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Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Master Storyteller Method of Story Development

Master StorytellerThe Master Storyteller Method has four parts:
Part One: Create A Story World
What is a story world? Think: the world of Harry Potter or the Star Wars universe. Whether you are planning a single story or a whole series, creating a diverse and detailed story world will enrich and inform each story you draw from it.
Part Two: Draw Out Your Storyline
While a story world describes the environment, situation, and issues that will define your story, it is not a story itself. Drawing on this material, you will create a storyline for your Main Character / Protagonist that will begin with something that upsets the status quo, follows a quest (both personal and logistic) and concludes with a choice that will determine success or failure.
Part Three: Incorporate Story Points
Though your storyline may make sense and feel as it it touches all the bases, often a number of important story points may be missing, hidden behind the passion of your storytelling and vision. Here you will refer to a complete list of essential story points ranging from the goal of the protagonist to the issue at the heart of the story’s moral dilemma to ensure that every crucial dramatic element is not only included, but fully integrated into the natural flow of your story.
Part Four:  Refine Your Structure
Even if you have every essential story point represented, it does not necessarily mean that they are all working together toward the same dramatic purpose. In this part of the Master Storyteller Method, you’ll plot your story points against a unique structural template to determine where some of your dramatic elements may be working against each other or where holes and inconsistencies in your structure may exist. You’ll have the opportunity to choose which story points you’d like to adjust to make your story more structurally sound and which you wish to leave as they are because they work so well as is at a passionate level.
By the time you have completed the Master Story Method, your story will be passionately expressive and structurally sound. Your characters will be compelling, your plot riveting, your them involving, and your genre not quite like any other.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The War Between Creativity and Structure

Perhaps the greatest hurdle in writing is the attempt to bring structure to a story without putting your Muse in a straight jacket.

Often structure is brought into the picture too soon, clamping your passion into an iron maiden that pierces it more deeply with every turn of a structural screw until it bleeds out entirely.

In contrast, writing with purposeless abandon creates a jellyfish of a story: an amorphous blob of subject matter with no spine, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Master Storyteller Method was designed to bring passion and structure together seamlessly, at the right place and the right time in the story development process.

When first starting to write, our ideas usually come fast and furious. Many of them are little snippets: a notion for a line of dialog, a location in which some action will take place, the basic concept for a character, or perhaps a plot twist.

Sometimes, we begin with no more than a period of history or a topic or an ethical message that we’d like to explore in our book or screenplay, and the more we think about it, the more ideas we get.

 Like the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, each story concept is separate, and what's more, we haven't seen the picture on the box so we don't even know that we're trying to build.

What we are doing at this stage is developing a Story World - basically a realm of our interests or subject matter that is all of the same basic topic or genre, but really isn’t a story yet.

As the story world becomes more complete, we begin to get a sense of the story we want to tell. In fact, a single Story World can give birth to many different stories, such as with Harry Potter, Anne Rice’s Vampire Saga, and the Star Wars Universe.

 The Master Storyteller Method provides techniques developing your story's world and discovering who's in it, what happens to them, and what it all means.

Your story world is like a map of the material you'd like to explore. Your story will be the specific path you take across it. Think of your Story World as a beautiful unspoiled landscape, untouched by the hand of man. You are a pioneer who is the first to see that gorgeous valley and your mind envisions a glorious city to be built there that works in harmony with the environment and provides an orderly life for its inhabitants.

You would not do well to have come with a predetermined “most efficient” city plan with all the streets and locations laid out with complete disregard to the terrain - to simply be stamped onto the land. Rather, you should look at the lay of the land and determine where a road can go straight and where it must go around a hill or a stand of trees to retain and even maximize the beauty of the scenic route.

Sometimes, alas, a tunnel must be drilled through a hill as it is the only way to get to a view, or a roadbed cleared through the trees so you can see the forest for them. But more often than not, if the landscape of your story is the guiding organizing property and the structure conforms to it, it will be a far finer city experience in the end.

The Master Storyteller Method gently creates a freeform structure: a means of organizing your story world that is both free and has form.

Eventually, you will have platted out your story city so that all the most impressive landmarks are left unaltered and there is an unbroken pathway that will convey your reader from one to the next until the sum total of your purpose in telling the story can be seen an appreciated.

But before you pave those roads and commit to construction, you'll want to be sure you have made all the best choices and that no better alternatives have emerged during your efforts to refine and revise your city plan. What you need is an objective way of double-checking that all the traffic will move smoothly, that the unexpected twists and turns in the road have a reason to be laid out that way and that no roads come up short or run into dead ends.

The Master Storyteller Method employs an interactive spot-check for all essential structural points and a guide against which you can compare your story-plan to see where and how far you may have diverged from a consistent structure.

Keep in mind that no structure has to be perfect in a finished work. Still, you'll want your structure to be as sound as possible without undermining the very concepts that drew you to want to write this particular story in the first place.

In the end, it is a judgment call for the author as to whether drifting off structure does too much harm or is okay in any given case.

The main point is that that no one reads a book or goes to a movie to experience a perfect structure but rather to have their passions ignited. So if it comes to a choice between an exciting thing and a structural thing, go with the excitement whenever you can, but be sure never to break structure completely or your readers or audience will not be able to cross that gap and will cease to follow you on your journey.

A self-guided version of the Master Storyteller Method is available for free on this web site. Just follow the steps provided, or jump right into the sections where your story could use the most help.

A customized version of the Master Storyteller Method is available in which Melanie Anne Phillips will discuss your story and your vision for thirty minutes of consulting time by phone, Skype or email, then create a step by step guide to help you get the most out of the method. Cost: $100

A personalized approach to the Master Storyteller Method provides live guidance and feedback from Melanie Anne Phillips whenever you need it including complete support through the entire process. Cost: $100 / hour

Thursday, April 14, 2016

WRITING SOFTWARE SALE - By Special Arrangement!

WRITING SOFTWARE SALE - By Special Arrangement!

By special arrangement with Write Brothers, Storymind is pleased to announce a limited time sale of Write Brothers writing software including Dramatica Pro, Dramatica Story Expert, Movie Magic Screenwriter, and Outline 4D. - Click the link below for details!

Just enter Coupon Code WRITEBROS when you order to receive the lowest prices we have ever offered on Write Brothers products - SO LOW we can't publish them here. Before you purchase, you'll see your special price after entering the coupon code.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Does your story suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder?

Does your story suffer from "Multiple Personality Disorder?"
Find out in this short article that gets to the heart of your story's identity.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Does Dramatica Support Multiple Protagonists?

A writer recently asked, do the Dramatica software and theory support multiple protagonists (several people trying to achieve the goal for themselves)?

First, the short answer is yes, Dramatica supports that.

But there’s more.

Here’s the long answer (bear with me here as the following should really open up some new ways of looking at story structure for you).

Why does structure exist in fiction and where did it come from? In real life, when people are drawn toward a point of common interest - be it by forming a club or organization or just by competing for the same thing, they quickly adopt roles - they self-organize unconsciously. What are these roles and where do they come from? We each have mental tools with which to assess the current situation, determine a potential improved situation, and to devise a plan to change what is to what we’d like better. That’s narrative’s core. It is what the individual does. We each have, for example, our ability to reason and a sense of skepticism. But in a group, like a company or a political organization, we specialize, each adopting just one of those tools as our job. And so, someone emerges as the voice of reason, another as the resident skeptic. This helps the group see deeper into the area of common concern than if everyone was each trying to do all the jobs like general practitioners.

Fiction is our attempt to understand these roles and how they interact with one another. It is our attempt to understand the best approach to take, of all those that might be considered, in order to achieve our desired goals. It is advice on how to best fulfill our obligation to ourselves in our personal narratives when they come into conflict with our group narratives. For 30,000 years we have told stories to provide guidance in life, and, through trial and error, the elements of those stories, such as the archetypal roles representing the roles we take in groups, became encoded as the conventions of story structure.

Because each of the roles in a group represents an aspect or facet of our individual minds, these conventions of story structure provide a map of how our individual minds work, as well as our “group minds.” When we developed Dramatica, we were the first to recognize that the structure of story modeled the human mind and the group mind. Armed with that understanding, we mapped out these conventions of structure from a psychological point of view and learned such things as the following:

Some stories have a single goal with a protagonist and an antagonist. Other stories have single goals but have many people trying to achieve and/or prevent achievement of the goal. But only one of these people is a protagonist and one is an antagonist. Each of the others, though seeking the goal, operates as one of the other roles, such as reason or skepticism.

So, it would be redundant to have “multiple protagonists” as they would all be trying to prove whether that same human quality is the best way to solve the problem. Protagonist represents our initiative - the motivation to instigate change. A better structured story would have one person who starts the quest, and others who join in to get there first. Then, each of the others could illustrate whether those other traits are the best ones to use and that would be the story’s message.

A good example that comes to mind are the characters in the old comedy “The Great Race” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon. Though Tony is the protagonist because he comes up with the idea of the Great Race and Jack is the antagonist because he is the long-time chief competitor to Tony, many people join the race, each seeking to win, and they represent the other archetypal roles in how they try to do it.

In summary, I would say that you would do better not to think of all those attempting to achieve the goal as protagonists, but as representing other human traits than “initiative,” which is what defines the actual protagonist. And from that point of view, Dramatica only allows one protagonist, but can have as many characters as you like trying to achieve the goal.

Learn more about narrative structure and Dramatica at

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Build Perfectly Structured Characters!

ws_structuredcharacters-500_mediumJoin Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of Dramatica, for a full-day character creation seminar/workshop at The Writer’s Store in Burbank on March 12, 2016.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Free Story Structure Video Program

Free on our web site:

Our entire 12 hour 113 part program on story structure in streaming video!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to Beat Writer's Block...

After twenty five years as a teacher of creative writing, I finally discovered the cure for writer's block.  I call it the Idea Spinner Method.

It worked so well for me, I turned it into a software tool to make it even easier to use.

Here's a quick video demo that's pretty cool, if I do say so myself!

Idea Spinner BEATS WRITER'S BLOCK or your money back. It 's just $19.95. That simple. Watch...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Have your characters write their own life stories

Have your characters write their own life stories

For your characters to be compelling, your readers will need to think of them as real people, not just dramatic functionaries or collections of traits.

To help make this happen, have each of your characters write a short one-page autobiographical piece about themselves in their own words, describing their childhoods, backgrounds, activities, interests, attitudes, relationships, pet peeves and outlooks on life.

Try to write these in the unique voice of each character and from their point of view. Don’t write about them; let them write about themselves.

This will give you the experience of what it is like to see the world through each character’s eyes, which will help you empathize with their motivations and thereby make it easier for you to write your novel in such a way that your readers can step into your characters’ shoes.

Writing Tip of the Day

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Reason of Age

The Reason of Age
How old your characters are couches them in a lot of preconceptions about how they’ll act, what their experience base is, and how formidable or capable they may be at the tasks that are thrust upon them in your story and even how they will relate to one another.
Many authors, especially those working on their first novel, tend to create characters who are all about the same age as the author.
This makes some sense insofar as a person can best write about that with which they are most familiar. The drawback is that anyone in your potential readership who falls outside your age range won’t find anyone in your novel to whom they can easily relate. So, unless you are specifically creating your novel for a particular consistent age range, try to mix it up a bit and at least sprinkle your cast with folks noticeably older and younger than yourself.

The Reason of Age

The Reason of Age
How old your characters are couches them in a lot of preconceptions about how they’ll act, what their experience base is, and how formidable or capable they may be at the tasks that are thrust upon them in your story and even how they will relate to one another.
Many authors, especially those working on their first novel, tend to create characters who are all about the same age as the author.
This makes some sense insofar as a person can best write about that with which they are most familiar. The drawback is that anyone in your potential readership who falls outside your age range won’t find anyone in your novel to whom they can easily relate. So, unless you are specifically creating your novel for a particular consistent age range, try to mix it up a bit and at least sprinkle your cast with folks noticeably older and younger than yourself.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Use Nicknames to Enrich Your Characters

Use Nicknames to Enrich Your Characters

Nicknames are wonderful dramatic devices because they can work with the character’s apparent physical nature or personality, work against it for humiliating or comedic effect, play into the plot by telegraphing the activities in which the character will engage, create irony, or provide mystery by hinting at information or a back-story for the character that led to its nickname but has not yet been divulged to the readers.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Avoid the Genre Trap

Avoid the Genre Trap

Too many beginning writers see genres as checklists of elements and progressions they must touch, like checkpoints in a race. But a genre is not a box in which to write. It is a grab bag from which to pull only those components you are truly excited to include in your story. Every story has a unique personality, you build it chapter by chapter or scene by scene with every genre choice you make. By drawing on aspects of many different genres and combining those pieces together, you can fashion an experience for your readers or audience unlike any other.

Writing Tip of the Day

Monday, January 25, 2016

Be your own critic without being critical

Be your own critic without being critical

Here’s how: Write something. Do it now. Now look at it not as an author, but as a reader or audience and ask questions about it. For example, I write, "It was dawn in the small western town." Now I ask: 1. What time of year was it? 2. What state? 3. Is it a ghost town? 4. How many people live there? 5. Is everything all right in the town? 6. What year is it. Then let your Muse come up with as many answers for each question as possible. Example: 6. What year is it? A. 1885 B. Present Day C. 2050 D. After the apocalypse. Then repeat: D. After the Apocalypse. 1. What kind of apocalypse? 2. How many people died? 3. How long ago was the disaster, and so on. By alternating between critical analysis and creative Musings, you will quickly work out details about your story's world, who's in it, what happens to them and what it all means.

 Writing Tip of the Day

Monday, January 18, 2016

Let your Muse run wild

Let your Muse run wild The easiest way to give yourself writer's block is to bridle your Muse by trying to come up with ideas. Your Muse is always coming up with ideas - just not the ones you want. If you try to limit the kind of material you will accept from her, she'll shut up entirely. So let your Muse run free. When she gives you an hysterical moment with a polka-dot elephant while writing a serious death scene, consider including it, perhaps as an hallucination. Give it a try, it might liven up your death scene! And after you've written it, if it doesn't work, then save it in a file for later use. It may seem like a waste of time, but your Muse will know she has been treated with respect, and will likely now give you just the idea you need. Writing Tip of the Day

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Be a Story Weaver - NOT a Story Mechanic!

Writing Tip of the Day: Be a Story Weaver - NOT a Story Mechanic! Structure is important but not at the expense of passion. No one reads a book or goes to a movie to experience a great structure. Authors come to a story to express their passions and readers and audience members come to ignite their own. While structure is the carrier wave upon which passion is transmitted, without the passion, it's just noise. Conversely, passion without structure can be full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing. So find the proper balance. Let passion be your captain and structure be your guide. Writing Tip of the Day

Friday, January 15, 2016

Write from your Passionate Self

Write from your passionate self
We all wear a mask to protect us from hurt in the world. It also blocks the light of our vision. As children, we quickly learn which behaviors are praised and which are punished. We learn to act other than we really feel to maximize our experience. In time,we buy into that mask, believing it is who we really are. But the mask evens out the peaks and troughs of our passion, leaving us afraid to explore the depths of our passion and reveal our true selves in words. To speak with a clarion voice, you must shatter the mask, discover your actual self, and thrust it into the world.