The Big Daddy of Story Structure Visual Prompts

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by Larry Brooks on August 10, 2010

In one of my posts I referred to the major milestones within a story as tent poles, supporting the weight of the canvas of your story. 

Sort of like a circus tent.  The show is inside, but something has to keep the whole thing from crashing down on itself.

That analogy made its way into my story structure ebook, and, based on feedback and what follows here, into the mind and imagination of some Storyfix readers.

Imagine seeing the entire structural paradigm on one page. 

Not just as a list of criteria, but as a graphic representation that assigns them to specific sections of your story.

Rachel Savage imagined it, then she created it.  She’s been kind enough to share it with us.

Click the link below to see this powerful tool.  Feel free to print it out and post it above your workstation.  Share it with your writing group.  Memorize it.  Feel free to Tweet, Stumble and Digg it, too. 

Because nearly everything you need to know about story structure is right there in front of your eyes.

The link takes you to a 4.4 MB PDF file.  It’ll take a moment to populate on your screen.

Here’s the link: StoryStructure_poster .

Rachael and I are considering partnering on a venture to produce this as a full-sized, suitable-for-framing poster on glossy paper.  If you’d be interested in this, please let me know.

{ 40 comments }

Laura Eno August 10, 2010 at 6:33 pm

This is a wonderful visual! I’d be interested in getting it.

Kelly August 10, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Hello, Rachael and Larry. Kelly here.
Could it be glossy dry-erase paper? Then I’d go for it. Otherwise I’d need a ream of them. :)

Alpaca Farmgirl August 11, 2010 at 6:43 am

I didn’t realize how good this was going to be until I downloaded it. Wow! THAT is helpful. I tweeted it.

Rachel August 11, 2010 at 7:14 am

@Kelly – a poster could be easily laminated, which works good with dry erase markers, or those ones designed for transparancies on overhead projectors (do they even still use those in schools?). Or there are some pretty affordable poster frames out there now that would give the same effect with glass/plexi.

@Everybody – Glad you’re finding it useful. :)

Was on my second or third read through of the Story Structure posts here (downfalls of being a fast reader sometimes) when it finally clicked. Sometimes I need a visual cue to assist with learning something, and had this circus tent floating around my head. Figured there might be others out there that would benefit from the same. ;)

Terese Ramin August 11, 2010 at 7:38 am

I’d definitely be interested.

Mary E. Ulrich August 11, 2010 at 8:02 am

Thanks for the poster Rachel. I’ve a visual learner and this is great. Love the “magnetic headline” …because even a three ring circus is organized.

Larry, guess that makes you the ringleader.

Julie Robinson August 11, 2010 at 8:19 am

Larry,

I’d be interested. How could we go about getting a copy?
I tried to print out a black and white copy, but all the words and graphics don’t fit on one 8 1/2 X 11. So yes, I would love a laminated one in color— with all the words on it. A visual cue like that when I look up would keep me on track.
Thank you Rachel, for sharing your brilliant creation and for letting Larry offer it to us.
Julie

Rachel August 11, 2010 at 8:48 am

@ Julie — the document is set at 11×17 – though you should be able to tell the printer to scale the PDF down to match whatever document size you’ve specified (some text might be hard to read scaled down). I tried to keep it at 8.5×11, but that was too small for the extra text.

The option with the printer PDF dialog is Page Scaling – Fit to Printable Area. This will shrink it down to the paper size you have.

Debra Young August 11, 2010 at 8:50 am

If you make the poster, I’ll certainly buy it! I’ve printed it out and taped it in my Moleskine for my current WIP. It will come in handy. Thank you both!

Kelly August 11, 2010 at 9:14 am

Hello, Rachael and Larry.
Another question.
When you say “poster,” what size are you talking for the actual product?
Is it okay for me to forward this info along to my writing group? Some folks over there migght be interested.
Thanks– Kelly

Kim August 11, 2010 at 9:32 am

This is fantastic! Thanks so much, Rachel, for creating this. And thank you, Larry, for sharing it here. I’m just working on a new story outline–this is the perfect kickstart for me.

I’d definitely be interested in a printed version!

Bruce H. Johnson August 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

Yummy. Print on card stock 8.5 x 11 and post on the wall just above your monitor.

Elle B August 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

I’d be in. Rachel, this is the best visual I’ve seen for structure, and I’ve been meaning to tell you, Larry, your book is the clearest explanation I’ve found.

I live in Los Angeles and have taken screenwriting classes from “gurus” who’ve left me scratching my head. They hit the points, of course, but completely glossed over their deep meaning and emotional impact. (I think it’s become a bit of a factory out here.)

When I decided I preferred fiction, I looked for a way to apply screenwriting structure to novels, but was hampered by my incomplete understanding. Then voila! I found Story Structure Demystified.

I’m ready to pull it all together and start a new project. I’d love a big, colorful poster above the monitor to keep me on track. Thanks, both of you!

Sandra S. Richardson August 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

I would like not only an 11×17 of it as is but I would also like one with the tent panels blank so I can fill in my own story’s Setup, Response, Attack and Resolution items. A problem I seem to have is changing examples into my own stuff OR plugging my own stuff into examples. I think having this both as is and with those panels blank for the writer to fill in would be fantastic!

This was a wonderful idea, Rachael. I particularly like the light bulbs for the finials on the tent poles. :-) I have not been able to get Larry’s structure instruction into my head at all. For me it was horribly confusing and I felt so bad because Larry’s a good guy and is so excited about us all learning this. The Circus Tent of Story Structure sure helps me see how it actually all fits together.

Let us all know when we can buy them (hint,hint) in poster size!

Hugs and kudos!
Sandra

Nan Jones August 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Love this! I, too, am a visual learner so it helped all of this info gel in my brain. Thank you for sharing!
Blessings,
Nan

Rachel August 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I can see about doing up a blank tent for people to fill in – like the Beat Sheet template from earlier, just in graphical form. Will have to make some changes so it’ll be easier to fill out, but that won’t be hard to do.

Something like that I can certainly fit on a 8.5×11 sized piece of paper, or up to 8.5×14 since those sizes work better for most home printers.

And then one of these days I’ll actually sit down and write something. ;)

Julie Robinson August 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Thanks, Rachel! And that would be a fantastic template for filling in.

Mary August 11, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Beats the Word table that I created to help me with story architecture. Great job!

Rachel August 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Thank you everyone.

I honestly had no idea how well this would be received as I composed the email to Larry after I had something to show for my lightbulb moment. One of my most nervous email moments ever (odd how that goes, getting all fluttery over an email).

I’m very happy though that this is helping other writers in their task. :D

Shane Arthur August 11, 2010 at 5:53 pm

You only need to check this site out to see what is possible with this chart. If a middle-aged husband and wife can do this and clean house, so can you guys:

bibletimeline(dot)net

Shane Arthur August 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

ps. The Tent is awesome Larry, but after you publish the 6 cores book, you can make a 45″ poster, too, including everything in the entire process (tent included).

Just to help myself understand, I created a rudimentary mindmap, but it’s incomplete until the Core book comes out. I would hope you guys would carry this concept further and do what the bible site did after publication.

Vytheeshwaran Vedagiri August 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Wonderful representation. Acts as a very good visual stimulant! I’d love to adopt a similar technique for constructing curriculum objectives and mapping.

Many thanks!
Vytheeshwaran Vedagiri

Bob Watson August 12, 2010 at 4:25 am

Rachel and Larry,

Brilliant! I’m impressed. Count me in for a poster.

jennifer August 12, 2010 at 9:37 am

I would definitely be interested in a larger version of this I could frame. It would make a fab addition to the writing area of my home office.

Well done, Rachel. Thanks so much!

Becca August 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

I printed this out but I would LOVE it as a full size poster. I would be more then happy to pay for one. I posted the Beat Sheet Template on my site and today while I have use of my Mom’s computer I will also post this.

Thank you Larry for what you do for us.

Thank you Rachel for such wonderful visuals.

Becca
p.s. this computer doesn’t spellcheck each word for me like mine does so if there is a misspelled word sorry.

“Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination.” from @QuoteForTheSoul twitter

Becca August 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

I was reading thru the other comments and several were talking about having a blank one so we could fill it in ourselves. I agree with that completely but I think it could be even more helpful if it too were a laminated poster size one that could go on the wall so as you work on each story or screenplay you can reuse it over and over again.

Just a thought!

Barbara Rae Robinson August 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

I’d definitely like a full-sized poster. I need a magnifying glass to read it now. Old tired eyes R Us.

And Larry’s ebook on structure is the best explanation of the subject I have ever read.

Barb

Jean-Philippe Brunet August 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I also find the tent-pole image useful.

Using the (free) Foxit PDF software I created a schematic tent profile with editable notes for each turning point.

Foxit notes can be customized (name, color, position, size, opacity). Their text can also be shown and edited in a separate pannel. Of course, more notes can be added between poles.

I’ve (tentatively) put a screen dump of this file here.
http://jphbr.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=4

If there is enough interest a piece of software could perhaps be designed along those lines. The story structure itself lends itself well to this idea.

JPh

Lloyd L. Corricelli August 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Larry,

Great marketing idea. I’d be interested in comparing this theory of story structure to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero of a Thousand Faces” or Chris Vogler’s update.

Debbie Burke August 13, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Rachel,

What a gift you have for visual representations! Thank you so much for both your great posts. Yes, I would buy posters for myself, as well as writing buddies. Yes, make a blank format for dry erase marking, as well.

Larry,

Thank you for recognizing this bright lady’s input and sharing it with us. The two of you should market these. May you both become wealthy from sales of writing/teaching tools :)

Danielle Meitiv August 15, 2010 at 6:01 am

Fabulous graphic – would love it as a poster. Perhaps have it available in a few sizes? I don’t have much wallspace near my desk, but an 11 X 17 could work

Annalie Killian December 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I will take 30 posters please!

Martha Miller December 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

I definitely want one. When? Where? How?
Hurry!

Joy Dent January 7, 2011 at 7:15 am

This is great! I need all the visual help I can get. I will definately buy one if you make it available! Thanks! Joy
-this post is a little after the fact I know but I’m just now reading your 10 best posts from 2010.

Dee October 9, 2011 at 7:03 am

Love the idea of a large poster – I would buy one. Te idea of software is great too :)

Brandon Pilcher October 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

The poster is absolutely wonderful, for it summarizes the major plot stages and points very well. I will definitely refer to this for my writing in the future!

Marilyn Wallace October 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I would like having a few posters myself. Terrific idea. And if you decide to market the poster in the future, make it: Dry Erase, please. Thanks.

Amaranth October 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Count me in for a poster or two.

Larry Brooks April 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thanks for your kind words, delighted to hear the weekend delivered value for you. Would love to hear more about this line, though: “Now I didn’t swoon (which apparently disappointed him).” Not sure which aspect of the experience you’re referring today (maybe my receding hairline? or the content”) but I CAN take feedback, and of course, I’m a sensitive guy who wants everyone to swoon on some level. So if you’re up for it, would love to hear back.

Thanks again, let me know if/how I might help in the future.

Larry

Patty Copeland April 6, 2012 at 9:37 am

Did you and Rachel ever develop the poster? I couldn’t get it to print out on one page either (like some others) and the information is such that I think it would be worthwhile to have a permanent posting of this on my desk. Is one available, please?

Patty

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