When I was contacted by some of the folks at Libertary about Brian McDonald’s Invisible Ink, I was curious to see what things this book might cover that some of the other story structure and scriptwriting books we’ve reviewed have not. Before reading the book, I glanced through the celebrity endorsements and noticed Jim Uhls, the screenwriter of Fight Club, endorsing it. That immediately got my attention, as long time readers of MFM know that I consider Fight Club to be one of the most well-crafted and significant films of the 20th century. (Additional endorsements came from the writers of numerous other films, including 50 First Dates, which I loved, and most of Pixar’s films.)
Unlike many books that are plastered with famous quotes, Invisible Ink truly lives up to the hype!
This is absolutely a breeze to understand, packed full of references and descriptions from a plethora of films. Even if you haven’t seen the films Mr. McDonald references, he gives great descriptions of the important plot points so you can follow along without a single issue!
While there are a few typos and minor grammatical issues in the layout of the book, they won’t prevent you from understanding what’s being explained throughout the book.
At only 153 pages, this book seems like it would be extremely limited, but, the truth is, all of the fat and filler has been removed. The author has instead packed a library full of information into this spare volume and done it in a way that makes it extremely accessible. Everything from how to set up the main flow of a story to how to set up the armature (or moral premise) of your story to how to persecute your characters to how to showcase their growth (or lack thereof) to how to avoid storytelling pitfalls is covered here. Of especial interest is the importance of using “torture” and extreme pressure on your characters to make their journey compelling and authentic. In my opinion, one of the most amazing novelists of the 20th and 21st century is Stephen R. Donaldson, a man who can seamlessly switch genres to tell his tales and who absolutely understands the necessity of ritual pain and “crucifixion” to make his characters truthful, heroic, and compelling. As such, I really appreciated all the work that Mr. McDonald put into stressing the importance of these sorts of character development devices!
As I cracked into the book, I literally had difficulty putting it down. I would have found the book fascinating at any stage of my filmmaking career, but especially being at the beginning of the most ambitious film I’ve ever attempted, it was like a slap upside the head that cleared the fog from my brain and solidified concepts that had eluded me. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the new film we’re working on, you can read a bit of an overview in last month’s editorial here.) If you have any ideas for a film in mind before you read this book, you may find that you’ve gotten so many ideas from this book that you are forced to take your ideas into the next steps of realization.
Despite the fact that the concepts in this book will immediately sink into your brain, the book has almost a “workbook” style feel to it, complete with various exercises you can do to get your creative juices flowing and to help you analyze stories. As such, while you will definitely use it in your next film, you will also want to come back to this book again and again for future films as a refresher, especially since some of the things he deals with aren’t perfect for every film. As such, you may use a number of the ideas in one screenplay and need a whole different set of tools in another film.
Less than $20 for this book is a great deal (especially if you use our special Amazon link to get it even cheaper). It will help established writers to improve the way they tell stories, and will actually inspire some creative people with stories to tell to throw their hat into the arena of creative writing. This isn’t a “borrow-from-the-library” book; this is a “buy-this-immediately-and-get-extra-copies-for-other-creative-people-in-your-life” book.
Invisible Ink is an amazingly lucid and gripping book on how to structure stories in a way that makes sense and will connect with your audience. Just using its ideas on the Depleted feature we’re working on has already shaved hours and hours off the script development process. (Some of the methods helped us quickly be able to chop off unnecessary portions of the film and focus our efforts on those things that will support the armature of the film more effectively.) I highly recommend this to anyone who has any interest in writing anything creative for any medium. Just remember to go ahead and buy a couple copies of this book, as folks will not “remember” to return your copy when they “borrow” it from you.