resonate with audiences.

Lessons from this book

As a writer, you know that it takes more than just words on a page to create a great story. You need the right structure, characters and plot points in place for everything to come together - which is why The Anatomy of Story by John Truby has become such an important tool for aspiring writers.

"Good storytelling doesn’t just tell audiences what happened in a life."

This lesson emphasizes the importance of creating an immersive experience for the audience. It's not enough to simply recount the events of a story; the audience needs to feel like they are living the story alongside the characters.

This means engaging all of the senses and creating a fully-realized world that the audience can step into. By doing this, the story becomes more than just a series of events; it becomes a transformative experience that can stay with the audience long after the story has ended.

"Withholding, or hiding, information is crucial to the storyteller’s make-believe."

By keeping certain information hidden, the audience is forced to engage with the story and make their own interpretations, which can make the experience more immersive and rewarding. However, this technique must be used carefully to avoid frustrating or alienating the audience.

A skilled storyteller knows how to balance the desire to create suspense and mystery with the need to provide enough information for the audience to understand and enjoy the story.

"A story tracks what a person wants, what he’ll do to get it, and what costs he’ll have to pay along the way."

This is the essence of the hero's journey, which is a common narrative structure found in many stories. By showing the audience what the hero wants and the obstacles he must overcome to get it, the story creates a sense of tension and conflict that keeps the audience engaged.

The hero's journey also serves as a metaphor for the challenges we all face in life, making it a powerful tool for exploring universal themes and human experiences.

"Premise is the most important decision you make during the writing process."

The premise is the foundation upon which everything else in the story is built, and a strong premise can make all the difference in creating a compelling and engaging story. The premise should be clear, concise, and evocative, providing a sense of direction for the story and setting it apart from other stories in the same genre.

What you choose to write about is far more important than any decision you make about how to write it. - John Truby

"The designing principle is what organizes the story as a whole."

"The designing principle" refers to the internal logic of the story that organizes its parts in a way that makes the story greater than the sum of its parts. It is the backbone of the story, the driving force behind the plot, and the thing that makes the story unique and memorable.

Choosing the right designing principle is crucial to the success of any story, as it sets the tone and direction for everything that follows. Whether it's a theme, a message, or a central conflict, the designing principle must be clear and consistent throughout the story to create a cohesive and satisfying experience for the audience.

"Always tell a story about your best character."

The hero is the driving force behind the story, and everything else in the story should revolve around them. This means creating a character who is interesting, dynamic, and relatable, and whose desires and struggles form the backbone of the plot. By focusing on your best character, you can create a story that is engaging, memorable, and emotionally resonant for the audience.

"To be a true choice, your hero must either select one of two positive outcomes or, on rare occasions, avoid one of two negative outcomes."

According to Truby, for a choice to be true, the hero must either select one of two positive outcomes or, on rare occasions, avoid one of two negative outcomes.

This is a key element in creating tension and conflict in the story, as the hero must make a difficult decision that has real consequences. By limiting the options to just two, the choice becomes more powerful and meaningful, and the audience is more invested in the outcome.

The hero's choice should also be in line with their character and the themes of the story, providing a sense of coherence and purpose to the narrative.


In conclusion, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby offers invaluable lessons for any writer looking to create immersive and engaging narratives. By emphasizing the importance of withholding information, crafting compelling premises, and focusing on memorable characters, this book provides a roadmap for taking your storytelling to the next level. Check out the book today to learn more valuable lessons to improve your stories overall!


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