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Student guide chapter 9: Structuring Story

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Chapter 9 explains concepts of classic storytelling.

Prep guide

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What makes a story interesting to you?
  2. What is one of your favorite stories? Novels, films, comics, whatever...
  3. Can you identify the protagonist of that story?
  4. Think about what the protagonist needs to do in the story in order to get to the end.

Supplies you will need

  • office paper
  • pencils or pens

Optional but recommended

Nothing extra this time


TV writer make-believe

We realized after the publication of DWWP that Fox might not be too happy for us to be posting plots for the Simpsons on this site, so we haven't put up any examples of this exercise. If you write any narrative arc plots that don't involve franchise characters that you'd like to share, please send them to us.

Thumbnails for a six-page story with a narrative arc

This is the first step of creating your own six-page story. Don't let yourself get bogged down in writer's block! Use the character and spark cards in Appendix C (see Chapter 10 for more on that) if you need to in order to get started.
If you're working on something and want to figure out how it's going, here are a couple of ideas:
  • Read through the comments on thumbs in Chapter 10 to see if it gives you some ideas.
  • Corral a friend or family member into listening to your story in the form of a pitch, like you did in "TV writer make-believe" in this chapter, and will again in "Play your cards right" (Chapter 10). Keep it short and simple: tell your listener(s) who the protagonist is, what the spark is, how that leads to his/her problem/imbalance, and how that problem gets resolved. For a six-page story, this should take you no more than three minutes. If it does, that's a good sign you've overwritten.
  • Use some of the "Deeper critique techniques" on page 238 to help you analyze your story, especially "Talk about the story" and "Talk about the timing."

Thumbnail a three page Chip and the Cookie Jar comic

Aristotle, Poetics Syd Field, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting David Mamet, On Directing Film Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting Dennis O’Neil, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics

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