How to tell Stories That Win

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1. The Controlling Idea

What are you trying to prove?. This is the most important step. Because without a controlling idea. Both you and your audience will get confused.

2. Introduce the Main Character

Who is this story about? Then.

3. Describe the Stable World

Everything’s good until it’s not.

Show us that goodness.

4. Destabilize The World

Stories are built on problems. Here’s where an inciting event happens.

And the big problem is introduced.

5. Agitate The Problem

That one big event causes a chain of others. Show us the domino effect.

And when the world is completely destabilized.

6. Define 3 levels of the problem

1.The Surface Problem
2.The Deep Problem
3.The Big-picture Problem

Here’s an example

Surface: I weighed 257 pounds and had a mild heart attack.

Deeper: I felt hopeless.

Big-picture: My 1yo son shouldn’t have to pay a price for the state of my health. 

8. Introduce the Threat

‘Threat’ means any destructive force:
•A comet
•A tornado
•A virus

A person. AKA the villain.

So by this point

We have all the makings of a great story:
•A deep problem
•The source of the problem.
•And someone to solve it.

9.State The Theme

Not to be confused with the controlling idea—which is what this story is trying to PROVE

The theme is principle:

What’s this story ABOUT?


10. Define The Stakes

What happens if this problem (all 3 levels of it) isn’t solved?

And then throw in some urgency.


A time limit.

Be creative here:

•Get to the boat before sunrise
•Say something before she leaves
•Prepare for the big threat’s arrival.

11. Foreshadow The Climactic Scene

The main character will have to address the threat eventually.

What will that look like?

12.Introduce The Guide

The main character isn’t competent enough to do this alone.

But the guide has done it before to some extent.

•Gandolf (Lord of the Rings)
•Rocky (Creed)
•Maui (Moana)
•Iron Man (Spiderman: Homecoming)

13. Explain The Plan

How must the problem be solved? Make us feel the weight of it.

It should feel impossible to solve.

14. Define The Call To Action

The main character is willing but reluctant. They know what to do.

But, they don’t want to do it.

Because it’ll cost them something. So who or what will force them to take action right now?

15. Repeat The Stakes

Most of the story is the plan being executed. Along the way the main character will experience setbacks.

Remind them (and us) of the stakes to keep them going.

16. Unleash the Threat

Here’s where we see its full force. And it’s strong.

Too strong for the main character. This leads us to,

17 .The All-is-lost Moment

The situation is hopeless.

And the main character is ready to give up.


18. The Hinge Decision

Once again the main character is reminded not only of the stakes.

But also of how far they’ve come. They’re not the same person they were at the start.

And they find their resolve. “Whatever it takes.”

19. Deus Ex Machina

Unexpected help arrives. And it gifts

The grace to prevail. The main character gets another chance.


20. The Obligatory Scene

Where the main character faces the threat head-on.

For example

The events here lead up to:

•The final blow.
•The pressing of the red button that blows up the meteor.
•Talking down the flaming lava monster.


21.The Resolution Of Subplots

We tie up any loose ends here—and give any supporting characters a proper sendoff.

And then wrap up the story with.

22.The Theme Repeated

What was this story about again?

Also, did you prove your controlling idea (which has likely evolved along the way)?

If you did, then you got yourself a story.

You can play with the order.

unless you write.
•Sales pages
•or Scripts

Also it is worth noting

You won’t need all of this.

But keep in mind, there’s more to it.

And there’s LOTS of nuance to this—depending on what you’re using it for.

That’s all.

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