Story Development

              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 the Dramatica® theory of story, 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 Learning than Consulting

              After several years of story consulting, it dawned on me that the most successful engagements were those where I took on the role of active teacher rather than passive “story consultant.” Instead of dictating from afar and leaving the writer to fill in the blanks on their own, I taught them why a certain story point would work better and how their story could be dramatically improved.

              How can I do that?

              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. The only two people who know Dramatica better than me are Chris and Melanie—the original inventors of the theory!

              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.

              I helped develop an animated series for Disney Television Animation that ran for three years.

              I helped develop an immensely popular series of novels—actually, two popular series.

              I helped develop and sell a feature to Dreamworks Animation.

              I helped develop a series for Netflix currently in production.

              And much, much more.

              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 story development based on 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 game designers and their games.

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


              The Dramatica theory of story is the most powerful tool I’ve found to help me create compelling and thematically resonant narratives. However, applying the theory can often be an exercise in frustration and confusion. When I first came to Dramatica, I tried learning the method on my own by reading all the Narrative First articles and listening to the podcast. Still, I found it difficult to wrap my head around the all the concepts and how to best use a Storyform in my work.

              So I decided to try Jim’s deliberate storytelling service. I had an idea for a new book series and wanted to see how I could use Dramatica to develop it from the ground up. I also wanted to learn more about the theory in general so that I could apply it to my other writing projects.

              After sitting down with Jim over lunch and discussing the ideas I had for my story, we came up with a Storyform that was the perfect jumping off point. During that first meeting and the subsequent ones, I had countless “ah-ha” moments, as parts of the theory that had been unclear suddenly came into focus.

              After only a couple meetings, I was well on my way to working out the four throughlines for my series and the first book. Writing is never an easy or straightforward process, but Jim’s mentorship and Dramatica expertise make it a lot less daunting.

              — Michael DiMartino (co-creator “Avatar: The Last Airbender” & “Legend of Korra” and author of the “Rebel Geniuses” series)

              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.

              “Getting to the middle of a script often felt like being up shit creek without a paddle — no idea which direction to go, each direction seemingly equally as shitty. Then I heard about the screenwriter’s paddle — Dramatica. But using a paddle, for some reason, is much, much harder than it looks on TV. Thankfully Jim Hull knows how to use a paddle. So if you’re stuck on your story, contact Jim, the best guide on shit creek.”

              “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.”

              “Honestly what I love about all of this is that you and I are having this conversation and I’m applying it in real time. The education this way is priceless.”

              “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.”

              “Dramatica is incredibly robust and can transform your story into something truly special…but it has a steep learning curve. You can spend countless hours reading and rereading books and articles and poring over story analyses and still be at a loss as to how to actually use Dramatica to make your story better—or you can work with Jim to quickly learn how your story fits into the Dramatica model and discover where it works, where it doesn’t, and how to make it the best it can be. I can’t recommend Jim’s mentorship enough. It has helped me understand Dramatica better than ever before and Jim has been a real pleasure to work with. He’s thorough, patient, and knowledgeable, and has helped make my story so much more than it was when I first came to him.”

              The Details

              The fee for our Story Development Services is $2497/mo and grants 10 hours of expert story teaching a month. This saves you a little over $500 based on my hourly fee of $300/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. It’s important that you keep these appointments and engage with material on a day-to-day basis.

              The difference it makes in your writing, and your story, is huge.

              This process of taking a story from idea to fully-developed “scriptment”—a rich and thematically intense outline—typically takes 8 to 10 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.

              I should also mention—we will be doing our work inside of our premiere service for writers, Subtext. This is an application we built from the ground up to help writers rapidly develop meaningful and lasting stories. Your mentorship includes a FREE subscription to the service.

              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.

              Story Development from Narrative First is a subscription service and you can cancel at any time.

              If you’re tired of starting and stopping, or finishing and not really liking what you ended up with, Story Development from Narrative First 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