Story Structure for Professional Writers

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Finish that story in 6 weeks, not six months »

If You're a Professional Writer, then You Know What It Is Like to Face an Impending Deadline

You know the story you want to tell, but you're not sure how to put it all together...you're overwhelmed by notes from the studio or your editor and you're not sure which ones to go with...and you're panicking because you know the longer you stall and the more time you spend chasing dead ends, the easier you will slip into that dreaded space known as writer's block and soon you will be asking for yet another extension...

If any of this sounds like you, then please read the following letter. It may be the most important thing you read all year...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

From: Jim Hull

Dear Writer,

No matter how many times you've been told structure doesn't matter, an organized and purposeful outline will make it easier for you to finish that story on-time and finish it in a way that is both thematically complete and in line with your original artistic intent.

With a sound understanding of story structure, you never again have to:

  • Guess where your story will end up
  • Wonder what scene you should be writing today
  • Speculate why the people paying you are having trouble with your characters
  • Toil on scenes you end up throwing out

These are just a FEW of the many pitfalls of writing that people oblivious to narrative structure find themselves falling into.

And while I will share our list of successful writers in film, television, and print that we have worked with in the past two years momentarily..that's not why you should listen to me.

You should listen to me because I've spent the last two decades learning a theory of story that if you learn—will put you light years ahead of the competition.

The time to act is NOW—no one really knows about Dramatica, and what they do know about it is often second-hand and inaccurate. If you take the time to learn it now—before anyone else does—you will be that much further ahead of them when they finally do figure out what they have been missing.

I can't tell you the HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of development hours we have saved teaching Dramatica's concepts to writers, producers, and directors. Here is a short list of projects we have have been or are currently invovled in:

  • Disney’s upcoming Animated Television Series Tangled where we helped outline the entire series along with individual seasons
  • novelist Sebastien deCastell’s popular Traitor’s Blade series
  • unannounced television series for HBO (multiple)
  • indie film for the creator of a series on Comedy Central
  • various features for Sony Pictures Animation
  • animated feature with Jamie Foxx attached
  • passion project for a director with over 40 years of experience in Hollywood

These are real-life professional writers who make a living crafting character, plot, theme, and genre. They turned to us because they recognized the value and untold hours we could save them applying Dramatica's concepts to their narratives.

Why Should You Trust Us?

After all, some professional screenwriters in Hollywood take "umbrage" at the story guru/writing consultant "industry."

This might sound CRAZY arrogant but after working with many writers and working in Hollywood for over two decades, I'm thoroughly convinced of the following:

Most professional writers and story consultants/bloggers have their hearts in the right place but, unfortunately, don't know what they're talking about.

Elaborate techniques of storytelling will be substituted for concrete story structure. Subjective opinions in regards to "rising tension" or "character-driven plots" will masquerade as objective fact. Cultural mythology will be touted as the driving force behind narrative.

The problems go on and on.

You can spot the misguided ones easily: Their advice always comes with caveats and exceptions. Their "beat-sheet" will work for one film, but will have to be re-ordered to address another. Their idea of a Trixter character will make perfect sense in one context, but completely ludicrous in the next.

Their 500+ steps in a heroic journey is the perfect model of confirmation bias.

They think they see story, but they're only seeing what they need to see in order to confirm their own misconceptions.

My goal here isn't to denigrate the work of these other people. I'm sure they're very nice and mean well. But they're also leading you down that same worn path of never finishing a story. They're leading you down the same path that ultimately leads to "listening to your Muse" (which is the silliest piece of advice in the world).

They're misleading you because they don't know Dramatica.

What is Dramatica?

Dramatica is an unique way of looking at story based on the psychology of the mind. In short the theory says that stories think like we do—understand how we ourselves solve problems and you will understand how stories work.

Great writers understand this association intuitively. William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Harper Lee, Aaron Sorkin—they all wrote Dramatica-structured stories. They just didn't know it.

You probably already know this intuitively, but aren't sure what to do with it. Or maybe you don't, and you need help recognizing how it all works. Either way, we can help you develop that intuition to the level of and beyond those great masters.

Six Weeks from Concept to Screenplay

Two years ago, a friend of mine approached us in regards to writing a screenplay with him. He had used our services on a film he was already attached to direct (the Jamie Foxx one mentioned above) and loved what we were able to do in such a short period of time.

He had a great concept for the film, but wasn't sure where to take some of the characters and really wanted help making it a complete and meaningful story.

He pitched me the story. I laughed uncontrollably (he's a great pitcher) and we agreed to work together starting the next week.

I took the week to let the idea sift through my head and then sketched out some light notes based on what I know about Dramatica and where it seemed to me he wanted to take the story.

The one thing you should know about Dramatica is that it doesn't teach you that every story is the same. It might be made up of similar components, but their arrangement and the order they appear will change depending on what story you are trying to tell.

After that first week, I arrived at the SoHo in West Hollywood for our meeting on a Saturday morning with notes in hand. Less than 10 hours later we had an entire 32-beat sequence outline ready for writing. For anyone who has tried to create an outline in that short of time--a sound, functioning outline with no holes in it--that's incredible.

And then we wrote the thing in five weeks.

And I wrote my half while still maintaining a full-time job as an animator for Walt Disney Feature Animation.

How did I do that? By writing an hour first thing in the morning and every day at lunch. But anyone can do that. In fact, anyone who dreams of telling a story can make that effort to steal an hour or two away from their day to write.

But you see, the difference is--I didn't spend a second trying to remember what scene I was supposed to be writing that day and I didn't waste a minute trying to think up the next scene. As a result of all the work we did that first day outlining the different Throughlines with Dramatica, I could simply sit down and start writing from the moment I opened the document.

In one day I wrote upwards of 5,800 words because I knew exactly where the characters were headed in their development, and I knew exactly what was going to happen in the following scenes and sequences.

That is the power of understanding Dramatica.

A Way Forward

A little over a year ago a writer came to me and offered to pay me to teach him everything I knew about Dramatica. He had seen me participate in Dramatica Users Group meetings, attended a Weekend Workshop hosted by me, read my advice on the Discuss Dramatica forum, and even watched a couple of my Dramatica analyses on YouTube—like this one on The Shawshank Redemption:

He knew I had a unique understanding of the theory—a working knowledge of the theory that transcended even the understanding of Dramatica's co-creators—and he wanted that jumpstart on the competition.

Excited by the prospect, I sat down and created a multi-faceted program that teaches the working writer everything they need to know to put this complex and powerful theory to work.

The result was the Dramatica Mentorship Program.

  • Imagine being the kind of writer who can knock out a great story in as little as one or two drafts.
  • Imagine yourself being the one person in the story room with all the right answers.
  • Imagine your stories connecting with audiences in a way that only a master writer can claim.

Now imagine that transformation happening in as little as four months. With the Dramatica Mentorship Program you can make that dream of writing and finishing moving stories a reality.

A World of Difference

This program is unlike any other you will find out there. Instead of looking to us for feedback or our opinion, you will actually be learning the building blocks of narrative so that you can make the determination what is right for your story. All while having fun writing each and every day.

Here's what I mean about the difference…

Real, tangible RESULTS that you can see in your writing day after day.

Not hopeful words of encouragement or manipulative praise. You can get all of that from your writer's group.

I'm talking RESULTS. Clear, unmistakable RESULTS that your story is step-by-step becoming a reality.

A strategy for developing stories unlike any other.

I'm guessing you want to learn the "whys" and "hows" of narrative structure so you can eventually formulate your own understanding of story and eventually work towards self-sufficiently writing your own stories.

You're not paying us to teach you Dramatica; you're paying us to teach you why Dramatica.

Analysis without the opinion.

There are a million other script-readers, story gurus, and copy editors online willing to read your story for a third of the price. But they're only going to give you their opinion.

And we all know what opinions are like.

The Dramatica Mentorship Program assesses and evaluates your narrative based on an objective model of theory. You can ask us for our opinion, but it won't help you finish that story. Instead we will help you see what is working and help you understand how to fix what is not.

Serious professionalism & accountability

While we say "Story structure for professional writers", what we really mean is we only want to work with writers who take their craft seriously. This is our only condition: You have to really want to improve. This program is not for hobbyist writers, nor is it for people who aren't willing to put in the time and effort to really excel.

We want writers to improve drastically and quickly, and you can only do that by taking the program seriously. Linger or skip a few weeks and you will lose all the progress you have made. Invest and dedicate yourself to doing the very best you can and you will come out one of the smartest writers you know.

There's no arguing that this program has IMMENSE value—it's hard to put a price tag on knowledge that will literally save you years, maybe decades, of developing your story sense through trial and error.

You're going to learn all this stuff eventually anyways—it's how stories work. You can either slip and fall and struggle year after year on your own—OR you can enroll in a program specifically designed to help you achieve that understanding earlier in life.

Case Study - 4th Year Student in Acclaimed Screenwriting Program

Just this past summer, a student at a prestigious school hired us to help him develop his 4th year portfolio. He had several screenplays in various stages, ranging from first draft to basic initial idea. His only requirement going into his last year was to show up on the first day of school with a one-page leave behind (basically a one-page synopsis) and a general idea of the characters.

It took us the entire summer to work through Dramatica's concepts. June, July, and August. And we still didn't have the synopsis or characters finished. We had been working through an old screenplay of his--showing where the holes were and how to fix them. But we hadn't even touched his new idea.

Panicked, he began to be very frustrated with the lack of progress. With only two weeks left before the start of school he had nothing to show for all his hard work, and he was ready to call the whole thing off.

That's when I sat down with the student, just like I did with my writing partner the year before, and helped him develop the outline for his 4th year screenplay. However, unlike working with my writing partner, this time I let the student drive the process--essentially watching from the sidelines as he glided effortlessly through all the work.

Apparently all that time spent over the summer wasn't a waste of time. In fact, it built the foundation for the revolutionary success we had this past week:

In less than a week, not only did he have the one-page synopsis, he also had the ENTIRE 30-beat sequence outline worked out down to the individual sequence. He is basically showing up to the first day of school with the entire semester ALREADY COMPLETED. That puts him four months ahead of everyone else.

Even more important--it gives him four months of cushion to work and rework his story so that every scene delivers a powerful emotional punch full of depth and nuance.

You can't get that if you show up the first day with a logline and a character bio sheet.

Introducing the Dramatica Mentorship Program

I worked very hard at building this service because I want it to be the BEST online writing program available.

Here's what you get when you sign up…

A custom program schedule tailor-made for your availability and personal goals. No two writers are the same. Some are retired, some maintain two jobs. Whatever your particular needs are, we can adjust our program to fit your schedule.

Access to our private group Slack community Knowledge increases exponentially when it is shared with others. Ask questions in our group channels or get together with other writers to discuss concepts of story or even collaborate together on a new project.

36-hour access to your personal mentor While we would love to make it 24-hour access, occasionally we have to sleep! Still, we make every effort we can to answer and address you questions in a timely manner.

Access to our Narrative First collaborative writing environment Email and shared PDFs are a nightmare to keep track of when it comes to writing together online. When you enroll in the program you will be granted access to the collaboration tool we use use in-house to share documents and develop story ideas. Communication with your mentor is frictionless and productive.

Are You Ready to Start?

You can get started writing and finishing the story of your dreams RIGHT NOW and it will only cost you $650 a month.

That's it.

That's a fraction of the cost of attending a four-year university that really won't teach you much more than the difference between wants vs. needs and rising and falling action.

And it's a small price to pay when you consider the amount of years of learning it will shave off from your life's experience.

Enroll in the Dramatica® Mentorship Program

A Few Questions about the Program

We know you will absolutely love learning Dramatica from us. Our mission is to make sure you will never look at story the same way again. You can't help but develop your understanding of narrative as you progress through the years. Why not accelerate that growth process?

How is this different from other writing courses?

The Dramatica Mentorship Program is designed to develop your sense of story and narrative structure. Everyone who wants to write can write; there is no special club reserved for those born with ability. However the level to which one's concept of narrative has developed varies--even among the experts.

Dramatica Mentor accelerates this process by revealing key insights into how narrative works and how to use that insight to actually write a compelling story. At the end of the program you'll have a complete and thematically-robust outline from which to write. Even more, you'll understand story on a level far beyond your peers and far beyond even the masters of old.

Dramatica Mentor is more personal than other writing programs. More than a collection of videos and pre-made worksheets—Dramatica Mentor seeks to develop a working relationship with the student. We want our students to write great stories--and that requires dedicated one-on-one attention.

Can I customize the curriculum in any way?

Definitely--you can work with your mentor to alter writing exercises or projects that are more in line with your skill level and intentions. We know what works, but we're willing to adjust it to suit your needs.

How does mentoring work?

Think of your Dramatica Mentor as your own personal writing coach--available most hours of the day to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Your mentor will leave written feedback on all your work (within 36 hours), and is available to connect online through voice chat and/or regularly scheduled video sessions.

Your mentor will help answer any questions, challenge your sense of story, and push you to be the very best you can be. There's no better way to learn writing than to learn Dramatica, and no better way to learn Dramatica than to work with a certified Dramatica Story Expert.

Can I speed up the process?

The program is designed to last six months, though if you're motivated and dedicated you could possibly finish in less time. Typically our students take the full six months and some even decide to stay on longer (they can't get enough!). Again, we are always willing to modify the program to suit the skill level and motivation of the individual student.

Who will be my mentor?

Eventually we aim to provide a whole host of Dramatica Mentors, all certified through the Dramatica Story Expert program. Until then, there is only one: James R. Hull, the man behind Narrative First and a certified Dramatica Story Expert with over 20 years experience in narrative theory.

WARNING: Time is a Factor

This program is limited because of the availability of trained and certified Dramatica mentors who know their stuff. It's physically impossible for our mentors to work with more than a handful of people at any give time.

If you're considering joining, I would suggest doing it as soon as you possibly can.

Enroll in the Dramatica Mentorship Program and let's start teaching you an incredibly powerful way to look at story.

Enroll in the Dramatica® Mentorship Program

Hope to hear from you soon,

Jim Hull

Owner, CEO of Narrative First

Rid yourself of writer's block. Forever.

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