Category Archives: Announcements

Narrative for Movies and Television – Part 1 of 3

As promised to the attendees, here is the first of three parts of the outline for the seminar I presented to the Director’s Guild of Canada last Sunday in Vancouver.  Parts 2 and 3 will be posted tomorrow and the next day.

It was a spectacular session with a packed house of really eager creative industry people, looking for ways to break through creative block, inject life into their stories, and find and fix elusive narrative problems.

Judging by the response, they found what they were looking for.

Thanks again to the DGC for their invitation, to Roy Hayter who initiated the concept and sheparded it through, and to Barbara Anne Schoemaker (BA) who anticipated and handled every detail to not only make the seminar a huge success, but to make my experience both incredible and indelibly memorable.  Good people, one and all!

So, here’s part one of the seminar outline for reference, which of course does not contain any of the graphics, animations, numerous video clips or commentary.

Narrative for Movies & Television Seminar

Fix it in the Script – NOT in Post!

Part 1 of 3 – Fixing Character Problems in Existing Scripts


Narrative for Movies & Television

            Fix it in the script – NOT in post



            Seminar Overview

                        Morning Session

                                    Identify common serious narrative flaws

                                    Techniques to repair flawed narratives

                        Afternoon Session

                                    Story Development Techniques

                                    Application of Structure to the Creative Process

What is Narrative?

            Origin of Narrative

            Generations of Storytellers

            Trial And Error

            Conventions of Storytelling

            Patterns of Dramatics

            The Concept of Narrative

Models of Narrative

            Aristotle and the 3 Act structure

            Jung and the collective unconscious

            Campbell and the Hero’s Journey

            Each had exceptions; Each was a formula

            Each showed only a glimpse of the elusive structure

A New Model of Narrative

            Structure is Non-Linear

            The Story Mind


            “You and I are both alike”

What’s Happening!!!

            Narrative is happening

            These are the kinds of dramatic elements that make up narrative.

            If a narrative doesn’t have all the important elements, it will fail

            Let’s learn how to recognize and repair flawed narrative elements…

Narrative Problems with Characters

            The most common narrative missteps regarding characters, and how to fix them.

The Main Characterv& Influence Character

            The passionate core of your story’s message

Main & Influence Characters

            So who ARE these guys?

            Main Character represents a paradigm of belief.

            Influence Character represents an opposing view.

            Between them is your story’s passionate argument.

            The result of this argument is your story’s message.

To Kill A Mockingbird

            4 Principal Characters

                        Main Character

                                    First Person Experience for Audience

                        Influence Character

                                    An alternative life view


                                    Prime mover of the effort to achieve the goal


                                    Diametrically opposed to Protagonist achieving the goal

Head Line & Heart Line

Heroes and Villains

            The Hero


                        Main Character

                        Central Character

                        Good Guy

            The Villain


                        Influence Character

                        Second Most Central Character

                        Bad Guy

            Hero and Villain Swap




                        Head line AND heart line between same characters

                        Power of storytelling masks gaps in arguments

                        Arguments are incomplete

                        Conclusions not supported

            The Dramatic Triangle

                        Can fully separate as in To Kill A Mockingbird

                        Can hinge on one character and split the lines

                        Most common variation (the love interest)

                        Other variations

The Heart Line

            Main Character Resolve

                        The Main Character doesn’t have to change to grow

                        He or she can grow in their resolve

            The influence character pressure the MC to change

                        Key establishing points to reference later.

            Change Characters

                        Establish a belief system

                        Establish illustrations of belief

                        Announce resolve

                        Verify resolve

            Steadfast Characters

                        Establish belief system

                        Establish illustrations of belief

                        Announce resolve

                        Verify resolve

            One Must Change

                        Main or Influence will convince the other to change

                        Change occurs at character climax

                        Success in logistic goal hinges on who changes

                        Message determined by results of change

            A Changing Influence Character

Character Arc

            Character Arc 101

                        The Steady Freddy

                        The Griever

                        The Weaver

                        The Waffler

                        The Exception Maker

                        The Backslider

                        How Change Happens

The Head Line


                        Origins of Archetypes

                        Each of us has the same complement of basic traits

                        We use them to solve our personal problems

                        When we join in a group, we quickly self-organize

                        As specialists, the group gains depth and focus

            The 8 Archetypes

















            External / Internal

















            Star Wars Archetypes


                                    Luke Skywalker


                                    The Empire


                                    Princess Leia




                                    Obi Wan Kenobi


                                    Darth Vader


                                    R2D2 & C3PO


                                    Han Solo

            Oz Archetypes




                        Wicked Witch




                        Tin Man









            Oz vs. Star Wars

                        Leia- Reason



                        Scarecrow- Reason



            Oz vs. Star Wars

                        Chewbacca- Emotion



                        Tin Man- Emotion



            Oz Element Swap

                        Scarecrow (Reason?)



                        Tin Man (Emotion?)



            Complex Characters & Relationships

                        Complex Characters

                                    Structural Relationships

                                    Character Relationships

                        Four-Dimensional Characters





            Summing Up Characters

                        Head Line characters involved in the goal

                        Heart Line characters involved in the message

                        Head Line determines if your story will make sense

                        Heart Line determines if your story will have meaning


Part 2 of the outline will be posted tomorrow and part 3 on the next day

Mental Sex, Characters, and You

Check out our new audio program:

Mental Sex, Characters and You – Just $9.95!

This three-hour audio program in mp3 (download and/or play online) explores one of the most crucial aspects of narrative structure that reflects not only in characters, but in each of us as well.

Mental Sex, Characters and You explores the nature and impact of gender-based thinking on stories and on ourselves. You’ll learn about the reasons for fundamental innate differences in the underpinnings of our male and female minds, and how we can benefit from recognizing our inherent mental abilities and compensate for gender-related areas of distraction, unclarity, bias.

You’ll discover the pathways of rationalization and justification that differ between the mental sexes and how to recognize, compensate for, play into, and manipulate each mental sex, no matter which mental sex you are!

This program was recorded live at a once-only presentation by Dramatica co-creators Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, based on their theories of narrative structure. Interestingly, the Mental Sex concept emerged when Phillips & Huntley discovered that the underlying mechanism of stories was significantly altered depending upon whether the main character was of a male or female mind. While the same considerations were made by each, the order in which they were explored and the relative significance of the results was functionally different.

In this program, you’ll get a range of insights on story structure, character, real people, society, and even yourself! There is no other explanation of the differences between male and female thinking as fully developed, as precisely defined and organized, and as completely argued, from a rock solid foundation to startling high-level conclusions.

Order today and expand your understanding of story structure, characters, the people in your life, and yourself!

Click for details and to order….

Narrative for Movies and Television

I’ve been invited to present a one-day seminar to the Director’s Guild of Canada in Vancouver, BC on April 2. The topic is NARRATIVE FOR MOVIES AND TELEVISION. Registration is currently open only to DGC members, and seating is limited, but if any space is left they will open registration to the public. For information contact the Director’s Guild of Canada at

Writing Tips Newsletter #197

Our latest Writing Tips Newsletter is now available!

In this issue:

Story Structure for Passionate Writers / The Influence Character / Characters: Cogs in the Machine? / The Radical Story Mind / Finding Your Creative Time / Four Throughlines in To Kill A Mockingbird / Finding Inspiration for Your Novel

Read it all and subscribe if you like at:

Happy New Year, Writers!

I’m Melanie Anne Phillips, owner of as well as the creator of StoryWeaver, Idea Spinner and the co-creator of Dramatica.

I’ve been teaching creative writing now for more that twenty-five years, and the best tip I have is both simple and the most effective:

Set aside a specific time to write. It doesn’t have to the the same clock-time every day, the same amount of time, or even every day at all.

But you need to schedule the time like you would an appointment with a friend.

And then, when that time comes, don’t sit in front of a blank page trying to come up with something to say. Rather, let your mind wander to favorite memories, favorite subjects, or even to problems, worries or fears.

Somewhere in that session, you’ll think of something so important or emotionally powerful to you that you find yourself thinking of things you want to say about it – actually composing sentences in your mind just to hear how they sound, just to feel how expressing that particular feeling or understanding affects what you are experiencing in your heart and mind.

Does it amplify it, diminish it, contextualize it or does it remain, still powerful, but unaltered by the words you think?

That’s when you write. Take those sentences and put them into your manuscript. They can be private thoughts shared by one character with another or a section of narrative in a first person novel. They can be the basis for a plot, a relationship, a personal journey, a theme: a message.

Never try to force the Muse to work on a story problem. Cut her free. By nature, she is full of boundless energy to explore any issue in which you find real interest, be it a positive draw or a negative from which you hope to escape.

Sure, we all have dreams of writing a great novel or script, and perhaps we will. But the odds go WAY down if you don’t write about what moves you personally.

Now here’s the rub – this is a real pisser for me personally… The kinds of stories I like to read are not the kinds of stories I’m very good at writing. Man, that gets stuck in my craw!

I want to write sci-fi-ish action stories of great adventure, incredible discovery and amazing tales of triumph over unbelievable odds! But every time I try it is all mechanical, stilted, or (worst of all) completely lame.

Yep, I’d like to be a pastry chef, but I’m good at making sauces. I’d like to be a chess champion, but I flub it all up, yet I can triumph in checkers or tic-fracking-tac-freaking-toe.

My private horror (don’t tell anybody): I want to write majestic,sweeping, raging fiction, but all I’m good at is this. Yes, this. Writing inspiring articles so others can write all the wonderful things I’d like to write. What manner of hell is this?

Well, I’ve come to terms with it. That’s why you’ll find literally HUNDREDS of articles on story structure and storytelling on

I came to the conclusion, I’d rather write what comes naturally, than get perpetually stuck trying to write what I like to read. I’ve finally embraced the awful, yet sobering and even somehow calming notion that it is better to be a carefree pianist, bringing music into the world with little effort at all, than a continually struggling trombonist, blurting out a few stilted notes and never affecting anyone nor even finding satisfaction in my own work.

So I urge you all to set up that time where you are forced (by resolution) to do nothing. And from that nothing will rise your Muse like a Kraken of Creativity, snarling out its arms to embrace every shiny, beckoning or threatening notion within its horizon, consuming it, and spewing out prose of a grand and powerful ilk upon the world, upon yourself, upon your soul.

May God have mercy upon us all, for we are writers.

Now get Kraken in 2017, for God’s sake (and for your own)!

Melanie Anne Phillips