Beautiful words and exciting scenes aren't enough to propel the reader through a novel. Stories need a plan, a focus, a solid structure from beginning to end.
In this lecture packet, you will explore the story structure elements, transformational character arcs, and plot that make up powerful, bestselling stories. You will learn how to analyze examples, from bestselling novels, movies, or TV shows, for each story element or concept. A variety of activities and techniques help you hone your skills and infuse these elements and concepts into your own story. Lecture packets are completed on your own with no interaction from the instructor. Please ignore any references to the forums as these packets are taken directly from the lessons used in the live class.
Story Structure Safari’s goal is to help you dig deep into the heart of your story and focus on how to consistently meet or exceed your reader’s expectations.
What is Story Structure?
A story is created by weaving together two major components, Plot and Character, within a setting or world. Both the plot and characters change and evolve as the story unfolds. Neither plot nor character can stand alone.
Story Structure helps the writer identify elements and patterns throughout a story. Story Structure aids in understanding how those elements can be woven together to create a powerful, effective story that meets or exceeds reader expectations.
Story Structure is a framework to help identify and create:
- Important scenes or Turning Points that propel the reader to wonder what will happen next.
- Character interactions, actions, and reactions that reveal the nature of characters and how they need to change as the story progresses.
- Settings or worlds that are revealed through the eyes of the characters, and how these worlds or settings impact the characters and the plot.
What You’ll Learn:
- How to identify the core elements of your story. This includes the genre, the subject (what the story is about), the thematic point of view, the internal character goal and fatal flaw, the external relationship goal and obstacles.
- How to distill your story into a Safari Plotline.
- How to identify three threads in your story: Relationship thread, Internal thread, and the Plot or External thread.
- How to recognize the four-zone story structure, the main purpose of each zone, and the specific elements that are special to each zone.
- How to map out the Landmarks (important elements, scenes and turning points) in the four zones.
- How to compare your protagonist to the archetype character in each zone and show that on the page.
- How to identify the interdependence of plot, character arc, and setting in each zone.
- How to use your completed lesson worksheets and instructor and class feedback from the online forums to fully develop your story idea, write your first draft, or edit the draft you have completed.
Who Should Take This Course:
- For writers who have become stymied while writing the first draft or a subsequent draft of their novel.
- For successfully published authors who want to learn more about creating powerful stories to exceed reader expectations.
- For writers who have an idea for a novel but don’t know how to get started writing or even planning the story.
- For writers who want to learn and practice some new skills to analyze bestselling works and be able to apply that new knowledge to their future writing.
- For novice writers who want to learn more about what character and plot elements make up a story.
- For writers who want to write more quickly by avoiding tangents and redundancies and wasted scenes that will ultimately be deleted because they don’t reveal character or move the plot forward.
- Nuts and bolts of the class and meeting classmates and teacher.
- Identify your story’s genre and subject.
- Distill your story into a Safari Plotline.
Lesson 1: Overarching Story
- Get a big-picture snapshot of the four-part story structure.
- Define briefly the four zones.
- Study your story, WIP, plan, or idea and see how it breaks down according to the Four Zone structure.
- Revisit the Safari Plotline sentence you created in the Welcome lesson to understand how it keep your story focused and identify obstacles your protagonists may face.
- Identify the three layers or R.I.P. Threads in your story.
Lesson 2: Overarching Story
- Explore the power of imbalance in story.
- Identify the Thematic Point of View of your story.
- Discover your protagonist’s Internal Character Goal and External Relationship Character Goal.
- Discover your protagonist’s Character Fatal Flaw.
- Identify an Obstacle Statement for your protagonist.
- Identify possible obstacles and antagonists for your protagonist.
- Identify Character Traits to portray the values you created for your protagonist.
Lesson 3: Zone 1 Part 1
- Identify the Main Mission of Zone 1: The Set-Up
- Define the four functions of the Set-Up zone.
- Identify and map out the Landmarks of Zone 1: Inciting Incident, Call to Action, Defining Moment, and the First Plot Point.
- Explore the Ordinary World of your story and unearth opportunities to hook your reader.
Lesson 4: Zone 1 Part 2
- Explore the journey of the protagonist, as an Orphan archetype.
- Identify how being out-of-balance and resistant to change impact the protagonist.
- Revisit the R.I.P. threads.
- Check story trajectory and how the First Plot Point impacts the Protagonist and the story.
Lesson 5: Zone 2 Part 1
- Identify the main mission of Zone 2: Response
- Define the four functions of the Response zone.
- Identify and Map out the Landmarks of Zone 2: The Exotic World, 1st Pinch Point, Boulder Scenes, and the Midpoint.
- Explore the Antagonist in greater detail.
Lesson 6: Zone 2 Part 2
- Explore the journey of the Protagonist, as a Wanderer archetype.
- Identify how the protagonist’s fears and goals influence the story.
- Revisit the R.I.P. threads.
- Check story trajectory and how the First Pinch Point and the Midpoint impacts the Protagonist.
Lesson 7: Zone 3 Part 1
- Identify the main mission of Zone 3: Attack
- Define the four functions of the Attack zone.
- Identify and map out the Landmarks of Zone 3: The Period of Grace, 2nd Pinch Point, The Fall, and the 2nd Plot Point.
- Learn how a powerful Antagonist grips readers and is important to the development of this zone.
Lesson 8: Zone 3 Part 2
- Explore the journey of the Protagonist, as a Warrior archetype.
- Identify the Period of Grace.
- Identity how the Protagonist will be challenged at the 2nd Pinch point.
- Identify and map the Fall and the Protagonist’s resistance to change.
- Check story trajectory and how the 2nd Plot Point/Crisis impacts the Protagonist.
Lesson 9: Zone 4 Part 1
- Identify the main mission of Zone 4: Resolution.
- Define the four functions of Zone 4.
- Identify and map out the Landmarks of Zone 4: The Descent, Transformational Moment, The Climax, and the Resolution.
- Illustrate the story’s Resolution.
Lesson 10: Zone 4 Part 2
- Explore the journey of the Protagonist, as a Martyr archetype.
- Identify and map the Descent.
- Identify the Transformational Moment for the Protagonist.
- Explore the Climax.
- Reveal a new start for the Protagonist at the end.
Wrap-Up Lesson: Overarching Story
- Track your Story for the entire four Zones.
- Track your Protagonist for the entire four Zones.
I have raved about this course to other writing friends.
When I took the course the first time, Lisa analysed my manuscript and highlighted some major flaws which I worked on and I then took the course for a second time.
Again, there were underlying issues with the structure of my manuscript. While I worked on the problems, my mind was blown by how much I started to understand relationships, archetypes, the protagonist's journey, and so much more. My brain expanded as my manuscript improved. It was an interesting journey.
I then took my manuscript for a third run through the course with the worksheets provided.
When I finally published my book I was relieved to have consistent 5-star reviews, with remarks on the flow of the book and how readers didn't want it to end! I am writing my second novel and plan to go through the Story Structure Safari when it is finished.
Huge accolades to Lisa Miller and her amazing course - and to Margie Lawson's Writing Academy - I have completed 22 of Margie's Courses.
I have taken this class live twice and printed out all the material (which I assume is what you'll get with the lecture packet). I use it before I start the first draft--even though I'm not really a plotter, so much of the information doesn't work for me at this point. Then I go a little deeper with the information once I'm in the middle of my draft and I get stuck. But the magic really happens for me during revisions. Story Structure Safari helps me organize my messy draft and make sure each zone does what it needs to do. The instructor explains things in a way that is fun to read and makes sense. I love the 4-zone structure--it makes way more sense to me than the typical 3-act structure.