Deliberate Storytelling

            Your unfinished story is not your fault.

            Let’s write a story together.

            I’ll take care of the structure and translate the more complicated aspects of Dramatica®, while you bring the ideas and the creativity and the passion that makes for a great story.

            And if you can’t come up with certain scenes or characters, we can brainstorm those missing pieces together.

            More Collaboration than Consultation

            After several years of story consulting, it finally dawned on me that the most successful projects were the ones where I took on the role of active co-writer. Instead of dictating from afar and leaving the creative to fill in the blanks, I actively developed their stories with them-writing scenes and making suggestions for story points that would enrich and improve their stories.

            See, I know a ton about Dramatica. I’ve been studying the theory for over two decades, I’m close with the theory’s creators, I redesigned the entire Dramatica website, and I’m an active member and administrator of the theory discussion forum.

            I know Dramatica.

            Which means I know the intricate thematic structure behind a complete story. Which means I can save you tons of time learning the theory and figuring out how to apply it to your work.

            And even if you don’t care to learn the theory, I can save you tons of time rewriting by quickly identifying the missing or deficient pieces of structure in your story.

            The Deliberate Difference

            You can fumble your way through another draft, and another, or we can work together to identify your story’s unique narrative structure.

            Contrary to popular belief, your story is not the same as every other story. You’re not writing the journey of a mythical hero, and you’re not saving cats and inserting fun and games moments because it translates to a higher box office. You’re writing your story, and your purpose behind writing that story turns into a set of sequences and scenes unlike any other.

            When you write with purpose, you make your story a reality. It’s not something you hope happens or imagine someday will happen—your story already exists because you can see every aspect of it. You finish on time, sometimes ahead of schedule, and the end result captures the essence of your original intent.

            With deliberate storytelling, you project your story into existence.

            No more guessing. No more wild speculations. We sit down together, capture the passion and message behind your original intent, and we write with confidence—knowing that everything we do serves that greater purpose.

            I’ve collaborated with executive producers and comedians on television shows, writer/directors and their animated features, novelists and their book series, and even playwrights and their plays.

            And I’m offering to help you with your story.

            Feedback on Jim as a Mentor

            Dramatica Mentor student Mike Lucas shares his experience with the Dramatica Mentorship Program from Narrative First—the predecessor to Deliberate Storytelling:

            One thing that’s not mentioned too often (I think it would discourage people) is that Dramatica is not all that useful until you really understand it well. If you can’t come up with a reasonably accurate storyform for your story, then trying to follow it may do more harm than good! (Caveat: I think it could be useful if you’re careful to apply only what you know, like if you understand the 4 throughlines and domains, you could use just that and get great results without trying to figure out the full storyform.)

            This is why I think the mentorship with Jim is valuable — even if you understand Dramatica pretty well, he can get you to that level of understanding that you need for Dramatica to be really useful.

            Do you think your own writing is either better, or faster (more efficient), because of what you learned through the material with Jim?

            Yes. Before I found Dramatica, I was a pantser. But I rarely finished stories (had never gone past Chapter 4 of a novel) and I recognized that I needed to learn how to outline. Unfortunately, story structure advice always made me feel like throwing up, literally! Until I found Dramatica.

            Dramatica really struck a chord with me. It was definitely what I needed to be able to outline my stories properly. But for the reasons mentioned above, I needed Jim to take me that last level to make it really useful.

            Now I find I’m VERY confident in my story structure, and in my ability to take a story idea and give it the structure it needs. i.e. to develop a story idea into a full fledged story outline. (The actual writing is still tough of course — even knowing what I want to happen in a scene, and knowing that it hits on various structural things like OS Problem & Issue and IC Symptom/Response in awesome ways, I still sometimes struggle to get the words down. Some days it comes easy and others not. Still struggling against that inner critic I guess. I’m sure you can relate. But anyway, that’s not really something Dramatica can help with beyond giving me confidence in the story’s skeleton, which it has! :-) )

            Is Jim a good teacher in general, and does he make the content fun and engaging?

            Definitely. I especially appreciated all the work he did with my story. He was very willing to go through my story outline and offer feedback and suggestions. (Actually, he helped me re-build the outline from the ground up!) And the work he did with me on the Playground Exercises for Influence Character and Relationship Story was invaluable. Through all these things I learned how to apply Dramatica to my own work, and couldn’t have done it without Jim’s guidance.

            He also was a great teacher in terms of general Dramatica principles, i.e. exercises where I learned to really grasp different Domains and Concerns by watching films and identifying throughlines. When I needed help / corrections, would do online chat sessions with me and put me on the spot, get me to  understand what I was doing wrong.

            Is there anything else you know about having been through the tutoring with Jim that you think would be useful for me to know?

            Don’t be afraid to schedule time with him. I wish I’d done that more often, rather than waiting to see if he was online or respond to my questions, because he’s a busy guy with plenty of other clients. You can schedule chat sessions or even an actual phone call; the latter is very useful to work things out more quickly or for trickier subjects, when you’re just not grasping some concept or something.

            Also, the assignments are based on watching films, and sometimes I found I just didn’t have time to watch them every week (depending whether my wife was interested in watching with me, etc.). So I fell a bit behind and probably didn’t complete as many different “sections” over the course of my 6-month mentorship as I could have. I should have prioritized watching the films a bit more. Depending on how many months of mentorship you can afford, you might want to give yourself some targets (once you get the hang of what the assignments are like) to make sure you can optimize your investment.

            But on the other hand, I feel like I have a fantastic grasp of Dramatica now, and I can kind of get the same learning on my own by analyzing films or books after I watch/read them.

            You might be interested to know that after Jim’s mentoring I’ve been able to analyze some films and come up with the “right” full storyform on the first try without looking. (I think I did this with Collateral, Star Trek 2009, and Whiplash.) I also realized that I had the narrative of The Princess Bride somehow baked into my blood, as Jim will tell you that analysis basically just poured out of me!

            After his time in the Dramatica Mentorship Program, Mike produced the comprehensive analysis for The Princess Bride in less than ten days! I’d like to think that the program contributed to this monumental feat.

            Additional Feedback

            There can be no greater reward in life than helping someone develop a greater understanding of their own art. Writers write to express something deep inside; a better appreciation of narrative structure allows for a greater honesty of expression. I feel lucky to be a part of that.

            Read [feedback from writers][10] I have worked with or inspired.

            The Details

            The fee for Deliberate Storytelling is $1900/mo and grants 10 hours of expert story consulting a month. This saves you a little over $300 based on my consulting fee of $225/hr and works out to two one-hour phone calls a week with assorted chats and emails in-between.

            The momentum & rhythm we experience with meeting over the phone twice a week (instead of once) impacts the quality of writing and the final result in a way that no other approach can offer.

            The process of taking a story from idea to fully-developed “scriptment”—a rich and thematically intense outline—takes 6 to 8 weeks and involves:

            If you’re writing a screenplay, I would stop here. If you’re writing a novel, I would suggest weaving in additional sequences from the Main Character and Relationship Story Throughlines.

            Most writers start out wanting to do only one month, but quickly find the process not only fun—but enlightening and productive as well—and end up going for two months.

            At the end, you’ll have a strong solid outline/scriptment from which to write. A recent client started writing his screenplay after working with me and finished the first Act in three days! The second half of the 2nd Act he finished in four. Instead of wringing his hands over character development or what to do in the middle of his story, he’s just having fun with the dialogue and characters (it’s a comedy). He already has the confidence that the story will work out in the end—that it’s actually headed somewhere.

            And so can you.

            This is a subscription service and you can cancel at any time.

            In addition to the world-class story consulting you also receive a complimentary subscription to our brand new service, the Narrative First Atomizer. We’ll be using the unique set of tools within the Atomizer to carefully the craft the story you want to tell.

            If you’re tired of starting and stopping, or finishing and not really liking what you ended up with, Deliberate Storytelling will change the way you write stories.

            I look forward to hearing from you and can’t wait to help you finish your story,

            — Jim from Narrative First