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Storytelling From Four Points

February 13, 2015

I just did a workshop on storytelling, and had so many students that there weren’t enough handouts to go around. I’ll post some description about this later, but for now, I wanted to make sure the info was on the blog so that anyone at the workshop can have a copy. Here’s a downloadable pdf (click this link), but this is the info without having to download it – it’s an outline of four different ways of looking at story structure:


A story must have:

  • a Beginning (a character is introduced who has a goal)
  • a Middle (in pursuit of that goal, the character meets obstacles and conflict)
  • and an End (the character overcomes the obstacles and reaches their goal in some form)


  • Meet Dave (why should we like him?)
  • What does Dave want? Why?
  • What’s at Stake?
  • What stands in his way?
  • What does he do to get it?
  • What stands in his way?
  • How does he overcome?
  • What’s different?

VERSION 3 (the academic version):

A story is a structured narrative designed to achieve an emotional effect, demonstrate a proposition or reveal character.

Now add:

  • It must have conflict and there must be something at stake.
  • Action should rise and culminate in most powerful moment.
  • Everything should be presented with maximum clarity.
  • Every element of the film–action, dialogue, camera work, lighting, production design, costuming, editing, sound design, music–should be aimed at achieving all of the above.


Denny O’Neil’s Comic Book Structure

  • Hook
  • Inciting incident.
  • Establish situation and conflict.
  • (Major visual action.)
  • Develop and complicate situation.
  • (Major visual action.)
  • Events leading to –
  • Climax with Major visual action.
  • Denouement
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