Story Line by Jen Grisanti (book review)

I’ve been focusing on communication between directors and actors for a while now, so perhaps its worthwhile having a look at writing skills. From her introduction, Jen Grisanti points out that her book ‘Story Line; can be applied to more than scriptwriting, providing tests at the end of each session to see how much you have grasped.


She starts off with the logline. That is summing up what the story is about in a single line before going more intently into techniques of emotional content. This shares elements of method acting in finding something in your own background that you can employ within your story. This can work across all the writing mediums because it can make a connection to the reader that they can identify with. Look how being an outsider or outcast appeals so strongly to our genre. I should point out that Grisanti also includes ‘Avatar’ and the revived ‘Star Trek’ films amongst her examples.

Grisanti keeps using the same examples across the book and I reading straight through found some repetitions of information, although I suspect she thinks people will dig into various chapters than do what I did.

There is an odd contradiction where Grisanti says how she applied her own life into a story but then told to add fictional elements to it. In prose, I would say she’s applying what she knows but as I’ve told many aspiring writers, what you don’t know, you research. Having said that, what she presses home as emotional content is more a matter of exploring your feelings within a particular situation and imbue that into the characters instead of having them sleepwalk through the script. In many respects, the actors bring their own emotional content into the script when they act, so there has to be something that they recognise in what the scriptwriter puts in words to make a similar connection. Part of me does wonder if its not to much an actual situation that you’re drawing the emotions from but the intensity of emotion which is more of a common ground.

In many respects, I think Grisanti got a little bit carried away telling her own biography than guiding you how to find your own. Writing in any medium is more than putting words on paper or through an actor’s voice. It’s the ability to make the connection to the reader or viewer that makes them relate to the situation. When you have occupations or subjects that neither have personal experience of that’s a lot more difficult and yet considering how much we do that means something must be working. Although I don’t think Grisanti has all the answers, for those of you who are struggling with this, then you might learn something from this book.

GF Willmetts

June 2015

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 312 page enlarged paperback. Price: $26.95 (US), £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-941188-24-1)

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