Learning to Tell Stories, Part 3: Recipes

PlotGenieSRTemplates & Formulas

Story templates are not new to the 21st century. In the 1930’s, The Plot Genie helped writers assemble a plot with a spinning wheel and lists of situations.[1. It is back in print, and if you use it and like it, please let me know.] I tried it decades ago, but couldn’t bring myself to care about my story because it wasn’t mine. It felt like putting a frozen dinner in the microwave and claiming I cooked it.

There are many templates, matrixes, grids, and formulas. The classic three-part “Setup, Conflict & Resolution” is so universal and general that it’s hardly a template, but “22 building blocks” is definitely a template.

Some people love templates. They feel comforted having the sections laid out in advance. Some people hate templates. They feel bound by formula as if in a straitjacket. But straitjackets are

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Learning to Tell Stories, Part 2: Books

TooManyBooksSRA Glut of Knowledge

When screenwriting books became popular in the 1980’s, I was ready for them. Here is a recollection.

I started with Syd Field’s Screenplay, which I read cover to cover twice. He taught that a story has a predictable structure based on three acts. In that first edition, he even made a big deal about act reversals happening on particular page numbers. The page-number thing put me off a little.

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