Image by Patrick Perkins

THE 

SIX

STAGE

STORY

The skeleton of the story.

In sculpting, most people feel the most important part of the sculpture is the wax or clay that you see. When you ask a sculptor, they'll say that the most important element is the sculpture's armature, which is the framework around which the sculpture is built.  The armature is what provides the sculpture with stability and structure and keeps the structure upright over time.  The same can be said for a construction worker and the frame of a building or a body and its skeleton. 

In storytelling, the structure of your story is your narrative armature.  A good narrative armature allows to ideate and draft faster and more confidently than if you're just staring at a blank page. Good structure actually frees you up to focus on story more  Just like how street signs and mile markers guide you to your next spot when you drive, all of these plot points act the same. 

 

Great stories aren’t just collections of random events. They don’t just meander around randomly and end whenever they want. Great stories are designed. They have purpose and direction and a steel skeleton that, if built correctly, will go unnoticed by the audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short story, a feature film, a video game, or a 400-page novel, understanding and utilizing story structure will do wonders in helping your story resonate with your audience.

The Six Stage Story is our contribution to the bountiful story structure conversation, which includes great such as Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series, Syd Field’s Screenplay, Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, Viki King’s How to Write a Movie in 21 Days, Ansen Dibell’s Elements of Fiction Writing — Plot, and more.

1

What's the big idea?

We don't need a good idea, we need a commercial idea. You need an idea that will stand out in an over-saturated market and get people immediately excited about the story — even before hearing the details of your plot.  

A commercial idea that is immediately interesting is called a High Concept.

Here are three effective strategies for generating an immediately interesting, commercial High Concept.

look up the trailers and synopses of these examples for a better understanding

IRONIC ACTION

This is a type of High Concept where people or entities are doing something the audience wouldn’t expect them to do?

Examples below.

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IRONIC LOCATION

This is a type of High Concept where people or entities are doing what you would expect them to do, but in a place you don't expect them to be doing it

Examples below.

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WORLD CHANGER

This is a type of High Concept where there has been a large-scale change that has affected everyone in the world of the story.

Examples below.

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2

Who's your window into the world?

A protagonist may be defined by many other terms: "hero," "main character," "focal character," "central character." Whatever label a protagonist wears, it is the primary character the story is about.

Perhaps the most indispensable job of a protagonist is serving as a door into the emotional heart of the story. A protagonist draws readers' emotions like a magnet, concentrating their feelings about the story into the hopes, fears, and fates of one character.

3

What's the need?

What does your hero have to accomplish by the end of your story?  What is the need?  

 

Some examples are:

 

  • Bryan Millns needs to rescue his daughter from kidnappers in Taken. 

  • In John Wick, he needs to get revenge against the gangsters who killed his dog.

  • Luke Skywalker needs to blow up the Death Star in Star Wars

  • The Hunger Games, Katniss needs to survive the games. 

  • In The Purge, a family needs to survive a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legal.

  • In JoJo Rabbit, JoJo needs to protect his mother and the Jewish girl they're harboring.

This becomes the primary focus of the story and the central dramatic question that needs to be answered by the end.  It's commonly referred to as the "A" story.

Identify the Soapbox.

This is where you connect with your unique passion and perspective as a creator to identify the thematic foundation of your story -- this is called a Soapbox. You can begin thinking about this as the "moral to your story." What lesson do you want your audience to take away from your story?

Once you have your Soapbox, you can also identify the "emotional need" of your hero or what's known as your "B" story. Your hero should believe your Soapbox when no one else does or the lack of understanding the Soapbox should be your hero's "fatal flaw."  

4

Ready for the "crazy chart?"

Once you have these four fundamental aspects of your story, locked in, you're ready to start the process of "breaking your story." 

Simply put, breaking a story means coming up with each individual sequence and scene for the story and arranging them in their proper order as they’ll appear in the final draft.  A scene (or a collection of scenes) is often referred to as a “beat,” and the terms are used pretty interchangeably. So you’re basically taking the building blocks you've developed so far and expanding them until you’ve literally broken them down into pieces, beat by beat.

If you feel confident with what you have developed so far, click below and start breaking your story.