Book Review: The Story Book
My first reaction to David Baboulene’s 256-page The Story Book (published: 2010 by DreamEngine Media Ltd) was, Who is ‘David Baboulene’? I’m not going to take the word of a nobody on how to raise my baby (er, my carefully-tended manuscript that will someday make me famous). You shouldn’t either. We’ve all experienced an agent who made suggestions to refine our manuscript, only to reject it in the end. I decided to Google David Baboulene and see what came up.
I got 32,000 hits.
- He has a website
- He’s listed in Wikipedia (though being a Wiki–anyone can add anything if you join)
- He’s written three travel books, and two children’s books. I assume he’s sold a few copies (my local Amazon doesn’t sell them, but the UK does)
- He currently works as a story consultant while preparing his PhD
- He’s known for writing with a sense of humor
OK. The man has credentials–so I curled up with my ebook and started reading.
What I expected the book to concentrate on was Baboulene’s unique ‘subtext’ theory of story editing.
(The story) must deliver an underlying story, known as the subtext. The underlying story is the one the audience perceives through their own interpretation of the narration. The truth they understand beyond the simple literal meaning of the words that comprise the narrative.
Instead, he spends the first fifteen pages on a history of the story, starting with man’s evolution of a hyoid bone (that delicate wisp of cartilage that enables speech), cave paintings, Freud’s analysis of psychology, and Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs. This academic approach foreshadows Baboulene’s scholarly writing voice–one the author freely admits.
Once I got past the history, I found a thorough discussion of storytelling, Most writing books–think, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass–cover most topics, but Baboulene covers them all.
- the key parts of a story, i.e., narrative, structure, plot, character, conflict, dialogue, including examples of famous stories that both follow the traditional model and don’t.
- story development from the initial seed to finished product. He gives the reader a prescribed series of story questions to analyze his own work-in-progress, providing prompts as aids to hold the reader’s hand while analyzing. This is nicely done in a formulaic way.
- how to submit your novel to agents/publishers
- how to handle rejection
After this analytic discussion, Baboulene gets into the meat of the book–the Baboulene Method. Subtext and knowledge gaps. According to this approach to writing (or editing), the normal rules (i.e., an inciting incident, a three-act structure, the requirement to introduce the first crisis by the end of Act I) don’t matter. All that matters is subtext. What is the author really trying to say? Baboulene contends without subtext, there is no story and he takes the time (which I won’t get into here) to support his theory.
One of my favorite parts of the book is that Baboulene interviews six great writers, my favorite being Lee Child, the creator of Jack Reacher.
One of my least favorite parts is that he numbers chapters and sections like a scholarly manuscript–section 13.2.24. I hate having to sleuth back to see what sub-subtopic I’m in.
My conclusions: This is a worthy read for new or struggling writers. It includes the basics as well as a method of analyzing your work that you likely haven’t tried before. I highly recommend it as part of your writers library.