The Basics

The Basics
Index of Articles

The Basics of Storytelling by William F. Nolan
As a storyteller, you must begin by creating a protagonist who is real, three dimensional, with genuine emotions that play out over the course of your narrative.  Your range is …

The Blank Page – Where To Begin?
Ever writer is familiar with it:  An ocean of whiteness staring back at them – the blank page.  Just where do you begin when you want to tell a story?  Every writer seems to have their own unique method, developed …

Start At The End
Have you ever read a story with an intriguing plot, compelling characters and great action, but when it came down to the end of the story, the author dropped the ball?  Rather than being unsatisfying, it…

What Makes A Great Hero?
Great heroes are rare to find, while flat, uninteresting characters are all too common in stories. Why is this so?  Some tales have epic heroes while others contain lifeless, boring characters …

How Setting Affects Your Story
Some writers make the mistake of ignoring where their stories take place.  When writing scenes, it’s important to keep in mind where your characters are.  Even if you’re not writing genres where …

Lead With The Theme
Stories with a well developed theme are rare.  Thematic writing is one of the most misunderstood writing techniques, but all of the great writers have learned to master theme.  Countless hours …

Desire:  The Spine Of Your Story
Some stories lack zest, gusto… oomph! Drifting aimlessly about, these kinds of stories never seem to go anywhere. In short, the hero and the story are spineless.  If your hero has no desire, if no …

Need:  The Heart Of Your Story
Many writers fail to notice the emotional undercurrent in their stories.  Writing with an intuitive sense, rather than developing a deliberate method to spark feelings such as love or hate, a writer may forget to …

Have you ever read a story or seen a movie where you couldn’t “get into” the main character.  The plot may be interesting, the setting could be exotic, the dialogue compelling, but if you don’t have any …

Writer’s Block – Feed Your Muse!
Every writer encounters this problem at one time or another. Often, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it and it can strike when an important deadline is approaching.  What is the cause of writers block? How is …

Word Count & Story Length
You’ve struggled with your story for weeks, created great characters, designed an intruguing plot and you’ve spent hours and hours working on a fantastic story.  You send it off to …

How Three Acts Will Kill Your Story by John Truby
It has been estimated that at least 50,000 scripts are written every year. Yet only a few hundred are bought and made. Why do so many writers fail?  Clearly, there is a limit to how many scripts the business can support. But in the vast majority of cases …

What’s Wrong With The Three Act Structure? by James Bonnet (external link)
The three act structure is not a story structure.  You can’t find it in myths and legends or other great stories of the past and you can’t find it in nature.  So why is it being applied to the screenplay or the story of a film? It’s a good question because …



Here are the Seven Steps of Classical Story Structure, developed by John Truby:

Premise – This is your story stated in a single line. What is your story about?

Problem / Need – The Problem is the difficult situation your hero finds himself in at the beginning of the story.  The Need is what your hero must learn or overcome in order to have a better life.  Your hero should be in trouble right away.  The Need is based on a deep weakness that is hurting the hero in every part of his life. A story where the hero is hurting others at the beginning is always better than one in which the hero is only hurting himself.

Desire – The particular goal your hero wants to accomplish in the story. Give your hero a specific goal.  The audience should know the exact moment when the hero succeeds or fails to reach the goal.  Also, the bigger the goal, the more popular the story.

Opponent – The person competing with the hero for the goal.  Make the opponent as powerful, or capable, as possible.  Determine how each opponent is uniquely able to attack the great weakness of the hero.

Plan – The strategy, or set of guidelines, the hero uses to beat the opponent and win the goal.  Be specific about the action steps the hero will use to beat the opponent. But also make sure the hero’s original plan does not work. The hero should dig deep to come up with a way to win.

Battle – The final conflict that decides who wins the goal. A good battle is also about whose values are superior.  Make sure the battle is between the hero and the main opponent and that it is the biggest conflict in the story.

Self-Revelation – The hero learns how he has been wrong and fulfills his need.   The self-revelation should be new information the hero learns about himself.  Avoid platitudes.  The self-revelation should be so profound it turns the hero toward a new way of life.

New Equilibrium – Everything is back to normal, but the hero has either grown or fallen after seeing the self-revelation.  If the hero has grown, show him taking new moral action.  If the hero has fallen, make sure it is justified by the power of the negative self-revelation.



“The Anatomy of Story,” by John Truby.

“Zen and the Art of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury.

“How to Write a Breakout Novel,” by Donald Maass.

“The Power of Point of View,” by Alicia Rasley.

“The Scene Book,” by Sandra Scofield.

Also, read any book by Writers Digest Books.


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