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2019 Narrative First Wrap-up

A look back at a definitive year

December is a time of reflection. The sun dips low, the clouds come out (for a little bit here in Southern California), and everyone and their mother starts publishing retrospective posts about the past year. Narrative First is no slouch in this department.

Since 2010, I try to publish at least one long-form article a week. The process keeps me engaged with narrative theory and sharpens my understanding of what makes a great story great.

This year marks the first in which I wrote every single day.

I started out writing these articles while waiting for my scenes to render while working as an animator at Dreamworks.[1] Stealing time here and there at lunch and on weekends allowed me to keep up the weekly schedule, and kept me sane while working on films that fell short in terms of narrative. The writing was sporadic and sectioned off—articles worked in isolation, making it challenging to maintain trains of thought.

Starting with the last week of last year (2018), the first thing I did every morning was write for Narrative First. There were occasional missed days due to loved ones and family, or trips or conferences.[2] But for the most part, I kept up this routine, and the result is nothing less than spectacular.

The total for my efforts this year (assuming the rest of the year will be retrospective and reflective)?

Biggest Improvements

The point of looking back over the year is to acknowledge growth and recognize accomplishments. When writing every day with head down, one can often forget to step back and look—with head up—to see the outcome.

2019 was a watershed year in terms of Narrative First, the development of the Dramatica theory of story, and my practical application of the theory Subtext. While mini-leaps and bounds occurred over the months, several significant advancements stand out:

  • Genres and Sub-genres
  • The Relationship Story Throughline as a Perspective
  • The Holistic Premise
  • Refinements of Premise in Subtext

In addition, I published a massive series of articles entitled The Hegelian Chronicles that will eventually become the source material of my next book, Writing Your Story.

Writing Your Story

The Hegelian Chronicles started with the article, Craig Mazin Loves Dramatica and continued with an extensive email conversation with novelist Sebastien de Castell.

Craig once told me he would buy me lunch if I promised not to do what it is I now do, so you can imagine my delight when he spoke about narrative structure this year—and validated everything I do.[3] His take on narrative structure is 100% Dramatica theory, just without mentioning the name Dramatica. Instead, he attributes much of what he knows to a centuries-old paradigm known as the Hegelian Dialectic.

And that’s all that was needed to motivate what eventually became the most extensive Series of Articles here on Narrative First, The Hegelian Chronicles.

Sebastien stepped in to provide much-needed exploration and elaboration of that original article. His challenges to my writing always spark great conversation and force me to think through my work. I always joked that I should eventually publish a book entitled “Letters to Sebastien”—and Writing Your Story is my first answer to that suggestion.

The series is incomplete as of yet. I still need to publish three or four more articles before it is complete. That should take us through to the end of the year, at which point I will start putting into motion publication of the book.

A Look Back

Writing Your Story (The Hegelian Chronicles) is only one of several series of articles that fostered a greater understanding of story. In future blog posts, I will continue to look back and explore what turned out to be a definitive year in the development of narrative theory.


  1. My apologies to those who sat around me, as I know the constant typing must have been obnoxious. ↩︎

  2. Though I did sneak away during a Tony Robbins seminar to write in the wings. What can I say? I was inspired! ↩︎

  3. Lunch is on me. ↩︎

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