Holiday Gift Guide for Writers!

Use this handy chart to pick the perfect gift for every kind of writer! All products deliverable by email including Gift Certificates if you want to let your writers choose for themselves.

Today’s Featured Writer Type: the GUIDED TOURIST who likes a step by step approach to developing a story.

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Storytelling Tip 7 of 50 – Out of Sequence Experiences

sequenceTrick 7

Out of Sequence Experiences (Changing Temporal Relationships)

With this technique, the audience is unaware they are being presented things out of order. Such a story is the motion picture, Betrayal, with Ben Kingsley. The story opens and plays through the first act. We come to determine whom we side with and whom we don’t: who is naughty and who is nice. Then, the second act begins. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that this action actually happened before the act we have just seen. Suddenly, all the assumed relationships and motivations of the characters must be re-evaluated, and many of our opinions have to be changed. This happens again with the next act, so that only at the end of the movie are we able to be sure of our opinions about the first act we saw, which was the last act in the story.

Another example is Pulp Fiction in which we are at first unaware that things are playing out of order. Only later in the film do we catch on to this, and are then forced to alter our opinions.

Excerpted from the book
50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks
Download for just $2.99


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Introducing the Story Mind (Revisited)

Here’s a flashback video from 1999 – the very first comprehensive video recorded explanation about the Dramatica theory!  Check out my retrospective notes below the video (only one channel of sound – what can I say, it was 1999):

Okay, here’s what this looks like to me seventeen years later…

Aside from the early tech, the content, while accurate, is so scientifically logical – not at all an inspiring piece for a writer.  Nor is it particularly useful.  I mean, cool concept and all – the structure of a story is a model of the mind – but what do you do with that?

Well, over the years, we’ve learned many better ways to explain these concepts and always with an eye toward practical application.  Here’s how we look at this same concept nowadays:

What the heck is story structure anyway?  Where did it come from?  The answer is actually pretty simple.  Story structure is our best attempt to understand ourselves and our relationships with others.  That’s it.  Period.

We create scores of narratives every day in real life when we try to figure out what someone intended or what’s behind his or her behavior, and how we might best respond to it.

Fictional stories are just case studies in which a single human trait, such as in A Christmas Carol regarding Scrooge’s lack of generosity, is explored with the purpose of an author telling an audience, “I’ve had some life experience and I have discovered that under these conditions, this is the best way to respond.”

We don’t have time in our lives to learn first-hand all the useful approaches we might take to minimize our emotional pain and/or maximize our happiness.  So, just like when we get together  to solve a physics problem or work out a strategy for our sports team or our sales team, or even just how to raise our children, mend fences or tell our mate there’s something that’s bothering us about our relationship – we create a narrative: a map of where we think everyone is coming from, how we expect them to behave, and the course of action we can take to best alter the situation to what we want it to be.

It turns out that when we capture that message, based on life experience, in a narrative, our own mind is reflected in every character and every action.  Story structure really isn’t about other people – it is about how we see other people and how we interpret what they do.

And so, the thought processes we use to try and understand, to project, and to alter the course of events and the course of our emotional lives with others are the forces that drive every story, under the hood of all that subject matter that makes it real and tangible and something with which we can identify.

Now keep in mind, this little video clip is the first of 113 parts of the program.  And each one adds another element to a complete picture of story structure.  Each concept may not be directly practical, but it will open your eyes to what’s really going on in stories.

Still, after all these years, my best advice is to learn as much as you can about structure and then forget it all and write.  If you learn it, it will always be there in your subconscious, guiding your Muse without confining her.  But if you focus on the structure while you write, you’re just going to give yourself writer’s block.  But if you never learn it in the first place, your writing will have no guide, and will likely meander all over and work against itself, against your message, against your impact with an audience or reader.

You can watch all 113 of the videos in this series free on my web site here.

Learn it, forget it, and write better stories.


P.S. Share this page with friends and help them write better stories too!

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Give a Writer a Gift!

New at the Storymind Store – Gift certificates starting at $10, deliverable by email!

Click the picture to check it out and make your writers very, very happy…


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Is Your Story Driven by Actions or Decisions?

Some stories are driven by actions.  Others are forced along by decisions.  All stories have some degree of both.  This question determines which one “triggers” the other, but does not determine the ratio between the two.

If actions that occur in your story determine the types of decisions that need to be made, choose Action.  If decisions or deliberations that happen in your story precipitate the actions that follow, choose Decision.

THEORY:  Action or Decision describes how the story is driven forward.  The question is: Do Actions precipitate Decisions or vice versa?

Every story revolves around a central issue, but that central issue only becomes a problem when an action or a decision sets events into motion.  If an action gets things going, then many decisions may follow in response.  If a decision kicks things off, then many actions may follow until that decision has been accommodated.

The Action/Decision relationship will repeat throughout the story.  In an Action story, decisions will seem to resolve the problem until another action gets things going again.  Decision stories work the same way.  Actions will get everything in line until another decision breaks it all up again.

Similarly, at the end of a story there will be an essential need for an action to be taken or a decision to be made.  Both will occur, but one of them will be the roadblock that must be removed in order to enable the other.

Whether Actions or Decisions move your story forward, the Story Driver will be seen in the instigating and concluding events, forming bookends around the dramatics.

USAGE:  The choice of Driver does not have to reflect the nature of the Main Character.  In fact, some very interesting dramatic potentials can be created when the Story Driver and the Main Character Approach do not match.

For example, a Main Character who is a Do-er forced to handle a decision-type problem would find himself at a loss for the experience and tools he needs to do the job.  Similarly, a deliberating Main Character who is a Be-er would find himself whipped into a turmoil if forced to resolve a problem requiring action.  These mixed stories appear everywhere from tragedy to comedy and can add an extra dimension to an otherwise one-sided argument.

Do Actions precipitate Decisions, or do Decisions precipitate Actions?  Since a story has both, it is really an issue of which comes first: chicken or egg?  In the context of a single story, there is a real answer to this question.  As an author, you can decide which it will be.

This tip was excerpted from:


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Be Clear About the Requirements for your Story Goal

requirementsThe achievement or failure to achieve the goal is an important but short moment at the end of the story. So how is interest maintained over the course of the story? By the progress of the quest toward the goal. This progress is measured by how many of the requirements have been met and how many remain.

Requirements can be specific, such as needing to obtain five lost rubies that fit in the idol and unlock the door to the treasure. Or, they can be nebulous, such as needing to reach three progressive states of enlightenment before the dimensional portal will open.

The important thing is that the requirements are clear enough to be easily understood and “marked off the list” as the story progresses.

This tip excerpted from
StoryWeaver Writing Software
Click here for details…


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Storytelling Tip 6 of 50 – “Non-Causality”


Trick 6

Non-Causality (Out of Context Experiences)

There is often a difference between what an audience expects and what logically must happen. A prime example occurs in the Laurel and Hardy film, The Music Box. Stan and Ollie are piano movers. The setup is their efforts to get a piano up a quarter mile flight of stairs to a hillside house. Every time they get to the top, one way or another it slides down to the bottom again. Finally, they get it up there only to discover the address is on the second floor! So, they rig a block and tackle and begin to hoist the piano up to the second floor window. The winch strains, the rope frays, the piano sways. And just when they get the piano up to the window, they push it inside without incident.

After the audience has been conditioned by the multiple efforts to get the piano up the stairs, pushing it in the window without mishap has the audience rolling in the aisles, as they say.

Excerpted from the book
50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks
Download for just $2.99


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