Just back from a fascinating four days attending Bob McKee’s Story Seminar. Although intended to be useful for work, in terms of interpreting historical stories for the public, it was also tremendously helpful for my book. McKee is a famous (perhaps, the most famous) Hollywood script doctor, and a polemicist for ‘story’ in all narrative, particularly film and novels. However, it can equally easily apply to narrative non-fiction or exhibition curation. The best bits for me, at this stage in the writing of the book, was to provide a technical underpinning relating to story structure, pace, scene/act construction and mystery/suspense writing. With history you are constrained by facts of course, but the order in which you choose to reveal them, and how – in particular – you deal with exposition so it doesn’t become clunky is one of the key skills required for any narrative non-fiction work. Added to which, I got to spend Sunday doing six hours of analysis on the structure of Casablanca (my favourite film) to put into practice all I had learnt. Bliss.
About Caroline Shenton
Dr Caroline Shenton is an archivist and historian. She was formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives in London, and before that was a senior archivist at the National Archives. Her book The Day Parliament Burned Down won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013 and Mary Beard called it 'microhistory at its absolute best' while Dan Jones considered it 'glorious'. Its acclaimed sequel, Mr Barryís War, about the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, was a Book of the Year in 2016 for The Daily Telegraph and BBC History Magazine and was described by Lucy Worsley as 'a real jewel, finely wrought and beautiful'. During 2017 Caroline will be Political Writer in Residence at Gladstone's Library.