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How to tell
stories
Mary Evans
[email protected]
@MaryAliceEvans
Different Strokes…
Vladimir Propp: Morphology of the Folktale
(1928)(analysis of 100 different Russian folk tales, broken
down into 31 elements)
Christopher Vogler: The Writer’s Journey (2007)
Joseph Campbell: The Hero With a Thousand Faces
(1949)
One Plot?
Guess what….
CONFLICT
"I have an inner conflict of emotions, feelings....
What, in any case, can I do to resolve the inner
problems?" (p. 30-31)
Foster-Harris, W., 1959. The Basic Patterns of Plot. Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press
Two Plots?
Says Aristotle…
Comedy
Tragedy
Three Plots?
It’s Foster-Harris again:
1) Happy Ending
2) Unhappy Ending
3) Literary Plot
Three Plots?
 Accepted wisdom:
Man vs Man
Man vs Nature
Man vs Self
Seven Plots?
Christopher Booker: The Seven Basic Plots (2005)
 Overcoming the Monster (Star Wars, Harry Potter)
 Rags to Riches (Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist)
 The Quest (Aeneid, Indiana Jones)
 Voyage and Return (Gulliver’s Travels, Peter Pan)
 Comedy (Much Ado, Spinal Tap)
 Tragedy (Macbeth, Bonnie & Clyde)
 Rebirth (Christmas Carol, Snow White)
How long have you got?
 Nine? (John Carroll: The Western Dreaming)
 Twenty? (Ronald Tobias: 20 Master Plots)
 Thirty-Six? (Georges Polti: The Thirty-Six Dramatic
Situations)
My Characters
 Have a general want (fame, love, wealth)
 Have a specific want (date for the prom, new car, get
home) This is achievable within the story’s timeframe.
 Have an inner need (forgiveness, acceptance, truth).
But have no idea what it is at the start.
 Have an active flaw that creates conflict (how would
it behave at a dinner party?) This gets in their way.
 Aren’t great on p1. But you love them by p100.
My Plot
1) Someone wants something, but needs something else
2) Lots of things get in the way
3) They get what they need, maybe what they want
Ten Questions…
(Courtesy of John Yorke)
1. WHOSE STORY IS IT?
 From whose point of view are we telling this story, and why?
Ten Questions
2. WHAT DO THEY WANT?
 And what does that tell us about their character?
Ten Questions
3) WHAT DO THEY NEED? WHAT IS THEIR FLAW?
What emotional state is s/he in at the beginning? What do
they need for completion? Is there something that can be
overcome in the final battle?
Ten Questions
4) WHAT IS THE INCITING INCIDENT?
How is the status quo/ordinary world about to change?
Ten Questions
5) WHAT OBSTACLES ARE IN THE CHARACTER’S
WAY?
Do they confront the character’s flaws? What character trait
helps them to overcome them?
Ten Questions
6) WHAT’S AT STAKE?
What will they lose if they don’t achieve their objective?
Ten Questions
7) WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
What makes us empathise?
Ten Questions
8) HOW DO THEY CHANGE?
What has their journey taught them?
Ten Questions
9) IF THEY DON’T CHANGE…
Are they confronted with the consequences of NOT changing?
Ten Questions
10) HOW DOES IT END?
Does it pay off the inciting incident? Is it moral? Ironic?
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