What are the essentials of a good story?

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Essentials of a Good Story

1. The story is about somebody with whom we have some empathy.
2. This somebody wants something very badly.
3. This something is difficult, but possible to do, get, or achieve.
4. The story is told for maximum emotional impact and audience participation in the story line.
5. The story must come to a satisfactory ending (which does not necessarily mean a happy ending.)

Questions to ask yourself

What is my character's goal?
What is the starting point of the story?
Is there conflict? What is it over?
What is my characters reaction (not action) to the conflict?
What does my character need to learn?
Does my ending relate to my beginning?

The Universal Story

At the beginning of a story, a hero will be introduced. She will have some flaw that makes her human--just like us. Something unexpected will happen that throws her world into chaos. Then for awhile, our hero will go through a series of trials, aided by friends and challenged by foes, trying to restore order to her world. Finally, our hero will be crushed, only to rally for one final showdown against her challenger. She succeeds or fails--usually succeeds. We all celebrate.

This is the basic universal story. Where did it come from?

Hero's Journey Example

Using The Matrix

The Hero's Journey -epic story

In the hero's journey (as discovered by Joseph Campbell), there are universal images and characters that are shared by all cultures through all time periods. This is called the monomyth. It's stages can be summarized briefly:
~Introduce the hero - in an ordinary day in her ordinary world
~The hero has a flaw - so the audience can empathize, the hero is not perfect. Her error (pride, passion, etc.) will lead to her downfall or success.
~Unexpected event - something happens to change the hero's ordinary world.
~Call to adventure - the hero needs a goal (save a prince, retrieve a treasure, etc.). Often the hero is reluctant to answer the call. At this stage, she meets with mentor, friends and allies who encourage her.
~The quest - the hero leaves her world in pursuit of the goal. She faces tests, trials, temptations, enemies, and challenges until she achieves her goal.
~The return - the hero returns expecting rewards.
~The crisis - something is wrong. The hero is at her lowest moment.
~The showdown - the hero must face one last challenge, life or death. She must use all she has learned on her quest to succeed.
~The resolution - in movies, this is usually a happy ending. The hero succeeds and we all celebrate.

What are the primary elements of story?

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Pyramid Story

Write a "pyramid story" using the following constraints:

  • The first line will contain the main character’s name.
  • In the second line describe the character in two words.
  • On the third line, use three words to describe the setting.
  • Then explain the main conflict using four words on the fourth line.
  • On the next three lines, describe three key events of the plot using the corresponding number of words: five, six, and seven.
  • On the last line, use eight words to communicate the resolution of the conflict.

The Three Act Story Structure

40 Plot Points

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