Deliberate Storytelling with Jim Hull
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!
Jim here: 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.
The fee for Deliberate Storytelling is $1900/mo and covers 10 hours of collaboration time--more than enough for the dedicated writer. I'm not writing this for you--we're writing this together. Anyone requiring more time receives continued service at the reduced $200/hr fee (compared to my usual $475/hr fee). And you can cancel at any time.
Though I'm guessing once you see the difference, we'll be working together on several different projects.
I look forward to hearing from you and can't wait to help you finish your story,
-- Jim from Narrative First