Overview

Your Story.

What does it mean?

So many people are confused and rightfully so, we’ve got so many systems, concepts, and ideas floating around the world that contradict each other.

Heck, it’s the reason I started reading Writer’s Digest Magazines back in the late 80s. And to this day, I’m still hooked.

Here’s the first problem I find with Story Structure Systems.

Imagery

There’s no way to “visually” show the flow of story and how it interacts with other elements.

Kurt Vonnegut’s story charts posted on Derek Sivers’ site captured many people because they revealed a “visual” representation of Story Structure.

kurt vonnegut - shape of stories

Connection

The second problem hinges on connection. Professionals talk about the “parts” of Story, but they never explain how they fit together as a whole.

You’ve probably heard all the traditional parts explained separately:

  • Character
  • Plot
  • Structure
  • POV
  • Character Arc
  • Sequences
  • Scenes

How do these parts fit?

Where do they connect?

Archetypes

The Archetypes come from the brilliant Jeffrey Schechter (My Story can beat up your Story).

Before he sold his software (TotallyWrite) to Mariner Software, I purchased TotallyWrite and it was stunning, fascinating, and intriguing.

From Jeff, we have the Four Questions (which I’ve expanded out to more questions) and the Archetypes.

Jeff Schechter - Four Archetypes

NOTE: This intellectual property (image) SHOWN ABOVE is the sole property of Jeffrey Schechter.

What are the Archetypes?

Well, they’re the different “steps” that your Protagonist phases “in and out of” during the Story.

Orphan

The Protagonist begins as an Orphan. She can be orphaned either literally or figuratively, but somehow, she must be “separate” from her environment and this motivates her to leave her “community.”

Wanderer

After she leaves (answering the call to adventure and entering the Transformative World), she “wanders” through this place and experiences trials, allies, and enemies.

Warrior

After the midpoint, she is pissed off and instead of “wandering,” she finds resolution and “fights” for what she believes in, at all costs. Unknowingly, she experiences “DEATH” firsthand and she is torn up and settles down to find meaning in her life.

Martyr/Savior

Armed with a new plan, she sets out again with a new mindset: she must let go of her “FLAW” and learn how to treat other people. In some stories, she sacrifices herself to save others (like in THOR) and this is the MARTYR Thread. In others, she captures an illuminating power and steps up to save others (like in GREEN LANTERN) and this is the SAVIOR Thread.

Sequences

The problem with many newcomers to Story Structure is they view the Structuring as Different Levels, which connotes an idea of upper and lower.

This is erroneous thinking and please, stop it now!

Think of the structure system as Dimensions and/or Perspectives and it’ll make life easier for you, trust me on this one.

DIMENSION 1

  • We have the ACT divisions (4 in number).

DIMENSION 2

  • We have the SEQUENCE divisions (8 in number).

DIMENSION 3

  • We have the STRUCTURE STEP divisions (TBD – To be determined).

DIMENSION 4

  • We have the TENSION divisions (TBD).

DIMENSION 5

  • We have the SCENE divisions (TBD).

I hope that makes sense, email me if it doesn’t ([email protected]).

Now, let’s return to the Sequences and they are listed below as follows:

  • Sequence 1 – Ordinary World
  • Sequence 2 – Debate
  • Sequence 3 – B Story
  • Sequence 4 – Fun and Games
  • Sequence 5 – Bad Guys Close In
  • Sequence 6 – Death
  • Sequence 7 – Resurrection
  • Sequence 8 – Finale
Save The Cat Book Cover

The Genius Of Blake

With the Structure Steps, we have Blake’s genius working out big time. Of all Blake’s gifts to the community (his Hero’s Journey contribution), none compare to the BS2 (Beat Sheet).

As a tool, it provides an illuminating power to Storytellers and provides sustenance to get from initial idea to a finished Treatment.

That’s a LONG WAY, but somehow, the BS2 is the boat through which you can steer through the murky waters of Idea Development.

The BS2 is a simple tool and here is the Traditional Blake BS2:

  • Opening Image
  • Theme Stated
  • Set-Up
  • Catalyst
  • Debate
  • Break into Two
  • B Story
  • Fun and Games
  • Midpoint
  • Bad Guys Close In
  • All is Lost
  • Dark Night of the Soul
  • Break into Three
  • Finale
  • Final Image

Now the BS2 is very sexy, but I found a few problems with it, so I personalized it until it made sense to me.

The first problem I had was that Blake promoted all his books as the Save The Cat series, but somehow, that important step is “missing” from the BS2.

So I added it to mine.

Next, the Finale was only one sequence and I needed two to balance the ending.

How could this be done?

Blake faithfully answered my question by giving us his Five-Step Finale Formula.

And the formula is shown below:

  • Think of every Finale in terms of “storming the castle.”
  • Step 1: The hero, and the hero team, come up with a plan to “storm the castle” and “free the princess” who is “trapped in the tower.”
  • Step 2: The plan begins. The wall of the castle is broached. The heroes enter the Bad Guys’ fort. All is going according to plan.
  • Step 3: Finally reaching the tower where the princess is being kept, the hero finds… she’s not there! And not only that, it’s a trap! It looks like the Bad Guy has won.
  • Step 4: The hero now has to come up with a new plan. And it’s all part and parcel of the overall transformation of the hero and his need to “dig deep down” to find that last ounce of strength (i.e., faith in an unseen power) to win the day.
  • Step 5: Thinking on the fly, and discovering his best self, the hero executes the new plan, and wins! Princess freed, friends avenged, Bad Guy sent back to wherever Bad Guys go when they are defeated (Two Bunch Palms?) — our hero has triumphed.

This is some powerful stuff, isn’t it?

However, coming to terms with Storming the Castle didn’t make sense all the time, so I changed the Five Steps to the following:

  • Step 1: Create Plan
  • Step 2: Execute Plan
  • Step 3: It’s a Trap!
  • Step 4: Dig Deep Down
  • Step 5: Climax

NOTE: In the following example, MP stands for Moral Premise.

And here’s my updated BS2 for all you STC Fans out there!

  • Opening Image
  • Theme Stated (MP)
  • STC (MP)
  • Catalyst
  • Mentor
  • Debate
  • Break in Two
  • B Story
  • Fun and Games
  • Midpoint (Reward / MP MOG)
  • Bad Guys Close In
  • All is Lost
  • Dark Night of the Soul
  • Break in Three
  • Create Plan
  • Execute Plan
  • It’s a Trap!
  • Dig Deep Down (Final MP)
  • Climax
  • Denouement
  • Closing Image

Unifying the Story

Another one of Blake’s ingenious contributions is the concept of Unifying the Story.

He ensured on the BS2 that you placed these major beats on them (Opening Image and Closing Image).

The reason is that your story opens with a powerful image and closes with a powerful image, thereby bring a unified approach to your story’s meaning.

Although many people have delivered this information in several books, just know this layer of Story is known as any of the following:

  • Visual Imagery
  • Imagery
  • Image Systems
  • Visual Systems

Sorry, but I do not go in-depth about the Imagery System, but just wanted to let you know that it exists and it’s on the BS2 for your convenience in “tightening” your story.

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