My Weekly Three-Part Plan for Telling Better Stories

In my blog post from yesterday, I walked you through the three foundational steps for becoming a better storyteller. Just to recap, those steps are:

  1. Learn—you must always be learning. Storytelling is an art, and no matter how much you’ve mastered parts of it, there’s always something more to learn.
  2. Study—you must always be studying story, whether by reading a novel or watching a movie. The more you read and watch, the more you’ll start to understand how the principles you’ve been learning come into play.
  3. Practice—you must always be implementing what you’re learning and studying on your own stories. It’s the only way. You can learn and study all you want, but it’s implementation that makes the biggest difference. This is where rubber meets the road.

This foundation is something I’ve been working on for years and years in my own writing life. 

And this year, it really started to pay off in a bigger way. My screenplay, “The Rules,” placed as a Semi-Finalist in the Stage32 Rom-Com Script Contest. A huge win for me and evidence that all my hard work is actually getting me somewhere.

So I thought I’d give you access to my own personal weekly plan for how I use this three-part foundation to become a better storyteller. 

Up ’til now, I’ve done this rather informally, but going forward I intend to be much more formal about it. I want to step up my foundation in a bigger way (and I’m opening the doors to my Storytelling Mastermind tomorrow, which is all about building your own three-part foundation). 

Each week, I set an intention for what it is I’ll be Learning, Studying and Practicing. And then I act on it.

For example, here’s my plan from last week:

1. Learn

Last week I was diving deeper into learning about character arc and how a Protagonist overcomes an inner demon by first defeating an outer Antagonist that is creating opposition for her in some way.

I was really paying attention to how the inner demon and the outer Antagonist play together in a story. They’re not just two random choices; they’re like a puzzle; they fit together cohesively.

The inner demon isn’t something random, it’s something specific that the Antagonist and  its direct opposition brings out more.

For example, if your Protagonist’s inner demon is that she’s a control freak, then the direct opposition from the Antagonist will be something that causes her to lose control or no longer be in control. And then, in order for her to “win” in the story, she has to face that inner demon head-on, and by overcoming it, she gains the fortitude to defeat the Antagonist as well.

2. Study

Last week I studied inner demons and outer Antagonists and how they play together by reading the novel, Dating You, Hating You, by Christina Lauren (I’m a sucker for a love story).

In that story, the Protagonist’s inner demon is that she’s a workaholic, but then she meets this guy who’s in the same industry as she is and she’s really into him (he’s also a workaholic). They both decide that they need something other than work to look forward to every day, and so even though neither of them wants to date someone in the same industry as them, they decide to date and see what happens.

And then, of course, the Antagonist comes into the picture… the Protagonist’s company merges with the company that the guy she’s dating works for and then her boss tells her and the guy that they both now have to compete to see which one of them gets to keep their job.

Through this opposition, her inner demon of being a workaholic is brought out full-force. She’s working now more than ever before, but she’s also still really into this guy, and it’s starting to make her question everything she once thought mattered to her, including her job.

I absolutely loved this novel, and it was a great study in storytelling. There were definitely some things I thought could’ve been done better (some of the character names were a bit too similar and there were other minor details that I wasn’t a fan of), but overall, it was a really good story.

3. Practice

Last week, I practiced what I’ve been learning about character arc, by working on improving the character arc in one of my screenplays, and by continuing to write the first draft of my new screenplay (I just finished it on Monday!!) 

I’m always practicing on my own stories. Every single week and most days of every week, I am writing.

At all times, I have one story in the development and planning stages, one story in revision, and one story that I’m writing a first draft of. I don’t always work on them all each week, but I’m a storyteller. It’s my life.

It’s what consumes me. It’s where my attention goes most hours of the day and especially when I’m daydreaming or having downtime.

And that’s why I’m starting to see more success in my writing life.

I wrote two screenplays last year when I have never written a screenplay in my life, and one of them placed as a Semi-Finalist in an industry contest. That’s not accidental. 

It happened because I intentionally devote my time to being a better storyteller and to continuing to learn and study and practice, even after I feel like I’ve mastered so much of what storytelling is all about.

There’s always more to learn. There’s always a deeper level you can get to with your understanding of how storytelling works. There’s always something else you can get out of it.

And so, if you know you’re meant to be a storyteller and a successful author and/or screenwriter, you must commit to being a lifelong student of story. Period.

It’s the only way.

Dream life or bust,

Jen

P.S. Doors to The Storytelling Mastermind open to new members TOMORROW!!! I can’t wait to welcome in the new group of storytellers AND there’s a super-special Bonus if you sign up and choose the “pay annually” option. Stay tuned… 

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