Friday, April 13, 2012

L: The 48 Laws of Power

Because "48" isn't a letter and F was already taken...

This is another book from my Reference Shelf of Honor. It's a massive collection of brief, historical stories illustrating the 48 "laws" as formulated by the author -- some stories illustrating the law properly observed, some illustrating the price of failure. (If nothing else, consider it a treasure trove of plot ideas.)

The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene, goes into far more depth than Machiavelli's The Prince (though you should read that) and Sun Tzu's Art of War (read that too.) In some ways, I suspect 48 might be more laws than is necessary -- some of them overlap each other noticeably. And some do seem difficult to reconcile to each other, if not downright contradictory.

That's not as much a problem as one might think, as the idea that nobody can observe all these laws perfectly and therefore be the perfect leader (dictator, con man, etc.)... is rather reassuring, actually.

On the whole, though, the weight of so many examples is persuasive. While I recommend this book for anybody who wants their characters to be successful leaders, I do NOT recommend plowing through the whole book all at once. Doing that contributed noticeably to my jaded, pessimistic and manipulative side.

On the other hand, it did make me a lot more comfortable with letting my kings, empresses, and rebel leaders pull the gloves off and get stuff done. When Maggie McBride, my rebel leader, had to address the fact that one of her staunchest supporters had screwed up, gone behind her back to try to fix it and made things worse... I checked this book before writing the confrontation. It confirmed that she had to take him down a peg and challenge him to make it right, while making it clear she trusted he would.

Leaders are difficult to write, when you're a shy person. This book has helped me a lot.


Nicole said...

The easy thing about writing letters is that at at least you can get out what you want to say without having to express it wonders for shy people and I should know, I'm one of them...most of the time anyways :)

I heard of this book before but wondered if I should read it because I planned on reading The Prince and the Tzu one....just to read them, not necessarily for my screenplays or anything.

I wonder if reading 48 Laws of Power kills those two birds in one stone or if each book would be better read on their own.

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Libby said...

That is great advice. It would never have occurred to me to read those books when writing about a leader, though I have read The Prince.

L. Blankenship said...

48 Laws does refer to both Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, of course, though not in any great depth. I think it comes down to which approach works better for you -- reading about the theory, or reading a set of examples.

You could get away with just 48 Laws, probably, but Machiavelli and Sun Tzu are still worth reading.

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