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Read The Story Grid

Read The Story Grid

The Story Grid is a tool developed by editor Shawn Coyne to analyze stories and provide helpful editorial comments. It’s like a CT Scan that takes a photo of the global story and tells the editor or writer what is working, what is not, and what must be done to make what works better and fix what’s not. The Story Grid breaks down the component parts of stories to identify the problems. And finding the problems in a story is almost as difficult as the writing of the story itself (maybe even more difficult.)
The Story Grid is a tool with many applications:
1. It will tell a writer if a Story “works” or “doesn’t work.”
2. It pinpoints story problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer, revealing exactly where a Story (not the person creating the Story…the Story) has failed.
3. It will tell the writer the specific work necessary to fix that Story’s problems.
4. It is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attic drawer.
5. It is a tool that can inspire an original creation.

Ironically, this dreadfully needed an editor — concepts were poorly explained, and the chapters were not organized in a way that I found helpful.

I did get one good takeaway from it: thinking of each part of the story in terms of inciting incident through climax. I also liked framing the crisis as a question. There are some other ideas on the verge of helpful but not quite sufficiently explained for me to use them.

The last hundred pages is a breakdown of Silence of the Lambs, which I flipped through but didn’t read because I found the movie pretty disturbing.

For each act, identify:

  1. inciting incident
  2. compliction
  3. crisis – the question the MC needs to answer (think of it as a choice between two “irreconcilable goods” or between two+ bad options)
  4. climax – the action reflecting their choice at the crisis
  5. resolution
graph showing morale and confidence as a two peak arc over time, with emotions labeled at key points, the lowest point being depression at the middle of the middle act
The Kubler-Ross change curve for story: shock > denial > anger > bargaining > depression > deliberation > choice > integration

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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